Results tagged ‘ Casey Kotchman ’

LaRoche deal is completed

ATLANTA   –  The Braves have completed a deal that brings Adam LaRoche back to Atlanta to serve as their first baseman.   

Just before Friday afternoon’s Trade Deadline, the Red Sox agreed to send LaRoche to the Braves in exchange for Casey Kotchman.    

LaRoche, who was acquired by the Red Sox in July 22 trade with the Pirates, has hit .248 with 13 homers and a .446 slugging percentage this year.   He hit a career-high 32 homers with the Braves in 2006 and was traded to Pittsburgh during the following offseason in exchange for Mike Gonzalez.  

With LaRoche, the Braves receive the power that Kotchman wasn’t able to consistently provide until recently.     He’s hit eight homers since debuting with the Braves on July 30, 2008 and four of them have come this month.   

The Braves will receive cash considerations from the Red Sox.

Heyward making bid for promotion to Gwinnett

While assessing prospects, baseball’s talent evaluator often say that a player will tell you when he’s ready for the next level.  

With this in mind, Jason Heyward is certainly providing plenty of indication that he may not need to remain at the Double-A level much longer.  But for now, the Braves are simply keeping an open mind regarding his immediate future.

While it currently seems far-fetched to imagine Heyward would end this season in the Majors, there’s certainly a chance that he could at least make his way to Triple-A Gwinnett within the next couple of weeks.  

“We’ll continue to evaluate him and keep our options open,”  said  Braves director of player development Kurt Kemp who has spent the past few days watching Heyward and the other members of the Double-A Mississippi Braves.   

In the 21 games he’s played since being promoted from Class A-Advanced Myrtle Beach to Mississippi, Heyward has hit .438 with three homers, 10 doubles, a .517 on-base percentage and a .753 slugging percentage.   

Still 19 years-old and just two years removed from his successful high school career in suburban Atlanta, Heyward is drawing comparisons to Andruw Jones, who broke into the Majors at 19 and two months later homered in his first two World Series at-bats.

Like Heyward did this year, Jones started the 1996 season in the Carolina League.  After 86 games at the Class A-Advanced level he played 38 games in Double-A  and then experienced a 12-game stint at the Triple-A level before getting his call to Atlanta.  

When Jones arrived in the Majors, he had amassed 1251 at-bats in 349 games at the Minor League level.  Entering Thursday, Heyward had compiled 776 at-bats in 209 Minor League games.  

With this in mind, Heyward could certainly benefit from more Minor League development before being asked to test his skills at the Major League level.  But within the next few weeks, there’s certainly a chance that he could be knocking on Atlanta’s door while helping Gwinnett continue its push toward an International League championship.  

This is the first year the Braves have had their Triple-A affiliate in suburban Atlanta and they could certainly increase their attendance by bringing Heyward home for the stretch run this season.  But before doing this, they have to make sure that he experiences the necessary development that will provide him the best chance to succeed when he likely gets his first taste of the Majors next year.

Heyward, who was named Baseball America’s top prospect through the first half of this season, is undoubtedly one of the most impressive prospects the Braves have produced.   Along with being an athletic outfielder with a powerful swing, this mature teenager displays both confidence and an obvious respect for the game and his surroundings.
 
When Heyward first arrived in Mississippi, it was believed that he may not make his Atlanta debut until June next year.  But all current indications provide reason to believe that he’s going to prove to the Braves that he’ll be ready long before that time arrives.  

Anderson rounding into form:  Braves manager Bobby Cox has been supportive of Garret Anderson throughout the season and his prediction that the veteran outfielder would round into form has proven to be valid.  

While hitting .355 over his past 34 games, Anderson has raised his batting average from .253 to .302 and his slugging percentage from .364 to .465.   He has hit four of his nine homers since the All-Star break.

Anderson’s good friend and former Angels teammate Casey Kotchman has also recently increased his production while hitting .307 with a .466 slugging percentage in his past 26 games.
 
Today marks the one-year anniversary of Kotchman’s debut with the Braves.   In the 129 games he’s played for Atlanta, the first baseman has hit .264 with eight homers and a .374 slugging percentage.  Four of those eight homers have come over the course of his past 21 games.  

 
 

Looking back on Teixeira trade

Things are obviously much quieter along the Braves trade front than they were both of the past two years, when they were dealing with the acquisition and departure of Mark Teixeira.
 
Still with the Phillies still playing a lead role in the daily developments that surround Roy Halladay, these final days leading up to the trade deadline could prove to be interesting for the Braves and their fans.
 
Or if Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi does stick with his self-imposed deadline, this trade-deadline excitement might simply extend for another 24 hours.
 
