Results tagged ‘ Omar Infante ’
While the Giants and their fans are still basking in the glory of winning the World Series, the rest of the baseball world has moved forward and accelerated their roster reconstruction plans for the 2011 season.
As soon as Giants closer Brian Wilson ended this year’s Fall Classic with a strikeout of Nelson Cruz last night, the free-agent market officially opened. All players eligible to enter this market officially became free agents last night and over the course of the next five days their current clubs will have exclusive negotiating rights.
In other words over the course of this week, the Braves will have exclusive negotiating rights with Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske and Derrek Lee. Hinske stands as the only member of this trio who could return to Atlanta next year.
But it will likely be at least a few more weeks before Hinske learns where he’ll be playing in 2011. He will take advantage of the chance to evaluate his demand from other clubs.
The Braves are looking for a right-handed backup for their left-handed first baseman Freddie Freeman. But if Hinske’s cost remains around $1.5 million, there’s certainly a chance they could attempt to bring him back to their bench.
Closer Billy Wagner is among the Braves who had a team option for the 2011 season. But when asked again this morning if he ‘d altered his plan to retire, Wagner didn’t even hesitate before emphatically saying, “No.”
Later today, the Braves will likely announce that they have exercised the $2.5 million options to bring both Alex Gonzalez and Omar Infante back next year. They could also soon announce that they have reached an agreement with Scott Proctor, who would be entering his final arbitration-eligible season.
Proctor, who struggled while attempting to return from Tommy John surgery this past year, will likely get a base salary of approximately $750,000. The veteran reliever’s contract will include some performance-based incentives that could allow him to earn close to $1 million.
The Braves aren’t expected to exercise the options to retain Kyle Farnsworth or Rick Ankiel. Farnsworth’s $5.25 million option includes a $250,000 buyout. Ankiel’s $6 million option includes a $500,000 buyout.
In other Braves-related news, general manager Frank Wren has hired highly-regarded Bob Johnson to serve as one of his advance scouts. Johnson gained great respect from his peers during his long tenure in this role with the Mets.
“He’s as good as it gets,” one Major League scout, not affiliated with the Braves, said earlier this week.
Johnson will be replacing Chuck McMichael, who was recently relieved of his duties with the organization. McMichael had been with the Braves since the end of the 2000 season.
Like Jair Jurrjens, I am returning to work tonight on regular rest. Over the past four days, I’ve drained both a bank account (down payment) and countless calories (moving boxes, furniture and whatever else Tammy wanted) while moving into our new house.
Still I wouldn’t say this past weekend was as draining as the experience Jurrjens had last Wednesday, when he squandered a 10-1 lead and played the central role in what had to be the worst meltdown I’ve witnessed during my 10 seasons on the Braves beat.
What? You guys have all moved past that Coors Field disaster. Sorry to rekindle a nightmare, less than 24 hours after Matt Diaz and Brian McCann gave the Braves their Major League-high 23rd last at-bat (11th walk-off) win of the season.
But to once again show why I believe this Braves team is a team of destiny, I had to remind you of the short time span that elapsed between this demoralizing loss and yet another thrilling victory.
During a radio interview with 790 The Zone Friday afternoon, I was asked if the loss to the Rockies would create a debilitating hangover effect. It might have seemed like it a few hours later when Tommy Hanson endured a second straight rough outing. But in all honesty, this was a question that didn’t elicit a quick and clear response.
The question was certainly justifiable. But while watching this team score a Major League-high 240 runs after the seventh inning this year, I guess I’ve forgotten the fact that they might at times be prone to the mental pitfalls that exist in both life and the athletic world.
There’s no doubt that the flight from Denver back to Atlanta was a little more somber than the many others the Braves have experienced this year. But this isn’t a bunch that was going to replay Wednesday’s events in their heads too long.
Instead, this never-say-die bunch was unknowingly positioning itself to fittingly become the first team to ever win a game that ended with an instant replay review. OK. The review obviously wasn’t instant. But the 86-second review process proved to be shorter than the added argument that would have ensued.
Infante Watch: Omar Infante went hitless during the opener and finale of this past weekend’s series against the Marlins. The last time he went hitless twice in a span of three consecutive starts was July July 17 (vs. Brewers) and July 20 (vs. Padres).
