Results tagged ‘ Kenshin Kawakami ’

Kawakami is in Braves camp…for now

When Kenshin Kawakami arrived in Braves camp this morning, he introduced himself to manager Fredi Gonzalez and renewed acquaintances with a caffeinated Derek Lowe. 

Instead of greeting his former rotation mate with, “Don’t worry, they didn’t want me last year”, Lowe simply welcomed Kawakami back and playfully said something about how the Braves had to send Brett Favre’s jet to get the Japanese hurler. 

With his visa issues resolved Kawakami was able to leave Japan and arrive in Braves camp more than two weeks after pitchers and catchers staged their first workout.

“It feels like I was just in elementary school and I was sick the whole time and just came back,” Kawakami said through his interpreter.

At least Kawakami has managed to maintain a sense of humor as he prepares to enter a tough situation.

Kawakami is well aware that the Braves have spent the past four months attempting to trade him.  He also knows that if he stays within the Atlanta organization, he’ll likely begin the season pitching in either suburban Atlanta’s Gwinnett County or Pearl, Miss. 

But when asked, Kawakami refused to admit that he’s hoping to be traded.

“To be honest, I can’t think about that right now,” Kawakami said. “If anything, I’d love to be on this team.”

When the Braves attempted to deal him to some interested clubs from the Japanese League, Kawakami said he wanted a chance to pitch in the United States for at least one more season. 

Obviously, this was a right he earned when the Braves opted to give him a three-year, $23 million contract before the start of the 2009 season.  Since then, they’ve seen him go 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in 50 appearances (41 starts).

Through the first two years of this deal the Braves have paid Kawakami  $1.79 million per win.  Considering there’s a good possibility that he never pitches again in Atlanta, that number will likely look even more Hampton-esque before it’s all said and done.

It’s believed there were some Japanese clubs willing to pay nearly half of the $6.77 million Kawakami is owed in the final year of his contract.  Major League clubs haven’t been willing to offer quite as much. 

The Pirates showed some interest and the Orioles were believed to have offered to pay the Braves $2 million for Kawakami.

Because the Braves waited to see if they could get more, Kawakami now prepares for a season without knowing exactly where he’ll be pitching.

Check and later today for a complete story about Kawakami’s arrival.

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman   

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.

  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. 


Odds and ends from an icy week

When Fredi Gonzalez answered the phone Wednesday and informed me that he and Roger McDowell were in the process of shoveling Bobby Cox’s driveway, I figured I had gained a light-hearted tidbit to start a story. 

But when Cox called from his sunny Mexico locale Thursday, he informed me that I didn’t get all of the story.  In fact, I missed what truly was the humorous part. 

When I told Cox that Fredi and Roger had cleaned his driveway, he said, “Yeah, I know.  Did they also tell you that they both fell down and slid all the way to the bottom of the driveway?”

That would have been priceless.  Roger has proven that he has the versatility that most other closers have never possessed.  I mean over the course of the past two decades he has been both the Second Spitter and the Second Luger.  Not many people can ever cough that up when composing their bio.

OK, enough of the winter-related nonsense.  I mean, we don’t even have time to mention that the number of school days missed by our kids here in Atlanta matched the number of wins Kawakami totaled in his final 33 starts with the Braves. 

Speaking of Kawakami, it will be interesting to see if the Braves decide to invite him to Spring Training. 

Julio Teheran, who will most likely be among this year’s non-roster invitees, will be one of the 26 Braves prospects who will gather at Turner Field next week for the club’s first Rookie Development Program.

Teheran, Edward Salcedo, Randall Delgado, Christian Bethancourt, Matt Lipka, Arodys Vizcaino and Tyler Pastornicky are among the most recognizable prospects who have been invited to participate.

They will participate in some on-field activities with Minor League field coordinator Dave Trembley and also learn about some off-field issues, like how to deal with the media and social media. 

When you get a chance, check out the story I wrote about Chipper today.  It’s tough to say somebody looked good when they are in an indoor batting cage in the middle of January.  But as he continued to center Alan Butts’ pitches today, you could see Chipper still has that confidence and swagger. 