If the Phillies were to land Halladay, there’s certainly reason to believe that a third consecutive National League East pennant will appear in Philadelphia.  But his acquisition seemingly would have more of an effect on the potential of a second consecutive world championship.
 
When MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki asked if the Phillies should continue their pursuit of Halladay, Cole Hamels responded:
 
“It depends on if you want to try to win the World Series the next two years because that’s what he’s going to be here for,” Hamels said. “Winning the World Series or at least attempting to win the World Series the next two years will please us, please the organization and please the fans. You can’t really complain about that. I think it would be a step in a good direction.”

It appears the Jays need a multi-player package that is headlined by both J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek.  The Phillies have balked at including both of these promising young pitchers.

But this certainly doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually opt to pull the trigger.  As Braves president John Schuerholz reminded me last week, he and his aides experienced a number lively debates before ultimately appeasing the Rangers with the five prospects that it took to bring Teixeira to Atlanta
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With the Halladay trade talk in focus, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan wrote a story looking back on the 2007 trade that made Teixeira a Brave.

As the years progress, you can twist and turn the analysis of trades in many different directions.  But at the end of the day, I don’t think you can truly bash a trade unless it’s one you bashed at the time it was completed.
 
My initial thoughts were that the Braves had given up too much for Teixeira.  But two years later, I actually find myself feeling that Schuerholz made a calculated gamble that was worth taking.
 
As has been pointed out countless times, with Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann in place, there was no room in Atlanta for Elvis Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.   This analysis has proven to be even stronger as Escobar continues to develop into one of the game’s top shortstops.
 
Matt Harrison might have been a nice Band-Aid last year, when the Braves rotation was wrecked by injuries.  But scouts and others who have had a chance to watch the soft-spoken left-hander on a regular basis don’t seem to be too high on his future.

Obviously the most consistent knock about the trade centers around the fact that the Braves included a 19-year-old right-hander, who had recorded 28 strikeouts and allowed 18 hits in 27 1/3 innings for their rookie level Danville club that year. 

Two years later, that 19-year-old is now the 21-year-old right-hander that the baseball world knows as  the flame-throwing Neftali Feliz.  Still even with a fastball that has reached 100 mph, Feliz’s future success at the big league level is clouded by the fact that he’s struggled to find consistent command with a secondary pitch. 

Feliz, who has been moved into a relief role with Texas’ Triple-A affiliate, and Andrus still have the potential be superstars at the Major League level. 

But even if they both reach this status, wasn’t it worth taking the gamble on the acquisition of a first baseman, who would hit .295 with 37 homers in the 157 games that you placed him in your lineup.

Forgettable anniversary:  Today marks the one-year anniversary of when Teixeira’s career in Atlanta essentially came to a close.  One year ago today, the Braves blew a five-run lead against the Phillies for a second consecutive day.

With those consecutive losses, Frank Wren faced the reality that his club wasn’t a postseason contender and had to find a club willing to exchange a Major League-ready first baseman for Teixeira.

It’s still hard to believe that the return the Braves gained from the Angels in exchange for Teixeira was limited to Casey Kotchman and Minor League reliever Stephen Marek.

But while hitting .328 with three homers and a .492 slugging percentage in his past 19 games, Kotchman has at least contributed to the offensive awakening the Braves have realized this month.   In the 104 games he’d previously played for the Braves, he’d hit .254 with four homers and a .349 slugging percentage.  

With Kelly Johnson back in the mix and at least showing some indication that he got himself right during his Minor League rehab assignment, Martin Prado’s versatility could prove to be even more important.  

During those days that the Braves are facing a top left-handed pitcher, Bobby Cox could choose to put Prado at first base and give Johnson the opportunity to prolong the success he’s found while facing southpaws during the past two seasons.
 
When asked who has been the most valuable offensive performer for the Braves this month, it’s easy to determine the distinction belongs to Yunel Escobar, who has produced a team-leading four homers, 19 RBIs, .461 on-base percentage and .662 slugging percentage.   His .369 batting average has been bettered only by the .370 mark that Matt Diaz has compiled in 11 fewer at-bats.
 
Chipper Jones (.294) and Nate McLouth (.259) are the only Braves regulars who haven’t hit at least .300 this month.   Still Jones’ 15 RBIs rank as the team’s third-highest total and McLouth is one of five players who have hit three homers.  The others being Jones, Brian McCann, Kotchman and Garret Anderson.  

Cox shuffles power-hungry lineup

If Braves general manager Frank Wren’s attempt to land a power bat proves unsuccessful, he might want to see if the Phillies are willing to trade Citizens Bank Park in exchange for Turner Field.

