Results tagged ‘ Freddie Freeman ’

Freeman impressing with bat and glove

As we prepare to watch Derek Lowe face the Astros in the third game of this exhibition season, it’s time to throw out some thoughts and observations gathered this past weekend.

Those who have followed Freddie Freeman knew he was quite capable of doing what he did Saturday, when he produced three doubles (one to each field) in Saturday’s opener against the Mets.  Thus, I would have to say it was even more impressive watching him begin a double play in Sunday afternoon’s contest. 

Freeman ranged to his right, regained his balance and used his strong right arm to fire a pinpoint throw to shortstop Alex Gonzalez who then threw to Rodrigo Lopez at first base to complete the twin killing. 

It’s a play you would expect to see at least a handful of Major League first baseman make.  But it’s still impressive to see a 6-foot-4, 242-pound frame start this turn with relative ease. 

Just to give you a sense about how much Freeman’s offseason conditioning program altered his frame, a National League scout very familiar with the Braves first baseman showed up this morning and said, “Wow! Freddie really got big.”

Mike Minor breezed through his 17-pitch, two-inning performance Sunday afternoon in very efficient manner. I’m among those who believe he could benefit from some additional time (a month or two) at the Minor League level. 

But if Brandon Beachy doesn’t give the Braves complete confidence that he will be reliable in the role, then they might not have any other choice but to have Minor start the year in the Majors. 

Yeah, Rodrigo Lopez is around for insurance.  But for now, I think we should just assume that the Braves have learned from the Mark Redman experiment. 

The Braves were given further reason to be encouraged about Chipper Jones when he returned to the park today and said his knee was sound enough for him to once again serve as the designated hitter this afternoon. 

As said before, the left knee is going to continue providing problems as camp continues.  The Braves and Jones are just hoping it becomes less and less of a problem as the days and weeks pass in March. 

Jones might serve as the designated hitter again on Tuesday and then take a break Wednesday when the Braves make the three-hour trek to Ft. Myers to play the Red Sox. Nice  veteran, perk huh? 

By the way, Tim Hudson wasn’t afforded this perk.  He’ll make the three-hour drive to Ft. Myers to make his two-inning exhibition season debut and then make his second start next Monday, when the Braves drive 2 1/2 hours to play the Marlins in Jupiter. 

I haven’t mapped out the rest of his scheduled.  But Huddy said, the rest of his starts are scheduled to be made at Disney.

Scott Proctor wasn’t guaranteed the last available bullpen spot coming into camp and while allowing Russ Adams a three-run homer in Sunday’s loss to the Braves he certainly didn’t aid his cause. 

There’s obviously still plenty of time for Proctor to make many more positive impressions before camp concludes. But if he continues to struggle, that last spot could be grabbed by Cristhian Martinez, who made some contributions in Atlanta last year. 

Martinez is just an early guess.  Don’t forget Fredi Gonzalez didn’t like him enough to find a spot for him in the Marlins bullpen at the beginning of last season.

With this in mind, I’ll say that Stephen Marek and Anthony Varvaro are the two other top candidates. 


Prado 7
McLouth 8
Chipper DH
McCann 2
Uggla 4
Heyward 9
Gonzalez 6
Hinske 3
Hicks 5  



Freeman will not resume playing in the AFL

Braves hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie examined Freddie Freeman’s injured left thumb in Atlanta Monday and determined that the highly-regarded first base prospect will not resume playing in this year’s Arizona Fall League. 

Lourie determined that Freeman suffered a mild left thumb strain during an AFL game last week.  The 21-year-old first baseman will spend at least the next two weeks at his California home wearing a splint and then return to Atlanta for further evaluation. 

Freeman said there is a chance he could be cleared to begin taking dry swings in three weeks.

Freeman began feeling discomfort in his thumb after attempting to make a diving catch during an Oct. 18 game.  A few innings later, he aggravated the injury while sliding into third base.

The Braves sent Freeman to the AFL to better prepare him for his projected role to begin the 2011 season as their starting first baseman.  He ended up playing just five games with the Peoria Desert Dogs before suffering this thumb ailment.  

