Results tagged ‘ Jeff Francoeur ’

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 baseballmusings.com and baseball-reference.com 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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Francoeur catches a big one

Unable to take batting practice because of a potential rainstorm that never arrived, the Braves spent the past couple of hours rehearsing for the inevitable long rain delays that await them this year. 

Jeff Francoeur grabbed a fishing pole and threw his line into a pond that is located just outside the visitor’s clubhouse here at Osceola County Stadium and came away with 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass, that was slightly bigger than Kris Medlen.

Speaking of Medlen, he’s going to pitch tonight and attempt to once again put himself in position to grab one of the final bullpen spots.   His candidacy was tarnished on Friday when he allowed the Blue Jays three runs  —  two earned — and three hits in 1 1/3 innings. 

Medlen’s odds of beginning the season in Atlanta might have already been diminished earlier today, when Rafael Soriano enjoyed a pain-free bullpen session at Disney.  The right-handed reliever will pitch here at Francoeur’s Fishing Preserve on Thursday, when the Braves conclude their Grapefruit League season against the Triple-A Astros.

Chipper Jones ended tonight’s top of the first by looking at a called third strike thrown by Russ Ortiz.  Unfortunately, the Astros found it difficult to swing and miss anything that Derek Lowe threw them during the bottom of the first inning. 

When Lowe exits tonight, Peter Moylan and Mike Gonzalez are scheduled to pitch.  There no longer seems to be reason to wonder whether Moylan will be in the bullpen when the season starts on Sunday night.

“I’m sick of reading the Braves remain hopeful that Moylan will be ready,” Moylan said. “I’m going to be ready.”

Garret Anderson is getting his first opportunity to test his right calf as an outfielder tonight.  Thanks to the fact that Lowe’s sinker didn’s sink too much during the first inning, the veteran outfielder has already had to do some running.

When Brian McCann returns to the lineup on Wednesday, he might be wearing a suit of armor.  A foul tip bruised the All-Star catcher’s right ring finer on Saturday and then when he returned to action on Monday, a foul ball left a nasty bruise just above his right knee.

 
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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? 
        

Kawakami scratched

This is essentially the same blog as the one that I posted earlier. But with the revelation that Kenshin Kawakami has been scratched from tonight’s start because of right shoulder fatigue, I’m adding this top.

Javier Vazquez will start in his place.  Vazquez, who pitched against the U.S. on Saturday, will be pitching on regular rest. 

I’ll provide more details when I come back upstairs.  Kawakami is expected to talk to the media at 4:30 p.m. ET.

(NOW BACK TO THE ORIGINAL BLOG)

So I sent some of the guys a text this morning to find out who they
were picking to win the NCAA tourney.  Always the prompt professional,
Tom Glavine quickly revealed that he’s predicting Louisville to emerge
victorious in a Final Four field that will also include Memphis, Pitt
and North Carolina.

A few minutes later, Jeff Francoeur said
that he believes that UNC or Louisville will win it all.  Then John
Smoltz attempted to have some fun by saying that his Michigan State
Spartans, West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt will participate in the
Final Four. 

Smoltz knows how much I dislike both Pitt and
Syracuse (primarily for the crime Marvin Graves committed during a 1992
game in Morgantown).  As an MSU fan, I guess he couldn’t bring himself
to truly make my blood boil with mention of that Ann Arbor school that
currently employs that once highly-regarded football coach. 

After
enjoying his laugh, Smoltz revealed his true Final Four prediction
consists of UNC, Villanova, MSU and Memphis.  Respecting my elders, I
wouldn’t have called him if Cal St. Northridge had held on to win their
first-round matchup against Memphis.

Now that we’ve all finished
our bracket selections, it’s time to look at some of the tough roster
decisions the Braves have to make.  By the time I take this laptop back
to Atlanta in two weeks, we may have a better idea about who will begin
the season as the starting center fielder.