It’s amazing how things have changed since June, when he was ready to retire at the end of 2010.  While talking to him today, I would have to say that he genuinely believes that 2012 could be in his future. 


Kawakami outrighted to Mississippi

There is little reason to believe Kenshin Kawakami will be a part of the Braves rotation next year.  But the Japanese hurler continues to provide a burden to the clubs payroll as general manager Frank Wren attempts to determine how much money he has to satisfy offseason needs.

Wren’s attempts to trade Kawakami or sell him to a Japanese club have so far proven to be unsuccessful.  But the Braves have removed the 34-year-old hurler from their 40-man roster.

Kawakami passed through waivers and was sent outright to the Double-A Mississippi roster.   He  has gone 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in 50 appearances (41 starts) since signing a three-year, $23 million contract with the Braves before the start of the 2009 season.

The Braves still owe Kawakami $6.67 million heading into the final year of this contract.

The Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters are among the Japanese clubs that are believed to have shown interest in Kawakami.  But another unidentified Japanese team provided the Braves reason to believe they would be willing to assume more of the $6.67 million figure than those two teams.

Kawakami has revealed that he does not like pitching in the Tokyo Dome, which serves as the home for the Yomuri Giants.  But if he remains with the Braves, he might have to find a liking to pitch in Minor League ballparks.
After Kawakami went 1-9 with a 4.48 ERA in his first 15 starts this year, the Braves put him in their bullpen and provided him just a one-inning relief appearance before optioning him to Triple-A Gwinnett in August. 

Given a chance to make an emergency start in place of an injured Derek Lowe on Sept. 3, Kawakami allowed the Marlins five earned runs and issued four walks in a 73-pitch, three-inning effort.   He would pitch just one more inning of relief before the season concluded. 

Instead of allowing Kawakami to pitch in place of an injured Jair Jurrjens, the Braves gave Brandon Beachy three starts during the regular season’s final two weeks.   Beachy, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, had made a total of 21 Minor League starts before being thrust into the thick of a pennant race. 

When the Braves traveled to San Francisco to begin their National League Division Series, they did not include Kawakami in their traveling party.  Once the regular season was complete, they told him he was free to return to his native Japan.     


Trade talks could soon heat up for the Braves

There hasn’t been a lot of buzz surrounding the Braves during the early portion of this Hot Stove Season.  But there’s a sense that things might heat up after Frank Wren assembles with his peers at the general manager meetings in Orlando early next week.

While the Braves might eventually land a veteran reliever or possibly another starting pitcher on the free-agent market, their primary focus is to find at least one outfielder.  With anywhere from $10-15 million to spend, it appears they’ll most likely fill this need via the trade market. 

The Braves have seemingly shown some interest in free agent outfielder Pat Burrell, who rejuvenated his career while helping the Giants win the World Series.  But early indications are that the veteran, defensively-challenged outfielder might prove to be too expensive.

Thus it appears more likely that the Braves will find themselves taking a gamble on an outfielder available via trade.   The Dodgers don’t seem interested in trading Matt Kemp and the Braves don’t seem too interested in even contemplating the idea of taking a chance on B.J. Upton.

There’s a chance that Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox) or Colby Rasmus could be acquired for the right price.  But the Braves seem intent on finding a right-handed outfielder to fill their already left-handed heavy lineup.

Thus it seems more likely that they would pursue somebody like Josh Willingham from the Nationals or maybe a potential leadoff hitter like Rajai Davis from the A’s.

Davis produced a mediocre .320 on-base percentage while hitting .284 and recording 50 stolen bases this past year.  Willingham’s injury woes increased this past summer when he was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery in August to repair meniscus in his left knee. 

With limited funds, the Braves are likely going to have to acquire an outfielder who will be viewed as “having some warts.”   But as the Giants proved this past year, you can benefit from taking chances on guys like Burrell and Aubrey Huff when you have a solid pitching staff. 

