Results tagged ‘ Jair Jurrjens ’

Odds and ends from a rainy Saturday

Rain prevented the Braves from doing the fielding and baserunning drills today.  But Mother Nature wasn’t able to prevent Jair Jurrjens from taking another step in the right direction with the 20-minute long toss session he completed in the soggy outfield grass. 

Jurrjens said he felt good after throwing from a distance of 120 feet, but more importantly he truly looked like he was comfortable with his throwing motion by the time this session was completed. 

After throwing for five or 10 minutes, Jurrjens walked back toward Braves catcher Brian McCann, who was located along the left field foul line.  While standing next to the team’s trainer Jeff Porter, Jurrjens stretched his arm and spun it around in a helicopter motion multiple times. 

When he resumed throwing a few minutes later, Jurrjens’ throwing motion was looser and he seemed to have a little more life on his throws. 

Dating back to Feb. 17, when he learned his right shoulder discomfort was a product of inflammation, Jurrjens has said he would have to do more stretching than usual to get his shoulder to cooperate. 

Now it appears Jurrjens will get his next test on Monday, when he will likely begin throwing on a downward plane again off the mound.  If all goes well, he will likely need to complete three or four side sessions before being cleared to make his first Grapefruit League start. 

This puts him on schedule to make this start during March’s second week and be in position complete at least one five-inning appearance before the regular season begins.

In other words, there’s still a good chance Jurrjens will take his first turn through the rotation during the regular season’s first week.  But for now, the Braves can only show patience as their prized 23-year-old hurler does everything he can to make sure the shoulder doesn’t prove to be a lingering problem throughout the season.

Quick hits:  Bobby Cox said that he’s currently leaning toward starting the year with Nate McLouth as his leadoff hitter.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  Yunel Escobar seems to be only other legit option and he’s too valuable in a run-producing role.    

Tom Glavine is expected to arrive in camp around March 17 or 18.  When asked what Glavine would do, Cox said the 300-game winner would take in the Spring Training environment and spend some time helping with some of the young pitchers. 

“Tommy can do whatever he wants,” Cox said and I don’t think he was necessarily kidding.  Glavine will have the opportunity to see how Jason Heyward is progressing and take a look at some of the organization’s top Minor League pitchers. 

When the club’s top young pitchers are discussed, Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino, the prized return from the Yankees in the Javy Vazquez trade, immediately come to mind.  But Frank Wren provided the reminder that right-hander Randall Delgado should also be placed in this advanced category. 

Wren indicated that a couple of these top pitching prospects could begin the season with Class A Rome.  But he added that they all will likely spend some time together this year in Class A -Advanced Myrtle Beach’s rotation.

Cox said that he will announce the Grapefruit League rotation on Monday.  The team’s first game will be played on Tuesday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.   

Injury updates on Schafer and Jurrjens

Jordan Schafer has been dealing with a sore left hand the past couple of days and may not be permitted to begin swinging for another day or two.  But manager Bobby Cox said this discomfort has nothing to do with the portion of the hand that was surgically-repaired in September. 

“It’s not a setback, (the hand) is just sore,” said Cox, who added that the club will take things slow with Schafer to increase the chances that he will be ready for the start the season. 

Cox has also said he takes the blame for not taking Schafer out of the lineup sooner last year.  The 23-year-old outfielder injured his hand during the season’s fourth game and was hitting .204 with 63 strikeouts (50 games) when his everyday duties ended with a demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett on June 1. 

“I was kind of selfish because I left him in there because of his defense,” Cox said. “I thought we would hit enough to get by.”

Schafer served a 50-game suspension in 2008 and was limited to just 59 games (9 with Gwinnett) during last year’s injury-shortened season.  Having totaled just 499 at-bats the past two years combined, he will likely spend at least a few months with Gwinnett before getting another chance to prove himself in the Majors. 

Jurrjens update:  Jair Jurrjens said he felt even less discomfort while playing long toss today for the first time since undergoing his MRI exam last week.  The 23-year-old right-hander, who has been dealing with inflammation in his shoulder, remains hopeful that he’ll begin throwing off a mound again next week.

Youthful power:   After watching Jason Heyward dent a few vehicles with his batting practice display on Tuesday, Cox ventured back to the back fields today to see some of the other mortal prospects take their swings. 