After hitting .319 with 18 homers and an .898 OPS for Triple-A Gwinnett this past summer, Freeman was named the International League’s Rookie of the Year.  He hit his first career Major League homer on Sept. 21 against Roy Halladay.  <p>  


Freeman returns to Atlanta to have thumb examined

Freddie Freeman has returned to Atlanta to learn when he might be able to resume playing in the Arizona Fall League. 

Freeman will visit with Braves hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie Monday.  The highly-regarded first base prospect has been sidelined since aggravating a left thumb ailment while sliding into third base during an Oct. 18 AFL game.   The thumb began bothering him a few days earlier when he secured a low throw to first base. 
An MRI exam performed last week showed no structural damage to Freeman’s thumb.  <p>
Braves general manager Frank Wren said that he is hoping that Freeman will be able to begin playing again within the next week.  The 21-year-old first baseman played just five games for the Peoria Desert Dogs before his thumb became too painful. 

Freeman is scheduled to fly back to the Phoenix area Monday night.   

Odds and ends: Freeman and Kawakami updates

Now that everyone in the baseball world knows Cody Ross, it’s time to reminisce about the day that Chuck James didn’t. 

Ross homered off James in the second inning of a July 25, 2006 game at Turner Field.  Two innings later, the then-Marlins outfielder took the Braves southpaw deep again. 

Now obviously I wasn’t present to witness the developments that ensued.  But this is how the story has been often told by Braves players over the past few years.

After Ross’ fourth-inning homer gave the Marlins what proved to be a decisive two-run lead, James slapped his glove against the bench and said, “I can’t believe he hit that pitch.” 

This prompted Scott Thorman to say, “I don’t know why you can’t believe it.  He hit that same pitch out two innings ago.”

Further proving that he was never suited to be a rocket scientist, James said, “That was that same guy?” 

While James revived his playing career as an effective reliever in the Nationals Minor League system this year, Ross was enjoying a roller-coaster ride that has introduced him to October fame and put and his Giants teammates one win away from reaching the World Series. 

This certainly didn’t seem to be expected when the Giants slipped past the injury-depleted Braves with three one-run wins in the National League Division Series. But while walking through the Phillies clubhouse after they lost Game 4 Wednesday night, it was obvious that they have certainly come to respect this San Francisco bunch that has verified you can successfully gamble on offensive pieces if you have a strong pitching staff in place.

There is certainly no reason to take anything away from what Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and San Francisco’s solid bullpen have done during this NL Championship Series.  But you have to wonder if they would have found this same level of success if Chase Utley was at full strength. 

Utley injured his thumb sliding into second base on June 28 and learned a few days later that he would need to undergo a surgical procedure that would sideline him for a little more than six weeks.  In the 43 games he played after returning the All-Star second baseman hit .273 with a .410 slugging percentage. 

While going 2-for-15 with no extra-base hits through the first four games of this NLCS, Utley has continued to search for the power he displayed while compiling a .533 slugging percentage in the four seasons combined. 

Sound familiar? 

Jason Heyward hit .299 with a .608 slugging percentage in the 31 games he played before injuring his left thumb sliding into third base on May 14.   The Braves outfielder ended up missing just two weeks (just before the All-Star break) with this injury, which wasn’t deemed serious enough to be surgically repaired. 

But there was no doubt that the injury proved serious enough to prevent Heyward from operating at full strength for the remainder of the season.  He slugged just .421 in the 111 games that he played after jamming his thumb.  The 21-year-old All-Star simply looked fatigued while slugging .385 in his final 30 regular season games. 

Taking two weeks off gave Heyward a chance to occasionally display his great potential in the season’s second half.  But this seemingly wasn’t near enough time for him to completely overcome this thumb ailment, which is similar to the one his good friend Freddie Freeman is currently nursing. 

Freeman jammed his left thumb while sliding into third base during an Arizona Fall League Game Monday afternoon. An MRI exam showed no structural damage to his ligaments. 

But as of late Thursday afternoon, Freeman’s thumb was still pretty swollen and providing a great deal of discomfort.  The Braves aren’t ruling out the possibility that he could begin playing again in the AFL later this month.  They will re-evaluate him again in about a week. 

