Results tagged ‘ Chipper Jones ’

Heyward proving hazardous to health of vehicles

Jason Heyward will be the first to admit that it really doesn’t matter what he does at the plate while one of the Braves coaches are feeding him pitches. 

But my plan to avoid writing something about his batting practice exploits for a third consecutive day were erased when Bobby Cox informed us the club is actually thinking about instituting protective measures to guard against the fact that Heyward has spent this week attempting to do more damage to vehicles than a Toyota manufacturer. 

When architects constructed the Braves Spring Training complex (which officially became ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex on Thursday afternoon) they obviously didn’t account for this Heyward-like power that provides a daily threat to the cars of the team’s execs who park just beyond the right field wall.

But when he deposited a BP pitch into the sunroof of assistant general manager Bruce Manno’s car on Tuesday afternoon, Heyward produced expensive reminder that these cars aren’t safe when he’s standing in the left side of the batter’s box.

Damages to Manno’s team-issued car were set at $3400.

Truth be told, these cars were in dangerous position before Heyward arrived on the scene.  Kurt Kemp, the club’s director of player personnel, had two of his windshields broken last year and Heyward had nothing to do with that shattered glass. 

When Cox told us the club was thinking about putting some protective netting in front of the cars, it seemed like he was initially joking.  But he said he was serious and then jokingly said the club was going to start fining Heyward, whose left-handed swing has already produced a number of impressive BP blasts this week. 

“We should fine him,” Cox joked. “Make him hit the ball the other way.”

As some of you may already know, Heyward is more than capable of also showing his power to the opposite direction.   During an intra-squad game last year, he directed a Jair Jurrjens pitch off the scoreboard located in left-center field.

Cox on Chipper:  When Chipper Jones was struggling down the stretch last year, he mentioned that he would contemplate retiring if he endured another season as frustrating as 2009 proved to be. 

When asked about this by a reporter on Thursday, Cox quickly said he never gave much thought to the possibility that Jones would choose to walk away from the game before completing his  three-year contract extension that guarantees a $13 million salary each of the next three seasons.

“I never took it to heart at all,” Cox said. “He’ll play three more years and play good.”     

Schafer update:  Like Jurrjens is taking things slow with the hope that his sore shoulder will be strong enough for him to begin throwing off a mound again next week, Jordan Schafer understands there’s no reason for him to push too hard while dealing with a hand that is still dealing with effect that he was in a cast for 18 weeks last year. 

Schafer said that he plans to begin swinging a bat again on Friday.  He took the past two days off because his surgically-repaired left hand was “feeling weak”. 

“I’ve got to build all of those muscles back up,” Schafer said Thursday morning. “It feels a lot better today. I just want to get all of my strength back.  I’ve got six weeks to get ready for the season.  I’m not in any hurry.”

Rotation plans : Cox met with pitching coach Roger McDowell after Thursday’s workout to discuss the Grapefruit League rotation.  He will likely reveal the plans within the next two days.  
 

Heyward and Hank Aaron make their arrivals

Jason Heyward has arrived at Spring Training to enhance the growing legend that has built during his Minor League career.  But with the presence of Hank Aaron, there truly was a legend present in Braves camp this morning.  

While Aaron has flown to Florida with other Braves execs to just spend a couple days around camp, Heyward will be spending the next six weeks attempting to prove he’s ready to begin the season as Atlanta’s starting right fielder.  

After making his arrival to Braves camp on Monday morning, Chipper Jones once again expressed that he is confident that the 20-year-old Heyward will be quickly transitioning himself from being one of those invitees with a high jersey numbers to being a big leaguer on Opening Day.  

“I’m going to say he’s not (wearing) No. 71 at the end (of Spring Training),” Jones said in reference to Heyward’s current jersey number.  “Just a hunch.”  

Heyward, who is widely considered the game’s top prospect, has grown to be even more physically imposing than he was last year, when he experienced his first big league camp.  Conditioning and maturity have allowed him to blossom into a 6-foot-5, 245 pound muscular figure.  

After Derek Lowe said Heyward “looks like an outside linebacker”, Jones said, “He’s Jevon Kearse.”