Cox was impressed with what he saw from Freddie Freeman during the live batting practice session and then watched Cody Johnson unleash a few of his mighty swings when the coaches started throwing BP. 

“In BP, Cody will impress you as much as anybody,” Cox said of the 6-foot-5, 235-pound former first-round selection, who has hit 58 homers and registered  357 strikeouts in 912 at-bats during the past two seasons.

Even more impressive in batting practice than the 6-foot-5, 245 pound Heyward, who has hit 28 homers and registered 129 strikeouts during the past two seasons.

“I don’t know who is stronger to be honest with you,” Cox said. “We have to have two of the strongest kids in all of baseball.”

Odds and ends: As you have likely seen, former top prospect J.R. House signed a Minor League contract with the Braves and will likely spend most of his time at the corner positions with Gwinnett this year.  Given that he’s a former WVU football player, Gwinnett has already been declared the favorites in the International League…Here is a video clip of Edward Salcedo, the 18-year-old Dominican shortstop the Braves signed on Tuesday…Kenshin Kawakami and Takashi Saito completed their first live batting practice sessions on Wednesday.

 

Odds and ends from Day 4 at Braves camp

After Bobby Cox surprised his players by saying that he felt nervous while delivering this morning’s annual preseason speech, Jason Heyward lived up to expectations with an impressive power display during his first on-field batting practice session of the year. 

Well I guess you could argue that assistant general manager Bruce Manno wasn’t exactly expecting Heyward to drill his car with one of the many titantic shots that soared over the right field wall. 

But enough about what Heyward did against the batting practice pitches delivered by Terry Pendleton, who playfully threw behind the 20-year-old outfielder after nearly being hit with a liner that was torpedoed itself into the protective screen in front of the mound. 

The day’s most significant news centered around the signing of Edward Salcedo, the highly-regarded, 18-year-old Dominican shortstop.  At a cost of $1.6 million, the Braves believe that they secured one of the best available players in the international market. 

This deal was completed with a handshake last week.  But after the young shortstop’s agent then seemingly started soliciting other offers, Braves director of international scouting Johnny Almaraz went directly through Salcedo to get the deal completed. 

Some Braves talent evaluators have compared the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Salcedo to Hanley Ramirez. While it remains to be seen whether the kid can live up to this lofty comparison, there’s certainly reason to believe that he would have equated to a top 10 draft selection this year. 

Based on the way the Braves handled Yunel Escobar and many of their other young stars, I think it’s safe to assume that Salcedo will spend a majority of this season with Class A Rome.

Unless he utterly terrorizes the South Atlantic League, there’s little reason to believe that he would be rushed to Myrtle Beach this year.

Jurrjens update:  Jair Jurrjens played catch from a distance of 60 feet today and felt better than he did while completing this same exercise on Sunday.  If he feels good when he awakes on Wednesday, he’ll begin playing long toss and then possibly begin playing off the mound early next week. This still presents the possibility that he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. 

Jurrjens is feeling a slight pinch in the front of his shoulder when he releases the baseball.  But he has been encouraged that the discomfort level has steadily subsided over the last week. 

Lighter Prado: 
With assistance from the P90X nutrition plan, Martin Prado lost 14 pounds during the offseason and reported to camp noticeably leaner than he was last year.  This should certainly help increase his range at second base. 

Prado, who spent the offseason with his girlfriend here in the Orlando area, is happy to currently have his mother in the United States.  She will have to return to Venezuela next month, but will be permitted to return in June for an additional five months. 

This is obviously encouraging news for Prado, who began experiencing exertional headaches in August, while dealing with the stress he felt when his mother had to return to Venezuela.

Diory injured:
If you hadn’t already, you can erase Diory Hernandez from the list of candidates to fill one of the final roster spots.   The infielder injured his left shoulder while sliding into a base while playing in the Dominican Winter League.

Hernandez said he will begin hitting off a tee again in about a month.  But the club doesn’t believe he’ll be ready to resume playing for at least another 3-4 months. 

Murph’s neighbor:
When you look at the power numbers that Mitch Jones produced during his Minor League career, there’s reason to believe he would be physically imposing.  But the 32-year-old outfielder is just your run-of-the-mill 6-foot, 215 pound player, who obviously finds a way to generate power with his swing. 

