Results tagged ‘ Brian McCann ’

McCann returns to camp

Here are a couple of tidbits to devour before the Braves and Cardinals play this afternoon: 

Brian McCann was anything but his usual self when he arrived at Champion Stadium this morning.  He was obviously relieved that he had the opportunity to interact with Luis Salazar at the Orlando Regional Medical Center last night.  

But at the same time McCann was still shaken up about hitting the foul ball that provided a near fatal blow to Salazar Wednesday afternoon.  Click here to read more about McCann’s thoughts about this situation. 

There were no updates on Salazar’s condition Thursday.  It appears he incurred significant damage to his left eye.  The significance will be revealed within the next couple of days.  

MLB.com’s Greg Johns reported Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has left camp and flown to Florida with his wife Vivian, who is Salazar’s daughter.

As Braves general manager Frank Wren said, it was tough to focus on yesterday’s game after Salazar got hit.  But this morning, a handful of scouts were raving about what they saw from Arodys Vizcaino.  

The Disney scoreboard clocked one of  Vizcaino’s fastball at 101 mph and a couple of scouts agreed with that reading.

When one of these scouts was told an American League scout had the young right-hander topped out at 97 mph, he responded by saying, “he did throw a couple of fastballs that were 97 mph.” 

Over the past two weeks, I’ve heard at least two people say they believe Vizcaino will end up being a closer.  With his live fastball and the potential he has with his curveball, he could seemingly be very intimidating in this role. 

Earlier this week when I mentioned Vizcaino needed to find a little more consistency with his breaking ball, a fan told me I needed to check my reports or at least update them. 

When I asked one evaluator, he described Vizcaino’s curveball as filthy. Two others have shared my belief that his arm action is slower with his curveball than it is with his fastball.

Regardless of which of these assessments you share, this kid has plenty of time to become even more impressive than he has been during his first Major League camp.  He won’t even turn 21 until November. 

With this being said, don’t be surprised if Vizcaino and Brett Oberholtzer are among the players cut from big league camp this afternoon.  This is the time of year, where clubs need to make sure they have enough available innings for their Major Leaguers and high-level Minor Leaguers. 

  

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.

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

Relaxed setting as pitchers and catchers report

When a member of the Braves clubhouse staff asked if Brian McCann had been seen Monday morning, one of the All-Star catcher’s teammates said “no” and suggested “he’s probably home relaxing and enjoying one of the last day’s off he’ll have in a while.” 

Once the exhibition season begins McCann and his teammates will gain occasional chances to catch your breath.  But as many of the Braves gathered at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex Monday morning, they were celebrating the dawn of a new season and getting ready for the daily grind that will begin Tuesday — when the club’s pitchers and catchers stage their first workout of the season. 

There was a sense of excitement Monday morning when Braves pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training.  The always-enthusiastic and suddenly slimmer Peter Moylan took time to introduce himself to Dan Uggla and marvel at Nate McLouth’s bleach-blonde hair before playing catch. 

Moylan, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel were among those who took time to play catch Monday.  Martin Prado, Jordan Schafer and Uggla took a few swings in the batting cages before the morning hours concluded. 

So far Fredi Gonzalez’s camp has the same exact feel as those conducted by Bobby Cox.  There will obviously be some changes.  But Uggla’s description of Gonzalez’s camps with the Marlins sound a lot like what the Braves experienced under Cox’s direction. 

Once they concluded a Monday morning meeting,  members of the Major League and Minor League coaching staffs and the front office went to a local golf course to enjoy a round together.

Courtesy of a late-morning text, Lowe revealed that McCann wasn’t simply taking it easy Monday.  The veteran pitcher was scheduled to tee off with his catcher at 11:30 a.m.

There will be plenty of other rounds of golf completed over the next couple of weeks.  But most of the rounds will be staged in the afternoon hours.  The pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout Tuesday morning and the first full-squad workout will be held Saturday. 

Because they were injured at the end of last season, Chipper Jones and Prado will both be able to participate on the field during the workouts for pitchers and catchers.