In fact, while thinking out of the box, he might want to call the Reds or any other team that is capable of providing a homer-happy environment in exchange for Turner Field, a place that has become the kryptonite to the power-limited Atlanta lineup.
 
Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Rockies, the Braves had scored one run in their previous 18 innings and won just three of their previous 14 home games.  Working with a roster that doesn’t possess a legit leadoff or cleanup hitter, manager Bobby Cox is going to have to employ some serious chemistry skills to form an effective equation with his current elements.  

With his latest attempt on Tuesday night,  Cox moved Yunel Escobar into the leadoff spot, placed Casey Kotchman in the second spot and positioned Brian McCann back in the cleanup spot.  Kelly Johnson will bat sixth, where he’s found success in the past.

Tonight’s Lineup
SS Yunel Escobar
1B Casey Kotchman
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
LF Garret Anderson
2B Kelly Johnson
 RF Jeff Francoeur
CF Jordan Schafer
P Jair Jurrjens

In  346 career plate appearances in the lineup’s first spot, Escobar has hit .317 with  a .378 on-base percentage.   In the 72 plate appearances he’s recorded while serving as the game’s first hitter, the Cuban shortstop has .429 with a .444 on-base percentage. 

The potential benefit of placing Kotchman in the second spot stems from the fact that he routinely puts the ball in play.  In the 316 plate appearances he’s registered since joining the Braves, the veteran first baseman has struck out 32 times   –  or  just 13 times more than the second hitter in Atlanta’s lineup has registered in 169 plate appearances this year. 

Putting McCann in the cleanup spot provides Chipper Jones the protection he needs against pitchers, who still haven’t been given much reason to fear Garret Anderson’s bat.    In the 11 games he’s recorded since returning from the disabled list, Anderson has hit .262 (11-for-42) and tallied just two extra-base hits  — both doubles.

Johnson, who has batted .191 with a .262 on-base percentage in 105 plate appearances as the leadoff hitter this year, will now have an opportunity to display his run-producing skills.  He has hit .289 with a .344 on-base percentage in 90 career plate appearances , while batting sixth. 

Jumbling the order of the lineup might enhance the power by giving Jones the potential to see better pitches with McCann hitting behind him.  But this is a club that is in dire need of benefiting from the longball.  

Entering Tuesday, the Braves had scored 58 runs during their 17 home games.  The only Major League team with a lower home total was the White Sox with 56 runs after 16 dates at U.S. Cellular Field. 

The six home runs the Braves had tallied at home ranked as the Major League’s lowest mark, sitting five dingers behind the 29th-ranked Giants.
 
The Braves have totaled 28 homers this year and 12 of those were hit during this six games they played at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.  Another four were tallied during the three-game series at Cincinnati’s compact stadium.

Further showing the power discrepancy that has been produced outside of Atlanta, the Braves have homered once every 31.7 at-bats on the road and once every 90.7 times at home.  The Giants have compiled the Major League’s second worst home mark with one homer every 62.7 at-bats.    

While you’re at it Frank, see if the Phillies are also willing package Ryan Howard with their ballpark.

