Results tagged ‘ Josh Anderson ’

Chipper not ready to publicly discuss his future

Chris Resop’s addition to the Braves roster will take a back seat to whatever we can gather about Chipper Jones’ future today.

Originally, it was thought that Jones would address the media this afternoon to discuss his future. 

But because he thinks it’s premature to definitively talk about potential retirement, he does not plan to publicly discuss the details of the meeting he still plans to have with Frank Wren and Bobby Cox this afternoon. 

Chipper has requested this meeting to inform the club about his current thoughts about his career beyond this season. 

While Jones may not be ready to definitively say he will retire at the end of this season, it appears he is more serious about the possibility than he was when he has discussed it in the past.

When addressing his absence from the lineup on Saturday and Sunday, Jones provided some indication that he has reached a point where he has accepted the fact that he is no longer a necessary component of the Braves lineup.

 “I don’t think anybody in here has any less confidence with those guys in the lineup than they do with me,” Jones said. “I think they’ve proven themselves worthy of stepping in and compensating for my absence.”    <p> 

Jones, 38, has batted .228 with three homers  and 22 RBIs in the 51 games he has played for the Braves this year.  This drop in production combined with his desire to spend more time with his family and get away from the daily responsibilities of the baseball season have moved him closer to making this decision to walk away from the final two years of his contract. 
  
The Braves gave Jones a three-year, $42 million contract extension last year.   But despite the fact that he would still be guaranteed $28 million during 2011 and 2012 seasons, he has said that finances won’t influence his decision.  

According to baseball-reference.com, Jones has made more than $140 million throughout a career that began in 1993.

As mentioned earlier, Resop will be added to the 25-man roster later today.  The Braves still haven’t announced which of their relievers they will be sending to Triple-A Gwinnett.  It will likely be Jesse Chavez.  But the could also demote Craig Kimbrel to give him a chance to pitch on a regular basis. 

To compensate for the lack of outfielders in Gwinnett, the Braves have signed Josh Anderson to a Minor League deal.  Anderson hit .294 with three homers in the 40 games he played for Atlanta in 2008.  The speedy outfielder has spent the past two years within the Tigers and Royals organizations.  

Soriano willingly speaks

Santonio Holmes meet#CF3FA7.jpgWhen Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes toe-tapped his way toward Super Bowl MVP honors and then proclaimed he was going to Disney World, he wasn’t lying.  In fact, he and his magical right foot are still here.

Holmes has been training here at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex and he took time on Friday morning to come over to the baseball stadium and enjoy a photo opportunity with a former childhood favorite Chipper Jones, who happens to be a big Steelers fan. 

With Jones wearing Holmes’  Steelers jersey and Holmes sporting Jones’  Braves jersey, the two athletes, who both wear No. 10, posed for a few pictures with Mickey Mouse. 

Jones walked away with a signed football and Holmes gained a baseball signed by Jones. 

Growing up in Florida, Holmes adopted the Braves as his favorite team and chose Jones as his favorite player, primarily because of the fact that he was a switch hitter.

“One of the main reasons I liked him was the ability to switch sides,” Holmes said. “That’s amazing for somebody to be able to do that and have the great hand-eye coordination with his swing lefty and righty and have the ability to hit home runs.  That’s amazing.” 

Yeah, but could Jones go into the corner of the endzone and possess the grace of a ballerina dancer while hauling in the game-winning catch with 35 seconds left in the Super Bowl? 

Speaking of amazing, something must have happened to Rafael Soriano overnight.  After completing a phone conversation on Friday morning, he actually called me and Dave O’Brien over to his locker to discuss the discomfort that he’s been feeling in his left side. 

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were hovering over him in an otherwise empty locker room.  But the conversation was actually cordial and it seems like he believes he might start throwing again within the next few days.   I’ll believe it when I see it.  But it appears he might indeed be in the bullpen to begin the season. 

