Results tagged ‘ Kenshin Kawakami ’

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   

Soriano highlights Monday's workout

Anderson, Anderson and Francoeur. Seriously, should I have actually laughed out loud while wondering if this sounds like a law firm or an outfield trio? Actually there’s no need to answer that.  I just read over it again and formed the same stone face that Rafael Soriano displays whenever we ask him a question. 

Speaking of Soriano, he actually impressed Bobby Cox today with the velocity he showed during the bullpen session that preceded his first live batting practice session of the season on Monday morning  All indications are that the right-handed reliever’s elbow is healthy. 

Kenshin Kawakami followed Soriano on the mound and showed more consistency with his  location than he had when he threw his first live BP session on Saturday.  The Japanese hurler mixed in a few more breaking balls and received some compliments from the hitters that he faced. 

“You can see how that guy could have a lot of success by putting the ball where he wants it and where hitters don’t like it,” Kelly Johnson said. 

Charlie Morton impressed Cox with a solid bullpen session and then possibly strained an oblique muscle while throwing to hitters.  Over the next few days, the Braves will gain a better understanding about how much time Morton might miss.

There’s a slight chance that Garret Anderson could undergo his physical and join his new Braves teammates near the end of Tuesday’s workout.  Regardless as long as everything goes well, he’ll likely be officially introduced on Tuesday afternoon.

After Monday’s workout, many of the players headed out to participate in Tim Hudson’s charity golf tournament.  While practicing his swing, the always witty Peter Moylan said, “I’m the new John Smoltz and I’ve got the hairline to prove it.”

- 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

No need to wait for pitchers and catchers

Before beginning to discuss the Braves, I want to thank Delta for safely bringing me to Florida.  Of course in the future, I’d appreciate it if they’d place me and my luggage on the same plane.

But with this being said, waiting an additional three hours for a piece of luggage didn’t bother me as much as the AirTran baggage police that used rulers and the Pythagorean theorem to determine I wouldn’t actually realize the savings I’d anticipated when I chose to use their airline for my holiday season travel.

Two paragraphs into a blog and I’ve already attacked Atlanta’s two major airlines. Pitchers and catchers don’t report until Saturday and as a baseball writer I’d have to say my “negative voice” is already in midseason form.

Actually my attitude right now is anything but negative. I’m heading to the stadium tomorrow morning to see some of the camp’s early arrivals and in some ways this feels like the night before the first day of school.

Mike Gonzalez, Blaine Boyer and Kenshin Kawakami are among the pitchers who have been in town most of this week. 

Speaking of Kawakami, the throng of Japanese media members who will follow him throughout Spring Training have spent the past two days attempting to get glimpses of him through the left field fence.  The Braves decided not to open the stadium or their clubhouse to the media until Friday.

Chipper Jones, Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann are among the offensive players who arrived in camp earlier this week.  They’ve been swinging bats in the morning and golf clubs in the afternoon. 

Thursday’s round was shared with former Brave Adam LaRoche, who claimed bragging rights with an impressive 18th hole birdie.  After hitting his drive into a fairway bunker, LaRoche tamed the par-5 finishing hole by drilling a 260-yard shot to within 30 feet of the pin. 

While his former Braves teammates might not have enjoyed watching ever-cool Roachy prove clutch, Pirates fans are probably just surprised to learn that he can in fact make solid contact before June’s arrival. 

– Mark Bowman

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