Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

Odds and ends from Viera

With the rain clouds currently in the distance here at Space Coast Stadium, Jason Heyward is preparing to prove he’s no longer bothered by the left groin discomfort that sidelined him the last three games. 

In addition, Chipper Jones is prepping to clear his next hurdle by playing third base for a second straight day.  When the Braves travel to Jupiter tomorrow to play the Marlins, Jones will rest his surgically-repaired left knee.

After Tommy Hanson completes his scheduled three innings against the Nationals this afternoon, Arodys Vizcaino will throw at least one inning.  The 20-year-old right-hander’s fastball was clocked around 95-97 mph as he tossed two scoreless innings against the Red Sox last Wednesday. 

It’s remarkable that Vizcaino is registering this kind of velocity when just last summer he seemed destined for Tommy John surgery. 

Earlier this week, a National League scout said he feels Vizcaino will be a reliever at the Major League level.  It remains to be seen whether this proves to be a sound projection. 

But for now, the Braves will simply continue to count themselves lucky to have Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran at the same time. 

Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said Teheran will likely pitch in Monday afternoon’s game against the Marlins.  The 20-year-old right-hander, who is rated’s top pitching prospect, has seemingly overcome the back spasms that bothered him last week.

While Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino get most of the attention, multiple coaches and members of management has spent the past couple weeks saying, “Don’t forget about Brett Oberholtzer.”

Oberholtzer really impressed with the control he showed while tossing a pair of scoreless innings against the Nationals Friday. 

During September’s Instructional League, Nationals phenom Bryce Harper victimized Delgado with an opposite-field homer that traveled an estimated 400-plus feet. 

One scout who watched Friday’s game said the left-handed Oberholtzer made Harper “look stupid” while striking him out. 


Prado 7
Schafer 8
Chipper 5
Uggla 4
Heyward 9
Gonzalez 6
Freeman 3
Ross 2
Hanson 1 


Chipper feeling expected day-after soreness

When Chipper Jones arrived at the park today, his surgically-repaired left knee was providing the kind of pain he expected to feel the day after playing defense for the first time in nearly seven months.

As for most of the rest of his body parts, they seemed to be much sorer. 

“I’m sore,” Jones said with a smirk and chuckle. “My hamstrings, my quads, everything.” 

Even while saying that his hamstrings were “really barking”, Jones planned to serve as the designated hitter in Friday afternoon’s game against the Blue Jays at Disney. 

While playing third base Thursday for the first time since tearing his left ACL on Aug. 10, Jones grabbed one pop fly and snared a grounder.  That was the only action he saw during his four-inning stint at the hot corner. 

But as his legs were reminding him Friday, they still felt the effects of him flexing his leg muscles with every pitch and pushing off either leg in reaction to every batted ball. 

“You can’t simulate playing a game,” Jones said. “You can go out and work out and do everything you think is going to prepare you for a game and it just doesn’t work….During the game, you’re doing squat after squat after squat.”

While he would have appreciated the chance to avoid this “sore muscle” pain, Jones was pleased that his knee seemed to fine when he awoke Friday.

“The knee is fine,” Jones said. “I didn’t have any more or less fluid in my knee than I have any other morning.” 

Jones will have a chance to watch Mike Minor pitch against the Blue Jays this afternoon. Meanwhile Martin Prado will be in Viera playing third base and getting a chance to see Brandon Beachy attempt to improve his positioning in the battle against Minor for the rotation’s fifth spot.

Earlier this week, Jones said he is among those who feel Beachy has a bright future.  He likes the right-hander’s command and makeup. 

Speaking of futures, the Braves have brought some of their top prospects over from Minor League camp to serve as extras in today’s game.

Well Todd Cunninghman, who was selected in the second round of last summer’s First-Year Player Draft, was going to serve as an extra until Eric Hinske was scratched from the lineup (vs. Blue Jays) Friday morning.  Cunningham will make the start in left field.

One year after giving him a $1.6 million signing bonus, the Braves welcomed Edward Salcedo to the big league clubhouse to serve as one of the extras against the Blue Jays.  The 19-year-old shortstop experienced some growing pains while hitting .197 in 54 games with Class A Rome last year.