Whatever the case, Heyward’s success over the next couple of weeks will play a big role on how the Braves look during the early weeks and months of the season.   Despite the fact that he has compiled fewer than 200 at-bats above the Class A level, he is viewed as potential difference maker in this lineup.

When the Braves made their half-hearted attempt to pursue Johnny Damon, they recognized he might be able to improve their lineup as a leadoff hitter.  But if Heyward proves he’s ready for the Majors, they knew that they probably could utilize the dollars that were earmarked for Damon in a more efficient manner.  

If Heyward struggles during the early weeks of camp, the Braves may evaluate possibilities to grab a low-cost outfielder, who could help Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera in the corner outfield spots.  But for now, they are hoping their 20-year-old phenom is with them when the Cubs visit Turner Field for the April 5 Opening Day matinee.  

“He’s going to be fine,” Jones said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders.  He knows how to handle it.  I doubt that any of us are going to have to say a word.  We’re just going to sit back and watch.   The kid has a good head on his shoulders.   He knows what he has to do.  He was here last year and he knew last year that he was going to be in this situation this year.  He’s been preparing all year for this moment.”

Troy Glaus also arrived in camp today.  There haven’t been any sightings of Yunel Escobar or Martin Prado.  

Source says Braves made offer to Damon

As Spring Training nears, there’s more reason to wonder if Johnny Damon will eventually accept what the Braves are willing to offer.  But for now, insiders still feel like the veteran outfielder will end up signing elsewhere.

Early this afternoon a Major League source confirmed the Braves have made a one-year offer to Damon. 

UPDATED:  Financial terms still haven’t been learned.  But a Major League League source said that even with the deferred fund accounted for, the offer was for less than $4 million.

This is the primary reason the Tigers or late entry into the Damon sweepstakes still appear to be more likely suitors for the 36-year-old outfielder.

Chipper Jones didn’t confirm whether the club has asked him to serve in the recruiting role that he often takes when in pursuit of a top-flight free agent.  But he said that he could see the benefit of bringing the veteran outfielder to Atlanta to serve as a legit leadoff hitter.

“I think he’d be a good addition,” Chipper Jones said.  “He’s a guy with experience and he provides us depth at the outfield position.” 

The addition of Damon could facilitate a trade or minimize the impact that Jason Heyward could have during this upcoming season.But for now, it doesn’t appear the Braves are making a serious push for Damon.  

Busy holiday season for Wren and the Braves

After making my 11-hour journey back home for the holidays yesterday, I learned that that yesterday’s trade of Javier Vazquez had made many of you just as sick as my three female passengers, who had never previously been introduced to the twists and turns on West Virginia’s mountainous turnpike. 

But after looking at this trade and getting a feel for what the Braves learned while navigating this year’s trade market, I’d have to say the only reason that I currently dislike Braves GM Frank Wren stems from the fact that he made a point this morning to point out that the Mexican beaches he is enjoying lack the snow and cold temperatures that exist here in Wheeling, WV.   <p>

Before getting into this trade, let’s touch on Troy Glaus, who will seemingly become the Braves new first baseman once he’s able to get to Atlanta to undergo a physical.  Weather conditions in the northeast part of the country  imited hindered his immediate travel plans. 

So with some of the Braves doctors already beginning their vacations, it will likely be after the holiday break before Glaus could be introduced as the newest member of the Braves roster. 

Now back to the pitching front, where the Braves committed to trading either Vazquez or Derek Lowe once they gained the belief that Tim Hudson actually provided more certainty than either of these other two veteran right-handers. 

It’s no secret that the Braves pushed hard in an attempt to find a suitor for Lowe.  But in the process, they found just a couple of potential suitors and each of these clubs wanted them to eat about half of the $45 million the veteran sinkerballer is owed over the next three years. 

Given that Vazquez finished fourth in this year’s balloting for the National League Cy Young Award, there was reason to believe the Braves would have a much easier time moving him. 

But as time passed, it became apparent that among the clubs looking to acquire a starting pitcher via trade, the Yankees stood as the only potential suitor willing to spend as much as $10 million. 

