Oberholtzer turning heads in Braves camp
Brian McCann has won four Silver Slugger Awards and been named to five All-Star teams through the first five full seasons of his career. But as he watched this man with the 39-year-old surgically-repaired left knee blow by him early this afternoon, he proved he’s also quite capable of impersonating DeAngelo Hall.
Obviously Chipper’s knee was feeling good today as he and the rest of his Braves teammates endured some sprints at the end of this afternoon’s workout. But he wasn’t necessarily feeling as good as Jason Heyward and Jonny Venters, who both learned how much money they’ll be making this year.
Heyward’s $496,500 salary is the highest figure the Braves have awarded any player with just one full year of service. Venters’ 79-appearance season has netted him a $429,500 (corrected) figure, which seems pretty nice for a guy who really wasn’t getting much attention this time of year.
Every year during Spring Training, there is seemingly at least one guy who emerges as a pleasant surprise. Last year, it was Venters and this year it might be left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. The 21-year-old southpaw likely won’t break camp with the big league club.
But Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez is among the members of the Braves coaching staff who have taken notice of Oberholtzer’s pinpoint control.
In fact when asked who has impressed him most in camp, Perez gave the obvious answer of Julio Teheran and then added just Oberholtzer’s name.
“He’s impressed me a lot,” Perez said, while adding he likes the approach the young southpaw takes to completing his bullpen sessions.
Oberholtzer, who was acquired in the eighth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, combined to go 6-8 with a 3.78 ERA in 26 appearances (22 starts) for Class A Rome and Class A-Advanced Myrtle Beach last year.
In the 135 2/3 innings he completed during this span, he recorded 126 strikeouts and issued just 23 walks.
Speaking of Perez, he was quite proud of the way his good friend Javy Lopez dealt with top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt last week. In camp as an extra coach, Lopez basically told Bethancourt it was time to stop showing the body language that has led some to believe he is lackadaisical and cocky.
Bethancourt certainly wouldn’t be the first 19-year-old, highly-regarded prospect to be labeled in this manner. But Lopez basically wanted the young catcher from Panama to gain some of the same lessons he had nearly 20 years ago.
“Javy talked to him a lot and helped him a lot,” Perez said. “Javy told him, ‘I was stupid just like you.’ When he aske what he meant, Javy explained to him that he didn’t always carry himself the right way because he knew he was good and thought people should just adore him. Then he told him that he had to start working harder. And you know what, he’s looked better the past three days.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Jair Jurrjens will start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. For a breakdown of the early exhibition season rotation, click here.
Based on the way the days fall Derek Lowe is lined up to make a third straight Opening Day start for the Braves. But Gonzalez warned before announcing his rotation that he could tinker with it as the weeks progress.
It should also be remembered that pitching coach Roger McDowell has attempted to get his starters at least one extra day of rest leading up to their first regular season start.
If you haven’t checked out some of the things his teammates had to say about his work ethic, check out this story about Martin Prado.