The Braves will have a better idea of how much money they can spend once they determine where Kenshin Kawakami will be pitching next year.  A month ago, it appeared they had found a Japanese club willing to acquire Kawakami and offset about $3 million of the $6.67 million the Braves owe him in the final year of his contract.

There has sense been some reason to believe that Kawakami would rather continue pitching in the United States.  The Yomuri Giants were believed to be one of the clubs interested in the 34-year-old right-hander. 

Kawakami has said that he doesn’t like pitching in the Tokyo Dome, which serves as the Giants home.  My only response to that is, “Would he rather pitch in Gwinnett County’s Coolray Field?

If they need additional funds to land the outfielder they are seeking or simply need to enhance a trade package, the Braves might opt to trade one of their projected starters for the 2011 season.  They won’t deal Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson or Mike Minor.  Nor do they seem very excited about the possibility of trading Jair Jurrjens.

Thus we’re back where we were last year, when they were contemplating the idea of trading either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. But this year, it doesn’t appear they’ll be actively shopping Lowe like they were last year before reaching the point where they had to deal Vazquez to the Yankees. 

Having gone 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his final five regular season starts and then impressing in his two postseason starts, Lowe certainly looks more appealing than he did at this time last year.  But the Braves would certainly be hard pressed to deal him without eating at least a portion of the $30 million they owe him over the next two years. 

If the Braves end up trading a pitcher, Vazquez will certainly be among the pitchers that they target to fill the rotation void.  But there is a belief that the Nationals or Marlins will be willing to offer more to give him a chance to rekindle the success he enjoyed in the NL East in 2009.

Minor League hires: When the Braves announce their Minor League coaching staff within the next couple of days, there will be a couple of familiar names.  Former Orioles manager Dave Trembley has reportedly been hired to serve as the Minor League field coordinator. 

In addition, Jonathan Schuerholz is expected to be named the manager for the Gulf Coast League Braves.  Schuerholz is the son of former Braves GM and current president John Schuerholz.

After playing his college ball at Auburn University, the younger Schuerholz played six seasons in the Braves organization, advancing as far as the Triple-A level.   He has spent the past couple seasons serving as the club’s Minor League infield instructor. 

This role provided Schuerholz the opportunity to be around the game on a daily basis and spend countless hours interacting with the likes of Triple-A Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage and former Double-A Mississippi Phil Wellman.        



Odds and ends: Freeman and Kawakami updates

Now that everyone in the baseball world knows Cody Ross, it’s time to reminisce about the day that Chuck James didn’t. 

Ross homered off James in the second inning of a July 25, 2006 game at Turner Field.  Two innings later, the then-Marlins outfielder took the Braves southpaw deep again. 

Now obviously I wasn’t present to witness the developments that ensued.  But this is how the story has been often told by Braves players over the past few years.

After Ross’ fourth-inning homer gave the Marlins what proved to be a decisive two-run lead, James slapped his glove against the bench and said, “I can’t believe he hit that pitch.” 

This prompted Scott Thorman to say, “I don’t know why you can’t believe it.  He hit that same pitch out two innings ago.”

Further proving that he was never suited to be a rocket scientist, James said, “That was that same guy?” 

While James revived his playing career as an effective reliever in the Nationals Minor League system this year, Ross was enjoying a roller-coaster ride that has introduced him to October fame and put and his Giants teammates one win away from reaching the World Series. 

This certainly didn’t seem to be expected when the Giants slipped past the injury-depleted Braves with three one-run wins in the National League Division Series. But while walking through the Phillies clubhouse after they lost Game 4 Wednesday night, it was obvious that they have certainly come to respect this San Francisco bunch that has verified you can successfully gamble on offensive pieces if you have a strong pitching staff in place.

There is certainly no reason to take anything away from what Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and San Francisco’s solid bullpen have done during this NL Championship Series.  But you have to wonder if they would have found this same level of success if Chase Utley was at full strength. 