With this in mind, the Braves were thrilled when the Yankees were interested enough in Vazquez to highlight this five-player trade with the inclusion of Arodys Vizcaino,  a 19-year-old right-hander who was rated by Baseball America  as the third-best prospect in the Yankees organization. 

The Braves view Vizcaino as being just as promising as Julio Teheran, a soon-to-be 19-year-old right-hander who was tabbed their third-best prospect by BA.

While making his frustrations known last week, Lowe playfully talked about reports that indicated the Braves were now just looking to get prospects for him.  This led the witty right-hander to ask, “What’s next?  You think they’ll be able to get an “L” screen for me?”

With Vizcaino, Mike Dunn and Melky Cabrera, the Braves got much more than they would have received in return for the salary dump they would have made by trading Lowe. 

Obviously to find value in this trade you have to look far beyond Cabrera, who will serve as a cheap versatile outfielder who can play each of the three outfield positions.  When the Braves are facing a tough right-handed pitcher, he could spell Matt Diaz in left field.  When they are facing a tough lefty, he could spell Jason Heyward in right field. 

Or maybe he just assumes an everyday role in right field until Heyward is deemed Major League ready.  Whatever the case, the Braves certainly didn’t view him as the centerpiece of this deal. 

There’s no doubt that it’s tough to see Vazquez depart after just one year in an environment where he proved to be so comfortable.  He’s a true professional who had a positive impact on Yunel Escobar, Jair Jurrjens and many of the other players in the clubhouse. 

But when it came time to make projections, the Braves certainly couldn’t assume that Vazquez would definitely match the career-best season he enjoyed this past season.  In fact, there were some members of the organization, who felt it was much smarter to sell high on him and avoid having to sell low on Lowe. 

Even with Lowe coming off a career-worst season and Vazquez coming off a career-best season, recent history indicates you could place them in the same category. 

Durign the past three seasons, Lowe went 41-35 with a 3.91 ERA and 605 innings pitched. Vazquez went 42-34 with a 3.74 ERA and 644 1/3 innings pitched during this span. 

Given that Vazquez spent two of those seasons in the American League and is three years younger, you could certainly argue that he was the guy to keep.  But at the same time, the Braves also came to the realization that he was the only member of this duo who was going to provide any kind of return. 

Thus while exercising your right to voice your opinion about this trade, keep in mind that it was one that was necessitated once the Braves made the decision to provide Hudson with his three-year contract extension. 

If you weren’t in favor of bringing Hudson back, then you certainly have reason to be upset about the fact that Vazquez’s time in Atlanta was limited to just one season.  But while kicking and screaming about this, keep in mind there was no guarantee that the Vazquez that appeared last year was going to materialize yet again in 2010. 

Before saying happy holidays to all you loyal bloggers, I’d like to add that Wren left Lowe a lengthy message after the pitcher voiced his displeasures to me about the fact that it seemed like the club was giving up on him after just one year. 

A few hours later, Lowe sent Wren a text message that essentially said there were no hard feelings. 

OK, time for me to send Wren my own holiday wishes. I’m thinking it will consist of a reminder that stepping on seashells will prove much more painful than walking through this snow. 

  

Can you still Believe?

Postseason hope might not be officially dead in Atlanta.  But I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s currently floating down the E. Coli-infested Chattahoochee River with Chad Paronto on its back.

There’s no doubt that the Braves are capable of sweeping their four-game series against the Nationals this weekend.  But you have to think the Rockies will likely clinch the Wild Card spot by winning at least one of their last four games against the Brewers and the Dodgers, who have lost four straight and five of six during a stretch against the Pirates and Padres.

When Matt Diaz hit his game-tying, three-run homer against the Marlins on Tuesday night, it was still easy to Believe that the Braves were going to find a way to get into the playoffs.

Two losses later, it’s hard to Believe how that one last gasp to keep legit hope alive was destroyed.

While getting picked off third base to end Wednesday night’s game, Diaz went from being the unsung catalyst to the goat in the matter of minutes. 

That same aggressive, shoes-on-fire approach that led Diaz to stray too far off third base was arguably what had allowed the Braves to load the bases in the ninth. 