Prado will be taking time to better acquaint himself with the left field position that he acquired once Uggla was obtained via November’s trade with the Marlins.

While the Braves said Prado has played the position consistently during Winter Ball, the former second baseman said his time in the outfield has been rather limited.

“There’s a bunch of stuff I have to work on,” Prado said. “I’m asking everybody for tips.”

When Opening Day arrives six weeks from now,  Prado might find himself quite comfortable with his new surroundings. 

But as he enters the long journey otherwise known as the baseball season, Prado can only view this as one of the many challenges that he and his teammates are destined to encounter.

“We’re like every other team,” Lowe said. “In Spring Training,
everybody thinks they’re going to win.  There’s no negativity yet. 
Nothing bad has happened.  Everybody likes the acquisitions that their
teams have made. We’re no different.” 

 

 

Infante gains surprise selection

When we awoke this morning, I think it’s safe to say most of us expected Jason Heyward, Martin Prado and Tim Hudson to be named to this year’s All-Star team.  There was also little shock when the players provided Brian McCann his fifth consecutive All-Star selection.

But the biggest surprise and thrill of the day came when it was learned Omar Infante was granted his first All-Star selection.  It’s obvious that the Braves aren’t the only ones who have recognized the value he brings with his dependable versatility as a utility player. 

“I’m so happy for him,” Hudson said. “I was just thrilled when I learned that he made it.  That’s just great.”

The fact that Infante has hit .353 against the Phillies this year likely aided his cause when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel began looking at options to strengthen his bench.

The .345 batting average Infante has compiled with runners in scoring position since the start of the 2008 season ranks fifth among all Major Leaguers who have compiled at least 200 plate appearances in this situation. 

“We feel like we got a good player there, who  is a contact hitter, who can handle the bat,” Manuel said during TBS’s Selection Show.

Making his third All-Star selection and first since 2004, Hudson said he is looking forward to taking his son Kade down on the field to be surrounded by the game’s other greats during the Home Run Derby on July 12.

Prado will start at second base in place of the injured Chase Utley.  Heyward has said that his injured left thumb will likely keep him from playing. 

The five All-Star selections are the most the Braves have totaled since sending seven players to the 2003 Midsummer Classic.

UPDATED:  Billy Wagner is part of the Final Vote Ballot.  You can help the veteran closer make his final All-Star appearance by casting your votes through Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.    
 

Resop is ready to pitch for some Major League club

Chris Resop has plenty of reason to believe he’ll join a Major League roster within the next week.  The Braves now have to decide whether it will be theirs or one of the many Major League clubs that need to improve their pitching staff.

The one-hit shutout that Resop completed for Triple-A Gwinnett in Norfolk last night will likely spark enhance his position on the trade market.  But despite the fact that he has spent the past three months dominating the International League, other clubs have shown just mild interest in trading for this 28-year-old right-hander, who has been rejuvenated since becoming a starter. 

Sources have indicated that there wasn’t a single scout from a Major League organization in Norfolk last night to watch Resop complete this masterpiece.  In fact the one scout that was present was representing a club from the Korean Baseball League.   

With this in mind, there’s further reason to believe Resop could be in uniform at Turner Field on Tuesday when the Braves begin a three-game series against the Rays. 

If the Braves don’t add Resop to their Major League roster by Tuesday, then he is contractually obligated to demand a trade or request to be a free agent.   The latter option certainly won’t come into play. 

Without gaining some return, the Braves certainly aren’t going to simply waive goodbye to a guy who has posted a 1.84 ERA and compiled an IL-best 81 strikeouts in the 73 1/3 innings he has completed for Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

It’s understanding that clubs are skeptical about a 28-year-old pitcher who has posted a 5.61 ERA in 57 career Major League appearances (all as a reliever).  But at the same time, they have to recognize that his move into the rotation this year has led him to become more of a pitcher than a thrower. 

No longer trying to blow his four-seamer past opponents, Resop has baffled opponents with a heavy dose of two-seam sinkers and a curveball that is certainly much better than it was when he last appeared in the Majors with the Braves during the 2008 season.