Infante’s .341 batting average would lead the National League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify to be listed among the league leaders. The versatile Venezuelan has collected 360 plate appearances and would need to average 4.4 plate per game to reach the 502 plate appearances necessary to qualify for the batting title without penalty.
Infante has averaged 4.6 plate appearances per game since moving into the leadoff role on a permanent basis on Aug. 2. If he continues to produce like he has over the past couple of months, there’s certainly reason to believe he could win the batting title after his batting average is adjusted to show him hitless over the number of plate appearances that separate his season total and the 502 needed to qualify without this penalty being assessed.
Using the assumption that Infante could be given three days to rest down the stretch, his current average would drop from .341 to .327 if you were to account for him going hitless over 15 at-bats. The red-hot Carlos Gonzalez enters this week leading the National League with a .326 batting average.
As Infante continues to compile plate appearances, there will be a less significant effect on his adjusted average.
Cox’s last ejection? You have to wonder if yesterday marked the last time that we will see Braves manager Bobby Cox ejected. With 32 regular season games remaining, Cox has been tossed four times this year (once every 32.5 games). When you account for the fact that one of these ejections (Jonny Venters’ hitting Prince Fielder) didn’t even include a heated exchange with umpires, there’s certainly a chance that the beloved manager will head into retirement with his all-time ejections record total sitting at 157.
NOTES: Jurrjens is 5-0 with a 1.81 ERA in seven home starts and 0-4 with a 6.62 ERA in nine road starts this year. He has notched each of those five wins while posting a 1.71 ERA in the five starts he’s made at Turner Field since returning from the disabled list…Freddie Freeman has hit .352 with 13 homers since June arrived. The highly-regarded first base prospect might be too young to fill an everyday role in the midst of a pennant race. But you’d have to think he could certainly help the Braves in September and maybe even October.
Here’s the shortened version of an earlier entry that disappeared like Luis Valdez.
Omar Infante learned this afternoon that his three-homer performance during this past weekend’s series in Chicago allowed him to earn National League Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career.
Infante’s bid to win his first career batting title will be influenced by the fact that he didn’t become an everyday part of the Braves lineup until the early portion of July.
With 333 plate appearances entering Monday, Infante would need to compile 169 plate appearances (4.4 per game) over the Braves final 38 games to raise his season total to 502, the mark that allows a player to qualify for the batting title without penalty.
If a player falls short of this mark, his candidacy for the batting title would be based on where his batting average would stand after accounting for him going hitless over the number of at-bats that would raise his season plate appearance total to 502.
The .370 batting average Infante has compiled since June arrived has been bettered only by the .410 mark posted by top American League MVP candidate Josh Hamilton. Buster Posey (.333) and Joey Votto (.331) are the only NL players to hit better than .330 during this span.
Entering Monday, Votto led the NL with a .323 batting average. If Infante is able to keep his batting average above .340, this might be the year that he could win a batting title even if he comes up shy of the necessary plate appearances.
Minor rest: Bobby Cox confirmed that he will utilize the benefits of Thursday’s scheduled offday and give Mike Minor a few extra days of rest before his next start. Minor, who matched a franchise rookie record with 12 strikeouts Sunday in Chicago, will make his next start next Tuesday against the Mets.
Instead of assigning him a certain number of innings, the Braves believe they can protect Minor’s workload by giving him extra days of rest when possible. Basically Cox wants the rookie right-hander as a part of his rotation for the remainder of this season.
Sorry for keeping it brief. Let’s just say that my computer had visa issues. Oh wait, I forgot that was Valdez’s excuse.
Jones’ father Larry Jones told the Florida Times-Union, “Those people that are talking about him being done,he ain’t done.” Those who know Chipper best realize that this isn’t the way he wants to say goodbye to his Hall of Fame-caliber career. At the same time, I’ll count myself among those of you who believe he deserves a much more fitting goodbye.
But before committing himself to the grueling six-month rehab process that he would face, Jones will first take time to talk to members of the Braves medical staff this afternoon to gain a better sense of what he is facing.
