Results tagged ‘ Jonny Venters ’

Tidbits from first full-squad workout.

As he sat at his locker with a sense of frustration showing late Saturday afternoon, Chipper Jones seemed to be having a tough time dealing with the reality that there are simply going to be days when his surgically-repaired left knee doesn’t cooperate. 

Saturday proved to be one of those days. 

“It was a bad day today,” Jones said. “I didn’t feel good doing anything…Some days I wake up and I can tell it’s going to be a good day and other days, I’m going to have to fight my way through it.”  <p>

After running the bases Friday, Jones might have led the knee to decide to prove ornery for Saturday’s first full-squad workout.  He remained active through most of the three-hour workout. 

The veteran third baseman said he probably would have skipped some of the activities that placed too much demand on his knee.  But because they were going over Fredi Gonzalez’s bunt defense and defensive fundamentals, he decided he should participate.

“I didn’t do everything today,”  Jones said. “But I still went out there and got my reps in for three hours.  The good thing is I haven’t had two bad days in a row.  Hopefully, I don’t start now. 

“It’s going to happen.  I just don’t want to pile days on top of each other where I can’t get in shape or get my reps in.  It might keep me from doing my conditioning.  But it’s not going to keep me from doing my reps  — hitting, fielding, throwing.”

Jones said he would rest Saturday night and be back on the field Sunday afternoon, when the Braves resume their workouts.  Players will once again have physicals in the morning.  Thus the workout will begin at 1 p.m. ET.  <p> 

While Jones’ 38-year-old body is giving him some trouble, Martin Prado appears to have overcome the hip pointer and oblique strain that he suffered on Sept. 27.  

Prado has long been known as a workout warrior and he certainly hasn’t disappointed this week.  He has been leaving the park at least two hours after he and his teammates have exited the field this week. 

Most of his time in the afternoons has been spent in the weight room.  While he’s attempting to get stronger, he looks even leaner than he did when he came to camp last year in such great shape. 

Jordan Schafer has also drawn praise from those who have recognized that he came to camp in great shape.  Gonzalez praised his 24-year-old center fielder after watching him take some swings against Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran in live batting practice. 

Earlier this week, Schafer also homered off Jonny Venters who allowed just one homer in his 79 appearances last year.

It should be noted that Venters did throw a four-seam fastball and this is the time of year when the batters know what’s coming. Of course if he had known Venters was throwing his patented two-seamer, it probably wouldn’t have meant a whole lot of difference.

Worth Noting:  Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez arrived Saturday in time for Saturday’s workout…Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t have any updates when asked about Kenshin Kawakami, who has seen visa problems delay his exit from Japan.

 

Venters and Cox suspended

Major League Baseball didn’t buy Jonny Venters’ claim that he wasn’t intentionally throwing at Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder during Saturday’s eighth inning at Turner Field.

Venters has been handed a four-game suspension and levied with a fine for an undisclosed amount.  Bobby Cox has also been given a one-game suspension for what MLB described as “the intentional actions of Venters after a warning had been issued to the pitcher following the first intentional pitch thrown at Fielder.”  <p>

For those needing a reminder, Fielder hit a game-tying homer off Tim Hudson in the seventh inning.  When he came to bat to open the eighth, Venters threw a first-pitch slider over his head.  This prompted Angel Hernandez to issue warnings to both benches. 

When Venters followed with a fastball that drilled Fielder in the back, he and Cox were both ejected. 

After the game, Venters said he wasn’t intentionally throwing at Fielder.  Cox uttered this same belief in what seemed to be with what seemed to be a believable tone.  In other words, there wasn’t any indication that this was one of those instances where he was trying to quickly cover something up. 

MLB vice-president of on-field operations Bob Watson obviously didn’t buy these claims.

 Cox will serve his suspension during Tuesday night’s series opener against the Padres.  Venters will likely appeal his suspension, which would allow him to serve it at a later date. 

With left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty on the disabled list, the Braves can’t afford to go into this series without Venters, who ranks fourth among NL relievers with a 1.25 ERA.

There was reason to believe the Brewers would attempt to gain some retribution and some Braves believe they did during Sunday’s sixth inning when both Jason Heyward and Troy Glaus were hit with pitches. 

If Manny Parra was supposed to hit Heyward, he likely needed to explain himself after simply grazing the rookie outfielder’s right thigh.  Later David Riske drilled Troy Glaus on the left thigh with a 2-0 fastball that loaded the bases and marked the third of his seven consecutive pitches that missed the strike zone.

“We weren’t trying to hit Prince, but at the same time it looked bad,” McCann said Sunday.”Obviously their whole team thought we were trying to hit him.  Things like happen. They hit a couple of our guys today. But it’s over with.  No harm was done and that’s how you play the game of baseball.” 

