Results tagged ‘ Craig Kimbrel ’

Cox clears Heyward and praises Kimbrel

Chipper Jones will be getting the night off and Melky Cabrera won’t be present to talk to Yankees reporters about how he’s doing now that he’s no longer wearing pinstripes.  But Jason Heyward will be in Tampa tomorrow night to do more than simply watch Jair Jurrjens make his Grapefruit League season debut against the defending world champs.

While Jones and Cabrera aren’t scheduled to travel to Tampa, Bobby Cox confirmed that Heyward will be back in the lineup against the Yankees.  The 20-year-old outfielder missed Wednesday’s game because the Braves wanted to give him a chance to rest the sore upper back that he encountered after running into the right field wall during Tuesday night’s game.

“He’ll be in there for sure, no problem at all,” Cox said.

Unfortunately the Braves can’t express the same level of confidence when asked about the odds of Derek Lowe making his next scheduled start on Monday night against the Nationals.  But they are still optimistic that the blister on his right big toe won’t prove troublesome enough to prevent him from making his Opening Day start against the Cubs on April 5.

“Thank God, it’s not his arm,” Cox said.  “You can miss one down here and still be fine.  “I just hope that he can start next time.  I’m sure he can. I think they can tape it up somehow or put Super Glue on it.  I’m just joking.  But I’m sure they can put something down there to toughen it up.  It’s about the nastiest blister I’ve ever seen. ”  <p> 

When Lowe removed his sock to show the blister to reporters, he managed to reveal something that was actually uglier than the one-inning stint that he had just completed against the Mets. 

Lowe felt the blister in the process of opening the game with a strikeout and then over the course of the next six batters he faced, he surrendered four singles, watched Chris Carter continue his recent home run tear and dodged one line drive that seemed destined to drill his forehead.

“Instead of worry about pitching, I was worrying about how to not drag my back toe,” Lowe said.  ” Then I almost took one off the melon there.  That would have been real fun. So it was a wasted day.”  <p>

Because he only threw 27 pitches against the Mets, Lowe will have to make up for this “wasted day”.  But even if he is unable to make his start against the Nats on Monday, he’ll still have an opportunity to make three additional starts, including one that would be scheduled to last five innings. 

Still this isn’t exactly what the Braves envisioned when Cox went against tradition and made the early announcement that Lowe will serve as his Opening Day starter.  The only other time I remember the veteran manager making this announcement this early was before the start of the 2004 season, when he bestowed the honor upon Russ Ortiz, who responded with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP.  

Ortiz’s selection was either based on the 20-win season he had notched the year before or more likely the fact that for the first time since the first George Bush was president he was unable to provide this honor to somebody named Glavine, Smoltz or Maddux.

Nevertheless, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Cox will stay on the safe side of superstition and never again make an early announcement about his Opening Day starter.

Exiting sarcasm mode, Cox had nothing but good things to say about the way Craig Kimbrel looked while recording a pair of strikeouts and issuing a contested walk in a scoreless 10th inning against the Mets.

Cox said that plate umpire Jeff Kellogg admitted he missed a third-strike call that would have prevented Kimbrel from issuing his leadoff walk to Ike Davis.  But young fireballer, who has been called “the right-handed Billy Wagner”, seemed unfazed as he responded with consecutive strikeouts and then ended the inning with a harmless pop fly.

Kimbrel’s ability to make his fastball look like it’s rising has Cox raving about his ability to serve as a top-notch closer in the future.

“A scientist will tell you that it’s an illusion, but it does come up a little bit,” Cox said of this fastball that has been clocked in the upper 90s. “It looks like it’s going to be low and it’s not.”

Saito and McLouth prolong struggles:  Closer Billy Wagner bounced back from his shaky debut with an easy scoreless inning against the Phillies on Tuesday night.  His setup man Takashi Saito’s attempt to experience a similar rebound prove unsuccessful as he was charged with three earned runs during his one-inning appearance against the Mets. 

“He was up with everything,” said Cox of his 40-year-old reliever who issued a leadoff walk and later surrendered a two-run double to Carter and an RBI triple to Adams. 