Jones, who led the Minors with 35 homers last year, said that he has theorized his power is a product of the many hours he spent helping his dad screen print t-shirts in the family-owned screen printing shop. 

“I grew up a long time in a screen printing shop, screen printing shirts,” Jones said. “So I don’t know, maybe my hands got stronger.”

Jones’ Orem, Utah home is located just a few blocks away from Dale Murphy’s residence.  He said that he often runs into Murph at the local high school or Home Depot. 

Murphy is expected to be in camp within the next couple of weeks.  This year’s other special spring instructors will include Phil Niekro, Gene Garber and the always-popular Javy Lopez.     

Wrapping up a busy day from Disney

Today was further proof that things can get a little busy when Hank Aaron arrives in camp. The Hammer expressed his appreciation for Bobby Cox, threw some love in the direction of Tommy Hanson and said that he’s reserving judgment on Jason Heyward until he sees how the 20-year-old outfielder performs at the Major League level. 

Oh yeah, he also said that he was happy with Mark McGwire’s steroid confession, but wished the admission had been made sooner. 

Before going over some of the highlights of Hank’s address, I’ll let you know that the Braves still haven’t provided confirmation that they have signed highly-regarded Dominican shortstop Edward Salcedo.

But it still appears that this deal could be confirmed in the very near future with the completion of a physical. 
 
Braves international director of scouting Johnny Almarez was in camp today and there is reason to believe that his arrival had something to do with Salcedo, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound shortstop who is regarded among the best international prospects. 

Early indications are that the Braves will be providing Salcedo with a signing bonus that is worth slightly north of $1.5 million, but less than $2 million. 

OK now to recap some of the things Aaron had to say about the Braves:

(Thoughts about Cox’s retirement at the end of this season)

“It’s going to be sad when he leaves. He’s not only been great for Atlanta, but also the game of baseball.  The game of baseball is going to miss him.”

(Thoughts about Tommy Hanson)

“This kid has the world in front of him, really. If everything stays on par and he pitches the way I think he can pitch, I think the Braves have a superstar.”

(on Heyward, who he will see for the first time during Tuesday’s first full-squad workout)

“I think he’s going to do well, but I don’t get excited until after I see them perform in the Major Leagues. Then I will try to put an opinion on what I think they can do.” 

(when asked if he could take Billy Wagner deep)

“I think my deep days are over with.   The only thing I can hit is a golf ball —  all over the place.”

Tuesday’s workout: Balls will be flying tomorrow when the position players start taking their first rounds of batting practice on the field. It will be nice to see the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Heyward take his swings. 

But if you’re looking for raw power and you’re coming to camp tomorrow make sure you watch Cody Johnson take his BP cuts. 

It’s too early to determine whether Johnson’s mighty swing will ever provide the consistency needed to make it to the Majors.  But based on what I saw during Brian McCann’s charity softball tournament in November, it’s fun to watch the powerful kid launch balls into orbit.

Also check back in tomorrow morning to get an update on Jair Jurrjens, who is planning to begin his throwing program at some point this week. 

Jurrjens relieved after receiving MRI results

Count Jair Jurrjens among the many members of the Braves family who gained a sense of relief on Wednesday morning, when MRI results showed that he isn’t dealing with any structural damage in his right shoulder. 

After Jurrjens felt some discomfort while throwing at the club’s Spring Training complex last week, he was sent to Atlanta to undergo an MRI exam on Tuesday.   The 24-year-old Braves right-hander was told that exam showed he is simply dealing with inflammation and tightness in his shoulder.  

Jurrjens said that the Braves doctors didn’t give him a specific
timetable about when he could start pitching again.  But he’s under the
impression that he could begin a throwing program within the next few
days and still be in line to be ready to make his first
scheduled regular season start.

“It’s a big relief,” Jurrjens said.  “I wasn’t worried.  But any time they start talking about having to have an MRI, it’s not something you want to hear.”  <p>

No reason to panic about Jurrjens yet

While we wait to learn Jair Jurrjens’ MRI results, it’s still too early for Braves fans to panic. But it’s quite obviously not a news angle the Braves wanted surrounding them as their players start filtering into their Spring Training camp.

