Results tagged ‘ David Ross ’

Braves getting healthy as Opening Day approaches

Jason Heyward said that he hopes to return to action tomorrow and Craig Kimbrel now knows that he will begin the upcoming season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer.

As the Braves prepare to oppose CC Sabathia and the Yankees this afternoon,  you can devour these mostly injury-related tidbits that were gathered during batting practice. 

While Yunel Escobar’s back was healthy enough for him to return to return to today’s lineup, the Braves are going to give Heyward at least one more day to rest the shin splints that began bothering him on Sunday. 

When I spoke with Heyward this morning he said, “I hope to play tomorrow.”  But the 20-year-old outfielder added,  “I know this is something that isn’t just going to go away immediately.” 

While Bobby Cox said that there’s a chance Heyward might play tomorrow against the Astros, his tone provided indication that he might wait until at least Thursday before putting his 20-year-old phenom back in the lineup.

Having already compiled 49 at-bats during the Grapefruit League season, Heyward has made all of his necessary preparations for the season.  Even if he rests for another day or two, he’ll still be able to get his timing back while playing the final games of the exhibition season.

Heyward took batting practice this morning and provided further indication that there isn’t any reason to think he won’t be ready for Monday afternoon’s Opening Day game against the Cubs.

Backup catcher David Ross still seems confident that he will be available on Opening Day.  But Ross, who also experienced a pain-free batting practice session this morning, will spend the next couple of days testing the strength of the right groin muscle that he strained on Thursday. 

Ross’ concerns were further diminished this morning, when he was able to run sprints  and do striders without feeling any discomfort.

As for Jordan Schafer, he has recently started taking live batting practice and believes he could join the Gwinnett roster at the end of April.  The 23-year-old center fielder said that he’s been able to strengthen his surgically-repaired left hand and is no longer bothered by the fatigue that it presented earlier this year.   

Kimbrel impresses: With 14 career appearances above the Class A level, Kimbrel arrived in camp as a long shot to win a bullpen spot.  But the 21-year-old right-hander certainly made a strong impression before learning this morning that he will begin the season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer. 

Based on what he saw, Cox said that Kimbrel already has the stuff to be a successful pitcher at the big league level.  But the Braves want him to continue improving his command through the regular work that he wouldn’t receive if he began the season in the Atlanta bullpen.

Kimbrel will remain with the big league club this week and will likely make an appearance during one of the exhibition games played against the White Sox this weekend.

First time for everything:  Having been involved in professional baseball since arriving in Dodgers Minor League camp in 1960, Cox has seen plenty of oddities the game can present  But when the Yankees send Pat Venditte to the mound this afternoon, the Braves manager will see an ambidextrous pitcher for the first time.

Venditte pitched for the Venezuelan Winter League team managed by Eddie Perez this past winter.  Perez said the young Minor Leaguer has good stuff from both sides of the plate, but is especially effective against left-handed hitters. 

You can watch today’s game on MLB.TV and CSS.  Brian Jordan and Mike Morgan will serve as the broadcasters. 

BRAVES LINEUP
Cabrera 9
Prado 4
Chipper 5
Glaus 3
Escobar 6
Diaz 7
McLouth 8
Sammons 2
Kawakami 1   

 

Braves still quiet on the trade front

All remains quiet on the Braves trade front and there’s no reason to expect that the Phillies acquisition of Cliff Lee is going to force Frank Wren to feel like he has to make a deal before Friday’s deadline.
 
The Braves have spent the past couple days inquiring about some relievers and primarily found the ones that interest them aren’t available.   This isn’t to say Wren won’t pull the trigger within the next 48 hours.  But at this time, it appears that he’ll stand pat. 

While Lee will certainly upgrade the Phillies rotation, his presence in Philadelphia doesn’t exactly significantly alter the challenge the Braves face in their bid to advance to the postseason.   Entering Wednesday, they were eight games behind the front-running Phillies in the National League East race and understanding the reality that it would be wise to worry more about the 3 1/2 -game deficit they face in the Wild Card race.  

“You hate to see the team that you’re chasing get better,” David Ross said.  “But if you want to make the playoffs and reach the World Series, you’re going to have to beat the Roy Halladays, Cliff Lees and Josh Becketts.  In one sense, I wish the Phillies hadn’t gotten better.  But in another sense, I don’t think that he’s unbeatable.”

Obviously Lee’s presence presents the possibility that the head-to-head matchups against the Phillies will prove to be more challenging.  But the Braves have gone 20-15 against left-handed starters this year and they have won seven of the nine games they’ve played against the Phillies this year.

Braves starting pitchers have allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of the nine games played against the Phillies this year.  If they can continue this success during the final nine games played against the defending world champs, Lee won’t have much of an effect on their hopes to at least gain entry to the postseason via the Wild Card.  

When Rafael Soriano entered Tuesday night’s game against the Marlins with the responsibility of protecting a one-run lead, it was easy to draw the same assumption that was present when the Braves used to send John Smoltz to the mound to close games.
 
The Braves had won 29 of the previous 33 games during which Soriano had pitched and he hadn’t allowed a run or hit during two of the four losses suffered during that span.    The only other blown save he’d experienced in 15 previous opportunities  occurred during the May 13 game that the Braves won when Martin Prado doomed the Mets with a 12th-inning homer. 

But while pitching with three days of rest last night, Soriano showed some signs of impending trouble when he issued Cody Ross a four-pitch, leadoff walk.   He hadn’t issued a walk to any of the previous 33 batters that he’d faced and during his previous five appearances, he’d thrown 53 of his 67 pitches for strikes. 

After Soriano recorded just three strikes in this 10-pitch appearance against the Marlins, Braves manager Bobby Cox complained about Jerry Meals’ strike zone.   But really the only thing that mattered at the end of the night was the fact that Soriano grooved a 3-1 fastball that Ross Gload turned into a two-run, walk-off homer. 

With Josh Johnson set to oppose Kenshin Kawakami tonight, this certainly wasn’t an opportune time for Soriano to prove to be mortal.  But at the same time, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to worry about how this one shaky outing will affect the stone-faced closer.  

Tonight’s lineup:
McLouth 8
Prado 4
Jones 5
McCann 2
Anderson 7
Escobar 6
Kotchman 3
Church 9
Kawakami 1

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