Based on what I’ve
seen, Jordan Schafer has clearly established himself as the
front-runner in this competition.  The 22-year-old prospect is the best
defensive option and his speed/power capabilities make him more
attractive in the leadoff spot than Josh Anderson or Gregor Blanco.

But
some guys who have been around this game much longer than I have seem
to think Schafer could benefit from the opportunity to spend some more
time in the Minors.  From a business perspective, this would help the
Braves, who don’t want to start his arbitration-eligible clock any
earlier than necessary. 

Anderson is certainly capable of
handling the position and the role of leadoff hitter.  The fact that
he’s out of options also aids his bid to win this position battle.  But
I’ve also been told not to eliminate Gregor Blanco, who has spent the
past couple of weeks with Venezuela in the WBC. 

With Tom
Glavine not needed until April 18, I’m expecting the Braves will begin
the season with eight relievers.   Assuming Peter Moylan is healthy and
Cox is comfortable with the fact that he might not be available for
back-to-back appearances during the early weeks of the season: I’d say
the early bullpen locks are: Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Moylan,
Blaine Boyer, Eric O’Flaherty and Boone Logan. 

Jeff Bennett,
Manny Acosta, Jorge Campillo, Buddy Carlyle, Kris Medlen will be
battling for one of those final two spots.   My expectation is that at
least one of these hurlers will be traded. 

Also with Jo-Jo
Reyes pitching well, there’s seemingly less reason to send Campillo to
Triple-A Gwinnett to remain conditioned as a starter.  So I would have
to say, I’m guessing Campillo begins the season in Atlanta.

With
Bennett and Acosta available the final spot, it also would make sense
to let Medlen gain more seasoning as a starter at the Triple-A level.  
But I think we’ll be seeing him in Atlanta at some point this year. 

The Braves haven’t announced tonight’s lineup yet. I’ll post it in the comments section later.

In
case you were wondering, my Final Four predictions are West Virginia,
Oklahoma, Missouri and Pitt.  But when WVU plays my alma mater tomorrow
at 3 p.m., you better believe that I’ll be pulling for Dayton.      

Just another odd southpaw

When I entered  the clubhouse this morning, I saw Boone Logan’s left hand adorned with gauze. Naturally, I responded with, “Have you been playing with Blaine Boyer’s apple slicer.”

Logan said that he regularly places gauze on his hand in the morning. After imitating Rafael Soriano with a stone-faced reaction, I later saw the big left-handed reliever on the field without any gauze, tape or padding on his hand.  With this I further concluded that southpaws are simply a different species.

Speaking of left-handers, Garret Anderson was moving around the clubhouse with relative ease this morning and he said his strained right calf has progressively improved over the past few days.  After seeing him lift his leg and bend over to pick up his keys with relative ease, I think we can project that he’ll likely be in the Opening Day lineup.

Fortunately for Anderson, he hasn’t felt the urge to start jumping around like Jair Jurrjens did after the Netherlands defeated the Dominican Republic again on Tuesday night. 

“I’m surprised that nobody called the cops on me,” said Jurrjens, who opted not to pitch for the Netherlands during the first round of the WBC. 

Jurrjens wanted to pitch in the second round this weekend.  But in order to do so, he would have had to replace a injured pitcher from the current roster.  When he never received word that this opportunity had arisen, the 23-year-old right-hander prepared for this afternoon’s start against the Nationals.

If the Netherlands continues their miracle run, Jurrjens might join the team for the semi-final round.  But as great as this story has been, I think we can all assume that it’s nearing its end.

Remember Dennis Neuman, the Pedro Martinez-clone, that I was heralding after watching him pitch a scoreless inning for the Netherlands against the D.R. on Saturday?  Well he’s obviously also subject to the jinx factor of this blog. 

But after issuing two walks in Monday’s loss to Puerto Rico, the 19-year-old Red Sox farmhand came back Tuesday and tossed 1 2/3 innings scoreless innings against the D.R.

