Results tagged ‘ Kenshin Kawakami ’

Hanson proves strong enough to start

After making it through his warmup session in the bullpen, Tommy Hanson has taken the mound to make this afternoon’s start against the Red Sox. 

With Hanson battling the flu, the Braves were prepared to go with Kris Medlen.  

The Braves also announced this morning that they’ll skip Kenshin Kawakami’s next turn in the rotation.  Thus, Derek Lowe will start Tuesday’s series opener against the Phillies on regular rest.  Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez will start the final two games against the defending world champs. 

Kawakami, who was struck on the right side of his neck with a Joba Chamberlain line drive on Wednesday, will start Friday’s series opener against the Nationals in Washington D.C.  This arrangement will allow Hanson to start the following day with an extra day of rest.

Kawakami appears to be fine

As soon as Joba Chamberlain’s line drive struck Kenshin Kawakami’s neck during Wednesday night’s game at Turner Field, I immediately thought about the Lance Berkman liner that struck Horacio Ramirez in the right side of the head during the 2006 season. 

One of the most horrific scenes in baseball is the comebacker that strikes a pitcher in the head.  Immediate thoughts rest on their physical well being.   Then when provided the confidence that they’re physically healthy, you can’t help but worry about how the event might affect them mentally when they return to the mound. 

Based on what I could gather from Kawakami during Wednesday’s postgame interview, he’s looking forward to getting back on the mound as soon as possible. As he spoke, it was easy to see the bruise that had formed at the base of the right side of his neck.  

While all of the questions were simply aimed toward his well-being, Kawakami twice mentioned the disappointment he felt when this event forced him to leave after just three innings of what resulted as an 8-4 Yankees victory.   

The loss is disappointing,” said Kawakami, who was perfect through his three innings. ”  “I’m happy that it just missed vital parts though. It could have been worse.”

Chamberlain, who had just five previous career plate appearances, was an avid Braves fan and his favorite player was Chipper Jones. 

Before Wednesday’s game, Jones signed a jersey for Chamberlain.  Then a short time later, he found himself joining the 23-year-old hurler and many others who were simply staring at Kawakami with the hope that he had avoided a serious injury.  
.
“When I hit the ball off [Kawakami], (Chipper) came over and said, ‘You’re not supposed to take out my pitcher,’” Chamberlain said. “He signed a jersey for me. I’m 23 and I’ve looked up to that man for a long time. It was pretty special for me.”

