Results tagged ‘ Charlie Morton ’

Bats prepared to come to life at Turner Field

Instead of dissecting statistics to determine why the Braves have encountered most of their success on the road, you can look at the simple fact that Brian McCann and Garret Anderson have been in the same lineup just once at Turner Field this year.

OK, now let’s delve into the numbers to show why the Braves have gone 2-9 at home since opening Turner Field with a three-game sweep of the Nationals.  In these 11 games, the Braves have hit .236 with THREE homers, a .329 on-base percentage and a .325 slugging percentage.

While going 6-2 on their recently-completed road trip, the Braves hit .285 with seven homers, a .380 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage.   This improved production was obviously a direct result of  Anderson and McCann returning from the disabled list last week.

With the Braves opening a 10-game homestand on Friday night against the Diamondbacks, the home fans should also be prepared to see the return of Chipper Jones’ bat, which slumbered as McCann and Anderson dealt with their ailments. 

During the past 11 home games, four Braves players produced a .300 batting average (min. 20 at-bats)    —  Omar Infante  (.355), Jeff Francoeur (.310), Casey Kotchman (.306) and Yunel Escobar (.300).   The next-best batting average compiled during this span was .208 — a mark produced by both David Ross and Kelly Johnson. 

This lineup obviously revolves around the success of Jones and the team-worst .143 batting average he produced during the past 11 home games was a direct result of some of the impatience he showed while facing pitchers, who didn’t feel the need to challenge him without Anderson and McCann hitting behind him. 

The 11 walks Jones drew during this 11-game span represent half the total he’s tallied through the first 27 games that he’s played this year.

“I stayed as patient as I could,” Jones said. “Some teams were just determined not to pitch to me.  Other teams were taking their chances.  It’s going to make Garret and Mac making guys pay whenever they do walk me. That’s how you get 2-0 fastballs and 3-1 fastballs.  There weren’t a lot of those.”

In the five games that Jones has played since Anderson returned to the lineup and started hiting cleanup, he has hit .400 with three doubles and seven walks  — four intentional. 

After Jones recorded two doubles and a sacrifice fly during his first three plate appearances against the Mets on Wednesday, he drew two consecutive intentional walks. 

Anderson followed the first intentional walk with a sacrifice fly and the second with a fly ball that would have put Yunel Escobar at third base with one out in the ninth inning of a tied game if Mets right fielder Ryan Church hadn’t made a perfect throw to third baseman David Wright.

Obviously, I’ve been very critical of Anderson and a lot of that stems from the fact that because of his reserved demeanor, you can’t get a good read about his desire to be in Atlanta. 

There’s no doubt that he should have taken the short drive to Gwinnett County to play at least one Minor League game before returning from the disabled list.  In addition, he still has provided indication that he’s going to cost the Braves some runs with his limited range in left field.

But while getting the chance to watch him play over the course of the past week, I’ve seen seen a professional hitter, who will provide a presence in the middle of the lineup by putting the ball in play with regularity when runners are in scoring position.

While giving credit where credit is due, I’m also ready provide some to Kenshin Kawakami, who has allowed two earned runs and completed at least five innings during his past two starts against the Mets and Phillies.  I still don’t think he should be considered anything more than a fourth or fifth starter.  But if you’re fourth or fifth starter is providng these kinds of efforts on a consistent basis, then you’re probably feeling good about your rotation as a whole. 

Speaking of fifth starters, I think it’s pretty safe to assume we won’t be seeing Jo-Jo Reyes making another big league start in the near future.   Instead, I think we should expect to see Charlie Morton taking Reyes’ spot in the rotation until Tom Glavine is ready to resume pitching near the end of this month.

Tommy Hanson will still likely arrive in June.  But until then, he’s going to gain a little more Minor League seasoning, while Morton is given the chance to prove that he can carry his recent success to the big league level.

The Braves are going to be looking to find some power before the trade deadline and with a surplus of arms, there may be a number of teams interested in Morton, who has allowed just four earned runs in his past 27 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett.    

 

Waiting on the boys from Gwinnett

Well it’s good to see a Braves pitching staff producing dominant stats similar to the ones that Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine produced back in the day.  Unfortunately it seems like the some of the guys producing these numbers in Gwinnett County are still a few weeks away from making the 30-mile trek to the organization’s home base in Fulton County. 

In their past 15 games entering Saturday, Triple-A Gwinnett’s starting rotation had posted a 1.17 ERA.  That equates to 11 runs in their past 84 2/3 innings, or one fewer run than Kenshin Kawakami has allowed in his past 9 2/3 innings. 

Tommy Hanson has allowed two earned runs in his past 18 innings and Kris Medlen has totaled 13 consecutive scoreless innings to lower his season ERA to 1.17. Charlie Morton limited Durham to one run and six hits in eight innings on
Friday night.  The lanky right-hander has allowed just three runs in
his past 20 innings.  

Obviously it hasn’t been surprising that the two weakest links in the Atlanta rotation this year have been Kawakami and Jo-Jo Reyes, who has assured himself of going at least 11 months between Major League victories.

