Results tagged ‘ Jordan Schafer ’

Schafer impressing Fredi with his work ethic

Because there is a potential that Jordan Schafer still has a bright future, it seems hard to believe the Braves would begin the season with him as their fourth outfielder.  It would seem more prudent to allow him to make up for the time he lost the past couple years by spending at least a few months playing everyday in the Minors. 

With this being said, the Braves have to spend the next couple weeks allowing Schafer to play as much as possible in Grapefruit League games.  If Chipper Jones’ knee ever becomes problematic enough that Martin Prado is forced to experience a long-term stay at third base, Joe Mather could play left field. 

But instead of putting too much faith in Mather’s ability to play an everyday role, the Braves would seem better suited to give Schafer every chance he can to play and further prove that he has distanced himself from the left wrist injury that has wrecked his past two seasons. 

In somewhat of a selfish manner, I’m hoping Schafer spends the next couple of weeks proving to be just as exciting as he was during the 2009 Grapefruit League season.  As I’ve said in the past, I’ve grown to like the kid, who has understandably been defined as brash and cocky. 

If he was brash, cocky, lazy and expecting everything to be handed to him, it would be tough to like him.  But while showing some arrogance, this kid has proven that he is willing to work and put in the extra time necessary to resurrect his once highly-promising career.

“I’ll tell you what, (Schafer) and Prado are probably the two hardest-working guys we have,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “They’re here at  6 o’clock in the morning and when you leave, they’re still in there doing something.”

It appears Kenshin Kawakami could arrive in camp next week to get a close look at Schafer’s work ethic. Of course the Braves will be satisfied if he simply arrives in time to prove impressive enough for some pitching-hungry club to prove willing to trade for him and relieve the Braves of some of his $6.77 million salary. 

Kawakami has landed an appointment to complete all of the steps needed to secure his visa.  The Braves believe this should allow him to exit his native Japan within the next couple of days.

By the time Kawakami arrives, Eric O’Flaherty might have fully digested the 48-ounce steak he ate at Shula’s Steakhouse Wednesday night.  He also consumed a bowl of French onion soup long before Chipper was left with the big bill.

WORTH NOTING:
  As mentioned earlier this week, Brett Oberholtzer has been impressing many of the Braves coaches during the early days of Spring Training.  In fact, there are some who believe this left-hander out of Delaware will soon be mentioned with the organization’s Big Three —  Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino…Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Nate McLouth, Eric Hinske and Schafer will all make the trip to Port St. Lucie for Saturday’s Grapefruit League season opener. 

     

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.

 

Schafer demoted to Double-A Mississippi

The Braves sent Jordan Schafer a message Friday when they informed the former top prospect that he is being sent back to Double-A Mississippi. 

Schafer, who missed the first part of this season while his surgically right hand got stronger, was hit .201 in 52 games with two homers and a .255 on-base percentage with Triple-A Gwinnett this year. 

The Braves entered this season determined to allow Schafer to stay in the Minors for most of the year to make up for the time he missed in 2008 (50-game suspension) and 2009 (injured hand in fourth game of Atlanta’s season and then played through the end of May with the injury). 

By sending Schafer to Mississippi, the Braves are hoping he finds some of the focus he might have lacked the past couple of months, while having the comforts of living in the condo he purchased last year in Atlanta. 

Schafer is a very likable kid, but his confidence can often be mistaken for cockiness.   Hopefully this will be the kick in the rear that will allow him to realize he’s going to have to show some more determination before he gets a chance to truly live the big league lifestyle again.

Fregosi in Miami:  While Braves top scout Jim Fregosi is in Miami this weekend for the Marlins series, I’m back in Atlanta.  Yes Fregosi has had a chance to watch Cody Ross over the course of the past few days. 

But it appears the primary reason he remained near his residence in south Florida this week was to have the opportunity to talk with Bobby Cox and get a better understanding of what the Braves might need down the stretch.

