Rainy update from PNC
While we’re sitting through a rain delay here at PNC Park, here are some tidbits that were gathered this afternoon.
Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to rest Troy Glaus tonight and start Eric Hinske at first base tonight. While Glaus could certainly benefit from a break, I think Cox also saw this as an opportunity to give Melky Cabrera a chance to get rolling. With Hinske at first base, Cabrera will be be in left field.
The switch-hitting Cabrera is hitting just .200 this season but has posted a .237 mark against right-handed pitchers. Virtually everybody has hit Pirate starter Charlie Morton this year. But he has had his greatest troubles against left-handed hitters, who have compiled a .350 batting average against him.
Heyward’s improved approach: It does seem like Jason Heyward has been a little less selective since Cox suggested that he be more aggressive early in the count. But Heyward thinks the success he has experienced over the past three weeks is just a product of the natural development process.
During the first 20 games of his career, Heyward hit .224 (15-for-67) with four homers 25 strikeouts and a .358 on-base percentage. In the 18 games he played since Cox expressed his desire, the Braves 20-year-old right fielder hit .367 (22-for-60) with five homers, five strikeouts and a .458 on-base percentage. <p>
His ability to significantly improve his on-base percentage seems to be product of the fact that he struck out once every 2.68 at-bats during his first 20 games and just once every 12 at-bats during the 18 games he has played since Cox told media members that his young outfielder needed to start swinging the bat a little more often. <p>
“You can’t hit with two strikes against you every at-bat,” Cox said. “Especially with runners on, if you get a pitch to hit, you better hit it. He’s smart. He’s got a great idea at the plate every at-bat. He’s not going to swing at the first pitch, unless it’s a great pitch.” <p>
To his credit, Heyward didn’t then immediately evolve into a free-swinger. He still has put the first pitch of an at-bat in play just six times in his career. But it does feel like he is drawing hitter’s counts much more frequently than he did during the early weeks of the season.
Entering Saturday, he was hitting .192 (14-for-73) when ending an at-bat with a two-strike count. But when he had put a ball in play when ahead in the count, he had hit .356 (16-for-45).
Kimbrel needs more time: The decision to send Craig Kimbrel back to Triple-A Gwinnett further proved why the Braves felt the need to hire Dave Wallace as their new Minor League pitching instructor this offseason.
With Kent Willis handling this role over the course of the past few years, the Braves too often found themselves stocking their Major League pitching staff with young pitchers who still hadn’t learned the finer points of their craft.
There are still some concerns about Kimbrel’s control. But the six walks he issued in 3 1/3 innings for Atlanta were likely a product of nerves. The kid threw strikes while at Gwinnett earlier this year and he’ll likely show this same kind of control when he returns to Atlanta.
More alarming to the Braves Major League coaching staff was the fact that Kimbrel proved to be very slow to the plate while throwing all of his pitches from the stretch. In order to maximize the potential of his tremendous arm, the 21-year-old right-hander will spend the next few weeks and possibly months developing a delivery that will allow him to be less susceptible against opposing basestealers.
Kawakami Update: Kenshin Kawakami’s back discomfort has subsided over the past few days and he is expected to make his start against the Marlins on Tuesday.
Looks like we’ll get this game started at some point tonight. But as of 7:50 p.m. ET, the tarp was still on the field.