Results tagged ‘ Jesse Chavez ’

Braves make final roster decisions

Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters made solid impressions while experiencing their first Major League Spring Training.  But the two young Braves relievers learned Friday afternoon that they will begin this upcoming season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Manager Bobby Cox just announced that Jo-Jo Reyes and Jesse Chavez have claimed the final two available spots in his bullpen.  In addition, he revealed that Brooks Conrad won his roster battle with Joe Thurston, who will also begin the season in Gwinnett. 

Once Scott Proctor is deemed ready to return from Tommy John surgery in a few weeks, Reyes or Chavez will likely be sent to the Minors. 

The Braves also revealed that highly-regarded first base prospect Freedie Freeman will begin the season with Gwinnett.  There was some thinking that he would spend at least a month or two with Double-A Mississippi. 

But some within the organization believe he needed to be at the Triple-A level where he will likely see more strikes than he would at the Double-A level. 

Cox also revealed that catcher Clint Sammons, shortstop Brandon Hicks, outfielder Matt Young and  right-handed pitchers Jeff Lyman and Cory Gearrin will also begin the season with Gwinnett.

Check back later for other roster announcements.

Roster battles taking shape

Before this afternoon’s game against the Phillies, I mentioned that I felt the final two bullpen spots would be claimed by Jo-Jo Reyes and Jesse Chavez.  A few hours later, I’m willing to make this assumption with greater confidence and also say that I think Brooks Conrad currently holds the lead in the battle for the last roster spot for a position player. 

Conrad ended an 0-for-15 slump that extended back to March 18 with a seventh-inning homer this afternoon off Chad Durbin.  But my thinking has more to do with the fact that even during his prolonged slump the Braves never soured on this journeyman, who gained a lot of favor with the work ethic he brought to the park during his short stints with Atlanta last year. 

Had Thurston been in the Braves organization last year he might have gained the same advantage.  So far he has proven to be the same kind of likable player who is very similar to Conrad in many ways. 

But if I had to guess right now, the nod will go to Conrad, who also draws the advantage provided by the fact that he is already on the 40-man roster and Thurston isn’t. 

“Brooksy did a great job for us last year,” Bobby Cox said. “He won us some games.”

Chavez at least regained his sanity this afternoon while working a perfect inning against the Phillies.  During his previous two outings, he had worked 1 1/3 innings, allowed 11 hits (all singles) and eight earned runs.

“The last two outings haven’t been indicative of the way he’s pitched,” Cox said. “He kept the ball down and he did it again today.  It was the same as the last two times for me.” 

Cox has repeatedly pointed out that Chavez was marred by bad luck in those previous two outings and those who witnessed both could certainly back up my belief that this wasn’t just another case where the veteran manager was going out of his way to back up a player that didn’t deserve to be defended. 

When we approached Chavez this afternoon, he looked relieved.  Thinking back on his two previous outings, he could only laugh and say, “what did I give up like 11 singles and only about half of them even left the infield?”

“I’m not the first to say it, but I’m not a spring pitcher,” said Chavez, who was a surprise addition to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster last year. “But this is what it’s for.  Get them out of the way now and be ready to roll once the lights turn on.”

It was interesting to hear Cox say after today’s game that there is some concern about putting Reyes in the bullpen to start this year because of the fact that as a starter at Gwinnett he would provide insurance if one of the members of the Atlanta rotation was sidelined.

“It’s a predicament because Jo-Jo is a starter/backup guy if we send him out,” Cox said. “If we keep him, he could help us here too.”

With Reyes pitching two perfect innings today and Jonny Venters seemingly crumbling under the pressure while allowing the Phillies three runs in just two-thirds of an inning, there’s even more reason to believe the Braves would rather go with Reyes. 

Venters allowed a leadoff double to Jimmy Rollins and issued consecutive walks to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard (with the bases loaded) before recording his first out.  As for Craig Kimbrel, the only thing he surrendered while going up against Utley, Howard, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino was a single by Howard. 

But the Braves seem to be shying away from sending the still-green Kimbrel to the Majors with just 14 games of experience above the Class A Minor League level.  With this being said, he’s shown enough to lead me to expect to see him in Atlanta at some point this year.

If all of this proves to be true, those final bullpen spots will go to Chavez and Reyes.  And if the Braves are really hesitant about the fact that they don’t have much depth in the starting pitching department, they could send Reyes to Gwinnett to get stretched out when Scott Proctor is deemed ready to join the Atlanta bullpen. 

While Kris Medlen is certainly capable of making a spot start if necessary, his positioning in the rotation could weaken the bullpen’s depth.  As mentioned last week, this young right-hander has proven that his versatility extends to his ability to be a detriment to left-handed hitters. 

With Medlen in the bullpen mix, the Braves could be confident carrying Eric O’Flaherty as their only true left-handed middle reliever.  