 

Final roster decisions expected to be made today

As many of the Braves pitchers are running and throwing in the bright green Turner Field outfield grass, manager Bobby Cox, general manager Frank Wren and the members of the coaching staff are discussing their final roster decisions. 

It’s 3:15 p.m. ET and within the next hour or two we could learn who is going to fill the final two bullpen spots and whether the final spot for a position player will go to either Brooks Conrad or Joe Thurston. 

While I am pretty confident that the final two bullpen spots will be given to Jesse Chavez and Jo-Jo Reyes, I’m not going to be shocked if the Braves select Conrad or Thurston to begin the season as an extra utility player. 

The similarities between Conrad and Thurston extend far beyond the fact that their defensive abilities limit them to second base and third base.  Conrad runs a little better and draws the benefit of being a switch-hitter. 

Based solely on their offensive performances during the Grapefruit League season, Thurston would be the easy choice.  While he has finished strong and improved his batting average to .319 through 47 at-bats, Conrad has slumped and enters today hitting just .229 in 48 at-bats. 

But as you know, these decisions are never solely based on statistics compiled during Spring Training.

Despite the fact that Conrad has struggled with the bat recently, I still think his advantage comes from the fact that he was with the organization last year.  In the process, the Braves came to appreciate the work ethic and no-nonsense approach that he brought to the park every day. 

At the same time, Thurston must have been doing something right while appearing in 124 games last year for a Cardinals team that won the National League Central.   In the 64 games that he started he hit .227 and in his 61 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, he hit .216 with a .344 on-base percentage.

Reyes and Chavez will likely earn the final roster spots solely based on their experience.  Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters have much higher upsides and the need to spend a few more weeks or months nurturing their skills at the Minor League level. 

The potential ramifications of having Reyes begin the year in the bullpen have been discussed.  But with Kris Medlen available to serve as an emergency starter, the Braves seem willing to roll the dice through that they can escape the first 4-6 weeks of the season without having to deal with a rash of injuries in their starting rotation. 

Medlen is certainly capable of making a few starts if necessary.  And if the Braves were to lose two starters during the early portion of the season, they would have a problem that would trump the fact that one of their most glaring weaknesses entering the season is the fact that they don’t have any enviable depth beyond their first five starting pitchers. 

Heading down to the clubhouse.  I’ll be back shortly with the decisions. 

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman 

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.  

 

 

 

Bullpen picture becomes clearer on a cloudy Sunday

With ominous rain clouds hovering around the Disney area this morning, Jair Jurrjens and Nate Mclouth may have to alter today’s plans.

But it now appears that Mother Nature may cooperate until at least 2 p.m. ET.  This would likely allow Jurrjens the chance to complete the four innings that he is scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals today.  

If rain prevents the Braves and Cardinals from playing this afternoon, Jurrjens would get his work in during a Minor League game tomorrow. 

Because the Braves slated each of their pitchers to have at least one extra day of rest before their first regular season start, Jurrjens would still be on a normal schedule leading up to his season debut on April 7 against the Cubs. 

Speaking of Minor League games, McLouth was originally slated to bat eighth during this afternoon’s game against the Cardinals.  But the Braves decided it would be better to have him head to one of the back fields today to rack up some at-bats against Minor Leaguers.

If this Minor League game is played, McLouth would be able to compile nine at-bats (one per inning) and possibly get out of the funk that has led him to record just one hit and 14 strikeouts in his first 35 at-bats this year. 

If Mother Nature prevents play today, McLouth could certainly attempt to compile these at-bats during the same Minor League game that Jurrjens would be pitching in tomorrow.

Second round of cuts:  The battle for the final two available spots in the Braves bullpen lost a few candidates this morning, when it was revealed that right-hander Jeff Lyman and left-handers Mike Dunn and Mariano Gomez will spend the rest of camp on the Minor League side. 

Dunn and Lyman were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.  Gomez was among four players re-assigned to Minor League camp. The others were catcher Orlando Mercado and outfielders Mitch Jones and Brent Clevlen.

While Dunn showed the strong arm the Braves knew they were getting when they acquired him as part of the deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees, he also displayed the inconsistent command that has been present since he ended his days as a position player at the conclusion of the 2006 season.

“Dunn has that good arm,” Cox said. “He just needs more command of that fastball.  He rushes out there a little too much.  It’s just a matter of command.” 

Lyman, who allowed one run and recorded five strikeouts in four innings, also impressed Cox during his first big league camp. 

But as we move forward, it now appears that the battle for the final two bullpen spots will be waged between Scott Proctor, Jesse Chavez,  Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Jo-Jo Reyes and Manny Acosta.

