Results tagged ‘ Peter Moylan ’

Another Saturday, another shutout

Two weeks into the Grapefruit League season, the Braves have incurred their only shutout losses during the two Saturday games that they’ve played.  Suddenly, I know how some of those University of Virginia beat writers felt during those many Saturdays that Al Groh spent on their campus.

But seriously how did the Braves expect to score today while Jason Heyward was enjoying a chance to rest under this sunshine that finally arrived in Florida today.  As mentioned earlier, Heyward will be back in the lineup tomorrow afternoon with the split-squad that is going to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays. 

There really wasn’t a lot to report from today’s 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays.  Tim Hudson allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits in four innings.  But he came away feeling even more confident that his splitter and changeup are better than they were before he underwent Tommy John surgery and was unable to consistently find the high arm slot that he is currently displaying. 

Billy Wagner worked a perfect fifth inning and Peter Moylan found greater comfort with his changeup in a scoreless sixth that a pair of strikeouts, a walk and one hit.  Eric O’Flaherty verbally allowed the whole stadium know he was upset after issuing one of his two walks in a scoreless seventh inning and Jesse Chavez surrendered two hits before completing a second consecutive scoreless outing. 

It was a rather productive day for the Braves pitchers and quite a quiet one for the offense, which was limited to five singles, two of which came off Melky Cabrera’s bat.

This morning Nate McLouth explained his vision isn’t to blame for his early struggles.  Then while going 0-for-3 with two more strikeouts against the Blue Jays, he prolonged them.  He now has eight strikeouts through his first 19 at-bats this year. 

McLouth began Friday’s game with a bunt single that was erased from the statistics because the game was called after three innings because of rain.  He nearly beat out another bunt single in the first inning of Saturday’s game and then found nothing but more frustration in his next two at-bats.

“I thought he saw the ball much better today,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said on Saturday.  “He aired out the swing much better, instead of trying to read every pitch.”  <p>

I still think it’s far too early to put too much stock in the statistics that have been compiled so far during the Grapefruit League.  But given that he’s the projected leadoff hitter, McLouth’s strikeout totals become more concerning when you view them as a continuation of the trend that started last year.

McLouth struck out 93 times in 597 at-bats with the Pirates in 2008.  His strikeout total rose to 99 while compiling  90 fewer at-bats with the Braves and Pirates last year.

On the bright side:
  After completing his bullpen session without having any trouble with the blister on his right big toe, Derek Lowe said something like, “Everything went great.  I got everybody out. I felt sexy. My hair was parted and I can’t wait until my Michigan Wolverines get another football coach.”

OK, Lowe said all of that minus my inclusion of the Rich Rodriguez reference.  In summation, he appears ready to make his scheduled start on Monday night against the Nationals in Viera.  In case you forgot, he exited Wednesday’s outing against the Mets after one inning because this blister had formed around his right big toe. 

Cox visited the back fields this morning to watch Takashi Saito throw live batting practice and came back happy to report that the Japanese right-hander had shown better command than he had while allowing five earned runs in his first two games of the season. 

“He was in the strike zone down the whole session,” Cox said. “He really looked good.” 

Fantasy Advice:
  Those of you who are preparing for your fantasy draft may want to take a look at Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero, who proved effectively wild while pitching around four walks and limiting the Braves to two hits in four scoreless innings today. 

“That Romero kid is real good,” Cox said. “When he’s right, that slider is a (Steve Carlton) slider.”

Braves team of the decade: If you guys haven’t seen it, check out this story that was written after I sat down with Pete Van Wieren, Mark Lemke and Braves media relations director Brad Hainje to select the first Braves all-decade team of this century.   

   

Moylan working on change with Garber

Before traveling back to his Pennsylvania farm, Gene Garber had the opportunity to watch Peter Moylan unleash a healthy dose of changeups during the scoreless inning he completed against the Mets on Wednesday afternoon. 

During his 19-season big league career, Garber made a habit out of baffling opposing hitters with the changeup he was able to throw with his sidearm delivery.  As Bobby Cox remembers, this was the pitch the old sidewinder used to end Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak in 1978.