As much as the Braves might want to hope that Jurrjens is simply dealing with normal soreness, there’s little normal about the fact that his right shoulder discomfort has proven significant enough for him to fly back to Atlanta to see the team’s doctors.  

Jurrjens is tough, but he’s also smart. Given that it is still just Feb. 16, maybe it does make the most sense for him to take whatever precautions to attempt to prevent this shoulder discomfort from lingering throughout the season. 

Seeing how you are now saying, “I told you the Braves never should have traded Vazquez”, I’ll remind you that Javier Vazquez was sent back to Atlanta to be evaluated when he felt some discomfort during his final start before the All-Star break. 

These kinds of things happen to pitchers.  You just have to hope that when they do occur, you don’t find yourself worrying about the arm of young pitcher as talented as Jurrjens.

While the best-case scenario would be for doctors to give him a clean bill of health and allow him to resume all throwing activities immediately, you have to think that the best thing Jurrjens will learn is that he just needs to rest his arm for a few weeks. 

This obviously would put him behind schedule and in position to miss the beginning of the regular season.  Unfortunately for the Braves, this year’s schedule forces them to utilize each member of their five-man rotation before the first weekend is complete. 

As you might remember, last year’s schedule was aligned in a way that would have provided Tom Glavine just two starts in April, with the first coming on April 20.

If Jurrjens is forced to miss more an extended amount of time, there’s no doubt that it would be a big blow to the club’s chances of sending Bobby Cox out as a winner.  But as long as Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe pitch live up to the expectations set by their successful pasts, this Atlanta rotation would still be strong enough to help the team become a postseason contender. 

It seems like Cox is really looking forward to seeing Kris Medlen in the bullpen this year.  But the 24-year-old right-hander, who recorded 72 strikeouts and issued 30 walks in 67 2/3 innings last year, would likely start the season in the rotation if Jurrjens is unable to do so. 

Another name you’ll hear often over the next couple of weeks is Jose Ortegano, who Eddie Perez has labeled the best pitcher he’s seen in the Venezuelan Winter League the past two years.  Ortegano caught upper management’s attention last year when he went 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA in eight starts for Double-A Mississippi.

The 22-year-old Ortegano and Mike Minor, the club’s top selection in last year’s Draft, seemingly need to gain some more seasoning in the Minors.  But either of them could find their way into the rotation at some point this season.

Within the next couple days, there might no longer be a need to speculate about who could fill Jurrjens’ spot in the rotation. 

But for now, the Braves are going to deal with the fact that regardless of the MRI results, they will be spending the early days of camp with a lot of attention placed in the direction of Jurrjens’ shoulder.
  

Lowe has provided value

When Derek Lowe looks back on this season, he’s going to remember plenty of disappointment.   What started out as a promising first year in Atlanta quickly fizzled into one that brought greater reason to wonder how much the Braves might regret giving him a four-year, $60 million contract in January. 

Still through all the troubles, which essentially started during the middle portion of June, Lowe has managed to compile a team-high 15 wins this season, a total that has so far been reached by just five other National League hurlers.

Lowe will be the first to admit that it’s not wise to judge a pitcher’s season via a win-loss record.  But with that being said, dating back to the beginning of the 2000 season, he’s recorded just the 14th 15-win season for a Braves pitcher.

If Jair Jurrjens were to notch his 13th win tonight, the Braves will still have a chance to have three 15-game winners (Lowe and Javy Vazquez included) for the first time since 2002 when Kevin Millwood, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux all reached that mark.  

Through his first 13 starts this season, Lowe went 7-3 with a 3.44 ERA and limited opponents to a .240 batting average.  In the 19 starts that have followed, he has gone 8-6 with a 5.47 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .343 batting average.

As he was speaking after last night’s win over the Mets, Lowe was interrupted by a reporter who had joined the scrum as Lowe was alluding to the fact that the Braves have 12 more games to hope to gain the miracle to join the postseason mix.

Having heard just part of the statement, the reporter  asked, “what were you talking about, (stinking) 12 games ago or something?

Lowe responded with, “I’ve (stunk) in a lot more than 12 games.  Come on.”
 