Had Diaz not busted down the line after producing his two-out grounder, Marlins third baseman Wes Helms might not have rushed his throw that resulted in the inning-extending error.

In the end, there is no excuse for getting picked off in that situation.  Diaz knows that and he’ll continue to be bothered by this event for many days to come.

But as the Rockies continue to roll and the Dodgers continue to slide, Sunday may conclude with the realization that even with a perfect finish the Braves might have found themselves forced to face the fact that the hole they had dug was too deep to escape.

With the playoff picture now fading out of focus, there will still be a few things to follow over the next couple of days.

Perez Watch:  The Indians will likely call the Braves to ask permission to interview bullpen coach Eddie Perez for their vacant managerial role.   While playing in Cleveland in 2002, Perez developed a strong bond with Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. 

While Perez might not yet be deemed ready for a managerial role, it will be interesting to see what he would do if the Indians were to offer him the greater responsibility that he’d experience as their bench coach.

Perez’s ultimate goal is to serve as Bobby Cox’s successor and remain in Atlanta.  But he could also be tempted to leave for a role that would allow him to better prepare himself to serve as a manager in the Majors.

Garret eyeing 2500:  Garret Anderson is just one hit shy of becoming the 90th player in Major League history to record 2500 in his career.  Dating back to the start of 1995, Anderson’s first full season in the big leagues, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are the only players to have compiled more hits.

Chipper needs two more: Chipper Jones remains two homers shy of becoming the first Major Leaguer to ever begin his career with 15 consecutive 20-homer seasons.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’ll see the veteran third baseman coming out of his shoes with a couple of swings during this final weekend.

 

  

Did Barmes make the catch?

At the conclusion of Monday night’s win over the Marlins at Turner Field, the big video board in center field ran a clip that concluded with Chipper Jones saying, “It’s time to believe.”
 
There’s no doubt that it’s time to believe that the Braves could erase the two-game deficit they currently possess against the Rockies and find their way into postseason.  

But I’m not sure that Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes truly believes that he made that miraculous catch that ended Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Cardinals. 

With runners at the corners and one out, Barmes raced into shallow right field and made what appeared to be a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch while tumbling and turning into the Coors Field grass.  He then quickly turned and threw to first base to complete a game-ending double play.

 “By the time I looked back up, the ball was on top of me,” Barmes told MLB.com.  “That was where it kind of got all off-balance, with the roll…As I was going down, it hit my glove then went across my body or something and … I don’t even know, but I came up with it in my bare hand.”

But did he come up with the ball in his hand before it hit the ground? 

Before screaming about the need for Major League Baseball to broaden its instant replay system, I’ve got to tell you that I’ve looked at this video clip countless times this morning and I still haven’t seen the ball hit the ground.

But in the fan photo section that The Denver Post runs, Craig Welling has posted at least one shot that appears to show the ball on the ground.  Click here to see all of the pictures that Welling has taken of this moment and posted on his photoblog.

Here is the most revealing shot he took. This is the only view that I’ve found that shows that the ball seemingly did hit the grass.

Barmes catch.jpg   

Former MLB.com colleague Troy Renck addressed this question for The Denver Post and received an interesting answer from the always light-hearted and media-friendly Ryan Spilborghs, who was racing in from right field as Barmes performed his acrobatics.
 
“Only me and Barmes know the truth,” Spilborghs told Renck. “It’s the same as (Matt) Holliday touching home plate. It’s better that it’s (mysterious).”

When the Rockies won their one-game playoff against the Padres in 2007, they did so with Matt Holliday seemingly sliding across the plate with the winning run.  But replays never confirmed that he actually touched the plate.  

If the Rockies hold off the Braves and gain the National League Wild Card entry, this Barmes play will be one that’s celebrated in Denver and heavily debated in Atlanta.

But just like the Braves can’t lament the fact that they lost a four-run, seventh-inning lead during their July 12 loss at Coors Field, they can’t lose focus now by worrying about whether or not Barmes truly made this catch.

With the Marlins sending Josh Johnson to the mound to oppose Tim Hudson tonight, the Braves are preparing to face what appears to be the greatest challenge that they’ll encounter over the course of the final six games.