“He had one of the best changeups in the game and that’s a pitch that I’m missing,” Moylan said.  “Any kind of advice he can give me with different grips and different releases is great.”

As a former reliever who utilized the same sinker-slider repertoire as Moylan, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell has helped the Australian reliever with his mental approach and also been able to aid him with the mechanics of his delivery. 

But with traditional throwing motion, McDowell doesn’t the experiences that Garber has utilized the past two years in his attempt to help Moylan develop this changeup that he plans to utilize in an attempt to improve his success against left-handers. 

Last year Moylan limited right-handed hitters to a .211 batting average and .271 on-base percentage.  Left-handers batted .309 and produced a .436 OBP against him. 

With this in mind, Cox was pleased that Moylan was able to face four left-handed hitters (including the switch-hitting Angel Pagan) on Wednesdy. 

“He threw some dandies,” Cox said, referring obviously to the changeups. 

QUICK HITS:

Should it surprise you that Cox once again sent praise in the direction of Jason Heyward during Wednesday’s postgame session?  The 20-year-old showed good range going back and coming forward on two fly balls during the first inning.  Then after slipping in the outfield grass the next inning, he kept his poise and snared a Fernando Tatis flyball while still on the ground.

“He’s getting great jumps,” Cox said. “It’s the little fundamental things that we’ve talked about. Instinctively, at 20-years-old, he’s way ahead of the game.”

Cox also had nothing but good things to say about Mike Minor, who worked a perfect eighth, and Jeff Lyman, a 22-year-old right-hander who recorded a pair of strikeouts in a perfect ninth.

“The two young kids, Minor and Lyman, pretty darn impressive,” Cox said. “Really impressive.  I was impressed so much with Minor and then here comes Lyman and he did just as well.   Those are two really good looking kids.”

Kenshin Kawakami will be making his Grapefruit League season debut on Thursday afternoon against the Pirates.  He’ll be opposed by our old friend Charlie Morton, who was traded to Pittsburgh last year in the deal that brought Nate McLouth to Atlanta.

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman 
     

Odds and ends as Braves pitchers and catchers report

Had Nate McLouth known how miserable his beloved Michigan Wolverines
were going to make him feel, he might have chosen to wait until the end
of the football season before correcting his vision with contact lenses.

But
now that he’s had about four months to get used to his contacts,
McLouth has arrived in Braves camp happy about the fact that he’s going
to be able to see better than he did towards the end of the 2009
season, when he started having trouble with his vision, particularly
during night games.   

“During the day, it was OK,” McLouth
said.  “But at night, when there’s  a lot of lights, things kind of
blurred together.  Now with the contacts, it has been great.” 

As
Braves pitchers and catchers reported to camp on Friday morning,
McLouth and Matt Diaz highlighted the group of position players who had
reported to camp early. 

Japanese hurlers Kenshin Kawakami and
Takashi Saito arrived at the newly named ESPN Wide World of Sports
comlex early Friday morning and immediately exchanged pleasantries with
the likes of Tim Hudson and Peter Moylan, a pair of fun-loving hurlers
who know how to create some laughs around the clubhouse. 

Early
indications are that they’ll be having some fun with their new closer
Billy Wagner, who came to camp this morning wearing a flannel shirt,
jeans, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.

Craig Kimbrel, the
hard-throwingreliever who has been called the right-handed Billy
Wagner, shied away from his first opportunity to meet the veteran
closer. He’ll likely have the same kind of timid reaction when he first
sees Chipper Jones, whose number he wore while growing up as a third
baseman in Alabama.  

“Right now I’m just trying to get past
seeing guys that I’ve watched when I was younger,” Kimbrel said.  “I’m
trying not to let that get to me.  I’m trying to focus on getting the
job done and remembering that it’s just a game.”

While Kimbrel
adjusts to this new Major League lifestyle, Wagner has already taken
advantage of the opportunity to get used to his new catcher Brian
McCann. 