 

 

 

Chavez and Dunn intensify bullpen battle

As the rain started to pelt Roger Dean Stadium this afternoon, Braves manager Bobby Cox gained the sense the game might be called after five or six innings.  Fortunately for Jesse Chavez and left-hander Mike Dunn, the entire game was played, allowing them a chance to improve their places in the battle for the final available bullpen spots.  

After his team’s 4-2 win over the Marlins, Cox said that he had just seen Dunn and Chavez provide their strongest efforts so far during the exhibition season. 

Dunn, who has allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings,  recorded a strikeout in a scoreless ninth inning.  During his perfect eighth inning, Chavez showed that he is able to command his fastball better than he had during his four previous outings.

“Chavez was better,” Cox said.  “He kept the ball down better.  He gave up two long flies, but at least he kept the ball down…He’s not wild, wild. He just gets it up.” 

While Chavez has now provided three consecutive scoreless appearances, it’s apparent that he isn’t producing the same kind of optimism that he did after the bullpen sessions he completed during the early days of camp.  It also doesn’t help that he allowed seven earned runs in the first 2 2/3 innings he worked this year. 

As mentioned earlier today, Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters have pushed themselves to the front of the pack in the battle to gain the final available bullpen spots.  They’ll both be available to pitch on Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals.

While visiting his former manager before today’s game, Marlins utility man Wes Helms had nothing but praiseworthy things to say about Kimbrel and Venters, who he had seen for the first time on Tuesday afternoon at Disney.  

NOTES:  Brian McCann kept his hot bat alive on Wednesday afternoon with a third-inning single that plated three runs.  But while going just 1-for-3 against the Marlins, the All-Star catcher saw his batting average dip to .500 (9-for-18).

“Mac is ready, I don’t know what to do with him the rest of the spring,” Cox jokingly said.

Speaking of batting average, Nate McLouth went hitless in his three at-bats and is now hitting .036 (1-for-28).  But if you’re once again stretching for the positives, you can take note of the fact that he hasn’t struck out in either of the past two games. 

At the other end of the spectrum, Jason Heyward singled in the sixth inning and went 1-for-3 to lower his batting average to .440 (11-for-25).  More importantly, the 20-year-old right fielder has now reached safely in each of the 11 games he has played this year.

“You’re never going to shut him down,” Cox said. “He’s either going to walk get a hit or do something.”  

  

A review of the Grapefruit League opener

One game into the Braves exhibition season, Tommy Hanson has provided the reminder that he’s a special talent and Martin Prado has already laced a couple of liners that provide indication that he can still hit with his slimmed-down frame. 

And of course, Mr Heyward took advantage of the opportunity to prove his game consists of much more than the power potential that fueled all of those batting practice stories that you read last week. 

Bobby Cox called Heyward’s third-inning single through the right side of the infield, ”  “the hardest-hit single you’ll ever see in your life.”   But just as impressive was the 20-year-old outfielder’s ability to draw a walk after falling behind with a 1-2 count in the first inning.  

After showing good bat control while fouling off an offspeed pitch that seemed to initially fool him, Heyward showed great poise while sitting on a 3-2 curveball.  Then two innings later wanting to increase Yunel Escobar’s options to drive him home with one out, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound outfielder easily swiped third base.

As Heyward slid into third base, I immediately thought about Chipper Jones saying that the phenom would earn a spot on the Opening Day roster once he proved that he has a grasp of the finer points of the game  — like knowing when to hit to the right side and knowing when to take an extra base.  

After the game, I caught up with Darryl Strawberry, who is in camp with the Mets as a special instructor.  The eight-time All-Star had some praise for the Braves outfielder, who has drawn comparisons to him.

“He has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself,” Strawberry said.  “That’s a big part of this game.  If you believe in yourself, you can excel.  He has a good idea about what the game is all about.  He’s going to go through some highs and lows.  That’s just what the game is all about for everybody.  If he stays focused and plays hard, he will be very special.”

Check out more of Strawberry’s comments within a story that should post shortly on MLB.com and braves.com.  

If Heyward isn’t deemed ready for the Majors at the conclusion of camp, the starting rightfielder’s job will go to Melky Cabrera, who laced a single the other way during the second inning and made an over-the-shoulder catch that drew attention from Cox.

“It wasn’t a great play,” Cox said. “But it was a (darn) good play in these conditions with the wind and you couldn’t see the ball.”

Cox also took time to send some praise in the direction of Kris Medlen, who allowed one hit and registered a strikeout in two scoreless innings.    

Tuesday’s negatives:  Nate McLouth experienced a rough debut with a pair of strikeouts, including one that was registered with a questionable call on a check swing.   Another former Pirate, Jesse Chavez also proved unable to provide the same kind of impression he had during the early days of camp. 

Chavez was charged with three runs  — two earned — three hits and one walk in just one inning of work.   His damage might have been reduced had shortstop Brandon Hicks not lost a liner in the sun.

“Chavez was just geeked up a little bit, just fastball, fastball, fastball,” Cox said. “He fell behind and got hit.  He didn’t really have a chance to pitch.”