Johnson went 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his first eight career appearances against the Braves.  But the big right-hander has gone 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA in his past three outings against them.

One thing going for the Braves is the fact that Johnson may still be feeling the effects of the flu symptoms that caused him to miss Sunday’s scheduled start.  He’s completed just five innings in three of his four starts this month and has thrown more than 92 pitches in just two of his past seven outings. 

The Braves also can only hope that Jason Marquis continues his recent struggles when he takes the mound for the Rockies in their series opener against the Brewers tonight.  

The Rockies have won just one of Marquis’ past six starts and during this span, the former Braves hurler has gone 1-4 with a 6.49 ERA.  He has been charged with five earned runs in four of this six outings.

Small crowd:
  Given the excitement the Braves have created while winning 15 of their past 17 games, it was disappointing to see the sparse, yet very enthusiastic crowd that attended Monday night’s game. 

But this just doesn’t seem to be the time to once again bash the fans of Atlanta.  Obviously this city was hit hard last week by floods and there are many individuals who are still attempting to recover. 

The Braves have donated $25,000 to local aid organizations and before each remaining game this week they will collect flood relief donations in the Monument Grove area.  They are asking fans to contribute monetary donations, gift cards, hygiene items, school supplies, non-perishable food items and baby items.

In exchange for monetary donations or books to help assist Clarksdale Elementary to rebuild its library that was destroyed last week, Hudson will sign autographs at Turner Field  from 5:45-6:45 p.m. ET on Friday.  

Braves playoff hopes still alive

If the Braves truly were dead after they were swept by the Reds last weekend, then whey I did wake up today and start looking for a pulse, while evaluating their remaining schedule and the ones that await the clubs in front of them in both the National League East and Wild Card standings?  

This job calls for me to be more of a realist than an optimist.  But now that the Braves have provided reason to wonder courtesy of their 5-1 road trip that concluded with a sweep of the Cardinals, I don’t see the benefit of treating the remainder of the regular season a three-week death march.  

Sitting 7 games back in the division and six games back in the Wild Card with just 19 games remaining, the odds of the Braves making the playoffs rival those of Lane Kiffin actually making it throughout this week without saying anything that will further incite the Florida Gators.

But I’m quite certain members of the Philadelphia media were saying something similar when the Phillies were six games back with just 19 games remaining during the 2007 season.  Standing at 76-67 at that time, the Phils would go 13-6 down the stretch to overtake the Mets, who went 6-13 during that same stretch.  

That year’s version of the Rockies sat 3 games back in the Wild Card standings through 143 games and then managed to win 15 of their final 19 games to set up the one-game playoff with the Padres.  

Looking solely at these examples provides further reason to believe the Braves would have to win something like 16 of their remaining 19 games to gain a chance.  But really, the only reason I presented these examples was to provide the reminder that crazy things sometimes do occur during the final weeks of the season.  

“It’s possible and until we’re mathematically eliminated, we’re going to go out with the feeling that we’ve got a shot,” Chipper Jones said.  

Mention of the 2007 season also allowed me to present one of the funnier press box lines that I’ve heard.   After Smarty Jones was upset in the Belmont Stakes and lost his bid to complete thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, one Phillies scribe proclaimed, “Typical Philadelphia athlete.”  

Instead of being the chokers, the Phillies were the benefactors of the collapses the Mets experienced the past two seasons.  To have any hope of winning the division, the Braves will need to sweep a few of their remaining six series and have the Phils change roles this year.  

The Braves benefit from the fact that 13 of their final 19 games are against the Mets and Nationals.  But it’s not like they’ve thoroughly dominated either of these two teams  —  Mets (7-5,  Nationals (7-4)–  this year.

During their final 18 games of the season, the Marlins are scheduled to play two against the Cardinals, three against the Braves and six against the Phillies.  They’re also slated to play four games against the Reds, who have lost six of eight since exiting Turner Field with the sweep.  

Further hindering the Braves division hopes is the fact that the Phillies play 11 of their final 20 games against teams that currently have a losing record.  The only teams they’ll play with winning records are the Braves and Marlins.  

The most encouraging part about the Rockies remaining schedule is that eight of their remaining 17 games will be played against the Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers.  