Braves need to make changes to outfield mix

Braves general manager Frank Wren isn’t in a position where he can wait until the July 31 trade deadline to upgrade his powerless outfield mix.    There’s a need for immediate changes and also indication that we’ll begin to see it in the near future.  
But now that we’ve completed the easy part by stating the obvious, what is the best way for Wren to improve an outfield that ranks last in the National League in slugging percentage (.356), homers (7) and OPS (.674)?
In dire need to hear something positive?  Well there are three NL teams, whose outfield mixes have produced a worse batting average (.248) and on-base percentage (.318).
Given that he’s played just 12 games since returning from a disabled list stint that was preceded with long stretches of injury-related activity, maybe it’s unfair to already declare the Garret Anderson project to be a bust, unless of course you want to factor in the defensive element that is sorely affected by his limited range.
But is it unfair to ask for at least one home run through the 71 at-bats compiled by a left fielder that you solely acquired to add some pop to your lineup?  If so, then you’re probably arguing that you shouldn’t have expected to see longball regularity from a 36-year-old veteran who hadn’t hit more than 17 homers any of the previous five seasons.  
With this being said, is it unfair to at least expect more than two extra-base hits (two doubles) in the 46 at-bats that Anderson has totaled since returning from the DL?  In the 12 games that he’s played since being activated, he’s hit .283 with a .321 on-base percentage and .326 slugging percentage.  
Those are numbers that only look good when compared to the .197 batting average, .214 on-base percentage and .273 slugging percentage that Jeff Francoeur has compiled in the 66 at-bats that he’s tallied this month.  
While there are a number of players that are going to experience bad months, Francoeur isn’t in position where he can produce these kinds of numbers and expect to  remain in Atlanta much longer.  Earlier this week, I pointed out that the biggest difference between this year and last year for the 25-year-old outfielder is the $2.92 million raise that he gained while avoiding arbitration in February.
During his first three full Major League seasons, Francoeur has collected an average of 630 at-bats.    Using this as a variable, let’s look at the fact that he’s hit .235 with  11 homers, a .287 on-base percentage and  a .341 slugging percentage in his last 631 at-bats   — dating back to May 6, 2008.
Among every Major Leaguer player who has collected at least 500 plate appearances during this span,  Bobby Crosby, Michael Bourn, Willy Taveras,  Chone Figgins and Jason Kendall are the only ones who have compiled a lower slugging percentage.  
Francoeur’s .287 on-base percentage during this span ranks dead last, just ahead of the .288 mark compiled by Arizona’s Chris Young, whose contract calls for him to make $23.75 million from 2010-2012.
Using this as a comparison and blinding yourself from the fact that Young has recorded 15 more stolen bases than Francoeur’s zero during this span, maybe the Braves shouldn’t feel too bad about the fact that they’re paying Francoeur $3.325 million this year.  
At the ripe age of 25, Francoeur might one day regain the power that has been absent since his 29-homer, 2006 season.  But as they continue to patiently await the return of this power, the Braves find themselves in a position where they have to at least explore the option of trading him to a team that believes they can fix him.
Obviously, Francoeur enjoys working with Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.  So maybe Jaramillo could persuade Jon Daniels to roll the dice with another ex-Braves player.  Sill while the Andruw Jones project is currently working, Texas is loaded with outfielders and many other top prospects  who were once destined for Atlanta.
The Braves aren’t going to get much in return for Francoeur. But they need to at least explore the possibility of moving him before they reach a point during the offseason, when they might non-tender him and get absolutely nothing in return for a former top prospect, who was once-considered to be the next Chipper Jones.
In addition, while attempting to alter their outfield mix, the Braves to face the reality that Francoeur still might generate a greater return than Anderson would on the trade market.  
Jordan Schafer’s rookie struggles have played a part in the lack of offense the Braves outfield has generated this year.  But while playing the field this year, the  only Atlanta outfielder to better the .660 OPS generated by Schafer is Matt Diaz with a .766 mark.  
With Diaz and Brandon Jones, the Braves have a couple of internal pieces who could at least attempt to improve the corner outfield production.  But to truly make a difference Wren is going to have to look outside his organization and navigate a trade market with funds that were reduced by the questionable signings of Anderson and Kenshin Kawakami.
Kawakami’s three-year, $23 million contract will continue to haunt Wren through the end of the 2011 season. The immediate effects have already proven to be a hindrance.  
How nice would it have been to have had an extra $7 milllion to spend on an outfielder right now or back in February,  when the Angels  avoided re-signing Anderson and opted to give Bobby Abreu  one-year $5 million?
Without a homer in his first 140 at-bats this year, Abreu wasn’t going to bring the Braves the power that they need.  But his .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .364 slugging percentage certainly look much better than the marks compiled by Anderson or anybody else the Braves have utilized as an outfielder this year.

Greetings from windy Philly

If chicks really do dig the longball like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine told us in those old Nike commercials, then this should be a delightful Mother’s Day for those moms watching today’s series finale between the Braves and Phillies at windy Citizens Bank Park. 

Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami is certainly susceptible to enduring the damage of the longball.  But the five homers he’s surrendered in his first 26 2/3 innings are nothing compared to the National League-high 10 homers that Brett Myers allowed during his first six starts this season. 

Myers has gone 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA in his past three starts against the Braves.  He has surrendered three homers during two of those starts and during the other outing, he was touched for 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. 

With a strong wind blowing out to right field this afternoon, you’re going to see some defensive adventures and possibly hear some postgame quotes that include the mention of some cheap homer that was blown over the outfield wall. 

Jorge Campillo, who has been on the DL since April 18 with a fatigued right shoulder, will throw a bullpen session on Monday and then possibly begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Friday.

