Minor injuries linger as Opening Day approaches
While spending this past weekend with a bunch of West Virginia fans in the hospitable city of Lexington Ky., I guess I missed a couple of big events in Braves land. But I’m still thinking it was a lot more fan watching my family members celebrate WVU’s victory just minutes from the UK campus.
When I arrived in Kentucky on Friday afternoon and saw that Bobby Cox had told Jason Heyward that he will begin the season as his starting right fielder, the sarcastic side of me said, “‘well that’s one way to draw attention away from a story about a Minor Leaguer who had been busted soliciting a prostitute.”
But really, this announcement had everything to do with the fact that Cox didn’t seen any reason to delay the inevitable. Even before the Grapefruit League season began, I think we all assumed that Heyward would be starting in right field next Monday afternoon.
Now with Opening Day exactly one week away, the Braves just have to hope that a couple days of rest will prove to be enough for Heyward to get rid of the discomfort caused by the shin splints that have bothered him the past couple of days.
This morning, Cox said shin splints can “bother you for a while.” But with his tone, it was obvious that he doesn’t seem to concerned about this minor ailment. It appears Heyward will likely return to the lineup in the next day or two.
In other injury-related news, Yunel Escobar will miss today’s game against the Phillies in Clearwater because of a sore back that has kept him sidelined since Friday.
“He worked out great (on Sunday), but woke up stiff today,” Cox said. “So I told him to stay back.”
Heyward and Escobar have spent the past five weeks making all of their necessary preparations. Now the Braves will provide them whatever rest necessary to provide them a chance to enter the regular season at or at least near full strength.
ROSTER BATTLES: Heading into these final days of the exhibition season, it appears the Braves are still debating whether to give their final roster spot for a position player to either Brooks Conrad or Joe Thurston.
Things haven’t exactly changed since I last posted an entry on Thursday. During the past three games, Conrad has gone 0-for-8 and Thurston has gone 0-for-6. This race is currently too close to call.
On the bullpen front, Cox said there are still a number of relievers still battling for the final two spots. Four of those relievers — Jesse Chavez, Craig Kimbrel and LHPs Jonny Venters and Jo-Jo Reyes — will be pitching against the Phillies this afternoon. Scott Proctor is the other pitcher who is still being placed in this mix.
With the belief that Proctor will be given a few more weeks to strengthen his arm, I’m still thinking that Reyes and Chavez will get the final two spots in the bullpen. Then of course after a couple of weeks one of these guys will be sent to the Minors to make room for Proctor.
HUDSON vs. Minor Leaguers: Instead of facing the Phillies for the second consecutive time, Tim Hudson will pitch in a Minor League game back at Disney this afternoon. Check back later this afternoon for his results.
The Phillies are sending J.A. Happ to the mound to face the Braves for the second time in six days. This certainly shouldn’t bother Brian McCann, who took the southpaw deep twice last week at Disney.
TODAY’s LINEUP vs. Phillies