Who is standing in center field on Opening Night in Philadelphia remains a mystery.  Jordan Schafer has done everything he can to prove that he’s ready to compete at the Major League level.  The five-tool outfielder is a difference maker who will be a fan favorite in Atlanta for many years to come. 

But there’s still reason to believe the Braves might choose to send him to Triple-A Gwinnett to begin the season.  I started to buy into this possibility after a scout reminded me Thursday night that it’s much easier to bring a player up than it is to send him down. 

If Schafer were to begin the season and struggle to the point that the Braves felt the need to send him back to the Minors, there’s a chance the decision could produce psychological damage that would be felt beyond this year. 

While understanding this theory, I don’t think it applies to the ever-confident Schafer.  First of all, I don’t think he’d encounter enormous struggles at the Major League level and if he did, I don’t think it would damage him.

It was obviously a shame that he was forced to pay for his youthful transgressions with the humiliating 50-game suspension that he was handed last year.  But the episode improved his mental strength and allowed him to mature more over the course of a year than I could have ever imagined. 

Gregor Blanco is starting today’s game against the Tigers in center and I’m now at least buying into the possibility that he might be manning that position at the beginning of the season. 

The Braves are exploring the option of trading Josh Anderson, who is out of options, and if they’re able to strike a deal with a team that’s looking for a speedy outfielder, Blanco might be the most sensical option from a business standpoint.

The White Sox are among the teams looking for an outfielder like Anderson.  But manager Ozzie Guillen has said he doesn’t expect the team to looking outside the organization for a center fielder.  We’ll see if this proves to be true.
 
Blanco spent the entire 2008 season in the Majors and people are still buzzing about the way he played during the World Baseball Classic.  If the Braves were to send him to the Minors to begin the season, his trade value would plummet and more importantly, he’s somebody who certainly could be psychologically damaged by such a move. 

OK. Tom Glavine is about to take the mound for his second Grapefruit League start. 

You can view today’s game on MLB.TV or SportSouth, for those of you who still watch baseball on television.

A couple more notes:

Bobby Cox says that Garret Anderson probably won’t return to the lineup until Sunday.  Earlier this week, the Braves said he’d come back on Saturday. 

Because he was feeling ill again on Friday, the Braves sent Casey Kotchman to be examined by a doctor.  Kotchman has battled the flu most of the past week.  He said he felt good on Wednesday and then started feeling sick again on Thursday.

Today’s Lineup:

Gregor Blanco CF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian McCann C
Jeff Francoeur RF
Omar Infante SS
Martin Prado 1B
Josh Anderson LF
Tom Glavine P

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? 
        

Hanson ready to face Panama

During his 1985 rookie season, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell learned that you had to have thick skin and a good personality to co-exist with the personalities possessed by the likes of Keith Hernandez, Wally Backman, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Howard Johnson.

That was the year that Gooden went 24-4 and the Mets finished three games behind the Cardinals in the National League East race.

As McDowell remembers, at the conclusion of that season, Hernandez hollered at Gooden and said, “Hey Doc, if you hadn’t lost those four games we would have won the division.”

Gooden’s name came up this morning, because I wanted to get a sense about whether you can get an early feel about whether a top prospect is going to truly be special.  In another words, I was chasing another Tommy Hanson angle.

Nobody is saying that Hanson will duplicate the early dominance of Gooden, who went 58-19 with a 2.28 ERA and 744 strikeouts in the  744 2/3 innings he completed during his first three big league seasons.
 
But the more you hear about Hanson, the more you want to see and hear more about him.

“I just want to buy stock in Tommy Hanson,” said 300-game winner Don Sutton, who arrived in Braves camp on Tuesday morning to prepare for the games he’ll broadcast with his new radio parter, Jim Powell, this weekend.

Sutton, who has rejoined the Braves broadcast team after spending the past two years with the Nationals, will get a chance to watch Hanson pitch against Panama this afternoon.  Maybe this time around, Carlos Lee will actually recognize that this isn’t just some run-of-the-mill prospect.  

After being frozen by a couple of breaking balls that Hanson threw in his Grapefruit League debut last week, the Astros left fielder acted like he was unimpressed by essentially limiting his comments to, “He throws hard.”