Saito didn’t have the opportunity to blame this outing on the discomfort of his contracts.  The lenses he was wearing were different than the ones he was wearing on Friday, when he allowed the Pirates two runs in one inning. 

Former Pirate Nate McLouth had another rough afternoon and now has just one hit through his first 16 at-bats of the year.  It’s still way to early to be alarmed about results down here. But with that being said, you certainly have to hope that the six strikeouts he’s incurred so far don’t signal a trend.  
 

  

  

   

Odds and ends as Braves pitchers and catchers report

Had Nate McLouth known how miserable his beloved Michigan Wolverines
were going to make him feel, he might have chosen to wait until the end
of the football season before correcting his vision with contact lenses.

But
now that he’s had about four months to get used to his contacts,
McLouth has arrived in Braves camp happy about the fact that he’s going
to be able to see better than he did towards the end of the 2009
season, when he started having trouble with his vision, particularly
during night games.   

“During the day, it was OK,” McLouth
said.  “But at night, when there’s  a lot of lights, things kind of
blurred together.  Now with the contacts, it has been great.” 

As
Braves pitchers and catchers reported to camp on Friday morning,
McLouth and Matt Diaz highlighted the group of position players who had
reported to camp early. 

Japanese hurlers Kenshin Kawakami and
Takashi Saito arrived at the newly named ESPN Wide World of Sports
comlex early Friday morning and immediately exchanged pleasantries with
the likes of Tim Hudson and Peter Moylan, a pair of fun-loving hurlers
who know how to create some laughs around the clubhouse. 

Early
indications are that they’ll be having some fun with their new closer
Billy Wagner, who came to camp this morning wearing a flannel shirt,
jeans, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.

Craig Kimbrel, the
hard-throwingreliever who has been called the right-handed Billy
Wagner, shied away from his first opportunity to meet the veteran
closer. He’ll likely have the same kind of timid reaction when he first
sees Chipper Jones, whose number he wore while growing up as a third
baseman in Alabama.  

“Right now I’m just trying to get past
seeing guys that I’ve watched when I was younger,” Kimbrel said.  “I’m
trying not to let that get to me.  I’m trying to focus on getting the
job done and remembering that it’s just a game.”

While Kimbrel
adjusts to this new Major League lifestyle, Wagner has already taken
advantage of the opportunity to get used to his new catcher Brian
McCann. 

After they completed a short throwing session
together, Wagner took McCann to the plate and started talking to him
about how he likes to throw to certain hitters, based on where they are
standing in the batter’s box. 

The always-jovial Wagner also
took time to provide some laughs when talking to reporters.  When asked
if he bought into thoughts of doing whatever it took to make sure Bobby
Cox’s final season is a special one, the veteran reliever provided the
reminder that he’s the one who has never had the opportunity to play in
the Fall Classic.

“Heck I haven’t been to the World Series
ever,” Wagner said with his southern drawl. “How about going out there
and putting out a little effort for me.  (Peter Moylan) can go out
there and go like an inning and two-thirds and give me a
third-of-an-inning save every once in a while.   I mean Chipper and all
these guys, Bobby, they’ve gone to the World Series a couple of times. 
I’ve never been.  How about one for Wags?” 

Wagner, who
remains confident that his arm is strong, is looking forward to the
opportunity to spend some more time with Saito, who was with him in
Boston’s bullpen for the final weeks of the 2009 season. 

When
asked how they had developed such a bond, Wagner once again stirred
some laughs while pointing out that Saito had a firm grasp of the
English language. 

“He speaks English,” Wagner said.  “Like I
told him, it’s like everybody else. When you’ve got a second language,
you only can’t speak English when you’ve had a tough game…It’s
something where sometimes wish I had a second language.”     

Another
former Red Sox pitcher, Derek Lowe chose not to come to the stadium on
Friday. But pitchers and catchers were only required to report at some
point during the day that they have arrived. 

The Braves expect Lowe in camp on Saturday, when pitchers and catchers stage their first workout. 

Check
MLB.com and braves.com later today for stories that include more
information about Wagner, McLouth and some of the other figures who
have reported to camp.

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman 

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