Utley injured his thumb sliding into second base on June 28 and learned a few days later that he would need to undergo a surgical procedure that would sideline him for a little more than six weeks.  In the 43 games he played after returning the All-Star second baseman hit .273 with a .410 slugging percentage. 

While going 2-for-15 with no extra-base hits through the first four games of this NLCS, Utley has continued to search for the power he displayed while compiling a .533 slugging percentage in the four seasons combined. 

Sound familiar? 

Jason Heyward hit .299 with a .608 slugging percentage in the 31 games he played before injuring his left thumb sliding into third base on May 14.   The Braves outfielder ended up missing just two weeks (just before the All-Star break) with this injury, which wasn’t deemed serious enough to be surgically repaired. 

But there was no doubt that the injury proved serious enough to prevent Heyward from operating at full strength for the remainder of the season.  He slugged just .421 in the 111 games that he played after jamming his thumb.  The 21-year-old All-Star simply looked fatigued while slugging .385 in his final 30 regular season games. 

Taking two weeks off gave Heyward a chance to occasionally display his great potential in the season’s second half.  But this seemingly wasn’t near enough time for him to completely overcome this thumb ailment, which is similar to the one his good friend Freddie Freeman is currently nursing. 

Freeman jammed his left thumb while sliding into third base during an Arizona Fall League Game Monday afternoon. An MRI exam showed no structural damage to his ligaments. 

But as of late Thursday afternoon, Freeman’s thumb was still pretty swollen and providing a great deal of discomfort.  The Braves aren’t ruling out the possibility that he could begin playing again in the AFL later this month.  They will re-evaluate him again in about a week. 

Progress in Kawakami talks: It sounds like at least one Japanese team has shown strong interest in acquiring Kenshin Kawakami from the Braves.  The club is believed to be willing to assume approximately $3 million of the $6.67 million the Braves still owe the Japanese right-hander next year. 

One Japanese reporter indicted the Yomiuri Giants and Nippon Ham Fighters have shown some interest.  But it’s believed the Braves might have found at least one other more attractive suitor from the Japanese League. 

Heyward’s commercial: Heyward spent a portion of this week in New York City filming a SportsCenter commercial.  The ad, which is expected to run just before the start of Spring Training, will feature him with ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt and the Stanford Tree.  

Kawakami has at least been as effective as Lowe

When Derek Lowe was drawing significant run support and Kenshin Kawakami couldn’t buy a win during the early portion of the season, it was easy to argue that Kawakami had actually been more effective during his starts. 

Now that Lowe is sidelined with discomfort behind his right elbow, I’ve heard many people ask what can the Braves expect out of Kawakami while he fills in for the injured sinkerballer. 

The simple answer is, “basically the same thing that they could expect from Lowe.” It’s been a flip of the coin whenever either of these two hurlers have taken the mound this year. 

In the 15 starts he made before being sent to the bullpen and then Triple-A Gwinnett, Kawakami was 1-9 with a 4.48 ERA.  Opponents hit .271 against him and compiled a .326 on-base percentage.

In the 15 starts Lowe had made before his right arm was essentially “worthless” (stole that description from Lowe),  he was 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA.  Opponents hit .271 and compiled a .336 on-base percentage during this span.

Before being sent to the bullpen, Kawakami was showing occasional signs of improvement.  He allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his last 11 starts.  

During Kawakami’s last eight starts, he went 1-3 with a 3.40 ERA.  Opponents hit .254 against him and reached base at a .313 clip. 

In the eight starts Lowe made before his hand went numb Sunday, he was 2-4 with a 4.27 ERA.  Opponents hit .286 during this stretch and compiled a .330 on-base percentage. 

So even while throwing out the five earned runs that Lowe allowed in three innings against the Marlins last Sunday, it’s apparent that you can still argue that Kawakami has been the more effective payroll eyesore this year. 

There’s little reason to be encouraged about the fact that Kawakami allowed 26 hits, including five homers, in the 21 innings that he completed for Triple-A Gwinnett in August. 