We’ll keep this post short.  But I want to again say Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, who thanks to the arrangement I made with TBS is able to watch today’s game back in Wheeling, WV. 

She continues to do whatever she can to help her children.  Knowing that my hotel’s cable package didn’t include Versus and forgetting about the power of the internet, she callled moments after the Penguins completed last night’s overtime victory over the Capitals. 

This is the same woman who believes hockey is the worst sport going.  One day when my sister and I were young, my dad proposed that we all head to Pittsburgh to see the Pens. 

Mom’s response:  “I don’t know why I have to go.  I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Waiting on the boys from Gwinnett

Well it’s good to see a Braves pitching staff producing dominant stats similar to the ones that Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine produced back in the day.  Unfortunately it seems like the some of the guys producing these numbers in Gwinnett County are still a few weeks away from making the 30-mile trek to the organization’s home base in Fulton County. 

In their past 15 games entering Saturday, Triple-A Gwinnett’s starting rotation had posted a 1.17 ERA.  That equates to 11 runs in their past 84 2/3 innings, or one fewer run than Kenshin Kawakami has allowed in his past 9 2/3 innings. 

Tommy Hanson has allowed two earned runs in his past 18 innings and Kris Medlen has totaled 13 consecutive scoreless innings to lower his season ERA to 1.17. Charlie Morton limited Durham to one run and six hits in eight innings on
Friday night.  The lanky right-hander has allowed just three runs in
his past 20 innings.  

Obviously it hasn’t been surprising that the two weakest links in the Atlanta rotation this year have been Kawakami and Jo-Jo Reyes, who has assured himself of going at least 11 months between Major League victories.

Because the Braves decided to give Kawakami a three-year, $23 million contract in January, some might have gained the impression that he could prove to be a difference maker.  But at 33 years-old the Japanese right-hander has provided every indication he’s nothing more than a fourth or fifth starter.

But with Hanson and Medlen waiting in the wings, it would be hard to argue how Kawakami could fit in as one of the top five pitchers in the Atlanta rotation over the life of his three-year deal, which runs concurrently with Derek Lowe’s.

As for Reyes, he has shown flashes that he has the capability of being solid third starter.  But as his developmental process continues to grow even longer, the 24-year-old left-hander continues to find ways to extend a losing streak that now extends back to June 23.

With improved control and the development of a solid breaking ball, Reyes possesses almost all of the tools he needs to be a successful big league pitcher.  But he’s still lacks the ever-important ability to overcome adversity. 

As soon as Yunel Escobar botched a second-inning grounder during the second inning of Friday’s game against the Phillies, you could basically see Reyes come unwound.  He then issued a four-pitch walk to the .182-hitting Chris Coste before lobbing Cole Hamels’  swinging bunt into right field.

Should Reyes have let Hamels’ slow roller roll foul?  Should he have simply thrown through Hamels to draw an interference call?  Taking either one of these actions might have provided an immediate solution that would have likely prevented the Phillies from constructing their four-run second inning. 

But mistakes like this are going to occur and Reyes’ most glaring sin proved to be how he reacted to the growing adversity that he faced following Escobar’s error. 

I’m certainly not going to be hypocritical and claim that Morton should have been brought to Atlanta before Reyes.  Because he  was injured most of Spring Training, Morton really wasn’t even an option when Reyes joined the big league rotation on April 18. 

In addition, I was among those who believed Reyes was the better choice because he seemed to be mentally tougher.  But if he struggles on Wednesday against the Mets, Morton should be given a chance to prove himself during the final weeks of May.

Obviously, Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen are the top options available in Gwinnett.  But because they aren’t on the 40-man roster, Morton be given the chance to maintain a rotation spot until one or both of those young right-handers are promoted in June. 

Or Morton could at least fill a rotation spot until Tom Glavine is ready to return in a couple of weeks.

Regardless of how you analyze this, Reyes is running out of opportunities to prove himself.   Despite the fact that he’s improved over the course of the past year, it’s hard to see great potential when you look at the fact that he’s 0-9 with a 6.61 ERA in his past 18 appearances (17 starts).

