Odds and ends: Freeman and Kawakami updates
Now that everyone in the baseball world knows Cody Ross, it’s time to reminisce about the day that Chuck James didn’t.
Ross homered off James in the second inning of a July 25, 2006 game at Turner Field. Two innings later, the then-Marlins outfielder took the Braves southpaw deep again.
Now obviously I wasn’t present to witness the developments that ensued. But this is how the story has been often told by Braves players over the past few years.
After Ross’ fourth-inning homer gave the Marlins what proved to be a decisive two-run lead, James slapped his glove against the bench and said, “I can’t believe he hit that pitch.”
This prompted Scott Thorman to say, “I don’t know why you can’t believe it. He hit that same pitch out two innings ago.”
Further proving that he was never suited to be a rocket scientist, James said, “That was that same guy?”
While James revived his playing career as an effective reliever in the Nationals Minor League system this year, Ross was enjoying a roller-coaster ride that has introduced him to October fame and put and his Giants teammates one win away from reaching the World Series.
This certainly didn’t seem to be expected when the Giants slipped past the injury-depleted Braves with three one-run wins in the National League Division Series. But while walking through the Phillies clubhouse after they lost Game 4 Wednesday night, it was obvious that they have certainly come to respect this San Francisco bunch that has verified you can successfully gamble on offensive pieces if you have a strong pitching staff in place.
There is certainly no reason to take anything away from what Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and San Francisco’s solid bullpen have done during this NL Championship Series. But you have to wonder if they would have found this same level of success if Chase Utley was at full strength.
Utley injured his thumb sliding into second base on June 28 and learned a few days later that he would need to undergo a surgical procedure that would sideline him for a little more than six weeks. In the 43 games he played after returning the All-Star second baseman hit .273 with a .410 slugging percentage.
While going 2-for-15 with no extra-base hits through the first four games of this NLCS, Utley has continued to search for the power he displayed while compiling a .533 slugging percentage in the four seasons combined.
Jason Heyward hit .299 with a .608 slugging percentage in the 31 games he played before injuring his left thumb sliding into third base on May 14. The Braves outfielder ended up missing just two weeks (just before the All-Star break) with this injury, which wasn’t deemed serious enough to be surgically repaired.
But there was no doubt that the injury proved serious enough to prevent Heyward from operating at full strength for the remainder of the season. He slugged just .421 in the 111 games that he played after jamming his thumb. The 21-year-old All-Star simply looked fatigued while slugging .385 in his final 30 regular season games.
Taking two weeks off gave Heyward a chance to occasionally display his great potential in the season’s second half. But this seemingly wasn’t near enough time for him to completely overcome this thumb ailment, which is similar to the one his good friend Freddie Freeman is currently nursing.
Freeman jammed his left thumb while sliding into third base during an Arizona Fall League Game Monday afternoon. An MRI exam showed no structural damage to his ligaments.
But as of late Thursday afternoon, Freeman’s thumb was still pretty swollen and providing a great deal of discomfort. The Braves aren’t ruling out the possibility that he could begin playing again in the AFL later this month. They will re-evaluate him again in about a week.
Progress in Kawakami talks: It sounds like at least one Japanese team has shown strong interest in acquiring Kenshin Kawakami from the Braves. The club is believed to be willing to assume approximately $3 million of the $6.67 million the Braves still owe the Japanese right-hander next year.
One Japanese reporter indicted the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters have shown some interest. But it’s believed the Braves might have found at least one other more attractive suitor from the Japanese League.
Heyward’s commercial: Heyward spent a portion of this week in New York City filming a SportsCenter commercial. The ad, which is expected to run just before the start of Spring Training, will feature him with ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt and the Stanford Tree.