Progress in Kawakami talks: It sounds like at least one Japanese team has shown strong interest in acquiring Kenshin Kawakami from the Braves.  The club is believed to be willing to assume approximately $3 million of the $6.67 million the Braves still owe the Japanese right-hander next year. 

One Japanese reporter indicted the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters have shown some interest.  But it’s believed the Braves might have found at least one other more attractive suitor from the Japanese League. 

Heyward’s commercial: Heyward spent a portion of this week in New York City filming a SportsCenter commercial.  The ad, which is expected to run just before the start of Spring Training, will feature him with ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt and the Stanford Tree.  

Freeman headlines list of September call-ups

When Nate McLouth arrived at Spring Training as the projected leadoff hitter, there was little reason to believe the Braves would head into September with reason to believe that Freddie Freeman could actually play a greater role in the midst of a pennant race.  

McLouth has completed his return journey to the Minor Leagues and will be in uniform for Tuesday night’s game against the Mets.  Freeman will make his much anticipated arrival to the Majors when the rosters expand Wednesday.  

Freeman, left-handed reliever Mike Dunn, right-handed reliever Scott Proctor, catcher J.C. Boscan and Kenshin Kawakami will all be added to expanded roster Wednesday. 

The Braves optioned Kawakami to Rookie Level Danville Tuesday, less than 24 hours after bringing him back to the Majors.  This move allowed them to activate McLouth, who hit just .205 in the 83 at-bats he compiled with Triple-A Gwinnett in August.

While McLouth’s bat is no longer viewed as a weapon, his speed could allow him to earn one of the final spots on the postseason roster.

Kawakami’s projected role is to serve as reliever in Atlanta for the remainder of this season.  But things could change if Derek Lowe feels some arm discomfort during today’s side session.

Freeman will spend the remainder of this season doing more than simply getting a taste of the lifestyle that awaits when he becomes Atlanta’s first baseman next year.  The highly-regarded prospect will enhance the bench’s depth and likely spell Derrek Lee for a few games.  He has hit .351 with 13 homers since June 1. 
Dunn and Proctor will enhance the bullpen’s depth.   Boscan will serve as the third catcher that Bobby Cox always likes to have on his roster during September.   It will be interesting to see if he’s willing to carry a third catcher if he’s given a chance to compose a postseason roster. 

Proctor has struggled in his attempt to return from Tommy John surgery.  But the veteran reliever has allowed just one earned run and five hits in his past nine innings for Gwinnett. 

Craig Kimbrel and Cristhian Martinez are expected to be added to the expanded roster once Gwinnett’s season concludes. 


Will June prove to be as memorable as May?

Broadcasters  John Smoltz and Tom Glavine have combined for as many wins as Kenshin Kawakami and Jair Jurrjens.  Projected leadoff hitter Nate McLouth’s batting average has rested above the Mendoza Line for a total of three days since April 10.   The ever-consistent Matt Diaz was healthy long enough to tally six more hits than Tim Hudson has recorded this season.

Still through the first two months of this season no other member of the National League East has proven to be as successful as the suddenly rejuvenated Braves. After vaulting into first place with yesterday’s 9-3 win, Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus spoke with the kind of tempered excitement you would expect from veterans who understand that they will experience a number of different plot twists over the course of the next four months.  

“There will be more low points during the season,” Jones said. “The key will be to limit the length of the downswings a lot better than we did in April.”

There wasn’t any reason for the Braves to be overly-excited about the fact that they moved into the top spot of their division with 111 games remaining.  The Rangers and Brewers led their respective divisions on June 1 last year and ended up at least 10 games back by the time the season concluded.  

But the Braves did have reason to feel good about the fact that they had tangible proof that they have managed to essentially negate what was a horrendous April.  While losing just eight of their 28 games in May, they notched their first 20-win month since August of 2004.  

When I asked Jones if this season reminds him of any of the previous ones he has experienced, he responded with, “dude, I’m old.  I can’t remember what happened yesterday.”

Like the Braves managed to brush off the frustration created during April’s nine-game losing streak, they must quickly move away from yesterday’s excitement and focus on attempting to take advantage of a slumbering Phillies offense over the course of the next two days.

