Results tagged ‘ Omar Infante ’

Optimism abounds in the Braves clubhouse

After losing the first three games of a four-game series at Turner Field last week, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that the Braves were the best team that he’d seen throughout the year.   Given that he’s already seen the  Dodgers nine times, that was certainly an encouraging compliment.  

Then while talking on Monday afternoon about the fact that he doesn’t see a glaring need to make a move before Friday’s Trade Deadline, Braves general manager Frank Wren said that he felt his club was playing better than it has in the past three or four years.  

These comments certainly weren’t expected to be heard on July 5, when the Braves lost a second straight game against the Nationals.  But while winning 12 of the 18 games that have followed, they have made believers out of a number of people, including Chipper Jones.  

“It doesn’t matter which pitcher we use, we are capable of beating any team that is going to make the playoffs this year,” Jones said before the Braves opened a three-game series against the Marlins on Tuesday night at Land Shark Stadium.  

While Jones wasn’t specifically asked if this comment pertained to Wednesday’s pitching matchup which pits Josh Johnson against Kenshin Kawakami,  it’s easy to deduce that there’s a sense of confidence that wasn’t present in the Braves clubhouse during the first three months of this season or last year, when Kawakami would have spent the final two months as the number one or two starter.  

Like every other Major League club, the Braves certainly have flaws.  But with a starting rotation that has produced a Major League-best 3.62 ERA, they possess the one area of strength that the Phillies, Dodgers, Yankees  and some of the game’s other top powers are still looking to improve.  

While we don’t know exactly what to expect when Tim Hudson returns, the Braves feel like his return in August will give them the same kind of benefit they would receive from making a blockbuster trade before this week’s  deadline.

Making his third Minor League rehab start on Monday night, Hudson allowed four hits over four scoreless innings against Triple-A Lehigh Valley.   After the 41-pitch effort, the veteran right-hander once again said that he was encouraged about the progress of his arm strength.   
Hudson, who is attempting to return from Tommy John surgery, is essentially in Spring Training mode and thus will need to make at least six starts before being deemed ready to be placed in the Atlanta rotation.  

Braves manager Bobby Cox confirmed that Hudson will need at least three more starts and possibly a fourth.   If he is deemed ready after three starts, the 34-year-old right-hander could be ready by Aug. 16, which is nine days earlier than he was projecting before he began this rehab process.  

“We’re just looking at his next start to see how he progresses and then we’ll see where he is after that,” Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said.  “Looking down the line, based on what we’ve been through with other guys, we’re not putting the cart before the horse.  We’ll just see how he is after his next start.”  

Once Hudson returns, the most likely move would be to place Kawakami in the bullpen.  But for now, the Braves are simply addressing this question with the familiar adage, “these things always work themselves out.”
 
Other injury related notes:

Omar Infante has still been feeling some expected discomfort while taking batting practice the past few days.  But Infante, who has been out since May with a broken left hand, has shown enough progress to allow the Braves to believe he could begin a Minor League rehab assignment within the next week.  

When Eric O’Flaherty issued three walks during Saturday’s loss to the Brewers, he was fighting some of the discomfort created by the unfamiliarity of pitching with a taped ankle.  The left-handed reliever turned his ankle when he stepped on a ball during batting practice on Friday night.   The ailment isn’t believed to be serious and he was available to pitch on Tuesday night.

Ryan Church hyper-extended his right elbow when he attempted to avoid a collision with Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard earlier this month.  He aggravated the ailment earlier in Milwaukee earlier this weekend, when he swung and missed a pitch.
 
When Cox asked his right fielder if he was healthy enough to play on Tuesday night, Church responded, “Yeah, I just have to make sure that I don’t swing and miss.”   

McCann expects to enter in the sixth inning

Brian McCann told me that he doesn’t want to walk off the field as an All-Star Game loser for the fourth consecutive season.  As you might remember, he entered last year’s Midsummer Classic in the bottom of the 15th inning, just in time to make unsuccessful attempt to prevent Justin Morneau from scoring the game-ending run.

McCann won’t have to wait around as long this year to enter the game.  The 25-year-old catcher is  expecting to enter in the sixth inning which means we’ll likely get to see him get at least one at-bat.  He is hitless in his two career All-Star Game at-bats. 

It’s been obvious that McCann is much more relaxed than he was during his three previous trips to the All-Star Game.  Before batting practice today, he was cutting up with David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman in the same manner that he has over the past few years with so many Braves.

A few weeks ago in Cincinnati, when the Braves were trying to snap a four-game losing streak during the series finale with McCann getting a rest, Chipper Jones exited the clubhouse’s batting cage and found McCann talking to some of his teammates around his locker.

Here’s how the comical exchange developed from there:

Chipper:  You’ve been summoned to the batting cage.
McCann: What do you need? All I’m going to do is go in there and make fun of people.
Chipper:  In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve lost four straight and we need you in there to get the guys loose.

With that, McCann immediately walked toward the batting cage and seemingly helped to lighten the mood.  The Braves responded with a 7-0 win that afternoon.

I went into the stands to talk to McCann’s parents this evening and it’s definitely great to see how much they enjoy sharing in the All-Star experience with their son. 

“The parade is still the best for me,” Howie McCann said.  “To see him out there with (Derek) Jeter and Mariano (Rivera) and all of those guys is just great.”

Some of you have asked about Omar Infante.  He was hoping to being his Minor League rehab assignment within the next week.  We’ll learn more about his status on Thursday.

   

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.    

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45,224 other followers