If the Braves are unable to trade Resop, they will likely add him to their bullpen on Tuesday.  This would seemingly provide them a chance to send Jesse Chavez to Gwinnett to work on his secondary pitches, namely the curveball that he’s trying to develop.

Or the Braves could opt to send Craig Kimbrel back to Gwinnett to get the regular work he needs to aid his development. 

Whatever the case, Resop will likely be in a Major League uniform at some point next week.

McLouth update:  Still haven’t received any updates about Nate McLouth’s condition.  If the Braves are forced to place him on the disabled list, it would make sense for them to promote Brandon Hicks to serve as a backup infielder while Omar Infante would spend the next couple weeks seeing more time in the outfield. 

Brett Clevlen, who has been on the disabled list since May 24, still hasn’t resumed playing and Jordan Schafer isn’t even an option.  Even if Schafer had not had some setbacks that prevented him from beginning to play in May, he needed to spend at least half this season and maybe longer in the Minors to make up for the time he lost over the course of the past two seasons.

Look ahead:  The Braves will spend the next six games playing against the leaders in the AL Central (Twins) and AL East (Rays).   They enter this stretch with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Phillies, the same exact advantage they held when they began this 11-game road trip. 

Tim Hudson will take the mound looking to continue his success against the Twins.  In 13 career starts against them, he has gone 6-2 with a 2.12 ERA.  Justin Morneau (1-for-6) and Joe Mauer (0-for-3)  have had limited opportunities to face the Braves right-hander. 

But this would certainly be a good night for the Twins to put Jim Thome in their lineup.  He is 9-for-16 with four homers in his career against Hudson. 

Bobby Cox has opted to use Brian McCann as his designated hitter tonight.   This gives Hudson a chance to throw to his good friend David Ross. 

When McCann has been behind the plate this year, Hudson has posted a 2.62 ERA and seen opponents hit .246 with a .344 OBP.  When Ross has served as his catcher, the veteran right-hander has posted a 2.20 ERA and limited opponents to a .189 BA and .237 OBP.   

 

   

Lipka gives the Braves the speed they need

Surprised that Bryce Bentz fell into their laps, I figured the Braves would take him with the 35th overall selection in this year’s Draft.  But like many other clubs, they found an option more appealing than the East Tennessee State outfielder. 

With Bentz, the Braves would have landed a proven college hitter who possesses some of the power potential they need to integrate into their Minor League system.  With Matt Lipka, they gained an athletic shortstop who possesses speed, an asset that an 18-year-old kid isn’t going to suddenly develop.

Young prospects can mature into a power hitter and correct the mechanics of their swing.  But they aren’t going to suddenly have the kind of top-notch speed that Lipka already possesses.    

A two-time All-State wide receiver in Texas’ Class 4-A system, Lipka will likely eventually become a center fielder.  Clocked at 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash, he will be groomed to be the leadoff hitter that the Braves haven’t been able to develop since some 19 or 21-year-old kid named Rafael Furcal arrived in Atlanta in 2000.  

When I asked Lipka about his offensive stats tonight, he asked me if I wanted his football or baseball numbers.  Then when he told me he hit eight triples this year, he made sure to let me know that he attempted to alter his offensive approach this year to help highlight his speed.

For more about Lipka, click here to read some thoughts from him and Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio.

When the Draft starts up again tomorrow at noon on MLB.com, the Braves will have the third pick (53rd overall).  They will have another second-round pick (70th overall) and a third-round pick to give them four of the Draft’s first 101 selections. 

Look for the Braves to continue attempting to stockpile some offensive players with these selections.  But you can bet they’ll also attempt to take advantage of a Draft loaded with right-handed pitchers. 

West Virginia’s Jedd Gyorko is still available and I’m not mentioning his name yet again simply because he’s a fellow native of the Mountain State.  Gyorko is a proven hitter who I’ve heard compared to Boston’s Kevin Youkilis.

Bentz ended up going to the Red Sox with the 36th overall selection. 

