McLouth begins the day with a blast
Back in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of Bradenton, former Pirate Nate McLouth has set himself up to break out of his maddening slump.
As I was completing this blog, McLouth drilled Charlie Morton’s 0-1 pitch the other way and over the left field wall for a leadoff homer. It was the Braves center fielder’s first extra-base hit since March 6 and just his third hit in the 39 at-bats he’s compiled this year.
McLouth, who was acquired in the June trade that sent Morton to Pittsburgh, has taken advantage of two opportunities this week to compile at-bats in Minor League games. Before today’s game, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said that he was gaining the sense that the 28-year-old outfielder was putting less pressure on himself and finding comfort at the plate.
POSITION BATTLE: When Brooks Conrad was seemingly making a highlight play with his glove on a daily basis, there was reason to believe that he was at least establishing himself as the favorite to win the last roster spot for a position player.
But with the end of the Florida portion of the exhibition season just a week away, it seems pretty difficult to get a sense about whether the Braves are leaning toward filling this final spot with Conrad or Joe Thurston.
There isn’t any reason to read to much into the fact that Conrad is starting at third base for this afternoon’s game against the Pirates and Thurston will enter during the middle innings.
While you could decipher this to mean they are currently favoring Conrad, you could also deduct that this means they want to get a better look at Conrad playing third base.
Having made 55 starts at third base for the Cardinals last year, Thurston has already shown what he can do at that position.
STATS entering Thursday’s game
Conrad .265 BA (9-for-34), 1 HR, .390 OBP, .441 SLG
Thurston .353 BA (12-for-34), 2 HRs, .371 OBP, .529 SLG
The fact that Conrad is already on the 40-man roster might seemingly give him a slight advantage. But when it comes time to make their final roster decisions, the Braves seemingly have the flexibility to add both Jason Heyward and Joe Thurston if they desire. In fact, they may even be able to make room for Craig Kimbrel too.
With Diory Hernandez recovering from shoulder surgery, the Braves could open a roster spot by placing him on the 60-day disabled list. In addition, I think they could comfortably remove Stephen Marek, James Parr and possibly even Luis Valdez, who still hasn’t arrived because of visa problems, without too much fear of losing them to another clubMcLouth 8
Kawakami 1 .