But since I provided some generosity when accounting for Lowe’s numbers, I figure I should provide the reminder that he had been essentially idle for six weeks before heading to the Minors to stretch out his arm and develop a secondary pitch (slider) that he can throw for strikes.

Kawakami didn’t begin throwing this slider until the final week of June.  Thus it might not be smart for him to test it against Dan Uggla, who has four hits, including a homer and a double, in nine at-bats against the Japanese right-hander.

I also wouldn’t suggest Kawakami doing anything to infuriate Gaby Sanchez.  The Marlins first baseman is in the lineup tonight.  Thus I’m going to have to assume he has appealed the the three-game suspension in response to the Bill Goldberg clothesline that he delivered to Nyjer Morgan Wednesday night.

When the Braves pounded Ricky Nolasco for six runs in just two innings Saturday, it was apparent that something might not be right.  The Marlins right-hander had notched a 16-strikeout performance and an  11-strikeout performance in two of his three previous starts against Atlanta.  

With Nolasco sidelined by a torn meniscus in his right knee, the Marlins will send Andrew Miller to the mound for tonight’s series opener.  The once highly-regarded left-hander will be making just his second Major League start this season.  He went 1-8 with a 6.01 ERA in 18 starts with Double-A Jacksonville this year. 

Add the one win Miller notched for Class A-Advanced Jupiter and we now at least have three combined wins between tonight’s starting pitchers.  The Braves and Marlins might light up the scoreboard like the University of Miami did last night on this severely damaged turf. 

Wait until you see the dead grass (especially behind second base) on television tonight.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.


Minor will make Major League debut Monday

Mike Minor will make his Major League debut Monday night in Houston.  Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed Thursday afternoon that Minor will fill rotation spot vacated by Kris Medlen. 

An MRI exam performed Thursday revealed that Medlen has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.  Following standard protocol, the Braves will monitor him for a few weeks before determining whether he will need to undergo the Tommy John ligament transplant surgical process that would sideline him for close to a calendar year.

Wren also revealed that Kenshin Kawakami has agreed to spend the next few weeks with Triple-A Gwinnett.  Kawakami will be attempting to rebuild the endurance he’s lost while pitching just one inning since losing his rotation spot after his June 26 win over the Tigers. 

Minor will pitch two innings for Gwinnett during tonight’s game at Lehigh Valley.  The 21-year-old, who was the seventh overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has gone 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in the five starts he’s made since being promoted to Gwinnett.

Kawakami crowding Braves 25-man roster

The Braves are expected to make a decision regarding Martin Prado’s status later today.  But if there’s even the slightest reason to believe that he’ll be sidelined through Sunday, they almost need to place him on the disabled list. 

With Kenshin Kawakami’s presence, the Braves are already essentially operating with a 24-man roster.  As they attempt to rebound from a miserable road trip, they don’t need to be playing a man short on both their pitching staff and within their offensive mix.

Fortunately Omar Infante is around to soften the effects of Prado’s absence. While he’s not going to supply the same kind of power potential, Infante certainly has the ability to be a catalyst at the top of the lineup and a sound defender at second base. 

Now back to the Kawakami situation.   There’s no doubt that Kawakami’s three-year, $23 million deal falls into the “bad contract” category.  But it’s an even worse contract when you look at the fact that the decision to send him to the Minors could adversely affect the opportunity for the Braves to get other players from Japan in the future. 

This might sound odd.  But multiple Major League sources not affiliated with the Braves, have said that others in Japan would view such a demotion as reason for their players not to affiliate themselves with an organization that has sent somebody like Kawakami to the Minors.  

Now that Jesse Chavez is gone, Kawakami might actually pitch more often, or at least whenever an emergency or “mop-up” situation arises.  But I can’t see why he wouldn’t agree to the chance to keep his arm stretched out while making a few starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. 

Kawakami, who lives in Gwinnett County, has to see that his future in Atlanta appears to be bleak. So if he truly wants a chance to at least serve as a starter in the Majors beyond this year, wouldn’t it make sense for him to at least take advantage of the chance to pitch on a regular basis somewhere?