Attempting to maintain their half-game lead, the Braves will send Tim Hudson to the mound tonight to oppose Cole Hamels, who went 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five May starts.   Hudson proved to be a little better, going 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in the six starts he made during the season’s second month.   

When the Braves lost to Hamels on May 9, they fell to 3-7 in games which the opposing team started a left-handed pitchers.   Since then they have won six of the seven games played while opposing a left-handed starter.  

During this successful span that dates back to May 11, Jason Heyward has hit .385 (10-for-26) with a 1.121 OPS against left-handers.   Entering May 10, he had  just .222 (6-for-27) with an .808 OPS against southpaws.

This seems to be further evidence that Heyward has the unique ability to quickly make adjustments and adapt to this Major League level that was supposed to provide him a greater challenge.   
Heyward enters Tuesday ranked second in the National League with a .988 OPS and his 10 homers are just three off Corey Hart’s league-leading total.   

It will be interesting to see where Heyward ranks among NL outfielders when the latest All-Star balloting results are released tomorrow.  The 20-year-old phenom is certainly making a strong case to receive a starting assignment.    

A tale of two schedules:  When looking at the great turnaround the Braves made in May, you can’t overlook the fact that just four of the 23 games they played in April were contested against clubs that currently have a sub .500 record.  

In May, the Braves played 14 of 28 games against clubs that are currently below .500.   Another nine came against teams that currently own a .500 mark.    In other words, they played just five games this past month against clubs with a winning record.  

During their 28-game slate in June, the Braves are scheduled to play 13 games against clubs that currently possess a winning record and another three against a .500 club that is about to add Stephen Strasburg to its starting rotation.   

With Strasburg scheduled to make his Major League debut on June 8 for the Nationals, it appears that he could in line to start at Turner Field during a three-game series that runs from June 28-30.

Freeman update:   Freddie Freeman was scheduled to have his right knee examined via an MRI exam this afternoon in Atlanta.  The highly-regarded prospect tweaked his knee while stretching to grab a throw to first base during the second inning of the no-hitter that Todd Redmond completed for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night.  

Freeman has hit .261 with five homers and a .762 OPS in 43 games with Gwinnett this year.  

Freeman can only laugh about his long single

As he sat at his locker after Friday’s 11-8 win over the Nationals, Freddie Freeman could laugh about a baserunning mistake that would have drawn widespread attention had it occurred amid a much more competitive setting. 

After appearing to hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning, Freeman was ruled out because he passed Joe Thurston, who who was preparing to tag up in case the ball did not clear the right field wall.

By the time the ball landed in the Braves bullpen, Freeman had passed Thurston and been ruled out.  Instead of being awarded a three-run shot, the 20-year-old first baseman was left with a two-run single. 

“Thurston was tagging and he didn’t have much room,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He went by him.  That should never happen, but it happens.”

Freeman simply said, “I can laugh about it because this is Spring Training.” 

Jurrjens update: Cox said Jurrjens will begin throwing live batting practice on Sunday.  It appears Jurrjens could make his Grapefruit League season debut on Thursday against the Yankees in Tampa.

Filling Jurrjens’ spot, Kris Medlen will start against the Astros tomorrow afternoon in Kissimmee.   

Bullpen watch:  Relievers are bound to have at least one bad outing during Spring Training.  But it’s safe to say Jesse Chavez didn’t want to have two in a span of his four days of playing games with the Braves. 

Chavez issued a pair of one-out walks and then allowed an Ian Desmond sixth-inning grand slam on Friday afternoon.   During the 2 2/3 innings he’s worked so far in Grapefruit League season, he has allowed six earned runs and issued four walks. 

While it’s not time to write Chavez off yet, there’s certainly reason to no longer consider him a favorite to win one of the final two available bullpen spots.  But the Pirates reporters who were here yesterday said the 26-year-old reliever also struggled during Spring Training last year before being a surprise addition to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster. 

During tomorrow’s game against the Astros in Kissimmee, Craig Kimbrel and Kyle Cofield are scheduled to pitch.   Both are strong-armed relievers who could find their way to Atlanta at some point this year.  But for now, it appears both need to work on their control at the Minor League level. 