Because this is the second time that Jones has torn the ACL in his left knee, it will be more difficult to find the graft needed to fix the ligament. His left patellar tendon (kneecap) is no longer an option. It was used to repair the ligament, when he suffered this same injury before the start of the 1994 season.
If they were to use his right patellar tendon, he would enter the 2011 season with two faulty knees and possibly set himself up to endure many more problems during his post-playing days.
Once Jones learns of all of his options and the potential setbacks, he’ll have the opportunity to determine whether it’s in his best interest to attempt to continue playing.
When he was talking about retirement in June, he said that he would walk away if he felt he was no longer an integral part of the lineup. Over the past two months, he proved that he still had the capability to be a key ingredient to the Braves success.
But you can’t blame Jones for wondering whether he’ll be able to return from this surgery and still be able to provide his desired production next year at the age of 39.
What to do: When asked yesterday about how he planned to react to the fact that Chipper Jones won’t be available for the remainder of this season, Braves general manager Frank Wren attempted to soften the blow by pointing out that manager Bobby Cox can now put two All-Stars in his infield on a daily basis.
“When we get Martin Prado back, it will mean inserting two All-Stars into the lineup, he and Omar Infante,” Wren said. “I’m not sure we’ll find anything better than that on the marketplace.”
The Marlins are planning to sign Dan Uggla to a multi-year deal. In other words, if they were to trade him to the Braves, we’d probably soon be seeing Julio Teheran sitting in the same starting rotation as Josh Johnson.
The Braves talked to the Mariners about trading for Chone Figgins before the July 31 trade deadline. At the time, they were hoping Seattle’s Japanese ownership might be willing to deal their bad contract for the one that has padded Kenshin Kawakami’s bank account.
With former manager Don Wakamatsu gone, Figgins is happy and proving to be productive at the plate once again. At the same time, with Kris Medlen done for the rest of the season, the Braves are no longer in a position where they can trade the insurance that Kawakami provides.
There have been rumors linking the Braves to Orioles third baseman Ty Wigginton. But early indications are that the Braves aren’t going to add an everyday player via trade.
But with Diory Hernandez and Brandon Hicks now situated to serve as the only backup shortstops, it seems they do have a need to at least find a better option to fill this role that Infante has capably handled since arriving in Atlanta.
While hitting .366 (41-for-112) in the 32 games (24 starts) he’s played dating back to the start of July, Infante has provided further reason to believe he could be a reliable everyday player. But the sole reason he was given this All-Star status was the fact that his greatest value comes from his ability to be available to play a number of different positions.
With Prado playing third base and Infante playing second base during the season’s final six weeks, the Braves have reason to believe they would still have a solid infield. But if either of these guys or Alex Gonzalez suffers an injury, there will be a gaping hole in the lineup.
When we awoke this morning, I think it’s safe to say most of us expected Jason Heyward, Martin Prado and Tim Hudson to be named to this year’s All-Star team. There was also little shock when the players provided Brian McCann his fifth consecutive All-Star selection.
But the biggest surprise and thrill of the day came when it was learned Omar Infante was granted his first All-Star selection. It’s obvious that the Braves aren’t the only ones who have recognized the value he brings with his dependable versatility as a utility player.
“I’m so happy for him,” Hudson said. “I was just thrilled when I learned that he made it. That’s just great.”
The fact that Infante has hit .353 against the Phillies this year likely aided his cause when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel began looking at options to strengthen his bench.
The .345 batting average Infante has compiled with runners in scoring position since the start of the 2008 season ranks fifth among all Major Leaguers who have compiled at least 200 plate appearances in this situation.
“We feel like we got a good player there, who is a contact hitter, who can handle the bat,” Manuel said during TBS’s Selection Show.
Making his third All-Star selection and first since 2004, Hudson said he is looking forward to taking his son Kade down on the field to be surrounded by the game’s other greats during the Home Run Derby on July 12.
Prado will start at second base in place of the injured Chase Utley. Heyward has said that his injured left thumb will likely keep him from playing.
The five All-Star selections are the most the Braves have totaled since sending seven players to the 2003 Midsummer Classic.
UPDATED: Billy Wagner is part of the Final Vote Ballot. You can help the veteran closer make his final All-Star appearance by casting your votes through Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.