In case you’re counting, Kawakami has made one more appearance than you and I since being removed from the rotation after his June 26 win against the Tigers.

By the time next year arrives, Mike Minor will almost certainly be in Atlanta’s starting rotation, that will definitely still include Tim Hudson Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, unless the Braves are absolutely blown away by an offseason trade offer for Jurrjens.

It’s unlikely that Jurrjens will be moved and just as unlikely that the Braves would   
be able to move the $30 million still owed to Derek Lowe over the course of the next two years.

So as things currently stand, Kris Medlen and Minor will enter Spring Training as the top candidates to fill the final available spot in the rotation.  In other words, the Kawakami situation could definitely be problematic next year. 

The Braves attempted to trade Kawakami over the course of the past month.  There was seemingly some talk with the Mariners to see if they would be willing to move Chone Figgins’ bad contract for Kawakami’s. 

But with Figgins owed at least $26 million over the course of the next three seasons, it didn’t make much sense for the Braves to trade for a offensive player in decline simply to rid themselves of the approximate $8.8 million they still owe Kawakami through the end of the 2011 season. 

Kawakami is set to make $6.67 million next year.  With this in mind, the Braves might have a better chance to move him during the winter, especially if they are willing to eat at least a portion of the salary. 

TONIGHT’S LINEUP vs. Johan Santana

Infante 4
Heyward 9
Chipper 5
Diaz 7
Gonzalez 6
Glaus 3
Ankiel 8
Ross 2
Hudson 1

It’s interesting, but not surprising, to see Ankiel in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher.  He has struggled against them throughout his career.  But because he is regarded as a much better defender than Melky Cabrera, I don’t think Bobby Cox will be using a strict platoon in center field.

Stay tuned for updates regarding Prado. 



Heyward still unsure about status for All-Star Game

As you know by now, Jason Heyward will be spending the rest of the season’s first half on the disabled list. MRI results revealed that he is dealing with a painful bone bruise that will only provide his left thumb more discomfort until he gets a chance to rest for an extended period.

 “It’s a deep bone bruise,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said in reference to Heyward.  “That’s all it is.  The only way it’s going to get better is to get better.”  <p>

Heyward is in good position to be elected to this year’s All-Star Game and if he is, he may at least fly to Anaheim to participate in the festivities.  But at the same time, he is wondering if it would be better for him to spend those days playing in some Minor League games. 

 “Whatever (Major League Baseball) says they would like to have happen.  If I can go and give thanks to the fans by showing up, then I would like to.  If MLB says we respect what the Braves want for Jason and they want him to rehab and play some games before he comes back, then I’m hoping to do that also.”

It would be nice for Heyward to at least fly to California to experience the Home Run Derby/Media Day festivities on July 12 and then at least be introduced before the Midsummer Classic, which will be played the following day at Angel Stadium.

But you have to like the fact that the young outfielder is already looking toward the second half with the understanding that he could benefit from a brief Minor League rehab assignment before returning. 

One solution and I’m simply thinking out loud is to have him enjoy those two days in California and then return on a red-eye flight to prepare to begin a two-game Minor League rehab stint on July 14.  This would mean he wouldn’t be available for the July 15 game against the Brewers.

But that’s just one game that can be won without him. Heyward will never again have a chance to experience the thrill of experiencing his first All-Star Game as a 20-year-old rookie. 

Or maybe Heyward’s thumb improves quickly enough that he is actually able to start rehabbing the weekend before the All-Star Game.  This would allow him to reacquaint himself with the speed of the game and still participate in the All-Star festivities. 

After Monday night’s win, the Braves also announced that Kenshin Kawakami will go to the bullpen when Jair Jurrjens returns to the rotation on Monday night. 

Matt Diaz will take Heyward’s roster spot tomorrow night.  When Jurrjens is activated, the Braves will likely send Cristhian Martinez  back to Gwinnett.  Martinez has been available to serve the long relief role that Kawakami could now fill.   

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