Results tagged ‘ Gregor Blanco ’

Schafer sent to Gwinnett

OK.  It’s official.  Jordan Schafer has been sent back to the Minors to regain the promising form that has been absent during the first two months of his career. 

While Gregor Blanco prepared to make his first big league start of the year on Tuesday afternoon, Schafer packed his belongings and prepared to re-introduce himself to the Minor League level with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Blanco, who spent the entire 2008 season with Atlanta, got off to a slow start with Gwinnett this year.  But over the past two weeks, he has hit 348 (16-for-46) with eight strikeouts, a .426 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage.    <p>
 
The Braves remained patient with Schafer through the season’s first month.  But since his last multi-hit game on May 7, the young outfielder has hit .160 with 25 strikeouts, a .229 on-base percentage and a  .187 slugging percentage.  <p>

Blanco starts in center

With Gregor Blanco receiving limited playing time since he’s returned from the World Baseball Classic, it’s been hard to believe the Braves when they’ve said they haven’t decided where Jordan Schafer will begin the season.  

Obviously, they cant’ exactly use the “well we want to see what Jordan can do” excuse, when they have every reason to want to see Blanco much more than he did while compiling a .676 OPS  during his rookie season last year. 

Blanco, who has registered two hits in 18 Grapefruit League at-bats, will get a chance prove himself against the Tigers this afternoon, when he starts in center and Schafer starts the game on the bench.  This is just the third start he’s made in the nine games that have been played since he returned from the Classic.

Schafer has one hit in his last eight at-bats and we’ve discussed how
important this final week would be for him.  But,
he showed enough during the previous four weeks to prove the Braves
would severely weaken their roster if they opted to start the season
with Blanco in center. 

I understand the theory about protecting future investments.  Some have
wondered how Schafer’s psyche would be affected if he were to start the
season in Atlanta and hit around .200 during the first two months. 

In response, I wonder how his psyche would be affected if the Braves approach him later this week and tell him that everything that he’s done over
the past few weeks has earned him the opportunity to gain further
seasoning in the Minors.

Had the Braves kept Josh Anderson, Schafer might have been able to live
with the fact that from a business perspective there was a better
option for the club to utilize in center.  But they didn’t and by doing
so, I think they’ve left themselves with just one option.

Ross update:  David Ross strained his right groin during Tuesday night’s game and reported to the park on Wednesday feeling some relief.  But the Braves still seem concerned about the possibility that he could start the season on the disabled list.  If this occurs, Clint Sammons will likely be on the Opening Day roster. 

“Ross is a good backup catcher,” Cox said. “He’s a good catch-and-throw guy and he’s always in the game while he’s on the bench.  He’s really a team guy.”

With Brian McCann’s bruised right knee still providing some discomfort, Sammons is behind the plate for today’s game.  McCann will likely don the catching gear again on Thursday or Friday.

Heyward still crushing:
  Durign a Double-A game in Viera yesterday, Jason Heyward went 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs.  The 19-year-old phenom will likely begin the season with Class A Myrtle Beach.  But don’t be surprised if  he’s with Double-A Mississippi by the time the first week of May arrives.

Justin Verlander is completing his warmup pitches and Tom Glavine is done warming up in the bullpen.  Thus it’s time for me to end this entry. 

Soriano willingly speaks

Santonio Holmes meet#CF3FA7.jpgWhen Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes toe-tapped his way toward Super Bowl MVP honors and then proclaimed he was going to Disney World, he wasn’t lying.  In fact, he and his magical right foot are still here.

Holmes has been training here at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex and he took time on Friday morning to come over to the baseball stadium and enjoy a photo opportunity with a former childhood favorite Chipper Jones, who happens to be a big Steelers fan. 

With Jones wearing Holmes’  Steelers jersey and Holmes sporting Jones’  Braves jersey, the two athletes, who both wear No. 10, posed for a few pictures with Mickey Mouse. 

Jones walked away with a signed football and Holmes gained a baseball signed by Jones. 

Growing up in Florida, Holmes adopted the Braves as his favorite team and chose Jones as his favorite player, primarily because of the fact that he was a switch hitter.

