Results tagged ‘ Scott Proctor ’

Roster battles still being waged

Welcome to the final full week of Grapefruit League action.  Or as those who came to camp hoping to win a roster spot might say, welcome to the one week that truly matters during Spring Training. 

The past month has certainly been important to both Chipper Jones, who has gained confidence in his knee, and Nate McLouth who has simply proven that he does once again have confidence in himself.

The early weeks of the exhibition season have also proven beneficial to Wilkin Ramirez, the extremely athletic 25-year-old outfielder who went from being a respected prospect in the Tigers organization to a player that they were willing to part with for a little cash. 

Those who have only had a chance to evaluate Ramirez based on what they’ve seen in the box scores this year are understandably excited about the 25-year-old outfielder.  But is there really any reason to put much difference in the .310 batting average he’s compiled and the .207 mark Matt Young has recorded.

Both players have compiled 29 at-bats.  Ramirez has just been fortunate to tally three more hits during this short span.

Most of you were already well aware of the fact that there is no reason to put stock in exhibition season stats.  With this being said, I do recognize that the Braves would have certainly liked to have have seen Joe Mather tally more than the four hits he has compiled in his first 36 at-bats.

But because he’s already on the 40-man roster and out of options, I still feel it’s a foregone conclusion that he will be on the roster.  

In the exhibition season-setting, you have little control over which pitchers the batters face.  Once the regular season begins, Mather will be in a position to draw most of his at-bats against the left-handed pitchers that have been much friendlier to him than right-handed pitchers in the past.

I’m also still thinking Brooks Conrad will get one of the final available bench spots.  The Braves need his bat off the bench and they can get by with using Mather in center field if necessary. 

Conrad is beloved in the clubhouse and respected by members of upper management.  If there was legitimately a better alternative, it would be much easier to send Conrad to Gwinnett to begin the season.

But even with Ramirez impressing with his great athleticism and having the ability to serve as  legit backup option in center, I still expect Conrad to get the nod simply based on the fact he proved productive in the role last year. 

Meanwhile Ramirez combined to hit .234 for three different Minor League clubs last year.  This is not to say he doesn’t have tremendous upside and could possibly be in the Majors within the first couple of months.

But Ramriez seems to be in a position where he could benefit from a little more time in the Minors.  When the Braves acquired him last year, scouts labeled him as an extremely talented player who has had trouble hitting the breaking ball. 

While I’m still thinking Conrad will get one of the two final bench spots, I really don’t know whether it will be Ed Lucas or Diory Hernandez who gets the other one. 

Last week, I thought they might go with Lucas and I will stick with that belief because he could be used in the outfield if necessary.  This becomes even more important with the assumption that Conrad will be on the roster instead of Ramirez or Matt Young.

I’ll take a closer look at the final available pitching spots over the next couple of days.  But if pressed for a guess right now, I’ll stick with Brandon Beachy winning the fifth spot.  

My reasoning for Beachy hasn’t changed. The Braves paid Mike Minor a big bonus and his upside is tremendous.  Thus with just 134 career Minor League innings under his belt, the Braves need to maximize their investment by giving Minor another month or two in the Minors to work on his secondary pitches. 

Some of you will say the Braves need a left-hander in their rotation to start the season.  That’s fine, but I think it’s more important to do whatever necessary to increase the odds that you will get the most you can from Minor. 

As for that final bullpen spot, I think Cristhian Martinez is the clear favorite.  Scott Proctor struggled Thursday night and simply isn’t able to provide as much as Martinez, whose value rests in his ability to serve as both a middle man and long reliever.

The Braves will likely trade to Proctor over the next week.  If they are unable to move him, they could release him by March 28 and only have to pay a fraction of his one-year, $750,000 contract.  

 

 

Freeman impressing with bat and glove

As we prepare to watch Derek Lowe face the Astros in the third game of this exhibition season, it’s time to throw out some thoughts and observations gathered this past weekend.

Those who have followed Freddie Freeman knew he was quite capable of doing what he did Saturday, when he produced three doubles (one to each field) in Saturday’s opener against the Mets.  Thus, I would have to say it was even more impressive watching him begin a double play in Sunday afternoon’s contest. 

Freeman ranged to his right, regained his balance and used his strong right arm to fire a pinpoint throw to shortstop Alex Gonzalez who then threw to Rodrigo Lopez at first base to complete the twin killing. 

It’s a play you would expect to see at least a handful of Major League first baseman make.  But it’s still impressive to see a 6-foot-4, 242-pound frame start this turn with relative ease. 

Just to give you a sense about how much Freeman’s offseason conditioning program altered his frame, a National League scout very familiar with the Braves first baseman showed up this morning and said, “Wow! Freddie really got big.”