During Tuesday’s selections, you’re almost guaranteed to see the selections of some players who will be playing in Atlanta within the next few years.  Brian McCann was the third player (behind Jeff Francoeur and Dan Meyer) selected by the Braves in the 2002 Draft.  And of course Tommy Hanson went in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft, when teams could select prospects and evaluate them over the course of the next year before signing them.

Postgame quotes: After Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss to the D-backs, Bobby Cox said Derek Lowe hadn’t pitched as bad as his line (4 IP, 8H, 7 ER) might indicate.   But at the end of the day, Lowe couldn’t escape the fact that he needed 96 pitches to complete those four innings.

The Braves fell behind 7-1 through four innings and then battled back to cut the deficit to just three runs.  They utilized three ninth-inning walks to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.  But Chad Qualls found his command just in time to get Yunel Escobar to ground into a game-ending double play.  

(Derek Lowe on his outing)

“I’ve pitched a lot worse and given up seven runs.  It started off in the first inning where they hit one ball in the air and ended up scoring two runs.  It was just part of it.  Who knows what happened in the fourth (inning)…It wasn’t good.”

(Cox on Lowe’s outing)

“He’s a sinkerballer that had one of those nights where everything was hit just right, not hard, but we couldn’t make plays for him…He wasn’t hit hard.  A hundred pitches in four innings tells you something. You’ve got to get more strikes.”

(Eric Hinske on the offense)

“We kind of had (Dan) Haren where we wanted.  We had his pitch
count up pretty good.  We just couldn’t keep any runs off the board. 
Sometimes it goes that way.   It was a good team effort to get his
pitch count up and try to get to their bullpen.  But a six-run deficit is
kind of hard to come back from sometimes.  We’ll put it behind us and come
back tomorrow.  It’s just one loss in a four-game set.”

The Braves will send Kris Medlen to the mound on Tuesday night to oppose Edwin Jackson.  If they can at least win two of these final three games in Arizona, they’ll head to Minnesota needing to win two of three to secure a winning road trip. 

But if they return to Atlanta having won just five of 11 games on this long road trip, I don’t think there’s would be any reason to consider this trip to have been a disaster. 

Of course they could win each of these final three games in Arizona and feel even better about the current two-game lead they still hold over the Phillies. 

NOTES: It’s interesting that the Braves haven’t promoted Chris Resop and sent Jesse Chavez to the Minors.  Obviously Resop’s trade value is greater as a starter and you have to wonder if the club is concerned about bringing him to the Majors and potentially seeing that value drop…McCann was removed from Monday night’s game to rest his ailing quad.  He should be back in the lineup on Tuesday night…Chipper Jones also expects to return for the second game of this four-game set. 

      

 

Santana bidding for rare win vs. Braves

Looking simply at the fact that they are sending Johan Santana to the mound to face Kris Medlen tonight at Turner Field, the Mets should feel pretty good about the odds of sweeping this two-game set against the Braves.  

Of course the Braves also felt pretty good about sending Tommy Hanson to the mound
Saturday night to oppose Rodrigo Lopez.  Eleven runs later the D-backs snapped a seven-game losing streak and once again proved why Pete Rose has learned it’s now easier to supplement his bank account through appearance fees.   

Making his second start of the season and the sixth of his career, Medlen has fewer career wins (1) as a  starter than Santana’s total of Cy Young Awards (2).  But by the end of the night, the versatile young right-hander could have as many career wins (1) against the Mets as Santana does against the Braves.

In his eight career starts against the Braves, Santana has never allowed more than three runs and he has been charged with two earned runs or fewer in six of those outings.  But he’ll enter tonight 1-5 with a 2.21 ERA against Bobby Cox’s teams.  

Santana has recorded at least two victories against each of the other 28 Major League clubs that he has made at least three career starts against.   The only other clubs that he has posted a losing record against are the Angels (2-4) and Blue Jays (2-4).   

The .290 batting average that Santana has surrendered against the Braves stands as the highest mark he has allowed against any organization.   Taking this one step further, Medlen can feel good about the fact that he will be backed by some of the same guys who are responsible for this mark.  