“He’s going to be good,” said Jurrjens, who worked out with Neuman in their native Curacao this winter.  “He has heart and he knows what he wants.”

Now that I’ve exhausted my charitable Dennis Neuman public relations campaign, it’s time to return to Braves info.  Jordan Schafer opened some eyes when he returned yesterday and the highly-regarded outfield propsect is back in today’s lineup to serve as the right fielder. 

Matt Diaz and Jeff Francoeur were permitted to go home after this morning’s workout.  Both are scheduled to travel to Jupiter for this weekend’s two-game series against the Cardinals and Marlins. 

As for me, I’m not making the southbound trek down the Florida Turnpike.  But I’ll likely post at least one blog entry on Friday or Saturday.  Tommy Hanson is scheduled to start tomorrow’s game against the Marlins and Kenshin Kawakami will go against the Cardinals on Saturday.

After Jurrjens exits today’s game, we’ll place our focus on Mike Gonzalez and Kris Medlen, who are both scheduled to pitch.

Today’s Lineup:
Josh Anderson CF
Jordan Schafer RF
Yunel Escobar SS
Casey Kotchman 1B
Omar Infante 2B
Martin Prado 3B
Brandon Jones LF
David Ross C
Jurrjens P
  

Francoeur set to face Yankees and Tiger

With the sun shining above and the Yankees in town, we have a near-perfect setting for Jeff Francoeur to begin what many would consider a near-perfect athletic experience. 

After collecting a few at-bats against the WBC-depleted Yankees, Francoeur will grab his clubs to join Tiger Woods and John Smoltz for a round of golf this afternoon.  With the Red Sox having the day off, Smoltz has driven to the Orlando area to enjoy this annual round with two of his closest friends.

When Kenshin Kawakami takes the mound against the Yanks today, he won’t have to deal with the likes of A-Rod, Jeter and Posada, who are all eithter preparing for the WBC or visiting a hip specialist. Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady are the only regulars in the lineup for the Bronx Bombers, who will utilize Juan Miranda as their cleanup hitter. 

Glavine arrives:  Tom Glavine arrived in Braves camp this morning and revealed that he’s aiming to make his first appearance in a game late next week.  The 300-game winner has recently experienced some cranky discomfort with his shoulder.  But he says the discomfort isn’t anything different than what he’s often had to deal with during Spring Training. 

“I’ve had a little bit of crankiness now that I’ve thrown batting practice and thrown a little harder.  There ‘s a little soreness with my shoulder. But I’m not surprised. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  It’s happened every year for the last 15 years.  But it’s more manageable and that’s what we were kind of hoping for.” 

Glavine, who hasn’t had any problems with his surgically-repaired left elbow, doesn’t seem to concerned.  He said the shoulder discomfort he’s feeling this year doesn’t compare to the discomfort he was feeling at this time last year. 

The fact that Glavine is scheduled to make just two starts in April (18th and 29th) could prove to be beneficial.  After pitching in the frigid temperatures at Coors Field in early April last year, he started to experience increased discomfort in his elbow and shoulder.

Impressed by Hanson:  Braves announcer Don Sutton was certainly impressed after getting the chance to watch Tommy Hanson face Panama yesterday.  The Hall of Fame hurler was most intrigued by the 22-year-old  top prospect’s advanced maturity.

“When you look at a talent like him, after you talk to him for five minutes, you can throw his birth certificate out the window,” Sutton said. “He has the four pitches.  He’s a quick learner, makes great adjustments.  I just wish for him good health.  I think he has a chance to be a superstar.

Thursday vs. Venezuela:  Garret Anderson is expected to make his Braves debut when Derek Lowe takes the mound to face Gregor Blanco and Venezuela’s WBC team at Disney tomorrow afternoon.  First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m. ET.  