While the Braves have the option to move Reyes back to the Minors, they aren’t exactly in a position where they could do the same with Kawakami.  First of all, he deserves more than five career starts to prove himself and secondly, by doing so the organization would be acknowledging the mistake that they made by giving him the lucrative three-year contract.

Things aren’t exactly going to get any easier for Kawakami when he opposes the Phillies at the homer haven known as Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.   Having allowed five homers during the first 25 2/3 innings of his career, the baseball gods have given him the cruel assignment of making consecutive road starts in the band boxes located in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. 

When I drew the analogy that this would be like sending Appalachian State into Ann Arbor on consecutive weekends, the AJC’s Dave O’Brien reminded me that going into Michigan isn’t much of a challenge now that Rich Rodriguez is coaching there. 

And with that, my day has been made. It’s nice to know that non-West Virginians are now making fun of the man that both the Hatfields and McCoys love to hate.  

      

Johnson sits again

Jordan Schafer’s stint in the leadoff spot was short-lived or at least interrupted by the fact that the Astros were starting a left-hander during Sunday’s series finale.  My guess is that we’ll see him back in the top spot against some right-handed starters in the very near future. 

But Schafer didn’t exactly make a good first impression in the role on Saturday, when he struck out three times and mistakenly read left-handed reliever Tim Byrdak’s pickoff move during a fifth-inning stolen base attempt.

Manager Bobby Cox’s decision to move Schafer back down to the eighth spot on Sunday wasn’t as surprising as the fact that Kelly Johnson found himself back on the bench for the fourth time in five games.  The second baseman broke out of a 4-for-39 funk with a pair of hits on Saturday.

Obviously the right-handed hitting Omar Infante has been hot recently, recording six hits in the 12 at-bats he recorded in the leadoff role last week.  Using him in a strict platoon role at second base is easier to understand from a defensive perspective.  Statistically,  it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

This year Johnson has hit .308 (8-for-26) against left-handed pitchers and just .174 against right-handed pitchers.  Dating back to the beginning of the 2008 season, the 27-year-old second baseman has hit .330 (58-for-176) against left-handed pitchers and .260 (115-for-443) against right-handed pitchers.   <p>

Anderson delcines rehab:  Like I’ve said in the past, Garret Anderson is a nice guy who had a nice career with the Angels.  But as time passes, he simply gives more reason to reason to wonder how motivated he is to play in Atlanta.  

I can understand that he has a reserved personality that makes it difficult to truly understand his passion. But given a chance to at least prove his motivation through actions, he still leads you to simply shake your head and wonder what he’ll provide when he’s activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. 

Per his right, Anderson declined the Braves request to see some live pitching during a Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Gwinnett.  Nobody was asking him to fly to some scenic Minor League town.  He would have simply needed to drive about 20-30 minutes north on I-85 to get a few at-bats. 

Is that asking too much from a guy who has registered a total of 49 plate appearances since the American League Division Series concluded last year?

Kenshin set to pitch:
  When a lengthy rain delay limited  Jair Jurrjens to two innings on Saturday, there was reason to at least wonder if the Braves might opt to bring him back to start in place of Kenshin Kawakami on Tuesday against the Mets. 

But Kawakami has provided the Braves every reason to beleive that his right shoulder is feeling good enough to make Tuesday’s start.  The 33-year-old right-hander hasn’t pitched since allowing eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Reds on April 26.    

 

Getting back to work

If you are not complaining, then you are not watching.  Or is it more appropriate to say, if you are not complaining, then you are not blogging?

Whatever the case, even if the Braves had started this season 11-4 (as opposed to 7-8), we’d all still be voicing our concerns about a specific aspect or aspects of the club.  To truly enjoy the splendor of a 162-game season, you basically have to treat every day like a new episode of “24″.

Of course in relation to “24″, we all know that Jack Bauer is going to eventually escape or overcome any and every terrorist attack that he encounters.  In the baseball world, we’re not so sure about tomorrow will bring.