Other extras vs. Blue Jays are infielders Phil Gosselin, Joe Leonard and outfielders David Rohm and Kyle Rose.

Matt Lipka, the club’s top selection in last summer’s First-Year Player Draft, will serve as one of the extras in Viera.  Outfielders Cory Harrilchak and Adam Milligan and first baseman Joseph Terdoslavich fill out this group of extras.

There will be interest surrounding the battle Minor and Beachy are staging for the rotation’s fifth spot.  But it will also be interesting to see how Craig Kimbrel fares today in Viera.   The young reliever bounced back from a rough debut with a strong showing against the Red Sox Wednesday. 

Kimbrel showed a pretty good fastball against the Red Sox Wednesday.  But it appeared he’s still trying to find a feel for his breaking ball.

Braves general manager Frank Wren’s son Kyle has made good early impressions while serving as Georgia Tech’s starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter.  Check out this wall-jarring catch he recently made against St. John’s.    
TODAY’S LINEUP vs. Blue Jays

Mycal Jones 8
Alex Gonzalez 6
Chipper DH
Uggla 4
Cunningham 7
Mather 3
Ross 2
Clevlen 9
Hicks 5

Prado 5
McLouth 8
Freeman 3
McCann 2
Wilkin Ramirez DH
Schafer 9
Conrad 4
Diory Hernandez 6
Young 7
Beachy 1


Chipper set to play third today

To celebrate the start of  ESPN The Weekend at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has decided to put Chipper Jones at third base for this afternoon’s game against the Tigers, which will be aired on ESPN. 

OK, so that’s not exactly the reason.  In fact, Gonzalez might not even know that many of the folks from Bristol have arrived in the Disney area and stolen some of the thunder created by Kenshin Kawakami’s arrival. 

Essentially, Gonzalez simply felt Jones was ready to test his surgically-repaired left knee at third base today.  The veteran third baseman didn’t have a problem with the decision.  But until seeing the lineup in the clubhouse this morning, he was assuming he would wait until tomorrow to play defense. 

“It was the manager’s decision,” Jones said. “I’m ready. One day isn’t going to make any difference.  I could come in tomorrow with my knee blown up and be scratched.  I feel fine today.  I was actually going to talk to him about doing it today.  He made the decision for me.”

This will be the first time Jones has played third base since he tore his left ACL on Aug. 10.  He served as the designated hitter in exhibition games played Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

While Jones is in today’s lineup, Jason Heyward will wait a few more days before playing again.  The 21-year-old right field exited Wednesday’s win over the Red Sox with some discomfort in his left groin. 

Heyward said he felt some tightness Monday night and then felt some more discomfort while playing defense in Wednesday’s first inning. 

After being evaluated by members of the Braves medical staff Thursday morning, Heyward said they don’t think he’s dealing with anything that should cause concern.  He’ll likely miss at least a couple games. 

“It was good that I got out of there at the right time and didn’t make it any worse,” Heyward said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Kawakami is in Braves camp…for now

When Kenshin Kawakami arrived in Braves camp this morning, he introduced himself to manager Fredi Gonzalez and renewed acquaintances with a caffeinated Derek Lowe. 

Instead of greeting his former rotation mate with, “Don’t worry, they didn’t want me last year”, Lowe simply welcomed Kawakami back and playfully said something about how the Braves had to send Brett Favre’s jet to get the Japanese hurler. 

With his visa issues resolved Kawakami was able to leave Japan and arrive in Braves camp more than two weeks after pitchers and catchers staged their first workout.

“It feels like I was just in elementary school and I was sick the whole time and just came back,” Kawakami said through his interpreter.

At least Kawakami has managed to maintain a sense of humor as he prepares to enter a tough situation.

Kawakami is well aware that the Braves have spent the past four months attempting to trade him.  He also knows that if he stays within the Atlanta organization, he’ll likely begin the season pitching in either suburban Atlanta’s Gwinnett County or Pearl, Miss. 

But when asked, Kawakami refused to admit that he’s hoping to be traded.

“To be honest, I can’t think about that right now,” Kawakami said. “If anything, I’d love to be on this team.”

When the Braves attempted to deal him to some interested clubs from the Japanese League, Kawakami said he wanted a chance to pitch in the United States for at least one more season. 