Earlier this week an American League scout said that Coffield has a lot of potential. 

“He doesn’t know where the ball is going, but I love his stuff,” the scout said. “He reminds me of John Smoltz. But he’s got to work on his control.”


Braves playoff hopes still alive

Within yesterday’s offday story, I pointed out that based on the developments that occurred during the previous two seasons, you can’t completely rule out the possibility that the Braves could still win the National League East.

At the same time, I provided a couple of recent examples (2007 Rockies and 2004 Astros) to reinforce the belief that the Braves are still very much alive in the National League Wild Card race.   Of course, I wrote that approximately 12 hours before the Rockies completed their 14-inning marathon against the Giants with Ryan Spilborghs’ walk-off grand slam.

While playing golf, fishing or resting tired muscles yesterday, the Braves lost a half-game in both the National League East and Wild Card races.  They now trail the Phillies by seven games and sit 4 games behind the Rockies.  

Having won seven of their last eight and 17 of their past 24, the Rockies aren’t providing any indication that they’re ready to release their stranglehold atop the Wild Card standings.   But at the same time, they’re providing reason to wonder if they may eventually fall out of this equation and catch the NL West-leading Dodgers, who have gone 10-12 this month and seen their lead over the Rockies shrink to three games.

The Dodgers, who owned an eight-game advantage over the Rockies entering this month, have hit .266, compiled a .330 on-base percentage and scored 4.5 runs per game in August.  From a pitching perspective, they’ve posted a 3.23 ERA.  

In the 24 games the Rockies have played since being shut out in consecutive games by the Mets, they’ve hit .274, compiled a .359 on-base percentage and tallied 5.79 runs per game.  During this span, their pitchers have posted a 3.95 ERA.  

While winning 14 of the 21 games they’ve played this month, the Braves have hit .272, reached base at a .348 clip and tallied 5.29 runs per game.   In the process, their pitchers have posted a 3.41 ERA.  

Looking at a larger sample size, the Cliff Lee-aided Phillies (3.04) are the only NL team that has posted a better ERA than the Braves (3.23) since the All-Star break.  With Spilborghs’ walk-off shot, the Rockies (5.30) became the only NL team that has scored more runs per game since the break than the Braves (5.28).   

Yesterday’s offday story also pointed out that the Braves current record of 66-58 matched the ones the Phillies had tallied on the way to winning the NL East both of the past two seasons.  In addition, I’ve since noticed that the 2006 world champion Cardinals also posted this same mark through their first 124 games.  

On the way to winning the Wild Card and advancing to the 2007 World Series, the Rockies possessed a 63-61 record and sat 3 games back in the Wild Card standings.  

Obviously the variables differ from year-to-year and the Braves certainly aren’t guaranteed the luxury the Phillies gained while the Mets collapsed both of the past two Septembers.   But recent history proves that they are still very much alive with the hope they’ve created courtesy of the recent success that they’ve encountered.  

Red-hot Roachy:  When the Braves acquired Mark Teixeira before the 2007 trade deadline, many immediately compared it to the trade that brought a first baseman named Fred McGriff to Atlanta for the final two months of the 1993 season.

While hitting .289 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and a .711 slugging percentage through his first 20 games,  Teixeira provided the similar immediate impact that McGriff did while hitting .364 with seven homers, 15 RBIs and a .753 slugging percentage during his first 20 games in Atlanta.  

When Adam LaRoche was acquired before this year’s trade deadline, there wasn’t any reason to put pressure on him to produce these kinds of outrageous numbers.  But through his first 20 games back as Atlanta’s first baseman, Roachy has hit .406 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and a .739 slugging percentage.  

Based on this success, the Braves will certainly attempt to keep  LaRoche in Atlanta after he hits the free agent market this offseason.  But with Freddie Freeman just a year or two away from reaching the Majors, they aren’t likely to offer him more than a two-year deal.  

Speaking of Freeman, he’s been placed on the seven-day disabled list with a bruised left hand.   During his first 41 games with Double-A Mississippi, the 19-year-old first baseman has hit .248 with two homers and a .650 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).  