Careers vs. Santana
Yunel  Escobar .333 (6-for-18) 1 double  1 K
Chipper Jones  .294 (5-for-17)  2 BB, 2 Ks
Brian McCann .273 (6-for-22) 1 double, 2 HRs

This will mark the first time Troy Glaus has faced Santana while wearing a Braves uniform.  In his 24 career at-bats against the left-hander, Glaus has hit .333 with three doubles and a homer.  

It might seem ridiculous right now to play anybody in favor of Eric Hinske, who has hit .571 with five doubles and two homers while starting in left field during each of the past six games.    But he is 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in his career against Santana and he has had just four at-bats against left-handed pitchers this year.   

If Cox is willing to take a gamble tonight, he could be persuaded to put Brent Clevlen in left field for tonight’s game.  Santana is the only pitcher that Clevlen has compiled more than six career plate appearances against.  

In the process, Clevlen has hit .300 (3-for-10) with a double and a triple against Santana.  But with each of his seven outs coming via strikeouts, maybe it would be better to just go with either the red-hot Hinske or Melky Cabera, who is 2-for-10 with a double and just one strikeout in his career against the Mets ace.  

McCann’s struggles:  Regardless of what McCann says to avoid creating an excuse, his vision problems are the primary reason he’s not producing like he did in the past.  As anybody who has ever worn glasses will attest, it takes time to get used to the feel on the face and the vision that they create.

Before going hitless in four at-bats last night, McCann was showing some signs of improvement.  In his previous four games he had gone 6-for-16 with a double and a homer.  

Those two extra-base hits matched the total he had compiled in his previous 19 games.  
Within last night’s game story, I focused on the fact that McCann is hitting just .192 with runners in scoring position this year and .222 since the beginning of the 2009 season against left-handed pitchers.  

In hindsight, I should have also mentioned that this hitless evening was completed against a couple of guys who have had little trouble with left-handed hitters this year.   Feliciano has limited left-handers to a .172 (5-for-29) batting average this year and the right-handed Pelfrey has limited them to a .208 (16-for-77) mark.  

As McCann continues to get used to his glasses, he’ll show some of the same promise that he was building entering Monday night’s game.  As a four-time All-Star, he’s likely going to once again find himself heading into the offseason with a batting average around .300 and an RBI total that is around the century mark.   

But if the Braves are going to be playing meaningful games down the stretch this year, there’s no doubt that McCann is going to have to start taking advantage of those numerous run-producing opportunities that he gets in the cleanup spot.

With Martin Prado and Jason Heyward now occupying the lineup’s top two spots, McCann should start getting more opportunities to drive in runs.  It’s almost ridiculous that he has sat in the cleanup spot in 27 games this season and has just 27 at-bats with runners in scoring position.   

Further showing how bad the Braves leadoff hitters were during the season’s first six weeks, Chipper Jones has sat in his customary third spot of the lineup throughout the year and totaled just 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position.  

But following in the footsteps of Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera has shown that run-producing situations too often occur at the wrong time.    In just 26 games, Cabrera has totaled 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position and hit just .171 in those situations.  

Fortunately for the Braves, Nate McLouth has hit .318 in his past six games and allowed Cabrera to fill the backup role that was envisioned when he was acquired from the Yankees.  If McLouth goes 1-for-4 tonight, he’ll improve his batting average to .200  —  marking the first time since April 9 that he would at least be at the Mendoza Line.  

McCann will start wearing glasses again

Out of the lineup for the second straight day on Friday, Brian McCann revealed that his early-season offensive struggles have been a product of the fact that he is once again experiencing vision problems. 

Having exhausted all other potential solutions, McCann will start wearing Oakleys fitted with prescription lenses again on Saturday, when he is expected to resume his duties as the Braves catcher.  

When McCann underwent Lasik for the second time in two years in October, doctors adjusted his left eye and hoped that his slightly blurred right eye would correct itself. 

McCann recognized a potential problem with his right eye vision during Spring Training and then became more alarmed when he began playing more night games during the regular season.

Check MLB.com and braves.com later for more details.