Obviously, this was a right he earned when the Braves opted to give him a three-year, $23 million contract before the start of the 2009 season.  Since then, they’ve seen him go 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in 50 appearances (41 starts).

Through the first two years of this deal the Braves have paid Kawakami  $1.79 million per win.  Considering there’s a good possibility that he never pitches again in Atlanta, that number will likely look even more Hampton-esque before it’s all said and done.

It’s believed there were some Japanese clubs willing to pay nearly half of the $6.77 million Kawakami is owed in the final year of his contract.  Major League clubs haven’t been willing to offer quite as much. 

The Pirates showed some interest and the Orioles were believed to have offered to pay the Braves $2 million for Kawakami.

Because the Braves waited to see if they could get more, Kawakami now prepares for a season without knowing exactly where he’ll be pitching.

Check and later today for a complete story about Kawakami’s arrival.

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman   

McLouth gains early confidence

There was some good hitting, bad pitching and shoddy defense during Monday’s 13-3 win over the Astros at Disney.  But for the Braves, the most important development came courtesy of the fact that Nate McLouth reached safely in each of his four plate appearances. 

No, that didn’t match the amount of times he reached base during the entirety of last year’s exhibition season.  It just seemed like it.  But if you’re counting, his two hits accounted for one-third of the total he collected in 51 exhibition season at-bats last year.

“My first hit was a bloop hit, but at least it didn’t take me nine games to get it,” McLouth said in reference to his first-inning bloop single to center. 

The fact that McLouth can at least attempt to poke fun at last season’s struggles seems to indicate that he’s much more relaxed than he was at any point last year.  Instead of trying to avoid his struggles, he’s accepted the challenge of overcoming them. 

Chipper Jones said he is looking forward to seeing if McLouth continues to take a more aggressive approach in the batter’s box.  As his confidence continued to take a beating last year, McLouth seemed far too indecisive at the plate. 

During Monday’s fourth inning, he looked at a hittable 2-0 pitch and then laced an opposite-field RBI double to left field.

“He’s made some adjustments at the plate,” Jones said. “He’s starting with some rhythm and getting something going, as opposed to starting from a dead standstill.  We’ve got to get him a little more aggressive than he was last year.  I don’t want to see him taking 2-0 and 3-1 pitches right down the middle, hoping for a walk.  I want him to do damage.” 

Now that the tarp has been removed here at Osceola County Stadium, McLouth and Jones will be among the Braves who will be taking their hacks at Astros right-hander Brett Myers. 

This is Jones’ third straight start as the designated hitter.  It will be interesting to see how his knee reacts once he starts playing the field and is forced to instinctively react to his right or left.  But for now, it appears his knee is passing all of the necessary tests and producing nothing more than expected discomfort. 

Kenshin Kawakami will arrive in the Orlando area tonight and be in camp for tomorrow’s workout at Disney.  It will be interesting to hear what he has to say about his future, or at least the club’s decision to remove him from the 40-man roster and put him on Double-A Mississippi’s roster. 

Schafer 7
McLouth 8
Chipper DH
Uggla 4
Heyward 9
Mather 5
Freeman 3
Boscan 2
Hernandez 6

Tommy Hanson will start.  Jonny Venters, Stephen Marek, Michael Broadway, Jairo Asencio and Eric O’Flaherty are scheduled to pitch.    

Freeman impressing with bat and glove

As we prepare to watch Derek Lowe face the Astros in the third game of this exhibition season, it’s time to throw out some thoughts and observations gathered this past weekend.

Those who have followed Freddie Freeman knew he was quite capable of doing what he did Saturday, when he produced three doubles (one to each field) in Saturday’s opener against the Mets.  Thus, I would have to say it was even more impressive watching him begin a double play in Sunday afternoon’s contest. 

Freeman ranged to his right, regained his balance and used his strong right arm to fire a pinpoint throw to shortstop Alex Gonzalez who then threw to Rodrigo Lopez at first base to complete the twin killing. 

It’s a play you would expect to see at least a handful of Major League first baseman make.  But it’s still impressive to see a 6-foot-4, 242-pound frame start this turn with relative ease. 

