Results tagged ‘ Matt Diaz ’

Frenchy rests during series finale

It’s been kind of a hectic morning.  So we’ll keep this short by informing you that Jeff Francoeur is getting a day off and Tom Glavine was once again pleased with the bullpen session that he completed this morning. 

Francoeur has hit .213 with a .204 on-base percentage and .255 slugging percentage in his past 11 games.   Braves manager Bobby Cox said that he wanted his right-fielder to rest during the series finale against the Mets and then take advantage to gain further rest during the team’s scheduled offday on Thursday.

With Francoeur out of the lineup for the first time this year, Matt Diaz will start in right field for the first time since he joined the Braves in 2006.  In fact, this marked just the third time in his career that he’s started in right field.

Diaz’s most recent start in right field occurred on Sept. 27, 2005.  While playing for the Royals against the Twins that day, he recorded two hits, including a seventh-inning leadoff homer, against Johan Santana.

Glavine felt good about about the 35-pitch bullpen session that he completed this morning.   He’ll likely throw a simulated game at Turner Field early next week and then prepare for at least one Minor League rehab assignment.  The 43-year-old left-hander is still aiming to return to the Atlanta rotation before the end of this month.   

Schafer and fans need to show patience

After Saturday’s loss to the Pirates, Chipper Jones echoed the popular sentiment by saying that he was concerned about the fact that Jordan Schafer was striking out too often.  But as the same time, he said he was confident the 22-year-old center fielder would soon cut down on his swing and utilize his speed to end his mini-slump.

“He’s smart,” Jones said. “He works hard and he wants to get better. Guys like that make the adjustment eventually.” 

With his three-hit performance on Sunday, Schafer halted his forgettable five-game slump and followed Jones’ suggested blueprint.   After notching a second-inning single, he produced a fourth-inning bunt single. 

Then with Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche standing on the edge of the infield grass to protect against another bunt, Scafer lined another single off of a diving LaRoche’s glove.

Suddenly Schafer could smile again and forget about the fact that he’d recorded one hit and struck out 13 times in the 21 at-bats he’d recorded during his previous five games. 

“You don’t want to get to the point where you start doubting yourself,” Schafer said. “I know that I can hit.  I just need to start making adjustments a lot faster than I did. I know that I can compete here.” 

As we all started to wonder whether the Braves had made the right decision by bypassing the option to provide Schafer more Minor League seasoning, we were showing the same lack of patience that factored heavily in the development of this short skid.

Having hit two homers in his first three Major League games, Schafer has been going to the plate with the same overanxious excitement that has caused him to be too overaggressive in his pursuit of multiple fly balls over the past couple of weeks.

There have been a couple of near-collisions when he’s ventured into the left and right center field gaps.  Plus his insistence to race all the way to the wall in pursuit of balls that are going to riccochet back into the outfield grass  has been somewhat maddening.  But this really only proved costly on Friday night, when he allowed Brandon Moss to turn a double into a triple and score the only run charged to Jair Jurrjens in 6 2/3 innings.  

The man who has taught me more than anybody about player development has always said “trust your instincts” and “the player will let you know when he’s ready.”

While watching Schafer for six weeks during Spring Training, my instincts told me that he was ready for the Majors.  At the same time,  I was mindful of the fact that you have to guard against being overly impressed by results produced by prospects in the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues. 

But the instinctive reason for believing Schafer was ready extended far beyond his statistics and five-tool talents.   There’s just something about the quiet confidence that is displayed through his actions and words.  

Like Chipper Jones, Schafer is one of those few players who truly gives you a sense he was born to play the game of baseball.

In a roundabout way, I guess I’m saying that instead of panicking about a five-game stretch we should just trust the evaluations that we’d compiled with data that was collected over a much longer period of time.

Left field concerns:   While I’m confident that Schafer will prove effective while battling through inevitable strikeouts, I’m also pretty sure the Braves spent about $2.5 million too much on the left field manequin that Scott Boras sold them in February.

When you talk to Garret Anderson, he’s as lifeless as he looks during those few occasions that he’s actually deemed himself healthy enough to be on the field.  He’s a nice guy who has had a nice career. 