Because the Braves decided to give Kawakami a three-year, $23 million contract in January, some might have gained the impression that he could prove to be a difference maker.  But at 33 years-old the Japanese right-hander has provided every indication he’s nothing more than a fourth or fifth starter.

But with Hanson and Medlen waiting in the wings, it would be hard to argue how Kawakami could fit in as one of the top five pitchers in the Atlanta rotation over the life of his three-year deal, which runs concurrently with Derek Lowe’s.

As for Reyes, he has shown flashes that he has the capability of being solid third starter.  But as his developmental process continues to grow even longer, the 24-year-old left-hander continues to find ways to extend a losing streak that now extends back to June 23.

With improved control and the development of a solid breaking ball, Reyes possesses almost all of the tools he needs to be a successful big league pitcher.  But he’s still lacks the ever-important ability to overcome adversity. 

As soon as Yunel Escobar botched a second-inning grounder during the second inning of Friday’s game against the Phillies, you could basically see Reyes come unwound.  He then issued a four-pitch walk to the .182-hitting Chris Coste before lobbing Cole Hamels’  swinging bunt into right field.

Should Reyes have let Hamels’ slow roller roll foul?  Should he have simply thrown through Hamels to draw an interference call?  Taking either one of these actions might have provided an immediate solution that would have likely prevented the Phillies from constructing their four-run second inning. 

But mistakes like this are going to occur and Reyes’ most glaring sin proved to be how he reacted to the growing adversity that he faced following Escobar’s error. 

I’m certainly not going to be hypocritical and claim that Morton should have been brought to Atlanta before Reyes.  Because he  was injured most of Spring Training, Morton really wasn’t even an option when Reyes joined the big league rotation on April 18. 

In addition, I was among those who believed Reyes was the better choice because he seemed to be mentally tougher.  But if he struggles on Wednesday against the Mets, Morton should be given a chance to prove himself during the final weeks of May.

Obviously, Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen are the top options available in Gwinnett.  But because they aren’t on the 40-man roster, Morton be given the chance to maintain a rotation spot until one or both of those young right-handers are promoted in June. 

Or Morton could at least fill a rotation spot until Tom Glavine is ready to return in a couple of weeks.

Regardless of how you analyze this, Reyes is running out of opportunities to prove himself.   Despite the fact that he’s improved over the course of the past year, it’s hard to see great potential when you look at the fact that he’s 0-9 with a 6.61 ERA in his past 18 appearances (17 starts).

While the Braves have the option to move Reyes back to the Minors, they aren’t exactly in a position where they could do the same with Kawakami.  First of all, he deserves more than five career starts to prove himself and secondly, by doing so the organization would be acknowledging the mistake that they made by giving him the lucrative three-year contract.

Things aren’t exactly going to get any easier for Kawakami when he opposes the Phillies at the homer haven known as Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.   Having allowed five homers during the first 25 2/3 innings of his career, the baseball gods have given him the cruel assignment of making consecutive road starts in the band boxes located in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. 

When I drew the analogy that this would be like sending Appalachian State into Ann Arbor on consecutive weekends, the AJC’s Dave O’Brien reminded me that going into Michigan isn’t much of a challenge now that Rich Rodriguez is coaching there. 

And with that, my day has been made. It’s nice to know that non-West Virginians are now making fun of the man that both the Hatfields and McCoys love to hate.  

      

Glavine encouraged after live BP session

Before leaving the stadium on this afternoon, Tom Glavine turned to Matt Diaz and said, “If you go deep today, you owe me.”

About an hour earlier, Glavine had thrown approximately 20 pitches during a live batting practice session against Diaz, Jason Heyward and Brandon Hicks.  While still feeling some crankiness in his left shoulder, the 42-year-old southpaw was encouraged with his location and the consistency of the movement of his changeup and curve.

“He told us what was coming and still all of us rolled over two or three (of his pitches),” Diaz said. “He’s just got that location and that movement that’s vintage Glavine.  Obviously he wasn’t rearing back.  It’s just fun to see him back out on the mound again.”

Glavine will likely throw another live BP session on Sunday.  He’s still hoping to make his Grapefruit League season debut late next week.
 
Anderson set for debut:  Garret Anderson will make his Braves debut against Venezuela this afternoon.  Freddie Freeman is hitting cleanup and as expected Jeff Francoeur will serve as the DH.  Francoeur plans to play the entire game and compile at least four at-bats.

Derek Lowe will be making his second start of the exhibition season this afternoon.

Needing arms:  Because they want to protect some of their arms for the start of the World Baseball Classic, Venezuela will use Braves Minor League pitchers Brad Nelson and Kevin Gunderson during portions of  today’s game.

Blanco absent from lineup: Braves outfielder Gregor Blanco is hoping to get some playing time with Venezuela over the next few weeks.  But he wasn’t part of Thursday’s lineup.  Venezuela’s starting outfielders on Thursday were Endy Chavez, Bobby Abreu and Carlos Guillen.  Magglio Ordonez served as the designated hitter.