Tim Hudson has been activated from the 60-day disabled list and the Braves made room for him on their 40-man roster by placing outfielder Brian Barton on waivers. Barton cleared waivers on Monday and was outrighted to the Triple-A Gwinnett roster.
Hudson’s start against the Marlins tonight will be his first Major League appearance since July 23, 2008. The veteran right-hander is coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery.
Barton has hit .261 in 108 games for Gwinnett this season. His three-hit performance against Durham on Monday night aided the club’s postseason push.
Gwinnett is one game behind Durham in the International League’s South Division and they currently lead the Wild Card race with a 3 1/2-game advantage over Syracuse.
Monday night’s victory was also aided by the five-hit performance provided by center fielder Gregor Blanco, who could possibly be added to the Atlanta roster later this month.
But with the defensive range he’s displayed over the past couple of days, Omar Infante has provided the Braves more confidence in his ability to man the center field position until Ryan Church or Nate McLouth prove healthy enough to play on a consistent basis.
As mentioned last night, infielder Brooks Conrad, right-handed pitcher Luis Valdez and catcher Clint Sammons have been promoted from Gwinnett and will join Atlanta’s expanded roster today.
Coming off a weekend during which Kris Medlen was one of the many players that proved to be huge at Dodger Stadium, the Braves are back at Turner Field to host the red-hot Nationals.
Do I get any kind of bonus Scrabble points for describing Medlen as huge and the Nationals as red-hot in the same sentence?
During my nine seasons on this beat, I’d have to say this past weekend’s four-game set in Los Angeles was one of the best series that I’ve witnessed. How many times do you see a team bounce back from a potentially demoralizing walk-off loss with consecutive extra-inning victories and then end up taking three of four against a team that entered the series possessing the best record in the Majors?
While their pitching staff has been weakened by injuries, the Dodgers still are one of the National League’s elite teams and this weekend, the Braves proved to themselves and everybody else that they have the potential to work their way into that same category.
But everything that was accomplished in Los Angeles will go to waste if the Braves aren’t able to prolong this successful run against the Nationals, who have posted a 3.88 ERA and compiled a .322 batting average during the eight-game winning streak that they carry into tonight’s series opener.
The Braves have lost 16 of their past 27 games against the Nationals and they realize that taking care of business during these next two days would put themselves in great position this weekend, when they welcome the Phillies to town and have the opportunity to directly affect how things look at the top of the NL East standings.
Chipper Jones seemingly understands the importance of these two games. When he arrived at his locker before Tuesday’s batting practice he was told that his name wasn’t in tonight’s lineup.
“It’s not in there?” Jones said. “Excuse me a second.”
A few minutes later after having a brief discussion with Bobby Cox, Jones returned and said that he was back in the lineup.
Jones strained his left oblique muscle during Friday’s batting practice and was absent while the Braves won three straight against the Dodgers. The ailment bothered him while he was in Los Angeles, but when he awoke on Tuesday he felt no discomfort and was determined to play.
“If I can play at all right now, I’m going to play,” Jones said.
Jones’ return to the lineup led the Braves to shift Omar Infante from third base to second base. Martin Prado was positioned at first base because Cox opted to sit LaRoche against Nationals left-handed starter John Lannan.
Since joining the Braves LaRoche has five hits in 14 at-bats against left-handed pitchers. But he’s batting just .171 (7-for-41) against them since July 1 and is hitless in six career at-bats against Lannan.
When the Braves activated Infante from the disabled list, they optioned Diory Hernandez to Triple-A Gwinnett. With Infante’s presence, the Braves no longer needed to keep Hernandez around to serve as Yunel Esobar’s backup.
While Greg Norton has hit just .138 this year and .087 (4-for-46) from the left side of the plate, it still seemingly made more sense to keep him around with the hope that he’ll turn things around. It’s not as if Hernandez gave the Braves reason to believe he could be a valuable right-handed bat off the bench. He’d hit just .143 in the 42 at-bats he’d compiled dating back to June 28.
It was somewhat concerning to see Nate McLouth return to the bench during Tuesday’s batting practice and tell Bobby Cox that he was still feeling some discomfort in the same left hamstring that sidelined him for a week earlier this year.