Braves ready to take this show north

Just returned from the clubhouse and it’s pretty safe to say that all the guys are ready to compile a couple of at-bats during this afternoon’s game against the Tigers and then head to Atlanta as quick as possible. 

As I was shooting the breeze with Jason Heyward this morning, I said something like, “well it will be nice for you to get back to your own bed tonight.”  When he responded, “yeah, for like five days”, I said “enjoy it, you’ll come to appreciate even these opportunities that allow for just a short stay at home.”

That advice I provided Heyward will not benefit him as much as the words of encouragement that he received from Hall of Famer Al Kaline this morning.  The former Tigers outfielder came to the Braves clubhouse to see Bobby Cox and then took time to tell the young Braves outfielder things like “good luck, play hard, work hard, etc.”   

Cox will likely announce his Opening Day roster after either Friday or Saturday’s game.  I’m still guessing Brooks Conrad gets the last spot for a position player and that Jesse Chavez and Jo-Jo Reyes fill the final two bullpen spots. 

As for lineup projections, it still seems like Melky Cabrera will hold the leadoff spot until Nate McLouth can regain a consistent groove.  

Today’s lineup also provides reason to believe there will be some instances when Brian McCann is placed in the cleanup spot when the opposing team is starting a right-handed pitcher. It’s also interesting to see that Heyward is batting sixth and Yunel Escobar is in the seventh spot of the order.

While wrapping up the Florida portion of their exhibition schedule today, the Braves are going up against right-handed knuckleballer Eddie Bodine.   With this in mind, it’s time to wish a happy 71st birthday to Phil Niekro. 

The baseball accomplishments that I share with Niekro are limited to the fact that our fathers bought our first baseball gloves at a little sporting goods store in Wheeling, W.Va called Kelly Mikes.  

TODAY’S LINEUP vs. Tigers
Cabrera 7
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Glaus 3
Heyward 9
Escobar 6
McLouth 8
Hinske DH

Setting Francoeur up for the regular season

Am I right with my assumption that those of you who predicted that Jeff Francoeur would homer and draw a pair of walks in his first three plate appearances today are also the same people who predicted that Northern Iowa would beat Kansas? 

Francoeur soured Tommy Hanson’s five-inning performance on Tuesday afternoon with a solo homer that easily cleared the center field wall in the fourth inning. 

“We were just setting him up for the regular season,” joked Braves catcher Brian McCann.  

Francoeur’s second homer of the year accounted for one of the four hits surrendered by Hanson, who allowed two earned runs, recorded five strikeouts and issued three walks during this 91-pitch effort.  

Slated to go six innings, Hanson was lifted after five innings because of his pitch count. 

“My arm feels good and I didn’t feel tired one bit,” Hanson said. “It’s good to throw that many pitches and still feel good.  I think it’s another start and another step in the right direction getting ready for the season.” 

Hanson will make one more start in Florida and then likely throw just three or four innings while making his final appearance of the exhibition season against the White Sox at Turner Field on April 2.

Heyward update: After reaching base safely during each of his first 12 games of the year, Jason Heyward hasn’t reached first base in either of his past two games.  He is hitless in his past seven at-bats and he has struck out in three of his past five plate appearances. 

This mini-slump shouldn’t cause any reason for concern.  But it will be more important to monitor what Heyward does during these final two weeks of the exhibition season, when he finds himself facing more Major League-caliber pitchers than he did during the previous couple of weeks. 

Braves general manager Frank Wren said that the club hasn’t made a firm decision regarding whether Heyward will begin the season in Atlanta. 

But whenever asked about the remaining position battles, the club’s officials often just mention the battle being waged between Joe Thurston and Brooks Conrad.

“There’s still 13 days left before Opening Day,” Wren said regarding Heyward.  “So we just want to continue to watch and monitor and make sure that we’re doing what’s best for him and for us.”   

Tim Hudson will be on the mound when the Braves return to Disney tomorrow afternoon to face J.A. Happ and the Phillies.  This game, which will be televised by ESPN, will also include an appearance by Jo-Jo Reyes, who is fighting for a spot in the Braves bullpen. 

  

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