Twitter @mlbbravesscribe.com

Two-game sweep followed by a two-hour delay

Coming off a relaxing two-day stretch away from the team, I certainly wasn’t happy to be introduced to the two-hour delay that Delta presented this morning.  
But refreshed from the two-day break, I’m going to keep a positive outlook and be thankful that the long concourses at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport provide wide-ranging ways to pass the time.  Thus instead of feeling my blood pressure rise while the AJC’s Dave O’Brien continued to complain about the delay, I opted to participate in the more tranquil activity of dancing barefoot on a bed of nails.  
OK, enough stretching the truth to simply deliver a point.   What I’m trying to say is that there’s a light at the end of every tunnel and the Braves have seemingly started to dig themselves out of a mess by beginning this eight-game road trip with a two-game sweep of the Marlins.
When you’ve got your ace (Derek Lowe) going up against a Minor League replacement (Graham Taylor), you’re obviously supposed to win.   Then when you finally give Jair Jurrjens the little bit of run support that he’s been seeking over the past couple of weeks, you certainly need to take advantage of this opportunity to sweep your way out of South Florida.   
But the Braves have simply passed level one during this game that we’ll call May’s influential road trip.   Fortunately like in the world of video games, passing this first challenge has gained them the opportunity to enter their upcoming battles against the Mets and Phillies with a new weapon in the form of Brian McCann.  
With his new prescription Oakley sports glasses, McCann is expected to return to the lineup for tonight’s series opener against Cole Hamels and the Phillies.   It’s going to take him some time to get comfortable with his new goalie-style mask.  In addition, he’s going to have to find a way to limit the amount of fog that gathers on his lenses as a result of heat and perspiration.  
But as long as he can continue his productive offensive ways, the Braves are going to start consistently providing the support that their pitching staff has been consistently denied over the past three weeks.    We’re 28 games into the season and it’s been 24 games since McCann made his presence felt in the lineup.
This is the primary reason that it’s truly remarkable that the Braves are just two games behind the front-running Phillies in the National League East race.  If we truly are trying to look at things in a positive light, would it be ridiculous to at least allow yourself to think about the possibility of them sweeping their way to the top of the division by the end of the weekend?  
In order to defense against being held responsible for jinxing the possibility, I will say that the numbers prove that there’s no way in Philadelphia that Jo-Jo Reyes will beat Hamels tonight.  
During his 11 career starts against the Braves, Hamels has allowed two runs or fewer six times.  In his past three appearances at Citizens Bank Park, Reyes has worked 12 2/3 innings, allowed 20 hits and posted a 9.24 ERA.  
But this is the new-and-improved Reyes and Hamels has to go all the way back to Sept. 18 to remember his last win against the Braves.  Five days later, while allowing two earned runs in seven innings, he suffered his first loss against them in a span of nine starts.
The decisive blow that provided Mike Hampton a win that Sept. 23 evening came courtesy of Casey Kotchman’s sixth-inning solo homer.  
If you are only as good as your last game, then Kotchman is coming into Philadelphia on a power barrage.   The Braves first baseman homered for the first time this season during his three-hit performance against the Marlins on Thursday afternoon.  
While compiling a team-high 12 extra-base hits this year, Kotchman has lived up to the billing of being a solid gap hitter with limited power.  But in Hamels’ eyes, the left-handed slugger has plenty of pop in his bat.  
In nine career at-bats against Hamels, Kotchman has collected four hits and three of those have landed over the outfield wall.   Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Delgado and Jorge Cantu are the only other Major Leaguers who have hit three homers against the Phillies ace and each of them have compiled this total with at least 14 at-bats.  
Kevin Millwood is the only other Major League pitcher that Kotchman has  homered against three times.  He has reached this total in a span of 15 at-bats against the former Atlanta right-hander.  
Kotchman is a reserved man who generally hides his emotions.  But this will certainly be a special Mother’s Day weekend for him and his family.  As many of you know, his mother, Sarah, nearly lost her life when her brain began to hemorrhage  last August.  
It was great to see Mrs. Kotchman and her husband, Tom, at Turner Field on Monday.   They are justifiably proud of their son and it was truly a delight to talk to them about the miraculous medical ordeal that they encountered last year.  
I want to thank them for taking time to talk about the event and end this blog by saying Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, Sara Bowman.  
Many of us will say thank you to our mothers this weekend. But can words truly convey the appreciation we have for the women who gave us life and then sacrificed so much with the hope that ours would at least be as great as the ones they’ve enjoyed?   

 

 

Hanson ready to face Panama

During his 1985 rookie season, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell learned that you had to have thick skin and a good personality to co-exist with the personalities possessed by the likes of Keith Hernandez, Wally Backman, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Howard Johnson.

That was the year that Gooden went 24-4 and the Mets finished three games behind the Cardinals in the National League East race.

As McDowell remembers, at the conclusion of that season, Hernandez hollered at Gooden and said, “Hey Doc, if you hadn’t lost those four games we would have won the division.”

Gooden’s name came up this morning, because I wanted to get a sense about whether you can get an early feel about whether a top prospect is going to truly be special.  In another words, I was chasing another Tommy Hanson angle.

Nobody is saying that Hanson will duplicate the early dominance of Gooden, who went 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA and 744 strikeouts in the  744 2/3 innings he completed during his first three big league seasons.
 
But the more you hear about Hanson, the more you want to see and hear more about him.

“I just want to buy stock in Tommy Hanson,” said 300-game winner Don Sutton, who arrived in Braves camp on Tuesday morning to prepare for the games he’ll broadcast with his new radio parter, Jim Powell, this weekend.

Sutton, who has rejoined the Braves broadcast team after spending the past two years with the Nationals, will get a chance to watch Hanson pitch against Panama this afternoon.  Maybe this time around, Carlos Lee will actually recognize that this isn’t just some run-of-the-mill prospect.  

After being frozen by a couple of breaking balls that Hanson threw in his Grapefruit League debut last week, the Astros left fielder acted like he was unimpressed by essentially limiting his comments to, “He throws hard.”

Based on the fact that Lee had just looked at a called third-strike slider, maybe he didn’t actually get a good look at the right-hander, who certainly has more than simply a fastball that has registered 99 mph.