After they completed a short throwing session
together, Wagner took McCann to the plate and started talking to him
about how he likes to throw to certain hitters, based on where they are
standing in the batter’s box. 

The always-jovial Wagner also
took time to provide some laughs when talking to reporters.  When asked
if he bought into thoughts of doing whatever it took to make sure Bobby
Cox’s final season is a special one, the veteran reliever provided the
reminder that he’s the one who has never had the opportunity to play in
the Fall Classic.

“Heck I haven’t been to the World Series
ever,” Wagner said with his southern drawl. “How about going out there
and putting out a little effort for me.  (Peter Moylan) can go out
there and go like an inning and two-thirds and give me a
third-of-an-inning save every once in a while.   I mean Chipper and all
these guys, Bobby, they’ve gone to the World Series a couple of times. 
I’ve never been.  How about one for Wags?” 

Wagner, who
remains confident that his arm is strong, is looking forward to the
opportunity to spend some more time with Saito, who was with him in
Boston’s bullpen for the final weeks of the 2009 season. 

When
asked how they had developed such a bond, Wagner once again stirred
some laughs while pointing out that Saito had a firm grasp of the
English language. 

“He speaks English,” Wagner said.  “Like I
told him, it’s like everybody else. When you’ve got a second language,
you only can’t speak English when you’ve had a tough game…It’s
something where sometimes wish I had a second language.”     

Another
former Red Sox pitcher, Derek Lowe chose not to come to the stadium on
Friday. But pitchers and catchers were only required to report at some
point during the day that they have arrived. 

The Braves expect Lowe in camp on Saturday, when pitchers and catchers stage their first workout. 

Check
MLB.com and braves.com later today for stories that include more
information about Wagner, McLouth and some of the other figures who
have reported to camp.

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman 

Teams interested in Braves pitching surplus

The Rockies and D-backs both sent scouts to watch Tim Hudson make his return last night.  Like Hudson, these clubs are wondering whether the Braves will bring the veteran right-hander back to Atlanta next year.  

Even as recently as the All-Star break, it appeared the Braves weren’t going to be willing to bring both Hudson and Javier Vazquez back next year.  

But while there’s still a chance that one of them will be gone before the start of the 2010 season, there’s also a growing sense that  both could return to provide Atlanta with a rotation that would be deeper than any of the great ones it possessed during the 1990s.  

Hudson’s contract includes a $12 million club option and $1 million buyout for the 2010 season.  Vazquez’s cost of $11.5 million next year would be a definite bargain if he were capable of repeating the successful season he’s created this season.   

If the Braves were to enter the 2010 season in possession of each of their current six starters  –  Derek Lowe ($15 mil), Hudson ($12 mil), Vazquez ($11.5 mil), Kenshin Kawakami ($6.7 mil), Jair Jurrjens (approx. $500K) and Tommy Hanson (approx . $450K),  they would do so at a combined cost in the neighborhood of $46 million, which would eat up nearly half of their expected payroll.  

With Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano eligible for free agency, there’s a chance the Braves could choose not to bring either of these closers back and opt to have Peter Moylan fill that role at the approximated $1 million cost he may gain through his first arbitration-eligible season.

With Chipper Jones ($13 mil), Brian McCann ($5.5 mil), Nate McLouth ($4.5 mil), Matt Diaz (approx $2 mil),  David Ross ($1.6 mil), Omar Infante ($2.25 mil)  Yunel Escobar (approx. $500K), Martin Prado (approx $500 K), the Braves have approximately $30 million tied up in their position players and that’s without including the cost for a first baseman or outfielder.  

If you assume that the Braves bring Ryan Church back at around $3.5 million next year, then you could put their projected known costs at around $80 million.    

Then if Adam LaRoche was willing to stick in Atlanta for another year or two with an average annual salary of about  $6 million, the Braves would still be in position to account for non-arbitration guys (Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, etc.) and still satisfy their budget.

