Another Saturday, another shutout
Two weeks into the Grapefruit League season, the Braves have incurred their only shutout losses during the two Saturday games that they’ve played. Suddenly, I know how some of those University of Virginia beat writers felt during those many Saturdays that Al Groh spent on their campus.
But seriously how did the Braves expect to score today while Jason Heyward was enjoying a chance to rest under this sunshine that finally arrived in Florida today. As mentioned earlier, Heyward will be back in the lineup tomorrow afternoon with the split-squad that is going to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays.
There really wasn’t a lot to report from today’s 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays. Tim Hudson allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits in four innings. But he came away feeling even more confident that his splitter and changeup are better than they were before he underwent Tommy John surgery and was unable to consistently find the high arm slot that he is currently displaying.
Billy Wagner worked a perfect fifth inning and Peter Moylan found greater comfort with his changeup in a scoreless sixth that a pair of strikeouts, a walk and one hit. Eric O’Flaherty verbally allowed the whole stadium know he was upset after issuing one of his two walks in a scoreless seventh inning and Jesse Chavez surrendered two hits before completing a second consecutive scoreless outing.
It was a rather productive day for the Braves pitchers and quite a quiet one for the offense, which was limited to five singles, two of which came off Melky Cabrera’s bat.
This morning Nate McLouth explained his vision isn’t to blame for his early struggles. Then while going 0-for-3 with two more strikeouts against the Blue Jays, he prolonged them. He now has eight strikeouts through his first 19 at-bats this year.
McLouth began Friday’s game with a bunt single that was erased from the statistics because the game was called after three innings because of rain. He nearly beat out another bunt single in the first inning of Saturday’s game and then found nothing but more frustration in his next two at-bats.
“I thought he saw the ball much better today,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said on Saturday. “He aired out the swing much better, instead of trying to read every pitch.” <p>
I still think it’s far too early to put too much stock in the statistics that have been compiled so far during the Grapefruit League. But given that he’s the projected leadoff hitter, McLouth’s strikeout totals become more concerning when you view them as a continuation of the trend that started last year.
McLouth struck out 93 times in 597 at-bats with the Pirates in 2008. His strikeout total rose to 99 while compiling 90 fewer at-bats with the Braves and Pirates last year.
On the bright side: After completing his bullpen session without having any trouble with the blister on his right big toe, Derek Lowe said something like, “Everything went great. I got everybody out. I felt sexy. My hair was parted and I can’t wait until my Michigan Wolverines get another football coach.”
OK, Lowe said all of that minus my inclusion of the Rich Rodriguez reference. In summation, he appears ready to make his scheduled start on Monday night against the Nationals in Viera. In case you forgot, he exited Wednesday’s outing against the Mets after one inning because this blister had formed around his right big toe.
Cox visited the back fields this morning to watch Takashi Saito throw live batting practice and came back happy to report that the Japanese right-hander had shown better command than he had while allowing five earned runs in his first two games of the season.
“He was in the strike zone down the whole session,” Cox said. “He really looked good.”
Fantasy Advice: Those of you who are preparing for your fantasy draft may want to take a look at Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero, who proved effectively wild while pitching around four walks and limiting the Braves to two hits in four scoreless innings today.
“That Romero kid is real good,” Cox said. “When he’s right, that slider is a (Steve Carlton) slider.”
Braves team of the decade: If you guys haven’t seen it, check out this story that was written after I sat down with Pete Van Wieren, Mark Lemke and Braves media relations director Brad Hainje to select the first Braves all-decade team of this century.