For those of you who looked at yesterday’s box score and also noticed that Jason Heyward didn’t play for Mississippi, he simply got a day to rest.   Through his first 43 games at the Double-A level, Heyward has hit .338 with seven homers and a 1.046 OPS.  

These numbers are even more impressive when you account that he’s hit just .162 with one homer and three RBIs in his past 10 games.   The fact that he’s hit .243 with four homers and an .847 OPS this month should simply be a reminder that even the greatest 20-year-old prospects are going to encounter some form of struggles as they make their march toward the big leagues.  

Medlen’s turnaround:
  While Brian McCann provided the necessary offense, Sunday afternoon’s game against the Marlins couldn’t have been won without the two scoreless innings provided by Kris Medlen.  His effort negated the fact that Derek Lowe was forced to exit after five innings and just 67 pitches   —  a combined product of ineffective mound work and a short bench.
In his 13 appearances since the All-Star break, Medlen has worked 19 1/3 innings, posted a 0.93 ERA and limited opponents to a .197 batting average and .250 on-base percentage.
This obviously isn’t the same kid who was a nervous wreck when he arrived in the Majors in May.  Much more relaxed, Medlen has proven to be a funny dude in the clubhouse and a talented pitcher, who is going to continue to have chances to provide major impacts as the Braves continue to march into the heat of the postseason races.

Soriano deserves an All-Star selection

Well I’ve made it through the first leg of my journey and I’m happy to tell you that there is actually a portion of the early-morning hours when you can walk through Atlanta’s airport without feeling like you are a Detroit Lions running back.

As I sit here and wait for my connection to St. Louis to begin my All-Star Week duties with this afternoon’s Futures Game, I’m still thinking about how impressive it was to watch Rafael Soriano simply dominate the ninth inning during last night’s win over the Rockies.

Soriano allowed a bloop leadoff single and then ended the game with three consecutive strikeouts within a span of 10 consecutive fastballs.   He touched 96 miles per hour with one of those pitches, which happened to be just one of the two that were fouled during that span.
Without even factoring Mike Gonzalez’s health into the equation, the Braves have found their sole closer.  There’s no longer reason to even toy with the idea of mixing and matching Gonzalez and Soriano. 

With the big right-hander, the Braves have found a stopper who has the potential to be just as dominant as John Smoltz was during his days as the closer.

Among National League relievers, Soriano ranks second in four different categories:  opponent’s on-base percentage (.238), opponent’s OPS  (.450) strikeouts-per-nine innings (12.23) and WHIP (0.89).  He also ranks third in batting average allowed (.158) and fourth in ERA (1.48). 

Still when it came time for the All-Star selections last week, Soriano wasn’t included.  My assumption is that this was basically a product of the fact that he spent a portion of this season having to share the save opportunities with Gonzalez.

But with Jonathan Broxton out of the picture for Tuesday’s All-Star Game, I’m certainly expecting to hear some time today that Soriano will be joining Brian McCann in St. Louis this week. 

As we talked to Bobby Cox after last night’s game, he certainly seemed optimistic and hopeful that Charlie Manuel was going to call him today and say that he wants Soriano on his NL roster.

It’s going to be fun to watch Jason Heyward play with many of the game’s other top prospects during this afternoon’s game at Busch Stadium.  In case you missed it, earlier this week Baseball America ranked Heyward first among their top 25 midseason prospects.    His good friend Freddie Freeman was ranked as the 11th.

Since the Braves promoted them to Double-A Mississippi last week, Heyward and Freeman have continued to pave their way toward Atlanta. 

In his first eight games with Mississippi, Heyward has hit .346 with three doubles, two triples and seven RBIs.  The 19-year-old outfielder hit .296 with 10 homers and a .519 slugging percentage while playing his first 49 games this year with Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach.

In his first nine games with Mississippi, Freeman has hit .294 with three doubles and four RBIs.   During his 70 games with Myrtle Beach, the 19-year-old first baseman hit .302 with six homers and a .447 OPS.

While Freeman won’t be with Heyward today in St. Louis, there will soon come a day when he’s teaming with him in Atlanta. 

I don’t see any way that Heyward makes his way to Atlanta before this season is complete.  But I’m certainly expecting him to force the Braves to make a tough decision when Spring Training concludes next year.