There’s a chance the Braves could land Ross if the Marlins reach a point where they aren’t asking for much in return.  But right now, it doesn’t appear that they are showing definite interest in the 29-year-old center fielder, who has hit .167 with a .464 OPS this month.

Resop is ready to pitch for some Major League club

Chris Resop has plenty of reason to believe he’ll join a Major League roster within the next week.  The Braves now have to decide whether it will be theirs or one of the many Major League clubs that need to improve their pitching staff.

The one-hit shutout that Resop completed for Triple-A Gwinnett in Norfolk last night will likely spark enhance his position on the trade market.  But despite the fact that he has spent the past three months dominating the International League, other clubs have shown just mild interest in trading for this 28-year-old right-hander, who has been rejuvenated since becoming a starter. 

Sources have indicated that there wasn’t a single scout from a Major League organization in Norfolk last night to watch Resop complete this masterpiece.  In fact the one scout that was present was representing a club from the Korean Baseball League.   

With this in mind, there’s further reason to believe Resop could be in uniform at Turner Field on Tuesday when the Braves begin a three-game series against the Rays. 

If the Braves don’t add Resop to their Major League roster by Tuesday, then he is contractually obligated to demand a trade or request to be a free agent.   The latter option certainly won’t come into play. 

Without gaining some return, the Braves certainly aren’t going to simply waive goodbye to a guy who has posted a 1.84 ERA and compiled an IL-best 81 strikeouts in the 73 1/3 innings he has completed for Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

It’s understanding that clubs are skeptical about a 28-year-old pitcher who has posted a 5.61 ERA in 57 career Major League appearances (all as a reliever).  But at the same time, they have to recognize that his move into the rotation this year has led him to become more of a pitcher than a thrower. 

No longer trying to blow his four-seamer past opponents, Resop has baffled opponents with a heavy dose of two-seam sinkers and a curveball that is certainly much better than it was when he last appeared in the Majors with the Braves during the 2008 season.

If the Braves are unable to trade Resop, they will likely add him to their bullpen on Tuesday.  This would seemingly provide them a chance to send Jesse Chavez to Gwinnett to work on his secondary pitches, namely the curveball that he’s trying to develop.

Or the Braves could opt to send Craig Kimbrel back to Gwinnett to get the regular work he needs to aid his development. 

Whatever the case, Resop will likely be in a Major League uniform at some point next week.

McLouth update:  Still haven’t received any updates about Nate McLouth’s condition.  If the Braves are forced to place him on the disabled list, it would make sense for them to promote Brandon Hicks to serve as a backup infielder while Omar Infante would spend the next couple weeks seeing more time in the outfield. 

Brett Clevlen, who has been on the disabled list since May 24, still hasn’t resumed playing and Jordan Schafer isn’t even an option.  Even if Schafer had not had some setbacks that prevented him from beginning to play in May, he needed to spend at least half this season and maybe longer in the Minors to make up for the time he lost over the course of the past two seasons.

Look ahead:  The Braves will spend the next six games playing against the leaders in the AL Central (Twins) and AL East (Rays).   They enter this stretch with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Phillies, the same exact advantage they held when they began this 11-game road trip. 

Tim Hudson will take the mound looking to continue his success against the Twins.  In 13 career starts against them, he has gone 6-2 with a 2.12 ERA.  Justin Morneau (1-for-6) and Joe Mauer (0-for-3)  have had limited opportunities to face the Braves right-hander. 

But this would certainly be a good night for the Twins to put Jim Thome in their lineup.  He is 9-for-16 with four homers in his career against Hudson. 

Bobby Cox has opted to use Brian McCann as his designated hitter tonight.   This gives Hudson a chance to throw to his good friend David Ross. 

When McCann has been behind the plate this year, Hudson has posted a 2.62 ERA and seen opponents hit .246 with a .344 OBP.  When Ross has served as his catcher, the veteran right-hander has posted a 2.20 ERA and limited opponents to a .189 BA and .237 OBP.   