Just to give you a sense about how much Freeman’s offseason conditioning program altered his frame, a National League scout very familiar with the Braves first baseman showed up this morning and said, “Wow! Freddie really got big.”

Mike Minor breezed through his 17-pitch, two-inning performance Sunday afternoon in very efficient manner. I’m among those who believe he could benefit from some additional time (a month or two) at the Minor League level. 

But if Brandon Beachy doesn’t give the Braves complete confidence that he will be reliable in the role, then they might not have any other choice but to have Minor start the year in the Majors. 

Yeah, Rodrigo Lopez is around for insurance.  But for now, I think we should just assume that the Braves have learned from the Mark Redman experiment. 

The Braves were given further reason to be encouraged about Chipper Jones when he returned to the park today and said his knee was sound enough for him to once again serve as the designated hitter this afternoon. 

As said before, the left knee is going to continue providing problems as camp continues.  The Braves and Jones are just hoping it becomes less and less of a problem as the days and weeks pass in March. 

Jones might serve as the designated hitter again on Tuesday and then take a break Wednesday when the Braves make the three-hour trek to Ft. Myers to play the Red Sox. Nice  veteran, perk huh? 

By the way, Tim Hudson wasn’t afforded this perk.  He’ll make the three-hour drive to Ft. Myers to make his two-inning exhibition season debut and then make his second start next Monday, when the Braves drive 2 1/2 hours to play the Marlins in Jupiter. 

I haven’t mapped out the rest of his scheduled.  But Huddy said, the rest of his starts are scheduled to be made at Disney.

Scott Proctor wasn’t guaranteed the last available bullpen spot coming into camp and while allowing Russ Adams a three-run homer in Sunday’s loss to the Braves he certainly didn’t aid his cause. 

There’s obviously still plenty of time for Proctor to make many more positive impressions before camp concludes. But if he continues to struggle, that last spot could be grabbed by Cristhian Martinez, who made some contributions in Atlanta last year. 

Martinez is just an early guess.  Don’t forget Fredi Gonzalez didn’t like him enough to find a spot for him in the Marlins bullpen at the beginning of last season.

With this in mind, I’ll say that Stephen Marek and Anthony Varvaro are the two other top candidates. 


Prado 7
McLouth 8
Chipper DH
McCann 2
Uggla 4
Heyward 9
Gonzalez 6
Hinske 3
Hicks 5  



Chipper could debut Sunday

Chipper Jones didn’t make the trek down to Port St. Lucie this morning.  But he does plan to make at least one of his club’s four scheduled trips down here and allow the Mets fans to once again show how much they love their favorite Larry. 

When Chipper arrived at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex Friday morning, he was both frustrated and relieved.   His frustration stemmed from the fact his surgically-repaired left knee had cause him problems again during Thursday’s workout. 

His relief stemmed from the fact that the discomfort had subsided overnight without the need to drain any fluid from his knee. 

A few hours later, Jones ended a two-hour workout with sliding drills (he did slide on his right side) and some baserunning conditioning drills.

“It might take some time,” Jones said. “But I would like by the end of March to be able to go at it every day and not think about it anymore.  That would be perfect world stuff.”  <p> 

Jones’ frustration has been a product of the few rough days he’s had during the early day of camp.  But with this being said, the 38-year-old third baseman has participated in every workout and impressed front office members with the enthusiasm he brings to the park on a daily basis.

Jones could make his Grapefruit League season debut as a designated hitter in Sunday’s game against the Mets at Disney. He would like to begin playing defense in games later in the week.    

It sounds like Kenshin Kawakami could arrive in camp Tuesday or Wednesday.  The Japanese right-hander’s arrival has been delayed because the Braves applied for his visa later than normal.  This was a result of the fact they weren’t sure they were going to invite him to Major League camp. 

A Japanese media member said an Orioles source said their club offered the Braves somewhere between $1-2 million for Kawakami earlier this winter. 

It will be interesting to see if the Braves get at least that amount if they are fortunate enough to find a suitor for Kawakami before the end of Spring Training. 

Schafer  DH
McLouth 8
Heyward 9
McCann 2
Hinske 7
Freeman 3
Conrad 4
Hicks 5
Hernandez 6 

Schafer impressing Fredi with his work ethic

Because there is a potential that Jordan Schafer still has a bright future, it seems hard to believe the Braves would begin the season with him as their fourth outfielder.  It would seem more prudent to allow him to make up for the time he lost the past couple years by spending at least a few months playing everyday in the Minors. 