But there were a number of better, more economically-sound options for the Braves, who would have been wise to just stick to their initial intention to give some of their own players a chance to prove they could play left field.  

Braves manager Bobby Cox pushed for Anderson’s signing and he has continued to show support for the 36-year-old outfielder.  Cox  has labeled him to be a “glider” who moves effortlessly toward balls in the outfield.  In addition, he’s believes the 36-year-old outfielder will be a key piece to this year’s success. 

Well Cox is entitled to his opinion and I’m entitled to believe the Braves will be putting Matt Diaz in left field much more frequently than Anderson.  

Don’t let Diaz’s .217 batting average concern you.  He’s owns a .255 career batting average in April.  During the season’s other five months, he’s combined to hit .322.

Weekend remains
:  While shutting the Braves out for a second consecutive game on Saturday, the Pirates threw just one pitch with a runner in scoring position.  

Adding to the afternoon’s frustration was the fact that early in the game, some of the Braves players felt that they had started to decipher the pitch signals Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan was relaying to Ian Snell.  Still with Kerrigan in plain sight, Braves left-handed hitters recorded just one hit (Casey Kotchman’s fourth-inning double) in 22 at-bats against Snell.

Boyer update:
  I don’t have the details yet, but it sounds like the Braves are close to completing a trade that will provde them a return for Blaine Boyer.  They aren’t going to get more than a marginal Minor Leaguer in return.  But that’s better than nothing.

I’m taking a few days off to enjoy time with the family here in Wheeling, WV.  I’ll check in from time to time and follow the games scheduled to be played in rainy D.C. this week.  .    

  

Just another odd southpaw

When I entered  the clubhouse this morning, I saw Boone Logan’s left hand adorned with gauze. Naturally, I responded with, “Have you been playing with Blaine Boyer’s apple slicer.”

Logan said that he regularly places gauze on his hand in the morning. After imitating Rafael Soriano with a stone-faced reaction, I later saw the big left-handed reliever on the field without any gauze, tape or padding on his hand.  With this I further concluded that southpaws are simply a different species.

Speaking of left-handers, Garret Anderson was moving around the clubhouse with relative ease this morning and he said his strained right calf has progressively improved over the past few days.  After seeing him lift his leg and bend over to pick up his keys with relative ease, I think we can project that he’ll likely be in the Opening Day lineup.

Fortunately for Anderson, he hasn’t felt the urge to start jumping around like Jair Jurrjens did after the Netherlands defeated the Dominican Republic again on Tuesday night. 

“I’m surprised that nobody called the cops on me,” said Jurrjens, who opted not to pitch for the Netherlands during the first round of the WBC. 

Jurrjens wanted to pitch in the second round this weekend.  But in order to do so, he would have had to replace a injured pitcher from the current roster.  When he never received word that this opportunity had arisen, the 23-year-old right-hander prepared for this afternoon’s start against the Nationals.

If the Netherlands continues their miracle run, Jurrjens might join the team for the semi-final round.  But as great as this story has been, I think we can all assume that it’s nearing its end.

Remember Dennis Neuman, the Pedro Martinez-clone, that I was heralding after watching him pitch a scoreless inning for the Netherlands against the D.R. on Saturday?  Well he’s obviously also subject to the jinx factor of this blog. 

But after issuing two walks in Monday’s loss to Puerto Rico, the 19-year-old Red Sox farmhand came back Tuesday and tossed 1 2/3 innings scoreless innings against the D.R.

“He’s going to be good,” said Jurrjens, who worked out with Neuman in their native Curacao this winter.  “He has heart and he knows what he wants.”

Now that I’ve exhausted my charitable Dennis Neuman public relations campaign, it’s time to return to Braves info.  Jordan Schafer opened some eyes when he returned yesterday and the highly-regarded outfield propsect is back in today’s lineup to serve as the right fielder. 

Matt Diaz and Jeff Francoeur were permitted to go home after this morning’s workout.  Both are scheduled to travel to Jupiter for this weekend’s two-game series against the Cardinals and Marlins. 