 

   

Braves looking to claim first sweep of the season

After being swept in two consecutive series, the Braves are hoping to be the ones pushing the brooms by the time they conclude this afternoon’s game against the Astros.

Whether the Braves have taken advantage of the schedule or shown signs of an offensive resurgence shouldn’t really matter.  Frustrated throughout a nine-game losing streak, they needed to right themselves in the manner that they have while winning the first two games of this weekend’s series. 

Braves manager Bobby Cox once again has Nate McLouth in the leadoff role for this afternoon’s game against right-hander Bud Norris. It appears Cox plans to utilize a platoon in the leadoff spot, with McLouth getting the nod whenever the opposing team is starting a right-hander. 

When the Nationals start left-hander Scott Olsen on Thursday night, Omar Infante could be back in the leadoff spot.  Yunel Escobar is still struggling to recover from his groin strain and Cox said on Sunday morning that the club could opt to put him on the disabled list within the next two days.

If Escobar is disabled, Infante would likely handle the shortstop duties and Brandon Hicks could be promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to serve as a backup infielder.   Hicks is hitting just .163 this year.  But with limited options the Braves would likely still tab him because of his tremendous defensive skills. 

Jordan Schafer will begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Class A Rome on Monday.  If Schafer’s surgically-repaired left wrist continues to cooperate, he should become a part of the Gwinnett roster in the near future. 

BRAVES LINEUP vs. Astros  5/2/2010 

McLouth 8
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Glaus 3
Heyward 9
Cabrera 7
Infante 6
Lowe 1

Braves getting healthy as Opening Day approaches

Jason Heyward said that he hopes to return to action tomorrow and Craig Kimbrel now knows that he will begin the upcoming season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer.

As the Braves prepare to oppose CC Sabathia and the Yankees this afternoon,  you can devour these mostly injury-related tidbits that were gathered during batting practice. 

While Yunel Escobar’s back was healthy enough for him to return to return to today’s lineup, the Braves are going to give Heyward at least one more day to rest the shin splints that began bothering him on Sunday. 

When I spoke with Heyward this morning he said, “I hope to play tomorrow.”  But the 20-year-old outfielder added,  “I know this is something that isn’t just going to go away immediately.” 

While Bobby Cox said that there’s a chance Heyward might play tomorrow against the Astros, his tone provided indication that he might wait until at least Thursday before putting his 20-year-old phenom back in the lineup.

Having already compiled 49 at-bats during the Grapefruit League season, Heyward has made all of his necessary preparations for the season.  Even if he rests for another day or two, he’ll still be able to get his timing back while playing the final games of the exhibition season.

Heyward took batting practice this morning and provided further indication that there isn’t any reason to think he won’t be ready for Monday afternoon’s Opening Day game against the Cubs.

Backup catcher David Ross still seems confident that he will be available on Opening Day.  But Ross, who also experienced a pain-free batting practice session this morning, will spend the next couple of days testing the strength of the right groin muscle that he strained on Thursday. 

Ross’ concerns were further diminished this morning, when he was able to run sprints  and do striders without feeling any discomfort.

As for Jordan Schafer, he has recently started taking live batting practice and believes he could join the Gwinnett roster at the end of April.  The 23-year-old center fielder said that he’s been able to strengthen his surgically-repaired left hand and is no longer bothered by the fatigue that it presented earlier this year.   

Kimbrel impresses: With 14 career appearances above the Class A level, Kimbrel arrived in camp as a long shot to win a bullpen spot.  But the 21-year-old right-hander certainly made a strong impression before learning this morning that he will begin the season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer. 

Based on what he saw, Cox said that Kimbrel already has the stuff to be a successful pitcher at the big league level.  But the Braves want him to continue improving his command through the regular work that he wouldn’t receive if he began the season in the Atlanta bullpen.

Kimbrel will remain with the big league club this week and will likely make an appearance during one of the exhibition games played against the White Sox this weekend.