McLouth, who tweaked the hamstring during Saturday’s 10th inning, said he really doesn’t feel any discomfort until he attempts to push off while attempting to run down a fly ball.
Given McLouth’s blue-collar, win-at-all-costs approach to the game, it’s definitely in his best interest to wait a few more days before returning to regular action. If he were to push himself attempting to score from second base or while running into one of the outfield gaps, he could incur an injury that would certainly handicap the Braves during this stretch run.
When I got downstairs after last night’s game, one of the female Japanese reporters looked at me with one of those sarcastic smiles. Confident that I didn’t have a “kick me” poster sitting on my back, I simply responded with a “yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Seeing no reason to end a good thing, I don’t see any reason for me to allow one of the guttiest and impressive pitching performances provided by a Braves pitcher this year to stop me from casting doubt in Kenshin Kawakami’s direction.
I mean it’s not like that Dodgers lineup that he dominated for seven innings on Saturday night even leads the Los Angeles area in batting average. Last time I checked they rank second in the Majors in that category behind the mighty Angels.
Nor is it like he’s even been able to match the 3.38 ERA that the heralded Jair Jurrjens has posted since the start of May. But I guess I will at least concede that the 3.46 ERA that Kawakami has posted during this span is at least better than the 4.42 ERA that Derek Lowe has compiled.
And seriously isn’t it still easier to put more faith in the surgically-repaired right elbow of Tim Hudson than it is that fatigued one that allowed Kawakami to end his 125-pitch effort with consecutive strikeouts with the bases loaded last night?
While I’ll attempt to continue to help Kawakami by continuing to doubt him, I’m going to have to end this sarcastic rant to provide you some news.
Hudson will throw a bullpen session on Monday and if all goes well, he’ll resume his Minor League rehab assignment by starting for Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday night.
As things currently stand, I would have to think Hudson likely won’t return to the Major League roster until it expands in September. At that time, the Braves will have to decide whether there’s a logical place for him in there rotation.
Before Saturday night, the logical assumption was that Hudson would simply replace Kawakami. But as long as the Japanese hurler is able to overcome his troublesome right shoulder every five days, can you really take him out of the rotation and replace him with somebody who hasn’t faced Major Leaguers for more than a year.
The Braves will say, “these things always work themselves out” and they often do. But for now, you have to at least wonder if the best course of action is to get Hudson stretched out to serve as a starter and then allow him to fortify the bullpen if there isn’t a logical spot to place him in the rotation.
McLouth sits during finale: While chasing down a seemingly uncatchable ball in right-centerfield during Saturday’s 10th inning, Nate McLouth tweaked his right hamstring. Thus Ryan Church made his second straight start in center field during Sunday’s series finale at Dodger Stadium.
McLouth and Chipper Jones (strained left oblique) will both be evaluated when the Braves resume play at Turner Field on Tuesday.
Infante could return Tuesday: Braves manager Bobby Cox indicated that Omar Infante could be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Infante, who has been out since May 20 with a broken left hand, has spent the past week playing for Class A Rome.
Happy Birthday Heyward: Early indications show that Jason Heyward isn’t nearly as good as he was when he was a teenager. As I write this sentence, he’s gone hitless in his first four at-bats for Double-A Mississippi. This obviously isn’t the way the top prospect envisioned celebrating his 20th birthday.
In the 30 games he’d played for Mississippi entering Sunday, Heyward had hit .422 with five homers, a .504 on-base percentage and a .725 slugging percentage.
When told of these numbers, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said, “Is that all?”
Braves general manager Frank Wren spent the past few days watching Heyward and likely gaining a better sense about when it might be best to promote highly-regarded prospect to Gwinnett.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has learned the Mike Minor has officially signed with the Braves and will now receive his $2.42 million signing bonus.
When the Braves make this official, we’ll learn more about the immediate plans for the 21-year-old left-hander, who was taken with the seventh overall selection in this year’s First-Year Player Draft
Today’s Odds and Ends:
Tim Hudson was thinking about throwing a bullpen session today. But pitching coach Roger McDowell said that the right-hander has decided to push this session back a few more days because he’s still feeling some discomfort around the left groin muscle that he strained last Friday.