As for me, I’m not making the southbound trek down the Florida Turnpike.  But I’ll likely post at least one blog entry on Friday or Saturday.  Tommy Hanson is scheduled to start tomorrow’s game against the Marlins and Kenshin Kawakami will go against the Cardinals on Saturday.

After Jurrjens exits today’s game, we’ll place our focus on Mike Gonzalez and Kris Medlen, who are both scheduled to pitch.

Today’s Lineup:
Josh Anderson CF
Jordan Schafer RF
Yunel Escobar SS
Casey Kotchman 1B
Omar Infante 2B
Martin Prado 3B
Brandon Jones LF
David Ross C
Jurrjens P
  

Glavine encouraged after live BP session

Before leaving the stadium on this afternoon, Tom Glavine turned to Matt Diaz and said, “If you go deep today, you owe me.”

About an hour earlier, Glavine had thrown approximately 20 pitches during a live batting practice session against Diaz, Jason Heyward and Brandon Hicks.  While still feeling some crankiness in his left shoulder, the 42-year-old southpaw was encouraged with his location and the consistency of the movement of his changeup and curve.

“He told us what was coming and still all of us rolled over two or three (of his pitches),” Diaz said. “He’s just got that location and that movement that’s vintage Glavine.  Obviously he wasn’t rearing back.  It’s just fun to see him back out on the mound again.”

Glavine will likely throw another live BP session on Sunday.  He’s still hoping to make his Grapefruit League season debut late next week.
 
Anderson set for debut:  Garret Anderson will make his Braves debut against Venezuela this afternoon.  Freddie Freeman is hitting cleanup and as expected Jeff Francoeur will serve as the DH.  Francoeur plans to play the entire game and compile at least four at-bats.

Derek Lowe will be making his second start of the exhibition season this afternoon.

Needing arms:  Because they want to protect some of their arms for the start of the World Baseball Classic, Venezuela will use Braves Minor League pitchers Brad Nelson and Kevin Gunderson during portions of  today’s game.

Blanco absent from lineup: Braves outfielder Gregor Blanco is hoping to get some playing time with Venezuela over the next few weeks.  But he wasn’t part of Thursday’s lineup.  Venezuela’s starting outfielders on Thursday were Endy Chavez, Bobby Abreu and Carlos Guillen.  Magglio Ordonez served as the designated hitter.

Odds and ends:  Jordan Schafer has been out since spraining the A/C joint in his left shoulder while diving for a ball in Dunedin on Saturday.  Braves manager Bobby Cox said the outfielder will likely return to action in three-to-five days…Right-handed pitcher Charlie Morton is still waiting for the Braves to clear him to start pitching again.  He strained his left oblique muscle nearly two weeks ago.. Braves president John Schuerholz confirmed that he’s not interested in the Nationals’ vacant GM position. .

Today’s lineup:

Josh Anderson CF
Omar Infante SS
Garret Anderson LF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Jeff Francoeur DH
Brandon Jones RF
Martin Prado 2B
David Ross C
Diory Hernandez 3B 

This Time It Counts

I’m not sure if I should have checked with the MLB licensing execs before using that headline.  But given what has transpired with the Braves over the course of this offseason, I didn’t see any need to wait until the All-Star Game to use it.

Before you ask whether one of Paul Kinzer’s term sheet requests or premature speculation is going to prolong the soap opera that was Frank Wren’s offseason, I figured I’d let you know Garret Anderson really has signed and no, he didn’t use invisible ink. 

Having been left at the alter on more than one occasion this offseason, the Braves were very guarded about the comments they made before Anderson underwent his physical on Tuesday and officially said, “I do.”

It’s quite obvious that many of the Braves are ecstatic about the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. opened the door that allowed Anderson to come to Atlanta.  Instead of worrying about the uncertainties Griffey would have brought while serving in a platoon, they now find themselves looking forward to the consistencies that Anderson will provide while playing left field on a regular basis. 

“It’s a tremendous pickup, great, great pickup,” Braves manager
Bobby Cox said. “This guy can practically play every day.”  <p>  

These aren’t exactly the words you’d want to hear if you’re Matt Diaz, who now finds himself as a backup who will see occasional time in left field.  But Chipper Jones is among those whose seems happy to know Anderson will be resting with him somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

“He’ll make a difference, ” Jones said. “We’re a little left-handed for my taste.  But Garret is going to help this team win ballgames and that’s all I care about.” 