When Lowe has struggled this year, there’s no doubt that he’s created a couple of ugly results.   But the Braves still have managed to win 20 of the 32 games that he’s started and there have been just six occasions this year when he’s allowed more than three earned runs. 

While Lowe might not have been the ace that some were hoping he’d suddenly become, he still has proven to be a solid member of the rotation and a strong clubhouse figure,  whose unmatched work ethic has provided a good example to many of the younger players. 

With Tommy Hanson, Jurrjens, and likely either Vazquez or Tim Hudson in place next year, the Braves don’t necessarily need Lowe to serve as an ace.   They can only hope that his dedication to conditioning allows him to continue proving to be a productive presence over the next three years.
 
As we enter the final days of this season, I’d still have to say the Braves should feel fortunate that they provided the large contract to Lowe and didn’t incur the financial and health-related burdens that Jake Peavy or A.J. Burnett would have brought. 

Cox’s future:  Braves manager Bobby Cox still hasn’t revealed his plans for the 2010 season.  But  he has at least provided another hint that he’ll be back next year. 

While talking about next year’s schedule, he asked, “when are we going to Minnesota next year?”

Cox will also refer to the Braves as “we”.  But at the same time I think this provided even more reason to believe that he’s not ready to enter into retirement.  

Citi Field:  While the Mets might not like the dimensions at Citi Field, the Braves have found the new park to be quite accommodating.   

During their seven games in New York this season, the Braves have outhomered the Mets 10-3.  In other words, they compiled 21 percent of the total (48) the Mets have hit in their first 76 home games this year. 

With his solo shot off Derek Lowe last night, Daniel Murphy became the all-time home run leader at  Citi Field with a grand total of six.   In 23 at-bats (or 207 fewer than Murhpy), Matt Diaz has cleared this stadium’s walls three times. 
 

Braves starters look to continue success vs. Phils

Nothing will be won.  Something could be gained and a lot could be lost.   

This seems to be the easiest way to break down the consequences entering this weekend’s key series against the Phillies.    

If the Braves can take two of three from the Phillies this weekend, they’ll trail the defending world champs by four games in the National League East and also prolong the momentum they’ve gained while winning seven of their previous eight games.   

Obviously sweeping the Phillies for the second time in a little more than a month at The Ted would truly increase the intrigue of the National League East race, within which the Braves would be just two games away from the top spot.

But if the Braves were to be swept and suddenly find themselves eight games back, it will be time for us once again to solely focus on the Wild Card race.

While winning seven of the first nine games they’ve played against the Phillies this year, the Braves starters have gone 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA.   That’s more than a  full run better than the ERA they’ve compiled against any of their other NL East opponents   —  Nationals (3.41   Mets  (3.79), Marlins (5.74).  

During these nine games against the Phillies, the Braves starters have allowed two earned runs or less seven times.  The only game during which one of their starters allowed more than three runs against the potent Philadelphia offense occurred on May 8, when Jo-Jo Reyes was charged with four earned runs.  

With Jair Jurrjens opposing Joe Blanton in tonight’s series opener, the advantage seemingly has to go to the Braves.

Blanton is 0-1 with an 8.74 ERA in three starts against the Braves.  .   Blanton surrendered 13 earned runs in his first 12 innings against Atlanta this year and then realized some improvement on June 30, when he was charged three earned runs and eight hits in five innings.  

As for Jurrjens, when he last faced the Phillies on July 30, he allowed one hit over seven scoreless innings and that lone hit he surrendered was Paul Bako’s soft single to right with two outs in the seventh.  

This dominant effort wasn’t exactly anything new for Jurrjens, who has blanked the Phillies during three of his six career starts against them.  During his two outings against them this year, he has worked 12 1/3 scoreless innings.

All you loyal readers who have been reading this blog dating back to Spring Training should understand when I say that this seems to be a perfect spot to indicate there is no reason to believe that the law of averages won’t sneak up and bite Jurrjens tonight during this series opener.  

Looking at the stats, it’s not hard to figure out how the Braves have found so much success against the Phillies this year.  They’ve limited Jimmy Rollins to a .100 batting average (4-for-40) and a .143 on-base percentage.   As for Shane Victorino, he  has hit just .132 with a .195 on-base percentage against Atlanta this year.