Today’s Lineup:
Josh Anderson CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Jason Heyward LF
Omar Infante 3B
David Ross C
Kenshin Kawakami P

 

 
 

Impressions of Kawakami

Just before Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur started drilling rocket shots off bench coach Chino Cadahia’s batting practice fastballs on Saturday, Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Jones did the same against the ones supplied by Kenshin Kawakami. 

But before any of you start to worry, you should know that Chino was just working on a few pitches, trying to find his location and tinkering with his delivery.  Or maybe my notes are wrong and that was actually the Japanese dude that’s getting paid $23 million over the next three years.

In all seriousness, I’m putting next to zero stock in what Kawakami is doing on Feb. 21.  All that matters is that he’s ready to pitch when the season begins in April.  But to guard against shaken confidence, he probably doesn’t need to know that Blanco compiled a .309 slugging percentage last year.

The only National League outfielders who compiled 500 plate appearances and produced lower marks were Michael Bourn and Willy Taveras, who have stayed at the Major League level simply because of their existence as stolen base threats.

At Blanco’s expense, we’ve gained a transition to Anderson, who seems to be in position to beat Blanco and Jordan Schafer in the battle to open the season as the team’s starting center fielder.  While Schafer undoubtedly is the most talented candidate, it still appears the Braves might be more comfortable starting him in the Minors. 

Anderson’s cause is aided by the fact that he’s out of options.  And unless you’re among those who don’t believe that he’s capable of hitting left-handed pitching, he might also be the team’s top candidate to serve in the leadoff role.  He’s been successful with 80 percent (247 out of 310) of his stolen base attempts at the professional level.

As I mentioned in an earlier comment on a previous post,  I don’t really worry too much about the fact that Anderson has hit .254
with a .299 OBP in 63 big league at-bats against southpaws. He hit .304
with a .352 OBP against them at Richmond last year.

My feelings about Anderson’s capabilities against left-handers improved after talking to Bobby Cox on Saturday afternoon.  This conversation also made me think less about the possibility that he might be used in CF platoon with Omar Infante.

“Everybody is going to struggle against certain left-handers,” Cox said. “He’s faced them his whole life. He’s never platooned anywhere that he’s been. All he has to against lefties is make contact. If he hits a dribbler or one in the hole, he’s going to beat it out.  Contact is what we’ll preach to him against lefties.  If you put it in play, amazing things can happen with a left-handed hitter like (Anderson) who can fly.”  <p>

In other camp news, Chipper Jones’ cough sounded horrible on Saturday. But he participated in the workout. 

Cox said Jason Heyward hit a ball “a mile” on one of the back fields.  While I didn’t see that one, I did see Francoeur drill one of Chino’s fastballs halfway up one of the flag poles situated on the hill above the left field wall.

- Mark Bowman

Griffey and Glavine still the buzz in camp

There’s still no definitive word that Ken Griffey Jr. has chosen the Braves over the Mariners.  But we’ve reached a point where I’d definitely be shocked if Griffey wasn’t stretching alongside Chipper Jones and Brian McCann on Wednesday, when the Braves hold their first full-squad workout of the season. 

Even if Griffey makes his decision today, there’s a chance the Braves wouldn’t hold a press conference until Wednesday.  At the same time, they could officially announce that they’ve reached also reached an agreement with Tom Glavine.

These signings could prove historic for the Braves. I still haven’t found any other instance where any of the six members of the 600-homer club have been a member of that club while playing with one of the 23 pitchers who had already joined the 300-wins club. I’ll let you know if Elias provides verification later today.

If the Braves do indeed get both Glavine and Griffey, they will have to remove two players from their 40-man roster.  My guess is that right-handed pitcher Anthony Lerew and outfielder Gregor Blanco will be the roster victims.

I walked in with Jeff Francoeur today and there certainly didn’t  seem to  be any indication  that he’s disturbed by the fact that it appears he’ll be going to Phoenix for an arbitration hearing on Friday. 

It still seems quite hard to believe that Francoeur even has a chance to win the $3.95 million salary that he’s requesting.  As for Kelly Johnson, it still appears he’ll reach an agreement before his scheduled arbitration hearing on Thursday.