The projected Braves lineup consists of two right-handed hitters: Jeff Francoeur and Yunel Escobar; and one switch hitter in Jones.  But manager Bobby Cox doesn’t seem too worried about the fact that his lineup will regularly consist of five left-handed hitters   — Anderson, Josh Anderson, Casey Kotchman, Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson. 

“Garret, Johnson, Mac and Kotchman have all hit left-handers in the past,” Cox said. “It really doesn’t matter how it shapes up.”

<b> Morton update:  </b>  Charlie Morton strained a muscle on his left side on Tuesday and it will be at least another week until he’s able to resume throwing. 

<b> Going to Lakeland </b>  Chipper Jones and Garret Anderson (presumably) will be the only projected starters not making the trip to Lakeland for Wednesday’s Grapefruit League opener.  Jair Jurrjens, Jo-Jo Reyes, Manny Acosta, Stephen Marek and  Eric O’Flaherty are all scheduled to pitch.

Late blogotorial addition: (Sorry we didn’t have this information for the early edition)

<b> Minor freak injury:  </b>  As I mentioned earlier in a comment, Blaine Boyer sent me a text to tell me the cut he suffered on his right index finger came courtesy of an apple slicer.  Unfortunately for the right-hander, he had no intention to even make contact with that utensil.  He was simply reaching for a can opener. 

Boyer said the small laceration had no effect on him during his Tuesday morning bullpen session.  But he won’t make his scheduled appearance against the Tigers on  Wednesday.

- Mark Bowman

Did Griffey do the Braves a favor?

While writing the early version of the story about Garret Anderson and the Braves agreeing to the terms of his one-year, $2.5 million contract, I didn’t exactly have a firm opinion about whether or not he’d be a better fit than Griffey would’ve been. 

But after talking to some of the Braves and doing some more research before updating my original story, I gained the belief that Braves general manager Frank Wren might want to send a thank you note to Griffey and his agent Brian Goldberg.

When one of my respected colleagues opined  that Anderson is “the most underrated player of his generation to me," I certainly took notice. 

But such a compliment wasn't going to completely sway somebody who believes Griffey was the most purely talented player of this generation.  (Obviously raw stats aren't the only components I used to gain this opinion.)

So while attempting to evaluate the current talents of two former superstars who are past their primes, I have to give the nod to Anderson, who is 2 1/2 years younger, undoubtedly the better defensive option,  and a player whose offensive capabilities provide the Braves the opportunity to place an experienced and proven bat in left field on a regular basis.  

The fact that Griffey would have been platooning at least provides reason to wonder what kind of production Matt Diaz would have provided during those days when he was playing left field.  During his first two years with the Braves, he devoured left-handed pitchers.  But before he injured his knee in late May of last year, he created reason to wonder if he could rekindle the magic he experienced in 2006 an 2007, when he combined to hit .333 with 19 homers and an .856 OPS.

Looking solely at the statistics he might have produced while batting solely against right-handed pitchers, you could argue that Griffey would have provided more power.   But in doing so, you have to assume that he’s regained all his strength in his surgically-repaired right knee.

Assuming Griffey was at optimal strength, you might project that he and Matt Diaz could have combined for 25-30 homers while serving in a platoon role in left.   But the “if” that accompanies this argument seems to provide a greater variable than the certainty Anderson has shown through his consistent production he’s provided since ending his days as a legitimate power hitter.

Anderson  hit .293 with a .774 OPS against right-handed pitchers last year and .290 with a .704 OPS against left-handers.Over the past three seasons, he’s hit .295 with a .799 OPS against right-handers and .272 with a .713 OPS against southpaws.

When the Braves are facing a tough left-hander or Anderson needs a day off, Cox may choose to play Diaz, who has hit .328 with a .508 slugging percentage against them in his career.

But for the most part  I think you’ll see Anderson in left and he’s told friends he’s looking forward to the opportunity to play 120-130 games in the outfield this year.  This workload would  provide  Diaz the opportunity to be more than simply a valuable bat off the bench.