The Braves need the Giants to complete their three-game sweep of the Rockies this week and then fall apart during a 16-game stretch that will include just seven games against teams (Cubs and Dodgers) with a winning record.

Shorthanded lineup going for sweep

While trying to complete a three-game sweep against Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, the Braves utilized a lineup that was absent both Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.

A couple of days ago when neither of these guys were providing any offense in the middle of the lineup, this might have provided the opportunity to playfully say that this was a wise strategical move.

But whenever going up against Carpenter, who is 11-0 with a 1.97 ERA, in his past 13 starts, there’s never much reason to laugh about the fact that you’re going into the game shorthanded. 

Braves manager Bobby Cox stuck with his plan to give McCann a day off and Jones was forced out of the lineup because of a strained left groin that he suffered while quickly stopping at third base during the ninth inning of Saturday afternoon’s win. 

Jones is hopeful that he will return to the lineup on Tuesday.   When asked if this groin has bothered him at any point this year, the veteran third baseman said,  “there hasn’t been much that hasn’t bothered me this year.”

Carpenter is 2-0 with a 2.62 ERA in the four starts he’s made against the Braves dating back to the start of the 2005 season. 

Jones has three hits, including a double, in six career at-bats against Carpenter and McCann has gone 2-for-7 with a homer against the right-hander.  

With eight hits in his past 13 at-bats, McCann has at least interrupted the maddening funk that has followed him most of the past three months.

If the Braves were still in legitimate postseason contention, McCann might have found his way into the lineup, especially after Jones was deemed unavailable.  But the All-Star catcher has been fatigued by this mentally-trying season and definitely could benefit from the opportunity to have two days off before the Mets come to Atlanta on Tuesday to begin a three-game series. 

 

Teams interested in Braves pitching surplus

The Rockies and D-backs both sent scouts to watch Tim Hudson make his return last night.  Like Hudson, these clubs are wondering whether the Braves will bring the veteran right-hander back to Atlanta next year.  

Even as recently as the All-Star break, it appeared the Braves weren’t going to be willing to bring both Hudson and Javier Vazquez back next year.  

But while there’s still a chance that one of them will be gone before the start of the 2010 season, there’s also a growing sense that  both could return to provide Atlanta with a rotation that would be deeper than any of the great ones it possessed during the 1990s.  

Hudson’s contract includes a $12 million club option and $1 million buyout for the 2010 season.  Vazquez’s cost of $11.5 million next year would be a definite bargain if he were capable of repeating the successful season he’s created this season.   

If the Braves were to enter the 2010 season in possession of each of their current six starters  —  Derek Lowe ($15 mil), Hudson ($12 mil), Vazquez ($11.5 mil), Kenshin Kawakami ($6.7 mil), Jair Jurrjens (approx. $500K) and Tommy Hanson (approx . $450K),  they would do so at a combined cost in the neighborhood of $46 million, which would eat up nearly half of their expected payroll.  

With Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano eligible for free agency, there’s a chance the Braves could choose not to bring either of these closers back and opt to have Peter Moylan fill that role at the approximated $1 million cost he may gain through his first arbitration-eligible season.

With Chipper Jones ($13 mil), Brian McCann ($5.5 mil), Nate McLouth ($4.5 mil), Matt Diaz (approx $2 mil),  David Ross ($1.6 mil), Omar Infante ($2.25 mil)  Yunel Escobar (approx. $500K), Martin Prado (approx $500 K), the Braves have approximately $30 million tied up in their position players and that’s without including the cost for a first baseman or outfielder.  

If you assume that the Braves bring Ryan Church back at around $3.5 million next year, then you could put their projected known costs at around $80 million.    

Then if Adam LaRoche was willing to stick in Atlanta for another year or two with an average annual salary of about  $6 million, the Braves would still be in position to account for non-arbitration guys (Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, etc.) and still satisfy their budget.

There’s no guarantee that the Braves will be willing to offer LaRoche this much during an offseason where a number of 1B/OF types will be available.   But I just wanted to throw that high-side figure out there to show that he could fit into a mix that would also include each of these starting pitchers.
 