Odds and ends:  Jordan Schafer has been out since spraining the A/C joint in his left shoulder while diving for a ball in Dunedin on Saturday.  Braves manager Bobby Cox said the outfielder will likely return to action in three-to-five days…Right-handed pitcher Charlie Morton is still waiting for the Braves to clear him to start pitching again.  He strained his left oblique muscle nearly two weeks ago.. Braves president John Schuerholz confirmed that he’s not interested in the Nationals’ vacant GM position. .

Today’s lineup:

Josh Anderson CF
Omar Infante SS
Garret Anderson LF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Jeff Francoeur DH
Brandon Jones RF
Martin Prado 2B
David Ross C
Diory Hernandez 3B 

This Time It Counts

I’m not sure if I should have checked with the MLB licensing execs before using that headline.  But given what has transpired with the Braves over the course of this offseason, I didn’t see any need to wait until the All-Star Game to use it.

Before you ask whether one of Paul Kinzer’s term sheet requests or premature speculation is going to prolong the soap opera that was Frank Wren’s offseason, I figured I’d let you know Garret Anderson really has signed and no, he didn’t use invisible ink. 

Having been left at the alter on more than one occasion this offseason, the Braves were very guarded about the comments they made before Anderson underwent his physical on Tuesday and officially said, “I do.”

It’s quite obvious that many of the Braves are ecstatic about the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. opened the door that allowed Anderson to come to Atlanta.  Instead of worrying about the uncertainties Griffey would have brought while serving in a platoon, they now find themselves looking forward to the consistencies that Anderson will provide while playing left field on a regular basis. 

“It’s a tremendous pickup, great, great pickup,” Braves manager
Bobby Cox said. “This guy can practically play every day.”  <p>  

These aren’t exactly the words you’d want to hear if you’re Matt Diaz, who now finds himself as a backup who will see occasional time in left field.  But Chipper Jones is among those whose seems happy to know Anderson will be resting with him somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

“He’ll make a difference, ” Jones said. “We’re a little left-handed for my taste.  But Garret is going to help this team win ballgames and that’s all I care about.” 

The projected Braves lineup consists of two right-handed hitters: Jeff Francoeur and Yunel Escobar; and one switch hitter in Jones.  But manager Bobby Cox doesn’t seem too worried about the fact that his lineup will regularly consist of five left-handed hitters   — Anderson, Josh Anderson, Casey Kotchman, Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson. 

“Garret, Johnson, Mac and Kotchman have all hit left-handers in the past,” Cox said. “It really doesn’t matter how it shapes up.”

<b> Morton update:  </b>  Charlie Morton strained a muscle on his left side on Tuesday and it will be at least another week until he’s able to resume throwing. 

<b> Going to Lakeland </b>  Chipper Jones and Garret Anderson (presumably) will be the only projected starters not making the trip to Lakeland for Wednesday’s Grapefruit League opener.  Jair Jurrjens, Jo-Jo Reyes, Manny Acosta, Stephen Marek and  Eric O’Flaherty are all scheduled to pitch.

Late blogotorial addition: (Sorry we didn’t have this information for the early edition)

<b> Minor freak injury:  </b>  As I mentioned earlier in a comment, Blaine Boyer sent me a text to tell me the cut he suffered on his right index finger came courtesy of an apple slicer.  Unfortunately for the right-hander, he had no intention to even make contact with that utensil.  He was simply reaching for a can opener. 

Boyer said the small laceration had no effect on him during his Tuesday morning bullpen session.  But he won’t make his scheduled appearance against the Tigers on  Wednesday.

- Mark Bowman

Soriano highlights Monday's workout

Anderson, Anderson and Francoeur. Seriously, should I have actually laughed out loud while wondering if this sounds like a law firm or an outfield trio? Actually there’s no need to answer that.  I just read over it again and formed the same stone face that Rafael Soriano displays whenever we ask him a question. 

Speaking of Soriano, he actually impressed Bobby Cox today with the velocity he showed during the bullpen session that preceded his first live batting practice session of the season on Monday morning  All indications are that the right-handed reliever’s elbow is healthy. 

Kenshin Kawakami followed Soriano on the mound and showed more consistency with his  location than he had when he threw his first live BP session on Saturday.  The Japanese hurler mixed in a few more breaking balls and received some compliments from the hitters that he faced. 

“You can see how that guy could have a lot of success by putting the ball where he wants it and where hitters don’t like it,” Kelly Johnson said. 

Charlie Morton impressed Cox with a solid bullpen session and then possibly strained an oblique muscle while throwing to hitters.  Over the next few days, the Braves will gain a better understanding about how much time Morton might miss.

There’s a slight chance that Garret Anderson could undergo his physical and join his new Braves teammates near the end of Tuesday’s workout.  Regardless as long as everything goes well, he’ll likely be officially introduced on Tuesday afternoon.

After Monday’s workout, many of the players headed out to participate in Tim Hudson’s charity golf tournament.  While practicing his swing, the always witty Peter Moylan said, “I’m the new John Smoltz and I’ve got the hairline to prove it.”

- Mark Bowman

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