Based on the fact that Lee had just looked at a called third-strike slider, maybe he didn’t actually get a good look at the right-hander, who certainly has more than simply a fastball that has registered 99 mph.

Hanson made another good impression on the Braves coaching staff yesterday, when he showed up to throw and work out before the inter-squad game. His decision to come to the park on an off-day further proved his early fame hasn’t led to him gaining an early sense of entitlement.

Acosta set to face his country:  Manny Acosta decided last week that he won’t participate in the World Baseball Classic.  So instead of pitching for Panama on Tuesday, the right-handed reliever will be pitching against his native country’s team.  He is scheduled to throw one inning.

Walking wounded:  Jordan Schafer (shoulder), Josh Anderson (tailbone), Casey Kotchman (finger and quad) and Freddie Freeman (quad) are all nursing minor injuries that might keep them out of the lineup for another day or two.  But each of them participated in Tuesday morning’s workout. 

Prepared to play: Garret Anderson thinks he might be ready to make his Braves debut on Thursday against Venezuela.  The veteran outfielder, who signed with the Braves last week, has told Bobby Cox that he needs approximately 30 at-bats to be ready for the regular season.

Odds and ends:  Tom Glavine is expected to arrive in Braves camp on Wednesday…Peter Moylan said that he hasn’t felt any discomfort since throwing an inning against the Phillies on Sunday.  It was his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 8.

Today’s Lineup:
Yunel Escobar SS
Omar Infante CF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Greg Norton 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Matt Diaz LF
Brandon Jones DH
Dave Ross C
Martin Prado 2B

- Mark Bowman  

  

Kawakami makes scoreless debut

When Adam LaRoche was traded to Pittsburgh, I said, “Please do whatever you can to keep my dad interested in the Pirates until at least the end of May.”

Two years later, Dad’s positive remarks about the Pirates still solely center around PNC Park and their Friday night fireworks displays. It’s been 17 years since the late John McSherry incorrectly ruled Sid Bream to be safe and still it’s downright painful to be a Pirates fan. 

(NOTE:  As somebody pointed out after this post was published, it was actually Randy Marsh who made the call. McSherry started behind the plate and then began feeling ill.  Personally, I didn’t begin feeling ill until Bonds unleashed that toss, which certainly didn’t appear to have  the assistance of any banned performance-enhancing aids.)

But the Buccos do have a great Spring Training park and it’s a beautiful Friday afternoon for baseball.  Kenshin Kawakami worked a perfect first inning and allowed just a bloop single off LaRoche’s back in his scoreless two-inning sting. 

Kawakami threw 18 of his 29 pitches for strikes and ended his afternoon with a strikeout of Jose Tabata.  While pitching in the United States for the first time, the Japanese hurler made a solid first impression.   

In a few innings we’ll gain a better understanding about why members of the Braves front office are so high on Kris Medlen, who actually looks younger than Brent Lillibridge,

Medlen has been described as a poor man’s Greg Madddux.   The 24-year-old right-hander stands 5-10, weighs approximately 185 pounds and has a baby face that might lead some cinema workers to card him if he attempted to purchase tickets to a rated-R movie. 

After moving into Double-A Mississippi’s starting rotation midway through the 2008 season, Medlen worked 92 1/3 innings, recorded 90 strikeouts and issued 21 walks.  In the 25 innings he worked during the Arizona Fall League, he registered 25 strikeouts, issued one walk and limited opponents to a .203 batting average. 

“If he was 6-foot tall, you’d be hearing a lot more about this guy,” one National League scout said.

When asked this morning about who he is considering to use as his leadoff hitter, Braves manager Bobby Cox mentioned Josh Anderson, Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson.  It still appears Anderson is the favorite. 

But the fact that Anderson has recorded a .340 on-base percentage during his Minor League career provides some concern.  He doesn’t possess the same plate discipline as Gregor Blanco and there’s reason to wonder what his OBP would be over the course of an entire big league season.