And the always-dangerous Ryan Howard has gone homerless in his first 36 at-bats against the Braves this year.  Entering this season, Howard had homered once every 9.75 at-bats against Bobby Cox’s club.

Since being swept out of Atlanta on July 2, the Phillies have gone 25-11, compiled a .263 batting average and hit 50 homers.  They have averaged 5.47 runs per game during this span.  

During this same span, the Braves have gone 22-14, compiled a .279 batting average and hit 41 homers.  They’ve averaged 5.05 runs per game and managed to fall one-half game further behind the Phillies during this 36-game stretch.
 
There won’t be any need for the Braves to do any scoreboard watching this weekend.  For the first time since 2005, it truly feels like a key series will be staged at Turner Field and by the time Sunday night concludes the city of Atlanta will have a much better idea about whether there’s truly a reason for them to believe the NL East title is a realistic possibility this year.

FRIDAY’S LINEUP
McLouth 8
Prado 4
Jones 5
McCann 2
Anderson 7
Escobar 6
LaRoche 3
Church 9
Jurrjens 1

Where will this three-game winning streak lead?

Welcome back to Braves Mountain.  We once again ask you to keep your hands and feet inside the car as we continue this ride includes both quick ascents and frustrating descents.   And we are happy to announce that the early portion of this week’s journey has provided more reason to believe that the light at the end of the tunnel will still be lit after the All-Star break.
 
With last night’s win over the Phillies, the Braves once again matched a season-best three-game winning streak and if this year’s trend continues, you may want to put your hands in the air and at least attempt to enjoy the rush created by the descent that could follow. 

“We’ve proven both ways that momentum doesn’t help us or hurt us,” Matt Diaz said after highlighting his three-hit performance with a homer and two RBIs last night. 

After sweeping the Nationals (April 10-12) to move to 5-1 on the season, the Braves immediately followed with a five-game losing streak and an eight-game stretch that included just one win. 

When the Braves gained another three-game losing streak April 22-25, they soured those positive vibes by enduring a nine-game stretch that included just two wins. 

How about that inspiring three-game sweep of the then-American League East leading Blue Jays in May?  Well as you likely painfully remember, that was followed by an 11-game stretch that included just three wins. 

But providing reason at least some reason for optimism is the 7-4 stretch that followed the three-game winning streak achieved (May 9-11) against the Mets and Phillies. 

“We’ve gotten excited before and then went on a losing streak,” Brian McCann said. “So we’ve just got to keep playing and see what happens.  We can’t worry about what we have or haven’t done.” 

While taking the first two games of this week’s three-game series against the front -running Phillies, the Braves are now just three games out of first place for the first time since May 27.  Considering that they’ve gone 14-17 since that date, they have to be greatly appreciative of the generosity provided by the Phillies and Mets.
  
Dating back to May 28, the Mets have gone 12-19 and the Phillies have gone 14-16. 

Regardless of what happens against the Phillies tonight, Braves fans should guard against saying anything like, “this is a great time to be playing the Nationals.”  This was a popular cry after the Braves lost of five of six to the Marlins and Pirates in April. 

Then we all watched as the Braves managed to lose two of three games in Washington D.C.  But this wasn’t anything new.  They’ve lost nine of the first 12 games they’ve played at Nationals Park and seven of the 12 games they’ve played against the Nationals since last year’s All-Star break.

Remember when the Braves lost 14 of the first 16 games they played against the Phillies last year?  Well, while winning six of the first eight games played against the defending world champions this year, they’ve moved to 10-16 against them since the start of the 2008 season.   During this same span, they’ve gone 10-14 against the Nationals.
 
All-Star stuff:  With All-Star voting set to close tonight at 11:59 p.m. ET, it would be nice to see Braves fans show some final-hour support by voting  for Brian McCann, who has seen Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina take a more commanding lead when results have been updated both of the past two weeks.

McCann leads all NL catchers in batting average (.310) and OPS (.906) and despite battling left-eye vision problems throughout the season’s first five weeks, he ranks second and both homers (8) and RBIs (33).  With 44 more at-bats, Molina has totaled five homers, tallied 24 RBIs and compiled a .728 OPS. 

While the St. Louis fans have taken advantage of the opportunity to see Molina behind the plate for the start of the July 14 All-Star Game at their own Busch Stadium, McCann seems to still be a lock to gain his fourth consecutive All-Star selection in what is his fourth full Major League season. 