The suspense of this current season has us wondering when Brian McCann might regain his optimal vision and help the slumbering Braves offense to awake.

During the last nine games, the Braves have scored 24 runs (11 in one game), batted .229, recorded a .312 on-base percentage and produced a .345 slugging percentage.   The sample size is too small to provide reason to worry.  But it is somewhat telling to see that left-handed hitters have batted just .181 during this span. 

That number is a direct reflection of the recent struggles encountered by McCann, who has just one hit in the 19 at-bats he’s totaled over the past nine games.  The Braves can only hope that his vision continues to improve to the point that he’s able to prove why many believe he’s the game’s top offensive catchers. 

We’ve all discussed how losing Chipper Jones for an extended period would be a crushing blow to this club’s postseason aspirations.  While this is true, you could argue that McCann’s presence is even more important because his absence directly affects Jones’ potential production. 

As long as opponents are fearing McCann in the cleanup spot, Jones is going to have the necessary protection that will allow him to see good pitches on a regular basis.  

If McCann continues to struggle or is forced to miss time, you’ll either see Jones’ walk total rise or his impatience grow to the point that he’s chasing bad pitches far too often.

In the event that McCann is forced to miss an extended period, Jeff Francoeur might be the best option to fill the cleanup spot.  It would be interesting to see how often opposing pitchers would be willing to challenge him to find out if he truly has turned things around. 

In a team-high 60 at-bats, Francoeur has batted .317 with a .795 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).   As long as he stays patient, the power numbers will increase as the summer progresses and you’ll likely once again see him produce another 100-RBI season.

The most encouraging aspect about Francoeur’s start stems from the fact that he’s hit .471 (8-for-17) with runners in scoring position.  While the sample size is small, there’s at least indication that he’s no longer pressing like he did when he hit .193 with RISP last year.  

(While looking for Francoeur’s stats, I noticed Andruw Jones has five hits in his first six at-bats with RISP.   It’s still amazing to think that Andruw had 128 RBIs while hitting just .207 with RISP in 2005.)

Rotation producing optimism:   Most of the optimism the Braves possessed entering the season centered around their reconstucted rotation.   So far this new group of starters has lived up to expectations.  They rank second in the National Leauge with a 3.27 ERA and the 88 innings they’ve completed are five fewer than the League-leading total completed by the Pirates. 

Javier Vazquez could have won each of his first three starts and Jair Jurrjens has been nothing but impressive since proving fortunate to win his first two outings. Derek Lowe showed his potential dominance on Opening Night and provided more reason to believe he’s at his best during big games.

The only two losses Lowe has incurred during his past 14 starts have occurred at excitement-starved Nationals Park.  But it should be noted that he pitched effectively during both of those outings. 

The Braves haven’t provided any indication that they’re going to promote Tommy Hanson within the next week.  They are in position where they can continue to let the 22-year-old right-hander gain more season at the Minor League level. 

Obviously Hanson has the potential to be a valuable asset during the stretch run and because of this, the Braves haven’t allowed him to exceed the 100-pitch limit during his first three starts with Triple-A Gwinnnett.   Unfortunately because of high pitch counts during the early innings, this has prevented him from completing at least five innings during two of those outings. 

Once Hanson is promoted to the Majors (my best guess remains first week of June), the Braves should have a rotation that would rival the Marlins for the division’s finest.   The Mets haven’t found any consistency behind Johan Santana and the entire Phillies rotation is going to have neck problems before the season is complete. 

Philadelphia’s starters have accounted for 22 of the 31 homers the club has surrendered this year.  Kenshin Kawakami has accounted for three of the seven homers the Braves pitching staff has surrendered this year.

It was nice to have a few days to visit family and relax this week. But it’s time to get back to work and see if the Braves can alter the mood of this road trip, which has so far proven to be forgettable.   

Hanson scheduled to pitch exhibition season finale in Atlanta

Tommy Hanson is coming to Atlanta.  Well sort of.  Hanson and Kenshin Kawakami are scheduled to pitch next Saturday’s exhibition game against the Tigers at Turner Field. 