There’s no guarantee that the Braves will be willing to offer LaRoche this much during an offseason where a number of 1B/OF types will be available.   But I just wanted to throw that high-side figure out there to show that he could fit into a mix that would also include each of these starting pitchers.
 
While trying to show the Braves could have the financial means to keep each of these six starters,  I’ve included a lot of loose variables.

But at the end of the day, does it make sense to keep all of these arms?  Would it be more prudent to move Vazquez to gain prospects and have the opportunity to at least make a run at keeping either Gonzalez or Soriano, who will be Type A free agents?  

While there’s reason to wonder if Vazquez has found his comfort zone in Atlanta, history also shows that he’s had trouble putting together two consecutive strong seasons.  So should the Braves at least attempt to gain the solid return they could gain by dealing him?  

If the Braves simply chose to pay Hudson’s $1 million buyout, the only thing they’d be gaining is financial relief.  He currently doesn’t qualify as a Type B free agent.
 
Or maybe it makes sense to gain some financial relief by attempting to trade Kawakami, who wouldn’t provide the same kind of return as Vazquez.
 
The Braves may not have as many needs to fill as they did during last year’s offseason.  But as the D-backs and Rockies have proven, there are already a number of teams wanting to know how they’ll deal with their surplus of starters. 
 
Church returns, Chipper sits:    Ryan Church’s ability to return to Wednesday night’s lineup provided Chipper Jones to get a night off.  Jones’ back was a little sore on Tuesday night.  But he will likely return for Thursday night’s series finale.
 
Short bullpen:  Soriano threw 66 pitches while making appearances each of the past three days.  So the Braves will likely utilize  Gonzalez or Moylan as their closer tonight.   Gonzalez and Moylan have pitched both of the past two nights.
 
While Gonzalez threw 31 pitches through this span, Moylan totaled just 10.   

Every pitch counts

When you dissect the progression of a baseball season, you can lead yourself to believe that every pitch has the potential to produce consequences that extend beyond the game during which it was thrown.
 
Had plate umpire Bill Hohn called a strike on the 0-2 fastball that Eric O’Flaherty threw during Sunday afternoon’s game at Fenway Park, J.D. Drew wouldn’t have had the opportunity to deliver the next pitch off the Green Monster for a one-out, go-ahead RBI single. 

The Braves believe Hohn’s call cost them that series finale against the Red Sox.  Extending this arguable belief, did this call also deny them the opportunity to carry a four-game winning streak into tonight’s series finale against the Yankees?

If Drew had been called out on strikes, with first base open, two outs and left-handed slugger David Ortiz on deck, Cox said that he still would have called upon Peter Moylan to face the right-handed hitting Kevin Youkilis. 

But had first base umpire first base umpire Tim Welke not ruled in Jake Fox’s favor on a bang-bang play  with two outs in the seventh inning of Monday night’s win over the Cubs, Cox wouldn’t have needed to replace Javier Vazquez with Moylan, who needed just two pitches to end that threat and his evening.

After needing 14 pitches to erase Tommy Hanson’s potential sixth-inning damage and toss a perfect seventh inning during Tuesday night’s win over the Yankees,  Moylan was given a night to rest. 

Thus he was unavailable when Alex Rodriguez came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s game.   Had the Braves gotten the desired ruling from Welke, there’s seemingly reason to believe that the Aussie would have been the one facing A-Rod.
 
Instead, the Braves were forced to call upon Jeff Bennett, who allowed A-Rod to halt a 1-for-24 skid with a two-run single that gave the Yankees a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. 

There’s no guarantee that Moylan wouldn’t have allowed A-Rod to deliver the clutch hit.   But they certainly likely would have had the option to stay away from Bennett, who opted to challenge the veteran third baseman with four consecutive fastballs before seeing his 0-2 delivery deposited into center field.

Bennett, who was the one who surrendered Nick Green’s walk-off shot on Sunday, was inching closer toward ending his days in Atlanta.  But he’s at least bought himself some time with the fractured left hand he suffered when he punched a door after Wednesday’s sixth inning.  