While trying to show the Braves could have the financial means to keep each of these six starters,  I’ve included a lot of loose variables.

But at the end of the day, does it make sense to keep all of these arms?  Would it be more prudent to move Vazquez to gain prospects and have the opportunity to at least make a run at keeping either Gonzalez or Soriano, who will be Type A free agents?  

While there’s reason to wonder if Vazquez has found his comfort zone in Atlanta, history also shows that he’s had trouble putting together two consecutive strong seasons.  So should the Braves at least attempt to gain the solid return they could gain by dealing him?  

If the Braves simply chose to pay Hudson’s $1 million buyout, the only thing they’d be gaining is financial relief.  He currently doesn’t qualify as a Type B free agent.
 
Or maybe it makes sense to gain some financial relief by attempting to trade Kawakami, who wouldn’t provide the same kind of return as Vazquez.
 
The Braves may not have as many needs to fill as they did during last year’s offseason.  But as the D-backs and Rockies have proven, there are already a number of teams wanting to know how they’ll deal with their surplus of starters. 
 
Church returns, Chipper sits:    Ryan Church’s ability to return to Wednesday night’s lineup provided Chipper Jones to get a night off.  Jones’ back was a little sore on Tuesday night.  But he will likely return for Thursday night’s series finale.
 
Short bullpen:  Soriano threw 66 pitches while making appearances each of the past three days.  So the Braves will likely utilize  Gonzalez or Moylan as their closer tonight.   Gonzalez and Moylan have pitched both of the past two nights.
 
While Gonzalez threw 31 pitches through this span, Moylan totaled just 10.   

Could Chipper turn things around like he did in 2006?

When Chipper Jones directed Luis Perdomo’s fastball into the left-center field gap on Thursday night, it appeared that he was destined to record his third hit in three innings.    But Padres center fielder Tony Gwynn robbed the Braves third baseman of this rarity with a diving catch that seemed improbable when the ball left the bat. 

“When he caught that ball I was thinking as much as last year was my year, this isn’t my year,”  Jones said.
  
Coming off his first career batting title, Jones entered this season knowing that he likely wouldn’t match the career-best .364 batting average that he compiled last year.   But at the same time, he didn’t have much reason to believe that he’d enter August’s final weekend with a .281 batting average.
 
The last time that Jones’ average sat this low outside the month of April was on June 25, 2006, when he exited that day’s game in Tampa hitting .276.   One day later at Yankee Stadium, Jones recorded a three-hit game and found himself beginning a tear that would carry him through the end of last season. 

During the 423 games Jones played from June 26, 2006 through the end of the 2008 season, he hit .337 with a .436 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage.  

It appeared he was on pace to produce similar numbers when on June 9 of this year, he was hitting .335 with a .442 on-base percentage and a .565 slugging percentage.  But during the 64 games that have followed, he has hit just .242 with a .370 on-base percentage and a .381 slugging percentage. 

Jones was encouraged by his two-hit performance on Thursday night and said that the swing that produced the liner that Gwynn glove would be one that he’d be taking into this weekend’s series in Philadelphia. 

Providing Jones even more reason for encouragement should be the fact that he’s hit .345 with eight homers and a 1.138 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in his last 25 games at Citizens Bank Park. 

Hanson’s perfect bid:  With a win or no-decision during tonight’s game the birthday boy Tommy Hanson will ensure that he’ll produce perfect records during two of his first three months at the Major League level. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last rookie pitcher to record two perfect months with at least four wins was Houston’s Roy Oswalt in 2001. 

Because Hanson was celebrating his 23rd birthday on Friday, we’ll provide him the gift of a mulligan while comparing his success to other Major League pitchers since he debuted.   Thus we won’t factor in his June 7 big league debut. 

In the 13 starts he’s made dating back to June 12, Hanson has posted a 2.68 ERA, which ranks first among the Braves starters and  12th among all Major League pitchers (min. 50 innings) during this span.    One of his primary competitors for NL Rookie of the Year honors, J.A. Happ has posted a 2.47 ERA during this stretch.

Javier Vazquez’s 2.75 ERA ranks 14th in the Majors during this span and Jair Jurrjens’ 2.96 mark ranks 19th.     

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