Anderson obviously isn’t the great player that he was at the beginning of this decade.  But because he still has the ability to give the Braves an experienced and proven presence in left field on a regular basis, I’ve gained the opinion that he’s better than any other options Wren has explored over the course of the past week.

- Mark Bowman

Griffey, Glavine and Geritol

Within this next week, the Braves will likely sign Tom Glavine and continue their pursuit of Ken Griffey Jr.  Then to further show his appreciation for senior citizen Hall of Famers, Frank Wren is going extend Hank Aaron the invitation to come out of retirement to rightfully regain his title as the undisputed home run king.

Imaginary sources have indicated Aaron’s motivation to come out of retirement came last week when he awoke and immediately proclaimed, “If Andruw Jones can get a job, then there must be at least one other team looking for somebody that swings like a 75-year-old man.”

Seriously, all attempts at humor aside, the Braves could complete a successful offseason with the acquisitions of both Glavine and Griffey.  Before beginning their respective Hall of Fame clocks, these two legends still have the potential to be productive and just as importantly, the understanding that their wishes to play in Atlanta will only be granted with small financial guarantees. 

Approaching his 43rd birthday and coming off a surgical procedure that repaired his left elbow and left shoulder, Glavine hasn’t yet had the opportunity to face live hitters and truly prove whether he’s worth the guaranteed $1 million the Braves are willing to offer. 

But he says his arm feels better than it has over the course of the past five years and while this might be a product of his stubborn desire to play, I’m thinking his pride is too great for him to decide to pitch if he thinks there’s even an inkling that he might repeat last year’s frustrating experience.

If there was any inkling that he was going to embarrass himself, Glavine would likely take his 305 career  wins and head into retirement.  The only downside to this would be the fact that he’d once again have to share a stage with Greg Maddux when they would both be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. 

If I had to spend a majority of my career sharing the limelight with Maddux, I certainly might be tempted to play another year.  But enough about my selfish shortcomings and back to Glavine.

With Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes, Tommy Hanson, James Parr and Charlie Morton, the Braves have plenty of candidates to serve as their fifth starter.  They don’t exactly need another pitcher.  But even at 43 and coming off surgery, I wouldn’t necessarily consider Glavine to simply be just another pitcher. 

If Glavine is truly healthy and capable of consistently throwing his fastball around 88 mph, his changeup will once again prove effective and provide him the opportunity to prove he can still be better than any of the aforementioned candidates — minus Hanson.

By the end of this season, there are some who believe Hanson might actually be the best candidate to pitch in any role in the Braves organization.  But the Braves don’t want to rush his development and at the same time, they could certainly save some money by delaying his arbitration clock and keeping him in the Minors long enough to ensure he won’t be a Super Two at the conclusion of the 2010 season.

Now taking this one step further, if there are doubts about Glavine, why aren’t there equal ones about Kenshin Kawakami, who is slated to pitch in the fourth spot of the rotation? 

Glavine’s notched 305 wins in this league and he pitched effectively in the three starts that he made while actually healthy last year.  Shouldn’t he be given the same benefit of the doubt as a Japanese hurler, whose only previous association with the Majors came  via the games he’s watched on television and MLB.com? 

Glavine is seeking an incentive-laden contract that could net him $6 million, most of which he’s comfortable to defer over a negotiable length of time.  When it’s said and done, the package will probably be worth closer to $4.5 million and with this gamble the Braves will only be providing a guarantee of $1 million. 

I’m less clear about what Griffey is actually seeking from a financial standpoint.  But I received some indication that the Braves might be able to secure him for $1-2 million.  This year, the veteran outfielder begins drawing some of the deferred funds from the contract he signed with the Reds before the start of the 2000 season. 

While Griffey hasn’t shown that he can still hit Glavine or most other Major League left-handed pitchers, he has hit .291 with a .908 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) against right-handed pitchers over the past four seasons. 

A platoon of Griffey and Matt Diaz in left field sounds a lot better than one that would consist of Brandon Jones and Diaz. 

-  Mark Bowman

 

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