Braves getting healthy as Opening Day approaches

Jason Heyward said that he hopes to return to action tomorrow and Craig Kimbrel now knows that he will begin the upcoming season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer.

As the Braves prepare to oppose CC Sabathia and the Yankees this afternoon,  you can devour these mostly injury-related tidbits that were gathered during batting practice. 

While Yunel Escobar’s back was healthy enough for him to return to return to today’s lineup, the Braves are going to give Heyward at least one more day to rest the shin splints that began bothering him on Sunday. 

When I spoke with Heyward this morning he said, “I hope to play tomorrow.”  But the 20-year-old outfielder added,  “I know this is something that isn’t just going to go away immediately.” 

While Bobby Cox said that there’s a chance Heyward might play tomorrow against the Astros, his tone provided indication that he might wait until at least Thursday before putting his 20-year-old phenom back in the lineup.

Having already compiled 49 at-bats during the Grapefruit League season, Heyward has made all of his necessary preparations for the season.  Even if he rests for another day or two, he’ll still be able to get his timing back while playing the final games of the exhibition season.

Heyward took batting practice this morning and provided further indication that there isn’t any reason to think he won’t be ready for Monday afternoon’s Opening Day game against the Cubs.

Backup catcher David Ross still seems confident that he will be available on Opening Day.  But Ross, who also experienced a pain-free batting practice session this morning, will spend the next couple of days testing the strength of the right groin muscle that he strained on Thursday. 

Ross’ concerns were further diminished this morning, when he was able to run sprints  and do striders without feeling any discomfort.

As for Jordan Schafer, he has recently started taking live batting practice and believes he could join the Gwinnett roster at the end of April.  The 23-year-old center fielder said that he’s been able to strengthen his surgically-repaired left hand and is no longer bothered by the fatigue that it presented earlier this year.   

Kimbrel impresses: With 14 career appearances above the Class A level, Kimbrel arrived in camp as a long shot to win a bullpen spot.  But the 21-year-old right-hander certainly made a strong impression before learning this morning that he will begin the season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer. 

Based on what he saw, Cox said that Kimbrel already has the stuff to be a successful pitcher at the big league level.  But the Braves want him to continue improving his command through the regular work that he wouldn’t receive if he began the season in the Atlanta bullpen.

Kimbrel will remain with the big league club this week and will likely make an appearance during one of the exhibition games played against the White Sox this weekend.

First time for everything:  Having been involved in professional baseball since arriving in Dodgers Minor League camp in 1960, Cox has seen plenty of oddities the game can present  But when the Yankees send Pat Venditte to the mound this afternoon, the Braves manager will see an ambidextrous pitcher for the first time.

Venditte pitched for the Venezuelan Winter League team managed by Eddie Perez this past winter.  Perez said the young Minor Leaguer has good stuff from both sides of the plate, but is especially effective against left-handed hitters. 

You can watch today’s game on MLB.TV and CSS.  Brian Jordan and Mike Morgan will serve as the broadcasters. 

BRAVES LINEUP
Cabrera 9
Prado 4
Chipper 5
Glaus 3
Escobar 6
Diaz 7
McLouth 8
Sammons 2
Kawakami 1   

 

15 Comments

Manny Acosta was claimed off waivers by the Mets. Juan Abreu cleared waivers and was outrighted to Myrtle Beach. The 40-man roster now includes 37 players. One of these spots will be filled by Heyward and another by Proctor when he is deemed ready. This move makes you wonder if another spot was opened for Thurston. But it still seems like they are leaning toward Conrad.

After today’s game Bobby said something that provided even more reason to believe Proctor will spend the first couple of weeks of the season in the Minors.

“His arm strength is coming around, he just needs to pitch more,” Cox said.

Or, Proctor can just pitch with both arms like Venditte. GIve us a little recap of who he faced, et al. Thanks Mark.

maybe one of the 40-man roster spots is for Craig Kimbrel?

Beyond the economic signs – hopefully, Heyward will be back on the field very soon and I can wait to see the Braves rock the field. Hopefully, this season will excel more skillful players and remarkable scenarios ? especially with Braves in it. Good luck to our team and keep us more updates.

Just for nostalgia purposes, I noticed that Andruw Jones is playing RF for the White Sox, in the best shape he’s been in in years, and currently hitting .326 with a .400+ OBP and a few HRs in 46 ABs. Also 4-for-4 in SBs. Good luck to our old friend.

Where’s the Yankee ****** bag now?

“Sabathia ended his exhibition season on a rough note as the Braves damaged him with five earned runs and eight hits in just 4 2/3 innings.”

Acosta to the Mets, for nothing. Why? Mark, any indication as to the Braves thinking on this? It doesn’t make sense. Couldn’t they have just sent him to the minors AND kept him on the 40-man? I’d rather have him on the 40-man than a couple of the others.

Agree with the sentiment above about Acosta. While he gets more grief than most in Brave Nation, I far and away prefer having him in the organization over the likes of James Parr, Stephen Marek and a couple of others.

….or gregor blanco.

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