Tight battles for final roster spots
The Braves will be going back to Atlanta in 15 days and as things currently stand there isn’t any way to confidently state who is going to win their final available roster spots.
We entered camp with the belief that Mitch Jones, Brent Clevlen, Joe Thurston and Brooks Conrad would battle for the one spot available for a position player. Nearly a month later, it looks like this is a two-man race being closely contested by Thurston and Conrad.
Thurston and Conrad have enjoyed nearly identical success at the plate. Both have hit .333 (8-for-24) with a .533 slugging percentage. Thurston has hit one more homer (2-1) and Conrad has compiled the better on-base percentage (.448 versus .360) with the assistance he has gained through an advantage in the walk (5-1) department.
Both of these Minor League journeyman’s defensive versatility limits them to second base and third base. If you’re looking for a current tiebreaker, it would likely come via the number of dazzling defensive plays Conrad has played at second base.
“He has made more great plays than anybody else in the state of Florida,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Entering camp it appeared there would be two available spots in the bullpen and during the early days Jesse Chavez emerged as a favorite for one of those spots. But after struggling in his first two outings, Chavez fell back in the heat of a competition that could be won by a couple of underdogs.
Chavez, who hasn’t allowed a run in his past two outings, Manny Acosta and left-handers Mike Dunn and Mariano Gomez are scheduled to follow starter Tommy Hanson during this afternoon’s game against the Marlins.
While each of these hurlers still appear to be in the mix for one of the final two spots in the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel and left-hander Jonny Venters seem to be moving to the top of the list of candidates.
As you know, Cox has routinely praised Kimbrel, who has allowed just two hits in four scoreless innings. In addition, the veteran manager has continued to talk about the “super sinker” thrown by Venters, who has allowed just one earned run in his 5 1/3 innings.
This isn’t to say that Venters and Kimbrel have emerged as the definitive favorites in this battle. But it seems pretty safe to say that both of these non-roster invitees are at least in the lead pack.
NOTES: Today’s game is being televised by MLB.TV, SportSouth and MLB Network. The folks at Fox Sports Net, which owns SportSouth, decided to have a split broadcast with Braves announcer Joe Simpson working in the booth with Marlins announcer Rich Waltz.
If everybody is in the sharing spirit down here in Jupiter, do you think the Cardinals could loan their first baseman when the Braves conclude their two-day swing in Jupiter tomorrow afternoon.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and yes this is why the Braves are wearing their green hats against the Marlins today.
Braves lineup for Wednesday’s game @ Marlins