With the Braves opening the season in Philadelphia the next night, manager Bobby Cox won’t want to use any of his projected relievers.  Thus  Kawakami will pitch the first four or five innings and Hanson will likely handle the next four innings.  

This will put Hanson in line to be the Opening Day starter for the Triple-A Gwinnett team that will begin its season on April 9 at Charlotte.   The relocated team will play its first game in Gwinnett on April 17.   If the schedule holds true Hanson’s first home start would occur on April 20.

Cox plans to announce his rotation on Sunday.  Kawakami’s season debut could come during April 10 home opener at Turner Field.  Or the Braves could keep projected Opening Day starter Derek Lowe on schedule and allow him to pitch that game.  This would mean Kawakami’s season debut might actually occur on April 11 against the Nats. 

While pitching in next Saturday’s exhibition game against the Tigers, Kawakami will have a chance to acquaint himself with the Turner Field mound. 

Kawakami will make his final Grapefruit League start on Monday afternoon when he faces Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The Braves hurler has only previously opposed Dice-K came during Spring Training games in Japan. 

When asked how many media members will likely cover Monday’s game, Kawakami smiled and said “It is Japan.”    Or at least that’s what his interpreter told me that he said. 

Today’s games:   Jair Jurrjens is going to face a Yankees lineup that includes Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira.   Peter Moylan is scheduled to complete one inning during a Minor League game this afternoon.   Moylan will make two more appearances within the next six days and if everything goes well, he’ll begin the season in Atlanta’s bullpen. 

After Jurrjens exits this afternoon’s game, Boone Logan and Mike Gonzalez are scheduled to pitch.  Logan has had two consecutive rough outings and Gonzalez is coming off an appearance during which he surrendered three earned runs and then raved about the increased velocity that he’d displayed.

We’ll be watching the radar readings when Gonzalez takes the mound to pitch in front of a sold-out crowd.  Fans have already covered most of the grass on the left field berm.

Left-handed relievers:  The Braves released left-handed reliever Jeff Ridgway this morning.  Ridgway battled elbow inflammation most of this month and really never figured into the Braves plans after they acquired Logan and Eric O’Flaherty during the offseason. 

O’Flaherty enjoyed a impressive rebound effort on Friday, when he recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless inning against the Tigers.  He had surrendered nine runs and nine hits in his previous outing. 

Braves general manager Frank Wren has provided no indication that he’s felt the need to explore ways to find veteran left-handed reliever to add to his bullpen mix.  O’Flaherty has had just the one bad outing and Logan will have a chance to end his recent struggles this afternoon.

There’s still a chance that both of these left-handed relievers will begin the year in Atlanta’s bullpen.

Former Angels: 
First baseman Casey Kotchman, who has been sick and sidelined since April 18, took batting practice on Saturday and might return to the lineup on Monday.   His former Angels teammate Garret Anderson is expected to return to action on Sunday.  Anderson has been sidelined since March 6 with a strained right calf. 

Today’s Lineup:
Jordan Schafer CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian McCann C
Greg Norton 1B
Matt Diaz RF
Brandon Jones LF
Martin Prado 2B
Jair Jurrjens P 

 

No reason to panic about Chipper

As Kenshin Kawakami was attempting to build arm strength during today’s
intra-squad game at Disney, Chipper Jones is resting his strained right
oblique muscle in a Toronto hotel. 

While nobody likes to hear
Chipper and the word injury linked in the same sentence, the Braves
don’t seem too concerned.  In fact based on what I’ve been hearing from
Bobby Cox and Jones’ agent, I’d say most of the pain the third baseman
is currently feeling has more to do with the fact that he’s struck out
five times and gone hitless in his first seven World Baseball Classic
at-bats.

Cox and Jones’ agent, B.B. Abbott said they believe
Chipper could return to action within the next few days.  Because the
U.S. has already clinched a spot in this weekend’s second round,
Chipper probably won’t play in the final Pool C game on Wednesday.

Jones exited Sunday night’s game after feeling a slight strain in his right side during his fifth inning at-bat. 