First time for everything:  Having been involved in professional baseball since arriving in Dodgers Minor League camp in 1960, Cox has seen plenty of oddities the game can present  But when the Yankees send Pat Venditte to the mound this afternoon, the Braves manager will see an ambidextrous pitcher for the first time.

Venditte pitched for the Venezuelan Winter League team managed by Eddie Perez this past winter.  Perez said the young Minor Leaguer has good stuff from both sides of the plate, but is especially effective against left-handed hitters. 

You can watch today’s game on MLB.TV and CSS.  Brian Jordan and Mike Morgan will serve as the broadcasters. 

BRAVES LINEUP
Cabrera 9
Prado 4
Chipper 5
Glaus 3
Escobar 6
Diaz 7
McLouth 8
Sammons 2
Kawakami 1   

 

It sure looks like an Opening Day lineup

When a couple of national scribes look at tonight’s Braves lineup, they essentially said something that amounted to “tonight’s game must be televised because that certainly looks like an Opening Day lineup.” 

With Chipper Jones back in the mix to face Roy Halladay and the Phillies tonight, Braves manager Bobby Cox has indeed assembled a lineup that could very easily be identical to the one he constructs before the April 5 Opening Day contest against the Cubs. 

And yes, you will get a chance to see Jason Heyward and Co. on television tonight.  The game will be carried on CSS, MLB Network and online by  MLB.TV.

When asked if tonight’s lineup was an Opening Day lineup, Cox laughed and said, “We might not be able to keep Heyward down that low in the lineup if he keeps hitting like he has been.”

TONIGHT’S LINEUP
Nate McLouth 8
Martin Prado 4
Chipper Jones 5
Troy Glaus 3
Brian McCann 2
Yunel Escobar 6
Jason Heyward 9
Melky Cabrera 7
Kenshin Kawakami 1

Schafer and Jurrjens updates: The most important health-related news of the day might have been the fact that Jair Jurrjens completed another pain-free live batting practice session and is now ready to start against the Yankees on Thursday night in Tampa.

But given that was expected, the most important health-related development seemingly came courtesy of Jordan Schafer, who took batting practice in the indoor cages this afternoon and returned to the dugout with a smile on his face. 

“That’s the best that I’ve felt in 10 months,” said Schafer, who injured his left hand on during the fourth game of last year’s season and then dealt with frustration and discomfort until the ailment was surgically repaired in September. 

Because he was in a cast for an extended period following the surgery, Schafer found himself feeling weak while attempting to swing the bat during the early days of camp.  But it now appears there’s at least a chance he’ll be ready to begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Tonight’s pitchers:  Kenshin Kawakami is scheduled to pitch three innings and Billy Wagner will attempt to rebound from Friday’s shaky season debut. There will also be reason to keep an eye on Jesse Chavez, the right-handed reliever who has struggled during his first two appearances of the year. 

 

 

Heyward proving hazardous to health of vehicles

Jason Heyward will be the first to admit that it really doesn’t matter what he does at the plate while one of the Braves coaches are feeding him pitches. 

But my plan to avoid writing something about his batting practice exploits for a third consecutive day were erased when Bobby Cox informed us the club is actually thinking about instituting protective measures to guard against the fact that Heyward has spent this week attempting to do more damage to vehicles than a Toyota manufacturer. 

When architects constructed the Braves Spring Training complex (which officially became ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex on Thursday afternoon) they obviously didn’t account for this Heyward-like power that provides a daily threat to the cars of the team’s execs who park just beyond the right field wall.

But when he deposited a BP pitch into the sunroof of assistant general manager Bruce Manno’s car on Tuesday afternoon, Heyward produced expensive reminder that these cars aren’t safe when he’s standing in the left side of the batter’s box.

Damages to Manno’s team-issued car were set at $3400.

Truth be told, these cars were in dangerous position before Heyward arrived on the scene.  Kurt Kemp, the club’s director of player personnel, had two of his windshields broken last year and Heyward had nothing to do with that shattered glass. 