When you’ve seen opponents hit .316 against you in 33 appearances and .295 with runners in scoring position, there seemingly must come a time when you’re the one who wants to do some hitting.   All indications are that the defenseless door  simply suffered a bruise similar to the one on Kenshin Kawakami’s neck. 

Kawakami, who was hit on the right side of his neck with a Joba Chamberlain line drive on Wednesday night, reported that he was feeling better than expected on Thursday.   Still with an offday on Monday, the Braves will likely skip his next turn in the rotation and allow him to make his next start during the July 4 game in Washington D.C.  

Tonight’s lineup:   With left-hander Andy Pettitte starting tonight’s series finale for the Yankees, Cox opted to keep Garret Anderson’s hot bat in the lineup.  But he did stick with his second base platoon with the insertion of Martin Prado, who is batting second.  

Yunel Escobar, who leads the club with 36 RBIs, is batting in the fifth spot.  Escobar is hitting .385 (25-for-65) with runners in scoring position.  

Bullpen taking shape

Jordan Schafer’s early success has been refreshing and Jeff Francoeur’s improved approach has been encouraging.  But if you’re attempting to identify the two most important developments the Braves experienced during the regular season’s first week, you have to focus your attention on Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan.

The most glaring concern for the Braves six games into the season has obviously been the bullpen which has accounted for  15 of the 25 earned runs the club has surrendered.  But as we were still wondering how this relief corps had allowed eight of those runs in one inning, Soriano and Moylan started to turned doubt into optimism. 

Soriano’s velocity hovered around 90 mph while he made just four appearances during the exhibiton season.  Yet four appearances into the regular season, we’ve seen him complete four scoreless innings, surrender one hit and issue two walks. 

Jeff Bennett is the only other Braves reliever who hasn’t been charged with an earned run.  But in the 3 2/3 innings that he’s completed, Bennett has surrendered six hits, hit a batter and issued a walk. Don’t even try to figure out how he’s maintained a 0.00 ERA while opponents have compiled a .471 on-base percentage. 

Nor do we need to determine why Moylan wasn’t able to retire any of the first five batters he faced this year.  Overexcited about returning  to the mound from Tommy John surgery, he was rushing his delivery and deny himself the opportunity to create sink with his fastball.

While slightly shortening the stride of his delivery Saturday night, Moylan struck out the only three batters that he faced.  Along with being perfect, the inning also proved to be the most important the Braves have experienced this year.

There isn’t a late-inning situation that Moylan can’t handle.  The side-winding Aussie can retire an opponent’s top left-handed or right-handed hitter.  He can induce the groundball when neccessary and when provided the opportunity, I truly believe he will prove to be a dominant closer. 

In essence, Moylan is the most valuable piece to this year’s bullpen and that’s why you have to give Cox so much credit for sending him back out there to protect a one-run lead Saturday night.  By doing so, he allowed the right-handed reliever to regain the confidence he’d shown while proving to be the club’s most impressive pitcher during Spring Training.

After Moylan exited Saturday’s game, Soriano worked a scoreless eighth and Gonzalez produced a perfect ninth, during which he threw nine of his 13 pitches for strikes.

This is the way Cox envisions ending a number of games this year.  At the beginning of Spring Training, he said his bullpen’s success hinged on the health of Moylan, Gonzalez and Soriano, who have all undergone season-ending elbow surgeries over the course of the past two years.

Soriano pitched all three games this past weekend and his most
impressive effort came Sunday, when he threw 10 of his 14 pitches for
strikes and notched two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning

With this being the final year of a contract that calls for him to earn $6.1 million this year, there probably wasn’t reason to wonder if Soriano would be healthy when the regular season began.

Because he’s less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, there was reason to wonder about Moylan’s arm.  But proving to be somewhat of a medical marvel, he hasn’t provided any indication that he’s felt any sort of discomfort while throwing over the course of the past two months. 

Gonzalez still hasn’t regained the velocity he possessed before undergoing TJ surgery in May of 2007.  But if he continues to spot his curveball consistently, he can still be effective with a 92-93 mph fastball. 