Tomorrow’s game:  Tim Hudson is scheduled to pitch the first two innings of Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Mets at Disney.  Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty headline the cast of relievers who are scheduled to appear.  Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus should also be making their exhibition season debuts.   

 

Chavez impresses and Proctor appears to be ahead of schedule

The Braves enhanced the depth of their bullpen this past offseason and while watching his pitchers throw during their first official workout of the season, Braves manager Bobby Cox came away impressed by a number of the new acquisitions.
 
After Saturday’s workout concluded, Cox said he was impressed with what he saw from his closer Billy Wagner and his primary setup man Takashi Saito.  But he also had high praise for Jesse Chavez, the right-handed reliever who was acquired in exchange for Rafael Soriano in December.  

“I remember how hard he threw, but I didn’t know he had that changeup,” Cox said of Chavez. “The way he threw it today, it looked like he’d been throwing it forever, with the location and the break.”  

Chavez made an impression on Brian McCann, who labeled the reliever one of the toughest guys he faced last year.  Now he’ll be spending the next couple of weeks attempting to win one of the final available spots in the bullpen.  

Wagner, Saito, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty and Kris Medlen are in position to account for five of the seven available bullpen spots.  Chavez, Craig Kimbrel, Luis Valdez and surprisingly Scott Proctor  appear to be in position to battle for the final two spots.  

While Valdez wasn’t present on Saturday because of visa problems that are preventing him from getting to the United States, Proctor impressed Cox with a 50-pitch bullpen session that served as part of the rehab process that has followed the Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgical process he underwent in May.  

Originally, the Braves didn’t think Proctor would be available during the first month of the upcoming season.  But Cox said the veteran right-handed reliever might be ready to be part of the Opening Day roster.  

“He’s going to have plenty of time,” Cox said. “We’re going to get him out there as much as we can.   I think he will be ready out of camp.   If he’s not, he’ll be real close.”  

Cox said based on his velocity, Proctor seems to be ahead of where Peter Moylan was during the first week of camp last year.  As you likely remember, Moylan returned from this same surgical process in time to be part of the Opening Day roster.  

Saito and Kawakami chose not to throw live batting practice during the first day of workouts.  Instead both Japanese pitchers opted to get all their work in during 10-minute bullpen sessions.

Chavez provides depth to Braves pen

With the medical reviews completed on Friday, the Braves were able to officially announce that they have traded Rafael Soriano to the Rays in exchange for right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez. 

My expectation was to return to Atlanta on Thursday night and learn that the deal had been completed.  Instead once I got to baggage claim, I needed to send an updated version of the story while perching my laptop on one of the AJC’s newspaper boxes.  (Just further proof that newspaper industry does indeed still provide benefits). 

Anyhow, Braves general manager Frank Wren seemed encouraged that he was able to gain Chavez’s power arm in exchange for Soriano.  Sure it would have been nice to gain the two draft picks that would have been secured had Soriano declined his arbitration offer. 

But Chavez stands as a tangible return who has the potential to provide an immediate benefit.  Given how quickly Wren was able to make this deal, I don’t think there should be any further debate that he was wise to take the calculated gamble of offering arbitration to Soriano.

“In some regards, this is better than having a draft pick from our point of view,” Wren said.  <p>

With an above-average fastball that helped him find consistent success until he seemingly battled some fatigue toward the end of this year’s rookie season, Chavez provides further bullpen depth, which could prove very beneficial as the Braves attempt to keep their top three relievers Peter Moylan, Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito fresh throughout the season. 

Since the season concluded, I’ve been somewhat shocked when multiple team officials have talked about how excited they are about Boone Logan’s potential.  This isn’t a knock against Logan.  There’s no doubt that his talented left arm could prove to be an asset.

Instead, I just can’t understand why they are so optimistic about a reliever that was provided just three more opportunities to pitch after Aug. 26 this past season.  And one of those appearances occurred in the 15th inning of the Oct. 4 season finale.

As things currently stand it appears the Braves will begin the 2010 season with a bullpen that includes, Wagner, Saito, Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty, Chavez, Logan and Kris Medlen. 

Chavez is certainly an upgrade over Manny Acosta, who will either provide organizational depth or stand as a potential trade piece.  But if the Braves are going to move one of their Minor League relievers, Luis Valdez certainly would provide the greater return. 

As the Braves continue to indicate Medlen will begin the season in Atlanta’s bullpen, I’m left to wonder what happens if one of their starters goes down in May and he’s not stretched out enough to adequately fill that spot in the rotation. 

This question could be answered over the next few days and weeks as teams evaluate those players who are non-tendered before Saturday’s deadline. 

The Braves have made numerous attempts to move Kelly Johnson and there are a number of teams that have shown interest.  But as we move closer to tomorrow’s deadline, there’s more reason to wonder if he’ll be among the many players who will draw greater attention as non-tenders.  

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