“One of the main reasons I liked him was the ability to switch sides,” Holmes said. “That’s amazing for somebody to be able to do that and have the great hand-eye coordination with his swing lefty and righty and have the ability to hit home runs.  That’s amazing.” 

Yeah, but could Jones go into the corner of the endzone and possess the grace of a ballerina dancer while hauling in the game-winning catch with 35 seconds left in the Super Bowl? 

Speaking of amazing, something must have happened to Rafael Soriano overnight.  After completing a phone conversation on Friday morning, he actually called me and Dave O’Brien over to his locker to discuss the discomfort that he’s been feeling in his left side. 

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were hovering over him in an otherwise empty locker room.  But the conversation was actually cordial and it seems like he believes he might start throwing again within the next few days.   I’ll believe it when I see it.  But it appears he might indeed be in the bullpen to begin the season. 

Who is standing in center field on Opening Night in Philadelphia remains a mystery.  Jordan Schafer has done everything he can to prove that he’s ready to compete at the Major League level.  The five-tool outfielder is a difference maker who will be a fan favorite in Atlanta for many years to come. 

But there’s still reason to believe the Braves might choose to send him to Triple-A Gwinnett to begin the season.  I started to buy into this possibility after a scout reminded me Thursday night that it’s much easier to bring a player up than it is to send him down. 

If Schafer were to begin the season and struggle to the point that the Braves felt the need to send him back to the Minors, there’s a chance the decision could produce psychological damage that would be felt beyond this year. 

While understanding this theory, I don’t think it applies to the ever-confident Schafer.  First of all, I don’t think he’d encounter enormous struggles at the Major League level and if he did, I don’t think it would damage him.

It was obviously a shame that he was forced to pay for his youthful transgressions with the humiliating 50-game suspension that he was handed last year.  But the episode improved his mental strength and allowed him to mature more over the course of a year than I could have ever imagined. 

Gregor Blanco is starting today’s game against the Tigers in center and I’m now at least buying into the possibility that he might be manning that position at the beginning of the season. 

The Braves are exploring the option of trading Josh Anderson, who is out of options, and if they’re able to strike a deal with a team that’s looking for a speedy outfielder, Blanco might be the most sensical option from a business standpoint.

The White Sox are among the teams looking for an outfielder like Anderson.  But manager Ozzie Guillen has said he doesn’t expect the team to looking outside the organization for a center fielder.  We’ll see if this proves to be true.
 
Blanco spent the entire 2008 season in the Majors and people are still buzzing about the way he played during the World Baseball Classic.  If the Braves were to send him to the Minors to begin the season, his trade value would plummet and more importantly, he’s somebody who certainly could be psychologically damaged by such a move. 

OK. Tom Glavine is about to take the mound for his second Grapefruit League start. 

You can view today’s game on MLB.TV or SportSouth, for those of you who still watch baseball on television.

A couple more notes:

Bobby Cox says that Garret Anderson probably won’t return to the lineup until Sunday.  Earlier this week, the Braves said he’d come back on Saturday. 

Because he was feeling ill again on Friday, the Braves sent Casey Kotchman to be examined by a doctor.  Kotchman has battled the flu most of the past week.  He said he felt good on Wednesday and then started feeling sick again on Thursday.

Today’s Lineup:

Gregor Blanco CF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian McCann C
Jeff Francoeur RF
Omar Infante SS
Martin Prado 1B
Josh Anderson LF
Tom Glavine P

Patience paying off for Francoeur

Welcome back Brian McCann.  When you return to Braves camp today, you’ll be glad to see that your good buddy Jeff Francoeur is once again sporting a genuine smile.  No longer does he have to strain his jaw muscles in an attempt to show his pearly whites. 

The .350 batting average that Francoeur has compiled isn’t nearly as impressive as the manner in which he’s achieved this total and a .417 on-base percentage.  Through 40 at-bats, he’s struck out once and drawn six walks.   Oh yeah, and he has 12 hits in his past 22 at-bats. 

Francoeur’s only hitless performance since March 8 came against the Mets on Sunday, which is when he might have also provided his most telling plate appearance of the season.  Drawing a first-inning walk off Johan Santana only further proved that the 25-year-old right fielder truly has gained more confidence and patience at the plate. 