With Kris Medlen waiting in the wings, the Braves have the ability to fortify the front end of the their bullpen when necessary.  But based on what we witnessed this past weekend, the back end is shaping up nicely.

Glavine update: Tom Glavine is expected to return to Turner Field this afternoon after meeting with Dr. James Andrews.  There’s obviously a chance he could tell us he’s experienced a tear and needs to retire.  Then again, he could just tell us that his shoulder discomfort is a product of broken scar tissue. 

Whatever the case, I’d have to think it will be at least another month before he’d be cleared to pitch in a game with the big league club. 

 

  

Francoeur catches a big one

Unable to take batting practice because of a potential rainstorm that never arrived, the Braves spent the past couple of hours rehearsing for the inevitable long rain delays that await them this year. 

Jeff Francoeur grabbed a fishing pole and threw his line into a pond that is located just outside the visitor’s clubhouse here at Osceola County Stadium and came away with 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass, that was slightly bigger than Kris Medlen.

Speaking of Medlen, he’s going to pitch tonight and attempt to once again put himself in position to grab one of the final bullpen spots.   His candidacy was tarnished on Friday when he allowed the Blue Jays three runs  –  two earned — and three hits in 1 1/3 innings. 

Medlen’s odds of beginning the season in Atlanta might have already been diminished earlier today, when Rafael Soriano enjoyed a pain-free bullpen session at Disney.  The right-handed reliever will pitch here at Francoeur’s Fishing Preserve on Thursday, when the Braves conclude their Grapefruit League season against the Triple-A Astros.

Chipper Jones ended tonight’s top of the first by looking at a called third strike thrown by Russ Ortiz.  Unfortunately, the Astros found it difficult to swing and miss anything that Derek Lowe threw them during the bottom of the first inning. 

When Lowe exits tonight, Peter Moylan and Mike Gonzalez are scheduled to pitch.  There no longer seems to be reason to wonder whether Moylan will be in the bullpen when the season starts on Sunday night.

“I’m sick of reading the Braves remain hopeful that Moylan will be ready,” Moylan said. “I’m going to be ready.”

Garret Anderson is getting his first opportunity to test his right calf as an outfielder tonight.  Thanks to the fact that Lowe’s sinker didn’s sink too much during the first inning, the veteran outfielder has already had to do some running.

When Brian McCann returns to the lineup on Wednesday, he might be wearing a suit of armor.  A foul tip bruised the All-Star catcher’s right ring finer on Saturday and then when he returned to action on Monday, a foul ball left a nasty bruise just above his right knee.

 
francoeur.jpg 

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 

 

Glavine set to face former team

When Tom Glavine steps on the mound this afternoon to make his Grapefruit League season debut, he’ll be facing a group of guys wearing the same Mets uniform that he donned from 2003-2007.  But he won’t exactly be seeing too many familiar faces. 

Coming back from the WBC, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran have been given a chance to rest for a few more days.  Thus, the only familiar face Glavine will see today belongs to Jose Valentin. 

It’s going to be interesting to see how Glavine performs.   While completing a two-inning simulated game on Monday, it was obvious that he’s still lacking the arm strength that he’ll need to find success this year.  His velocity rivaled that of a knuckleballer’s. 

But his location was still pinpoint and he seemed to be encouraged.  Maybe not as much as the ever-positive Bobby Cox.  But still enough so that I got the sense that he still feels he’ll be able to pitch this year without having to endure embarrassment.   

Over the next few weeks we’ll gain better indication about whether Glavine will truly be ready to make his first scheduled regular season start on April 18.  The veteran southpaw, who had his left shoulder and left elbow surgically repaired in August, will turn 43 on Wednesday.

Today will also be an important one for Peter Moylan, who will be making his fourth Grapefruit League appearance.  The Australian reliever, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, still believes he’ll be in the Atlanta bullpen on Opening Day.

Garret Anderson ran a little harder today than he had yesterday, when he first tested his strained right calf.  Chipper Jones also took batting practice this morning.  Both of these guys should be able to return to action within the next four-to-five days.   