Jones
felt similar discomfort in his right side while taking batting practice
on September 10, 2007.  Initially it was thought that he might miss the
remainder of the season.  But because he took precautionary measures,
he was able to return to the lineup just four days later.  <p>

Back to Kawakami
:
During last Monday’s intra-squad game, Jason Heyward proved to be a
thorn in Jair Jurrjens’ side.  This week, the 19-year-old phenom
introduced his power to Kenshin Kawakami with a towering third-inning
homer that easily cleared the right field wall.

One half-inning earlier, Heyward had drilled an Emiliano Fruto fastball over the left-ceneterfield wall.

At
the beginning of camp, I asked Heyward if his goal was to end this
season with Double-A Mississippi and he said, “no the goal is to end
the year here (in the Majors).  Having had the chance to watch him play
over the past few weeks, I no longer find that comment as ammusing as I
had originally.

Kawakami ended up allowing four runs in four
innings.  He surrendered a first-inning leadoff double to Matt
Kennelly, who scored on consecutive groundouts. 

The two runs Kawakami allowed in the third inning came courtesy of a Freddie Freeman double and Heyward’s towering homer.

Schafer further encouraged:  Jordan
Schafer, who has been sidelined since Feb. 28 with a sprained left
shoulder, felt no limitations while taking soft toss and hitting off of
a tee on Monday morning.  He’ll attempt to take regular batting
practice on Tuesday and possibly play on Wednesday against the
Phillies.

Francoeur set to face Yankees and Tiger

With the sun shining above and the Yankees in town, we have a near-perfect setting for Jeff Francoeur to begin what many would consider a near-perfect athletic experience. 

After collecting a few at-bats against the WBC-depleted Yankees, Francoeur will grab his clubs to join Tiger Woods and John Smoltz for a round of golf this afternoon.  With the Red Sox having the day off, Smoltz has driven to the Orlando area to enjoy this annual round with two of his closest friends.

When Kenshin Kawakami takes the mound against the Yanks today, he won’t have to deal with the likes of A-Rod, Jeter and Posada, who are all eithter preparing for the WBC or visiting a hip specialist. Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady are the only regulars in the lineup for the Bronx Bombers, who will utilize Juan Miranda as their cleanup hitter. 

Glavine arrives:  Tom Glavine arrived in Braves camp this morning and revealed that he’s aiming to make his first appearance in a game late next week.  The 300-game winner has recently experienced some cranky discomfort with his shoulder.  But he says the discomfort isn’t anything different than what he’s often had to deal with during Spring Training. 

“I’ve had a little bit of crankiness now that I’ve thrown batting practice and thrown a little harder.  There ‘s a little soreness with my shoulder. But I’m not surprised. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  It’s happened every year for the last 15 years.  But it’s more manageable and that’s what we were kind of hoping for.” 

Glavine, who hasn’t had any problems with his surgically-repaired left elbow, doesn’t seem to concerned.  He said the shoulder discomfort he’s feeling this year doesn’t compare to the discomfort he was feeling at this time last year. 

The fact that Glavine is scheduled to make just two starts in April (18th and 29th) could prove to be beneficial.  After pitching in the frigid temperatures at Coors Field in early April last year, he started to experience increased discomfort in his elbow and shoulder.

Impressed by Hanson:  Braves announcer Don Sutton was certainly impressed after getting the chance to watch Tommy Hanson face Panama yesterday.  The Hall of Fame hurler was most intrigued by the 22-year-old  top prospect’s advanced maturity.

“When you look at a talent like him, after you talk to him for five minutes, you can throw his birth certificate out the window,” Sutton said. “He has the four pitches.  He’s a quick learner, makes great adjustments.  I just wish for him good health.  I think he has a chance to be a superstar.

Thursday vs. Venezuela:  Garret Anderson is expected to make his Braves debut when Derek Lowe takes the mound to face Gregor Blanco and Venezuela’s WBC team at Disney tomorrow afternoon.  First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m. ET.  

Today’s Lineup:
Josh Anderson CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Jason Heyward LF
Omar Infante 3B
David Ross C
Kenshin Kawakami P

 

 
 

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