It still seems optimistic to think that Proctor, who is just 10 1/2 months removed from Tommy John surgery, would be ready by Opening Day. Cox understands that the veteran right-hander wouldn’t be available on a regular basis during the early weeks of the season.

But with some scheduled offdays present during this two-week stretch, Cox is still at least keeping this possibility alive. 

Assuming that Proctor begins the season on the disabled list, Chavez, Venters and Reyes could be deemed the front-runners in this competition.  Kimbrel undoubtedly has the greatest upside and it’s obvious that Cox really likes this young flamethower.

But Kimbrel could benefit from a little more Minor League seasoning and the Braves would have reason to be reluctant to open a 40-man roster spot for him with the understanding that he might be sent back down when Proctor is deemed ready. 

Chavez has pitched more effectively since struggling in his first two outings and has the experience that he gained while making 73 appearances for the Pirates last year.

Venters or Reyes would team with Eric O’Flaherty to give the Braves two left-handed options during the middle innings. 

With the lack of depth in the starting pitching department, it still would seemingly benefit the Braves to have Reyes start the year with Gwinnett and be stretched out in the event that one of Atlanta’s starting pitchers goes down with an injury.

While Kris Medlen would be available to make a spot start or fill a vacant rotation spot for an extended stretch, you could argue that his move into a starter’s role weakens the depth that could benefit the Braves as they attempt to protect the arms of Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito and Proctor. 

Still with Reyes pitching just one inning in his past two outings, it seems the Braves are seriously thinking about having him begin the year in Atlanta’s bullpen. 

Cox has routinely praised Venters’ sinker and history has shown that he likes to have a pitcher (think Kevin Gryboski) like this available to utilize when there’s a need to erase a threat with a double-play groundout. 

BRAVES LINEUP vs. Cardinals

Cabrera 8
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Glaus 5
Escobar 6
Heyward 9
Blanco 8
Jurrjens 1 

   
 

Tight battles for final roster spots

The Braves will be going back to Atlanta in 15 days and as things currently stand there isn’t any way to confidently state who is going to win their final available roster spots. 

We entered camp with the belief that Mitch Jones, Brent Clevlen, Joe Thurston and Brooks Conrad would battle for the one spot available for a position player.   Nearly a month later, it looks like this is a two-man race being closely contested by Thurston and Conrad.

Thurston and Conrad have enjoyed nearly identical success at the plate.  Both have hit .333 (8-for-24) with a .533 slugging percentage.   Thurston has hit one more homer (2-1) and Conrad has compiled the better on-base percentage (.448 versus .360) with the assistance he has gained through an advantage in the walk (5-1) department. 

Both of these Minor League journeyman’s defensive versatility limits them to second base and third base.  If you’re looking for a current tiebreaker, it would likely come via the number of dazzling defensive plays Conrad has played at second base. 

“He has made more great plays than anybody else in the state of Florida,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. 

Entering camp it appeared there would be two available spots in the bullpen and during the early days Jesse Chavez emerged as a favorite for one of those spots.  But after struggling in his first two outings, Chavez fell back in the heat of a competition that could be won by a couple of underdogs. 

Chavez, who hasn’t allowed a run in his past two outings, Manny Acosta and left-handers Mike Dunn and Mariano Gomez are scheduled to follow starter Tommy Hanson during this afternoon’s game against the Marlins. 

While each of these hurlers still appear to be in the mix for one of the final two spots in the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel and left-hander Jonny Venters seem to be moving to the top of the list of candidates. 

As you know, Cox has routinely praised Kimbrel, who has allowed just two hits in four scoreless innings.  In addition, the veteran manager has continued to talk about the “super sinker” thrown by Venters, who has allowed just one earned run in his 5 1/3 innings.

This isn’t to say that Venters and Kimbrel have emerged as the definitive favorites in this battle.  But it seems pretty safe to say that both of these non-roster invitees are at least in the lead pack.   

NOTES:  Today’s game is being televised by MLB.TV, SportSouth and MLB Network. The folks at Fox Sports Net, which owns SportSouth, decided to have a split broadcast with Braves announcer Joe Simpson working in the booth with Marlins announcer Rich Waltz.

If everybody is in the sharing spirit down here in Jupiter, do you think the Cardinals could loan their first baseman when the Braves conclude their two-day swing in Jupiter tomorrow afternoon.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and yes this is why the Braves are wearing their green hats against the Marlins today.

Braves lineup for Wednesday’s game @ Marlins

McLouth 8
Prado 4
Chipper 5
Glaus 3
McCann 2
Escobar 6
Heyward 9
Diaz 7
Hanson 1 
 

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