Ryan Church said that he didn’t have any problems with his right elbow while recording two hits during Wednesday’s win over the Padres. Church had missed the previous six games while allowing his hyper-extended elbow to heal. During that span, he received a total of three cortisone shots.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem anymore,” Church said.
Omar Infante went 1-for-3 during his first two Minor League rehab games with Class A Rome this week. While that is encouraging, Braves manager Bobby Cox indicated that Infante needs at least one more week and possibly longer to get reacclimated to the speed of the game. The veteran utility player has been out since May 20 with a broken left hand.
Buddy Carlyle will be activated from the disabled list on Friday and optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to get some more innings over the next week or so. The Braves haven’t set a timetable for the right-handed reliever’s return to the Atlanta bullpen.
Singles jackpot: When the Braves recorded 14 singles in Wednesday’s win, it marked the first time since Aug. 19, 1993 that they had at least 14 hits in a game without an extra-base hit. The Braves lost that game against the Dodgers.
The most recent 14-hit performance without a extra-base hit in a win had occurred on June 23, 1986, a game also played against the Dodgers.
Nate McLouth 8
Martin Prado 4
Chipper Jones 5
Brian McCann 2
Yunel Escobar 6
Garret Anderson 7
Matt Diaz 9
Adam LaRoche 3
Derek Lowe 1
If you saw the Buck Commander bus heading toward Turner Field early Saturday afternoon, there’s a chance you saw all of the bearded men pictured on the side and simply assumed that you’d just seen ZZ Top’s new tour bus.
But I’m going to have to guess that there weren’t too many of you, who realized that Chipper Jones was on board and simply allowing his good friend and business partner Willie Robertson to give him a lift to the park
Robertson, who was in Atlanta this weekend for a hunting-related convention, is the founder and president of the Buck Commander company that is financially supported by a handful of Major Leaguers, including Jones and Adam LaRoche.
After making his debut with the Braves during Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Dodgers, LaRoche jokingly said that he was going to spend the next two months living in the bus and keep it parked in Jones’ driveway.
When told of LaRoche’s plan, Jones provided his best Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson impersonation by simply raising his eyebrow.
Still LaRoche was given the opportunity to drive the bus back to Jones’ residence on Saturday night and in the process, he thinks there’s a chance that he might have caused Jones’ wife, Sharon, some aggravation.
“I think I ran over some of Sharon’s plants or flowers pulling it in there,” LaRoche said.
Escobar update: While taking batting practice in the indoor cage this afternoon, Yunel Escobar had some trouble getting his bat around on the inside fastball. The swelling around his right wrist has subsided. But he likely won’t know if he’ll be able to play during Monday’s series opener in San Diego, until he has the opportunity to take some swings and make some throws during the afternoon hours. <p>
Hudson update: Because he believes there’s a chance he could resume his Minor League rehab assignment next weekend, Tim Hudson won’t accompany the Braves on their trip to Southern California. Instead, he’ll stay in Atlanta and continue to rehab the mild left groin strain that he suffered before Friday’s schedule rehab start.
Hudson remains hopeful that this ailment won’t prevent him from rejoining the Atlanta rotation some time this month.
Norton’s rainbow: While Greg Norton was certainly due to record pinch hits on both Friday and Saturday, there wouldn’t have been much reason to believe this would be the time he’d break out of this slump if you would have seen the multi-colored bruise he gained on his calf courtesy of a foul tip on Thursday night.
Initially Norton didn’t think it was a big deal and didn’t really realize any swelling until the Braves charter flight left Ft. Lauderdale and was en route to Atlanta. The Braves medical staff drained some of the blood out of his calf on Saturday and the veteran pinch hitter has spent the past couple days limping around with his leg heavily wrapped.
The bruise extends from ankle to knee and I’d detail some of the colors present if I’d actually seen them before. Believe me when I say it’s harder to look at Norton’s calf than it was to watch Jeff Bennett attempt to keep inherited runners from scoring.
Minor League Rehab stints: Both Omar Infante and Buddy Carlyle will play for Class A Rome on Tuesday night. Carlyle, who believes he could return to the Atlanta bullpen soon, will pitch the first two innings. This will mark the beginning of a Minor League rehab assignment for Infante, who has been out since May 20 with a broken left hand.