Cox clears Heyward and praises Kimbrel
Chipper Jones will be getting the night off and Melky Cabrera won’t be present to talk to Yankees reporters about how he’s doing now that he’s no longer wearing pinstripes. But Jason Heyward will be in Tampa tomorrow night to do more than simply watch Jair Jurrjens make his Grapefruit League season debut against the defending world champs.
While Jones and Cabrera aren’t scheduled to travel to Tampa, Bobby Cox confirmed that Heyward will be back in the lineup against the Yankees. The 20-year-old outfielder missed Wednesday’s game because the Braves wanted to give him a chance to rest the sore upper back that he encountered after running into the right field wall during Tuesday night’s game.
“He’ll be in there for sure, no problem at all,” Cox said.
Unfortunately the Braves can’t express the same level of confidence when asked about the odds of Derek Lowe making his next scheduled start on Monday night against the Nationals. But they are still optimistic that the blister on his right big toe won’t prove troublesome enough to prevent him from making his Opening Day start against the Cubs on April 5.
“Thank God, it’s not his arm,” Cox said. “You can miss one down here and still be fine. “I just hope that he can start next time. I’m sure he can. I think they can tape it up somehow or put Super Glue on it. I’m just joking. But I’m sure they can put something down there to toughen it up. It’s about the nastiest blister I’ve ever seen. ” <p>
When Lowe removed his sock to show the blister to reporters, he managed to reveal something that was actually uglier than the one-inning stint that he had just completed against the Mets.
Lowe felt the blister in the process of opening the game with a strikeout and then over the course of the next six batters he faced, he surrendered four singles, watched Chris Carter continue his recent home run tear and dodged one line drive that seemed destined to drill his forehead.
“Instead of worry about pitching, I was worrying about how to not drag my back toe,” Lowe said. ” Then I almost took one off the melon there. That would have been real fun. So it was a wasted day.” <p>
Because he only threw 27 pitches against the Mets, Lowe will have to make up for this “wasted day”. But even if he is unable to make his start against the Nats on Monday, he’ll still have an opportunity to make three additional starts, including one that would be scheduled to last five innings.
Still this isn’t exactly what the Braves envisioned when Cox went against tradition and made the early announcement that Lowe will serve as his Opening Day starter. The only other time I remember the veteran manager making this announcement this early was before the start of the 2004 season, when he bestowed the honor upon Russ Ortiz, who responded with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP.
Ortiz’s selection was either based on the 20-win season he had notched the year before or more likely the fact that for the first time since the first George Bush was president he was unable to provide this honor to somebody named Glavine, Smoltz or Maddux.
Nevertheless, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Cox will stay on the safe side of superstition and never again make an early announcement about his Opening Day starter.
Exiting sarcasm mode, Cox had nothing but good things to say about the way Craig Kimbrel looked while recording a pair of strikeouts and issuing a contested walk in a scoreless 10th inning against the Mets.
Cox said that plate umpire Jeff Kellogg admitted he missed a third-strike call that would have prevented Kimbrel from issuing his leadoff walk to Ike Davis. But young fireballer, who has been called “the right-handed Billy Wagner”, seemed unfazed as he responded with consecutive strikeouts and then ended the inning with a harmless pop fly.
Kimbrel’s ability to make his fastball look like it’s rising has Cox raving about his ability to serve as a top-notch closer in the future.
“A scientist will tell you that it’s an illusion, but it does come up a little bit,” Cox said of this fastball that has been clocked in the upper 90s. “It looks like it’s going to be low and it’s not.”
Saito and McLouth prolong struggles: Closer Billy Wagner bounced back from his shaky debut with an easy scoreless inning against the Phillies on Tuesday night. His setup man Takashi Saito’s attempt to experience a similar rebound prove unsuccessful as he was charged with three earned runs during his one-inning appearance against the Mets.
“He was up with everything,” said Cox of his 40-year-old reliever who issued a leadoff walk and later surrendered a two-run double to Carter and an RBI triple to Adams.
Saito didn’t have the opportunity to blame this outing on the discomfort of his contracts. The lenses he was wearing were different than the ones he was wearing on Friday, when he allowed the Pirates two runs in one inning.
Former Pirate Nate McLouth had another rough afternoon and now has just one hit through his first 16 at-bats of the year. It’s still way to early to be alarmed about results down here. But with that being said, you certainly have to hope that the six strikeouts he’s incurred so far don’t signal a trend.