– Mark Bowman  

Lowe has game

Jeff Francoeur would obviously love to avoid an arbitration hearing. But before going to play tennis with his wife Friday night, the young outfielder’s greatest concerns actually centered around what he’d just seen Derek Lowe do on the golf course. 

“When Smoltzie left, I thought for sure, I’d be the best golfer on the team,” Francoeur said. “But I’m not sure that’s going to be the case. Derek Lowe is good.” 

A Braves All-Star catcher who wished to remain anonymous went one step further by saying, “Derek Lowe is the best golfer I’ve ever seen.  But don’t write that because it will make Smoltzie mad.”

While looking for new courses in the Ft. Myers area, Smoltz is probably too busy to read about what his newly-slender,  unnamed former batterymate is saying  But he wasn’t too busy to respond to this this Lowe-hype with a text message that simply read, “Whatever”. 

Now that he has wind of Lowe’s golf skills, Smoltz’s competitive spirit will probably lead him to travel to the Orlando area on a day when he can test his golf game against the new Braves ace.

“Lowe is pretty consistent,” Francoeur said. “He’s always going to be in the low 70s.  But Smoltz can go lower.  If they played 10 times, Lowe would probably win three or four times.”

Two days in Florida and already I have two blogs that include stories about what the boys are doing on the golf course.  Tomorrow’s entry will detail the game of “arbitration chicken” being played by Francoeur and the Braves. 

Actually there really isn’t anything new to report on the Francoeur arbitration front.  It still appears that a hearing is inevitable and I’m not sure this is good for either side.

Francoeur has arrived in camp with an enhanced sense of confidence that could certainly be destroyed when he has to listen to the full-scale attack the Braves plan to utilize in the arbitration hearing.

While saving some money, the Braves will also be creating the possibility that Francoeur’s confidence will be shaken to the point that he’s unable to avoid a repeat of last year’s struggles. 

Let’s just hope there is a resolution before next Friday’s scheduled hearing. But with that being said, I don’t see this happening. 

– Mark Bowman

No need to wait for pitchers and catchers

Before beginning to discuss the Braves, I want to thank Delta for safely bringing me to Florida.  Of course in the future, I’d appreciate it if they’d place me and my luggage on the same plane.

But with this being said, waiting an additional three hours for a piece of luggage didn’t bother me as much as the AirTran baggage police that used rulers and the Pythagorean theorem to determine I wouldn’t actually realize the savings I’d anticipated when I chose to use their airline for my holiday season travel.

Two paragraphs into a blog and I’ve already attacked Atlanta’s two major airlines. Pitchers and catchers don’t report until Saturday and as a baseball writer I’d have to say my “negative voice” is already in midseason form.

Actually my attitude right now is anything but negative. I’m heading to the stadium tomorrow morning to see some of the camp’s early arrivals and in some ways this feels like the night before the first day of school.

Mike Gonzalez, Blaine Boyer and Kenshin Kawakami are among the pitchers who have been in town most of this week. 

Speaking of Kawakami, the throng of Japanese media members who will follow him throughout Spring Training have spent the past two days attempting to get glimpses of him through the left field fence.  The Braves decided not to open the stadium or their clubhouse to the media until Friday.

Chipper Jones, Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann are among the offensive players who arrived in camp earlier this week.  They’ve been swinging bats in the morning and golf clubs in the afternoon. 

Thursday’s round was shared with former Brave Adam LaRoche, who claimed bragging rights with an impressive 18th hole birdie.  After hitting his drive into a fairway bunker, LaRoche tamed the par-5 finishing hole by drilling a 260-yard shot to within 30 feet of the pin. 

While his former Braves teammates might not have enjoyed watching ever-cool Roachy prove clutch, Pirates fans are probably just surprised to learn that he can in fact make solid contact before June’s arrival. 

– Mark Bowman

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