Once I get to St. Louis and catch up with Heyward this afternoon, I’ll provide some updates about what he’s thinking about his immediate future.  But I can already tell you that the highly confident and intellectual teenager is going to say that he’s ready right now to test himself against the Major Leaguers.

I’ve got to get to my gate right now and unfortunately, it looks like the Lions offensive linemen have started their crowd control shift here at Hartsfield this morning. 

Goodbye Florida

Seven weeks have passed and Ken Griffey Jr. still hasn’t shown up.  If you run into any of his friends, ask them to tell Jr. that the Braves are heading home tonight and that they’ve decided to ignore his decision to play in Atlanta. 

Actually the Braves are heading home with reason to feel good about the fact that Griffey decided to play in Seattle.  We haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot of Garret Anderson.  But while watching him race into left-center field to make a catch yesterday in Lakeland, I was officially convinced that the Braves are better off with Jr. in Seattle.
The modern-day version of Jr. wouldn’t have gotten to that ball.  Nor can he display the kind of offensive consistency that Anderson has shown since he allowed his right calf to heal for more than three weeks.   When he’s recorded outs over the past three days, they’ve been loud ones.
Did I mention that we’ve been down here seven weeks?  I’m certainly not going to complain about having had the opportunity to spend the past 50 days watching baseball in the Florida sun.  But I echo the sentiments of Bobby Cox and all of the Braves players when I say that it’s time to come home.

Because I’m fatigued and anxious to return to Atlanta, this Spring Training simply feels like it’s been long.  But thanks to Jordan Schafer, Tommy Hanson, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, it will also prove to be one of the most memorable. 

Schafer and Hanson proved why many believe they could have a significant impact in Atlanta this year.  As for Heyward and Freeman, they simply exceeded any expectations you’d place on a pair of 19-year-old kids who were experiencing their first big league camp.

Tom Glavine had already notched 19 wins and compiled 65 career starts before Heyward was born.
While utilizing and to research these numbers, I found that Glavine actually tossed his fourth career shutout two days before Heyward entered this world. 

On that Aug. 7, 1989 night at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Glavine surrendered four hits to a Dodgers lineup that included Willie Randolph, Eddie Murray and Mike Scioscia.

Now that we’re strolling down memory lane, I’m going to reminisce about some of the most humourous things I’ve heard and witnessed over the past seven weeks.

Jeff Francoeur’s catch:  Francoeur caught a 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass in the pond behind the visitor’s clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday night.  Since then I’ve learned that the right fielder is certainly a novice fisherman, who simply found some luck after he grabbed one of the clubhouse attendant’s fishing pole and threw it into the water. 

Braves assistant clubhouse and team travel manager Chris Van Zant, who supplied the picture of Francoeur’s catch, has since told me that the right fielder initially had trouble casting his line further than five feet.

“Just like he always does, he stayed persistent and then ends up catching a fish that guys spend hours trying to catch,” Van Zant said. 

DOB’s furor
:  As I was walking toward my car in Bradenton on Feb. 28, I heard a guy across the street yelling and screaming in my direction.  I began to laugh when I realized it was the Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Dave O’Brien, whose car had been locked in a lot at a car repair shop. 

This might have been one of those “you had to be there” moments.  But I’ll attempt to explain the humor by saying that when agitated, O’Brien can make Archie Bunker seem like a lovable teddy bear.

Tiger’s line:   For this final tidbit, I’ll simply pull these graphs from my March 13 story about Francoeur: 

After Francoeur opened the back nine at Isleworth Country Club with consecutive birdies on March 4, (Tiger) Woods asked, “Who are you?”  
Francoeur, quickly responded, “I just wanted to see how the world’s number one golfer reacts with his back up against the wall?”  
This prompted Woods to reply, “Yeah, well I was wondering how much time you plan to spend playing in Mississippi this year?”

And with that, I’ll close by saying the dramatic improvement Francoeur has shown over the past seven weeks has provided the most signific reason for the Braves to be encouraged heading into the 2009 season. 

The Florida sun has been fun.  But it’s definitely time to bring this show home.     


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