When I awoke this morning, I was in sole possession of an NCAA tourney pool that includes nearly 700 entries.  My incorrect first-round selections were Clemson, Florida State and Wake Forest.  Thanks ACC. 

But given the choice between winning this pool or having my alma mater (Dayton) beat Dave O’Brien’s alma mater (Kansas) in the second round, I’ll glady choose the opportunity to make O’Brien feel as miserable as somebody being interrogated by Jack Bauer.

Today’s Lineup

Jordan Schafer CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Brandon Jones LF
Jeff Francoeur RF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Omar Infante 3B
Dave Ross C
Tom Glavine P 

Did you really want Peavy?

Instead of bashing Jake Peavy when he comes to Turner Field this year, Braves fans might want to thank him for the fact that he had no desire to pitch in Atlanta. 

While watching Puerto Rico’s 11-1 win over the U.S. Dolphin Stadium last night, I started to draw comparisons between Peavy and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington.  But I eventually concluded that  Pennington hadn’t got hit nearly as hard by Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense during this year’s playoffs. 

Had the Braves acquired Peavy via trade, they would have paid him at least $63 million over the next four seasons.   When you’re dishing out that kind of coin, you’d at least like to have some confidence that he’ll be answer the bell when you need him in big games.

While the sample size is small it’s still somewhat alarming to know that Peavy is 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA (22 2/3 innings, 24 earned runs)  in the six combined career starts he’s made during the postseason and the World Baseball Classic.

Instead of Peavy, the Braves ended up with Derek Lowe, who is 6-5 with a 3.33 ERA in 21 career postseason appearances (10 starts).   Over the course of eight days in 2004, Lowe won a Game 7 start at Yankee Stadium and tossed seven scorless innings to allow the Red Sox to clinch their first World Series in 86 years. 

When Lowe takes the mound at Disney this afternoon, he’s not going to be feeding off his “big-game” adrenaline.  But the Astros, who are 1-13-1, might look at this afternoon’s game a little different.  Frustrated by his team’s struggles, manager Cecil Cooper required every position player make the short trip across Osceola Parkway. 

After Lowe exits today’s game, Peter Moylan will continue his Sunday afternoon tradition of making a Grapefruit League appearance.   His only two previous appearances this year have occurred on Sundays. 

Before this development, the only thing linking the tatooed Australian to the NFL was the fact that his arms are as decorative as Kyle Turley’s.  

You probably best remember Turley as the Saints offensive lineup who imitated Moylan’s sidearm delivery while tossing a Jets helmet across the field during a nationally-televised game.

While pitching against the Phillies last week, Moylan looked tremendous and gave more reason to believe he might indeed be ready by Opening Day.  But the Braves will remain cautious with the right-handed reliever, who is just a little more than 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery. 

Rafael Soriano is also scheduled to make his second Grapefruit League appearance this afternoon. 

Other than finding out where Dayton will be bracketed in the NCAA tournament, I’d have to say the appearances made by Moylan and Soriano will be the most important developments of the day.

The Braves are expected to announce their next round of cuts later today or on Monday.  James Parr, who impressed with four strikeouts in 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the Marlins on Friday, has already been informed that he’s heading to Minor League camp.

“I did everything that I could do,” said a distraught Parr, who allowed one run in 7 1/3 Grapefruit League innings. 

With a little more than two weeks left before the start of the regular season, the Braves may attempt to take advantage of their pitching depth via trade.  While he might not net a return greater than a mid-level Minor League prospect, Buddy Carlyle has been receiving some attention from clubs looking to improve their bullpen. 

Anderson update:  Garret Anderson hasn’t started running yet.  But the veteran outfielder, who has been sidelined since March 6, continues to be encouraged about the improvement of his strained right calf.   It’s starting to look like he could be available for the final two weeks of the exhibition season.

Today’s lineup:
Jordan Schafer CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Matt Diaz LF
Jeff Francoeur RF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Martin Pradro 3B
David Ross C
Derek Lowe P   

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