When pyschologists began labeling personalities as Type A and Type B, they forgot to create a category for high-energy individuals like Francoeur.  Youthful impatience led him to strike out 3.74 more times than he walked during his first 3 1/2 Major League seasons. 

It also led him to alter his batting stance as frequently as Charles Barkley has attempted to change his golf swing over the past few years.  Consequently, there were times last year when Francoeur’s baseball swing looked as helpless as that motion Barkley makes with a golf club in his hand.

Ok. Francoeur never looked that bad.  But he undoubtedly needed to make a chance and more importantly, he needed to gain the patience to stick with his altered approach for an extended period.

In previous years, he likely would have been making alterations after recording just two hits in his first 18 Grapefruit League at-bats.  But this year proved to be different.  While sticking with his altered approach through thick and thin, Francoeur should be able to avoid some of the extended ugly slumps that haunted him last year.

The gang’s all here:  With Javier Vazquez on the mound to face the Pirates tonight, McCann will be behind the plate. He just provided confirmation via the anti-social interview technique provided by text messaging.   

In an attempt to better familarize himself with the new-look starting rotation, the All-Star catcher is going to try to play as much as possible during the remainder of the exhibition season. 

McCann could also benefit from the opportunity to get some regular at-bats.  He recorded just four at-bats before leaving to joinTeam USA on April 1.    Over the course of the 22 days that have followed, he’s registered a total of 23 plate appearances –  includes exhibition games leading up to the Classic.   He’s actually had just 16 plate appearances since March 5.

Gregor Blanco will also return to Braves camp today after spending the past few weeks hitting .400 (6-for-15) for Venezuela.  His performance in the Classic allowed him to at least remain a candidate to serve as Atlanta’s starting center fielder. 

Based purely on performance and upside, Jordan Schafer has seemingly emerged as the favorite to win this position battle.   He’s hit .385 with a 1.093 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in 11 Grapefruit League games. 

The fact that he’s totalled 42 plate appearances during this span further proves that the Braves are genuinely interested in the possibility of having him start the year in Atlanta.  They’ve also had him participate in two of the intra-squad games that have been played over the past two weeks.

Because he’s out of options, Josh Anderson should still be considered a top candidate in this position battle.  But the .306 on-base percentage that he’s compiled in a team-high 48 at-bats certainly hasn’t helped the speedy outfielder’s cause. 

Anderson appeared to be the club’s best option to place in the leadoff role.  But the fact that he’s drawn just one walk creates cause for concern.  These next two weeks are very important to him and he will at least enter Tuesday with seven hits in his last 16 at-bats.

I’ll post tonight’s lineup when I get it later today.  But it will be nice to see one that includes both McCann and Chipper Jones, who is expected to return to action tonight.  He hasn’t played since feeling a twinge in his right oblique while taking batting practice for Team USA  on March 15. 

By the end of this week, if Garret Anderson’s right calf continues to cooperate, the Braves might actually be able to form a lineup that looks very similar to the one manager Bobby Cox will create for the April 5 opener in Philadelphia. 

We’ve got 10 more days before this show returns to Atlanta and 12 more days before these games begin to count.  But who’s counting? 
        

Griffey to Seattle

Because of the time it took for him to reach a decision and the fact that he’d had limited contact with the Braves in more than 24 hours, I can’t say I’m shocked that Ken Griffey Jr. chose to sign with the Mariners. 

Seattle provides him a unique nostalgic opportunity to return to his Major League roots.  In addition, the Mariners were willing to provide more money than the Braves.

As of last night, both teams were offering a $2 million guarantee.  The incentive package offered by the Mariners was more financially lucrative.

With Griffey out of the picture, look for the Braves to make a trade or give one of their young outfielders a chance to platoon in left field with Matt Diaz.  They seem more intrigued with these options than the prospect of signing free agent Garrett Anderson.

I think this might definitely open the door for Jordan Schafer, who certainly has more power potential than Gregor Blanco or Josh Anderson.  Anderson is out of options and likely to land a roster spot.  Schafer is a sound defender who can play both left and center.