Hanson made another good impression on the Braves coaching staff yesterday, when he showed up to throw and work out before the inter-squad game. His decision to come to the park on an off-day further proved his early fame hasn’t led to him gaining an early sense of entitlement.

Acosta set to face his country:  Manny Acosta decided last week that he won’t participate in the World Baseball Classic.  So instead of pitching for Panama on Tuesday, the right-handed reliever will be pitching against his native country’s team.  He is scheduled to throw one inning.

Walking wounded:  Jordan Schafer (shoulder), Josh Anderson (tailbone), Casey Kotchman (finger and quad) and Freddie Freeman (quad) are all nursing minor injuries that might keep them out of the lineup for another day or two.  But each of them participated in Tuesday morning’s workout. 

Prepared to play: Garret Anderson thinks he might be ready to make his Braves debut on Thursday against Venezuela.  The veteran outfielder, who signed with the Braves last week, has told Bobby Cox that he needs approximately 30 at-bats to be ready for the regular season.

Odds and ends:  Tom Glavine is expected to arrive in Braves camp on Wednesday…Peter Moylan said that he hasn’t felt any discomfort since throwing an inning against the Phillies on Sunday.  It was his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 8.

Today’s Lineup:
Yunel Escobar SS
Omar Infante CF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Greg Norton 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Matt Diaz LF
Brandon Jones DH
Dave Ross C
Martin Prado 2B

- Mark Bowman  

  

Now we can focus on the game

With Ken Griffey Jr. out of the picture and Tom Glavine’s deal completed, we can now focus more on some of the Spring Training on-field developments. 

It’s evident that Casey Kotchman is much more relaxed than he was when he arrived after being acquired from the Angels last year.   He admits the two months he spent with the Braves last year were basically a blur and that’s certainly understandable.  

Three weeks after being moved from a team destined for the playoffs to one staring at 90 losses, he nearly lost his mother to a brain hemorrhage.  The first baseman gladly reports that his mother’s recovery process is going well and that she’s looking forward to meeting Bobby Cox and the other members of the organization, who were so supportive while Casey stayed by her hospital bedside.

In other camp news, the Braves will have physicals on Saturday and Sunday.  If you’re planning to come to Disney this weekend, the workout are scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

Chipper Jones was excused from this morning’s workout because he wasn’t feeling well. It’s nothing serious and he could be back on the field on Saturday. 

Here are a few interesting quotes from Glavine’s teleconference, which took place this morning:

(What motivated you to return this season?)

“I think first and foremost, it’s my enjoyment of going out there every five days and pitching every five days that’s the key factor in me wanting to play.  Beyond that,  yeah I don’t want my career to end the way that it was last year.”

(What do you think about this year’s rotation?)
I think there’s reason to be excited. When you look at Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez, they’re two guys who certainly have a track record in being able to carry a big load in terms of innings pitched.  When you look at (Jair Jurrjens), I think everybody is excited about the year that he had last year and the experience that he gained and how much better he stands to be this year.  When you look at Kawakami, there’s a lot of history for him in the Japanese League.  Bringing that here, certainly there is a little bit of uncertainty.  But I think everybody is excited about what he did in Japan and the potential that he brings here.

Last year, there was a lot of excitement about what we brought in, but there was a lot of uncertainty.  I think there’s a lot less uncertainty about the staff this year and their ability to pitch innings.  You never know.  Injuries are always a part of the game. But I think looking at the rotation now, where it was a year ago, I think there has to be a lot more reason to believe the top four guys are going to log a lot more innings than the top four guys last year.  That will have a residual effect on everybody.  It’s going to make our team better.  It’s going to make our bullpen stronger because they’re not going to have to work so many innings.  Again from my standpoint, looking at that and looking at me being in the five hole, I’m excited about that.  I’m excited about being a part of it.

(Glav’s thoughts on A-Rod)
“I guess everybody has a lot of thoughts about A-Rod.  There’s disappointment obviously and things like that.  All I can do is take care of myself and these other guys who have been caught doing the things that they’re doing, they have to deal with it.  There comes a time for everybody in life, I don’t care where you are or what you do, that you have choices to make and sometimes people make bad choices.  If you make a bad choice, then that’s your responsibility to deal with the consequences of that bad choice and certainly Alex is having to deal with that.

I don’t think it matters what I or anybody else says or thinks. It’s Alex Rodriguez and it’s his reputation that has been tarnished. He’s the one who ultimately has to deal with that.  I’m sure he wishes that he had a chance to re-think that decision that he made years ago. But you know what? Life doesn’t work that way.

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