With this being said, the Braves have to spend the next couple weeks allowing Schafer to play as much as possible in Grapefruit League games.  If Chipper Jones’ knee ever becomes problematic enough that Martin Prado is forced to experience a long-term stay at third base, Joe Mather could play left field. 

But instead of putting too much faith in Mather’s ability to play an everyday role, the Braves would seem better suited to give Schafer every chance he can to play and further prove that he has distanced himself from the left wrist injury that has wrecked his past two seasons. 

In somewhat of a selfish manner, I’m hoping Schafer spends the next couple of weeks proving to be just as exciting as he was during the 2009 Grapefruit League season.  As I’ve said in the past, I’ve grown to like the kid, who has understandably been defined as brash and cocky. 

If he was brash, cocky, lazy and expecting everything to be handed to him, it would be tough to like him.  But while showing some arrogance, this kid has proven that he is willing to work and put in the extra time necessary to resurrect his once highly-promising career.

“I’ll tell you what, (Schafer) and Prado are probably the two hardest-working guys we have,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “They’re here at  6 o’clock in the morning and when you leave, they’re still in there doing something.”

It appears Kenshin Kawakami could arrive in camp next week to get a close look at Schafer’s work ethic. Of course the Braves will be satisfied if he simply arrives in time to prove impressive enough for some pitching-hungry club to prove willing to trade for him and relieve the Braves of some of his $6.77 million salary. 

Kawakami has landed an appointment to complete all of the steps needed to secure his visa.  The Braves believe this should allow him to exit his native Japan within the next couple of days.

By the time Kawakami arrives, Eric O’Flaherty might have fully digested the 48-ounce steak he ate at Shula’s Steakhouse Wednesday night.  He also consumed a bowl of French onion soup long before Chipper was left with the big bill.

  As mentioned earlier this week, Brett Oberholtzer has been impressing many of the Braves coaches during the early days of Spring Training.  In fact, there are some who believe this left-hander out of Delaware will soon be mentioned with the organization’s Big Three —  Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino…Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Nate McLouth, Eric Hinske and Schafer will all make the trip to Port St. Lucie for Saturday’s Grapefruit League season opener. 


Oberholtzer turning heads in Braves camp

MacChip.JPGBrian 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.

Following Chipper’s lead, it’s time to take this one to the house.

Second week of camp begins

Martin Prado has been one of the first players to arrive at the stadium during Spring Training and he has always been the last to leave this year.  To Brian McCann and those who have known Prado throughout his professional career, this simply isn’t a surprise. 

“You’re not going to find a guy who works harder than him,” McCann said early Monday morning. 

Strength and conditioning coach Phil Falco could only nod his head when he was asked if he basically has to tell Prado that it’s time to leave the weight room.

But Prado has never seemed to believe enough is enough until the late afternoon hours arrive.  Like clockwork, he has been leaving the Spring Training headquarters around 2:45 p.m. ET, or approximately 90 minutes after most of his teammates. 

Prado spent the past two Spring Trainings inspired by the belief that he had to fight for a roster spot.  This year, he’s fighting to prove he can make the quick transition to left field and continue to be the dependable offensive contributor that he has been the past couple of years.

He has spent most of his time focusing on taking fly balls in left field.  But with the realization that he will eventually move back to the infield (this year or within the next couple of seasons), he has also continued to take grounders with Chipper Jones at third base.

PradChip.JPGSpeaking of Chipper, he has had two good days since his surgically-repaired left knee proved to be sore during Saturday’s workout.  As mentioned multiple times, he’s going to have good days and he’s going to have bad days. 

The Braves can only hope that once the middle of March rolls around there are few mentions about his knee. 

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he isn’t ready to announce his Opening Day starter.  But it seems quite obvious that he will choose either Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe, who has made both of the previous Opening Day starts for the Braves.

With this being said, Gonzalez said he will reveal his Grapefruit League rotation tomorrow.  This might provide at least some clue whether Hudson or Lowe will be on the mound for Opening Day in D.C.  

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