Whether he’ll be joined by Javier Vazquez, Jurrjens and/or Rafael Soriano remains to be seen.  But all deserving pitchers were given more reason for hope on Wednesday, when Major League Baseball announced that the rosters would be expanded to 33 players to accommodate a manager’s selection for one extra pitcher.

Player balloting will determine eight reserve position player and eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers) for both rosters.  Eight more selections, including the extra pitcher, will be made by the managers, with input provided from league officials.

Soriano has actually produced the best credentials among Braves pitchers to pitch in this year’s Midsummer Classic.  
Along with being perfect in his six save opportunities, Soriano ranks third among NL relievers with a 1.23 ERA, third in OPS (.457) surrendered, fifth in both batting average allowed (.160) and slugging percentage allowed (.216),  and sixth with a 0.90 WHIP.  

Having watched Jurrjens limit his Phillies to a two-out, seventh-inning single on Wednesday night, NL manager Charlie Manuel might be further persuaded to include the 23-year-old right-hander, who ranks fifth in the NL with a 2.73 ERA. 
 
Jurrjens’ 6-6 record is a product of the same inconsistent support that has saddled the 5-7 Vazquez, who will get his own opportunity to audition in front of Manuel while attempting to retake the NL strikeouts lead during tonight’s series finale against the Phillies.
 
Along with currently being just seven strikeouts shy of the NL-leading mark posted by Tim Lincecum, Vazquez also ranks second in the NL with a 1.06 WHIP (walks plus hits/innings pitched).  His 3.03 ERA ranks eighth and with 11 quality starts, he’s and Jurrjens both rank eighth among the Senior Circuit hurlers.

Along with his losing record, Vazquez’s candidacy could be further burdened by the fact that he’s scheduled to start just two days before the All-Star Game.  Jurrjens is slated to go one day earlier. 

Braves winning the close games

As the Braves prepare to begin this three-game series against the Giants, I decided to see where they stood on May 25, 2008.  Given how bad the season developed, it was somewhat surprising to see that they were 27-23 and 2 1/2 games behind the front-running Marlins in the National League East race.

But those aren’t the important numbers to utilize while comparing the 23-20 record the Braves carried into Monday afternoon’s Memorial Day game at AT&T Park. 

Instead, it’s more important to look at the fact that the Braves got off to that decent start last year, while winning six of their first 22 road games and two of their first 14 one-run games. 

Armed with a much better pitching staff this year, the Braves have gone 12-8 on the road and 8-6 in one-run games.  The only National League teams with more one-run wins are the Dodgers (9-3) and Padres (12-5).

Four of those one-run victories garnered by the Braves have occurred during the 7-3 stretch they carried into the Giants series. 

However you cut it, this Braves team doesn’t seem like the same one that was 11-15 and four games back on May 5.  Brian McCann and Garret Anderson have provided the lineup a spark and Jair Jurrjens continues to strengthen a sound starting rotation.

The fact that the Braves produced their seven-run seventh inning after Jurrjens exited on Sunday simply provided more reason for the young right-hander to be frustrated about the fact that he ranks fourth in the Majors with a 2.07 ERA and has just four wins. 

During his past eight starts, Jurrjens has gone 2-2 with a 1.98 ERA.  In the 50 innings that have encompassed that span, he has limited opponents to a .230 batting average and .285 on-base percentage. 

It would be nice for him to gain some of the luck necessary to garner the win total that would allow him to receive deserved consideration when the National League chooses its All-Star team.

Chipper out again:
  Still bothered by some soreness and swelling in his right big toe, Chipper Jones was out of the lineup again for Monday’s series opener against the Giants.   While the Braves would like to see him return to full-time action soon, they know he’s dealing with a very sensitive injury that can be easily aggravated. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if Jones remains out of the lineup for the remainder of this series.  When you think about it, there’s very little you can do on a baseball field without putting some pressure on your big toe. 

It was kind of telling, when Jones said that it took him nearly 10 minutes to make his way back to the clubhouse after taking batting practice on Sunday morning. 

As for Yunel Escobar, it seems like he’s still dealing with a day-to-day right hip ailment.  He could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday.       

  
    

 

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