Having received a Major League-low 27 homers from their outfielders last year, the Braves needed to find some power to add to their outfield mix.  Their best chance to gain this power might  be via trade.  

What made Griffey more intriguing than Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady was his cost.  Now Wren might have to find a way to be able to afford one of these two Yankees outfielders.

- Mark Bowman

While waiting on Griffey…

There’s a chance we’ll hear something about Ken Griffey Jr. within the next few hours.  Then again we might not know anything until tomorrow.  It doesn’t appear the Braves or Mariners are planning to make an announcement tonight.

My gut feeling remains that he’ll choose the Braves.  But guarding against the chance that he’s suddenly hired Paul Kinzer to serve as his agent, I’m not making any guarantees.

As for Tom Glavine, there was certainly reason to believe he and the Braves would have reached an agreement today.  But it looks like it will be at least one more day before things get finalized with the veteran hurler.

In other camp news, Tommy Hanson tore the nail of his right index finger during his live batting practice session on Wednesday.  He should be cleared to resume pitching in the next few days.

There’s a chance Kelly Johnson and the Braves could reach an agreement tonight.  But if not, the second baseman will leave camp on Wednesday to prepare for his arbitration hearing in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Kenshin Kawakami threw with some more velocity during his bullpen session and even mixed in four curveballs.  The Braves are allowing him to get ready for the season at the pace that he used while in Japan.

In an earlier post, I guessed that Anthony Lerew and Gregor Blanco might be the two players removed from the 40-man roster to accommodate Griffey and Glavine.  I’m now changing that prediction to Lerew and Phil Stockman.

- Mark Bowman

Is Griffey truly the best fit?

Many of the Braves have publicly endorsed the idea of signing Ken Griffey, Jr. to serve in a left field platoon with Matt Diaz.  But others have privately wondered whether “The Kid” would truly be their best fit. 

Because of his respect for Bobby Cox, Griffey likely won’t have any problem with temporarily ending those days of turning his hat around and wearing earrings while on the field. 

But these are just a couple of the Griffey-related minor issues that the Braves have to worry about while wondering whether signing the outfielder would create a negative clubhouse distraction.

As one of six Major Leaguers to reach the 600-homer plateau, Griffey is indeed one of the true legends of the game.  In fact the belief that he’s never used any illegal performance-enhancing substances lead me to consider him to be the greatest player of this generation. 

This obviously leads me to wonder if he truly could remain happy while serving in a platoon role over the course of an entire season.  But at 39 years-old, it might be time for him to realize his statistics prove that it’s time to make this concession.

Over the course of the past three seasons, Griffey has hit .284 with 53 homers and an .886 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) against right-handed pitchers.  In 444 fewer at-bats against left-handers during this span, he’s hit .216 with 22 homers and a .689 OPS. 

While Griffey undoubtedly seems to be the best left-handed option in a left field platoon, his presence would certainly complicate matters for the other younger left-handed-hitting  outfielders  — –  Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Jordan Schafer, Brandon Jones –  who could also fill that role. 

Anderson is out of options and because of this he’ll be given every opportunity to win the starting job in center.  If he does win this job, Griffey would likely occasionally spell him in center.  The way the roster currently stands, this would also likely mean that Jones, Blanco and Schafer would all begin this season in the Minors. 

There’s no doubt that Jones, Blanco and Schafer could benefit from additional seasoning at the Minor League level.  But Schafer certainly has the potential to be Major League-ready early in the season and it would be a shame if Griffey’s presence blocks his path. 

But with this being said, when this time comes, the Braves will have options.

They could either attempt to pass Anderson through waivers.  Or if the decision to promote Schafer has something to do with Griffey’s performance, they could always decide to part ways with the legendary outfielder, who likely won’t come at a cost of more than $1.5 million.

Given the already-youthful makeup of their roster, I understand why some in the Braves clubhouse are wondering whether it would be best to give some of the young outfielders a chance to prove what they can do at the Major League level. 

But I’m of the mindset that when you have a chance to win now, you do what’s best for the immediate future.  Because of that, Griffey seems to be a bargain gamble that the Braves should make.

- Mark Bowman

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