When Cox told us the club was thinking about putting some protective netting in front of the cars, it seemed like he was initially joking.  But he said he was serious and then jokingly said the club was going to start fining Heyward, whose left-handed swing has already produced a number of impressive BP blasts this week. 

“We should fine him,” Cox joked. “Make him hit the ball the other way.”

As some of you may already know, Heyward is more than capable of also showing his power to the opposite direction.   During an intra-squad game last year, he directed a Jair Jurrjens pitch off the scoreboard located in left-center field.

Cox on Chipper:  When Chipper Jones was struggling down the stretch last year, he mentioned that he would contemplate retiring if he endured another season as frustrating as 2009 proved to be. 

When asked about this by a reporter on Thursday, Cox quickly said he never gave much thought to the possibility that Jones would choose to walk away from the game before completing his  three-year contract extension that guarantees a $13 million salary each of the next three seasons.

“I never took it to heart at all,” Cox said. “He’ll play three more years and play good.”     

Schafer update:  Like Jurrjens is taking things slow with the hope that his sore shoulder will be strong enough for him to begin throwing off a mound again next week, Jordan Schafer understands there’s no reason for him to push too hard while dealing with a hand that is still dealing with effect that he was in a cast for 18 weeks last year. 

Schafer said that he plans to begin swinging a bat again on Friday.  He took the past two days off because his surgically-repaired left hand was “feeling weak”. 

“I’ve got to build all of those muscles back up,” Schafer said Thursday morning. “It feels a lot better today. I just want to get all of my strength back.  I’ve got six weeks to get ready for the season.  I’m not in any hurry.”

Rotation plans : Cox met with pitching coach Roger McDowell after Thursday’s workout to discuss the Grapefruit League rotation.  He will likely reveal the plans within the next two days.  
 

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.

 

Heyward promoted to Gwinnett

When Jason Heyward arrived for his first Major League Spring Training in February, he said that his goal was to finish this season in the Majors.   Nearing the end of a stellar season, the recently-turned 20-year-old prospect now finds himself just one step away.  

While there’s a chance that Heyward’s ultimate goal will go unfulfilled this year, he’ll at least have the opportunity to attempt to help the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves win meaningful games over the next couple of days and weeks.

The Braves announced Saturday that Heyward had been promoted to the Gwinnett roster.    After being promoted to Double-A Mississippi in early July, the highly-touted prospect had hit .352 with seven homers, a .446 on-base percentage and a .611 slugging percentage.   

If injuries were to create a need for an outfielder in Atlanta, there’s a chance that Heyward could receive the call.   But for now, it appears that his targeted Major League debut will likely occur during the 2010 season.  

The Braves decision to promote Heyward was primarily based on their desire for him to help the Gwinnett club, which is one win away from clinching a spot in the International League playoffs.  

“Jason has played well at Double-A,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said.  “So he was the player the player development staff felt could help the Gwinnett club during the playoffs.”   

Heyward,  who combined to hit .322 with 17 homers and a .561 slugging percentage with Class A-Advanced Myrtle Beach and Mississippi this year, batted third during his debut with Gwinnett on Saturday night.  

When the Braves took Heyward with the 14th overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, they knew they had something special.   But the young outfielder, who is scheduled to participate in the Arizona Fall League may have already exceeded early expectations.   

With their midseason evaluations this year,  Baseball America tabbed Heyward as the game’s top overall prospect.
   
One veteran scout said that Heyward’s talent, intellect and  poise make him the most impressive prospect he’s seen since Derek Jeter.   Another scout, who evaluated 24 clubs this season, said that Heyward was the only prospect that he provided with the highest grade possible.  

In other Gwinnett-related news, the Braves provided their bullpen some more depth by purchasing right-handed reliever Vladimir Nunez’s contract.  To make room for him on the 40-man roster, they promoted Jordan Schafer from Gwinnett and then placed him on the 60-day disabled list.    

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