Some of you have said you would have the perfect leadoff hitter if you meshed the best traits presented by Anderson and Blanco.  Over the past few days, I’ve heard some of the Braves coaches (not Cox) say the same thing.

- Mark Bowman   

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 to Seattle

Because of the time it took for him to reach a decision and the fact that he’d had limited contact with the Braves in more than 24 hours, I can’t say I’m shocked that Ken Griffey Jr. chose to sign with the Mariners. 

Seattle provides him a unique nostalgic opportunity to return to his Major League roots.  In addition, the Mariners were willing to provide more money than the Braves.

As of last night, both teams were offering a $2 million guarantee.  The incentive package offered by the Mariners was more financially lucrative.

With Griffey out of the picture, look for the Braves to make a trade or give one of their young outfielders a chance to platoon in left field with Matt Diaz.  They seem more intrigued with these options than the prospect of signing free agent Garrett Anderson.

I think this might definitely open the door for Jordan Schafer, who certainly has more power potential than Gregor Blanco or Josh Anderson.  Anderson is out of options and likely to land a roster spot.  Schafer is a sound defender who can play both left and center.

Having received a Major League-low 27 homers from their outfielders last year, the Braves needed to find some power to add to their outfield mix.  Their best chance to gain this power might  be via trade.  

What made Griffey more intriguing than Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady was his cost.  Now Wren might have to find a way to be able to afford one of these two Yankees outfielders.

- Mark Bowman

Is Griffey truly the best fit?

Many of the Braves have publicly endorsed the idea of signing Ken Griffey, Jr. to serve in a left field platoon with Matt Diaz.  But others have privately wondered whether “The Kid” would truly be their best fit. 

Because of his respect for Bobby Cox, Griffey likely won’t have any problem with temporarily ending those days of turning his hat around and wearing earrings while on the field. 

But these are just a couple of the Griffey-related minor issues that the Braves have to worry about while wondering whether signing the outfielder would create a negative clubhouse distraction.

As one of six Major Leaguers to reach the 600-homer plateau, Griffey is indeed one of the true legends of the game.  In fact the belief that he’s never used any illegal performance-enhancing substances lead me to consider him to be the greatest player of this generation. 

This obviously leads me to wonder if he truly could remain happy while serving in a platoon role over the course of an entire season.  But at 39 years-old, it might be time for him to realize his statistics prove that it’s time to make this concession.

Over the course of the past three seasons, Griffey has hit .284 with 53 homers and an .886 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) against right-handed pitchers.  In 444 fewer at-bats against left-handers during this span, he’s hit .216 with 22 homers and a .689 OPS. 

While Griffey undoubtedly seems to be the best left-handed option in a left field platoon, his presence would certainly complicate matters for the other younger left-handed-hitting  outfielders  — –  Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco, Jordan Schafer, Brandon Jones –  who could also fill that role. 

Anderson is out of options and because of this he’ll be given every opportunity to win the starting job in center.  If he does win this job, Griffey would likely occasionally spell him in center.  The way the roster currently stands, this would also likely mean that Jones, Blanco and Schafer would all begin this season in the Minors. 

There’s no doubt that Jones, Blanco and Schafer could benefit from additional seasoning at the Minor League level.  But Schafer certainly has the potential to be Major League-ready early in the season and it would be a shame if Griffey’s presence blocks his path. 

But with this being said, when this time comes, the Braves will have options.

They could either attempt to pass Anderson through waivers.  Or if the decision to promote Schafer has something to do with Griffey’s performance, they could always decide to part ways with the legendary outfielder, who likely won’t come at a cost of more than $1.5 million.

Given the already-youthful makeup of their roster, I understand why some in the Braves clubhouse are wondering whether it would be best to give some of the young outfielders a chance to prove what they can do at the Major League level. 

But I’m of the mindset that when you have a chance to win now, you do what’s best for the immediate future.  Because of that, Griffey seems to be a bargain gamble that the Braves should make.

- Mark Bowman

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