Mike Minor breezed through his 17-pitch, two-inning performance Sunday afternoon in very efficient manner. I’m among those who believe he could benefit from some additional time (a month or two) at the Minor League level. 

But if Brandon Beachy doesn’t give the Braves complete confidence that he will be reliable in the role, then they might not have any other choice but to have Minor start the year in the Majors. 

Yeah, Rodrigo Lopez is around for insurance.  But for now, I think we should just assume that the Braves have learned from the Mark Redman experiment. 

The Braves were given further reason to be encouraged about Chipper Jones when he returned to the park today and said his knee was sound enough for him to once again serve as the designated hitter this afternoon. 

As said before, the left knee is going to continue providing problems as camp continues.  The Braves and Jones are just hoping it becomes less and less of a problem as the days and weeks pass in March. 

Jones might serve as the designated hitter again on Tuesday and then take a break Wednesday when the Braves make the three-hour trek to Ft. Myers to play the Red Sox. Nice  veteran, perk huh? 

By the way, Tim Hudson wasn’t afforded this perk.  He’ll make the three-hour drive to Ft. Myers to make his two-inning exhibition season debut and then make his second start next Monday, when the Braves drive 2 1/2 hours to play the Marlins in Jupiter. 

I haven’t mapped out the rest of his scheduled.  But Huddy said, the rest of his starts are scheduled to be made at Disney.

Scott Proctor wasn’t guaranteed the last available bullpen spot coming into camp and while allowing Russ Adams a three-run homer in Sunday’s loss to the Braves he certainly didn’t aid his cause. 

There’s obviously still plenty of time for Proctor to make many more positive impressions before camp concludes. But if he continues to struggle, that last spot could be grabbed by Cristhian Martinez, who made some contributions in Atlanta last year. 

Martinez is just an early guess.  Don’t forget Fredi Gonzalez didn’t like him enough to find a spot for him in the Marlins bullpen at the beginning of last season.

With this in mind, I’ll say that Stephen Marek and Anthony Varvaro are the two other top candidates. 

BRAVES LINEUP:

Prado 7
McLouth 8
Chipper DH
McCann 2
Uggla 4
Heyward 9
Gonzalez 6
Hinske 3
Hicks 5  

 

  

Bullpen picture becomes clearer on a cloudy Sunday

With ominous rain clouds hovering around the Disney area this morning, Jair Jurrjens and Nate Mclouth may have to alter today’s plans.

But it now appears that Mother Nature may cooperate until at least 2 p.m. ET.  This would likely allow Jurrjens the chance to complete the four innings that he is scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals today.  

If rain prevents the Braves and Cardinals from playing this afternoon, Jurrjens would get his work in during a Minor League game tomorrow. 

Because the Braves slated each of their pitchers to have at least one extra day of rest before their first regular season start, Jurrjens would still be on a normal schedule leading up to his season debut on April 7 against the Cubs. 

Speaking of Minor League games, McLouth was originally slated to bat eighth during this afternoon’s game against the Cardinals.  But the Braves decided it would be better to have him head to one of the back fields today to rack up some at-bats against Minor Leaguers.

If this Minor League game is played, McLouth would be able to compile nine at-bats (one per inning) and possibly get out of the funk that has led him to record just one hit and 14 strikeouts in his first 35 at-bats this year. 

If Mother Nature prevents play today, McLouth could certainly attempt to compile these at-bats during the same Minor League game that Jurrjens would be pitching in tomorrow.

Second round of cuts:  The battle for the final two available spots in the Braves bullpen lost a few candidates this morning, when it was revealed that right-hander Jeff Lyman and left-handers Mike Dunn and Mariano Gomez will spend the rest of camp on the Minor League side. 

Dunn and Lyman were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.  Gomez was among four players re-assigned to Minor League camp. The others were catcher Orlando Mercado and outfielders Mitch Jones and Brent Clevlen.

While Dunn showed the strong arm the Braves knew they were getting when they acquired him as part of the deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees, he also displayed the inconsistent command that has been present since he ended his days as a position player at the conclusion of the 2006 season.

“Dunn has that good arm,” Cox said. “He just needs more command of that fastball.  He rushes out there a little too much.  It’s just a matter of command.” 

Lyman, who allowed one run and recorded five strikeouts in four innings, also impressed Cox during his first big league camp. 

But as we move forward, it now appears that the battle for the final two bullpen spots will be waged between Scott Proctor, Jesse Chavez,  Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Jo-Jo Reyes and Manny Acosta.

It still seems optimistic to think that Proctor, who is just 10 1/2 months removed from Tommy John surgery, would be ready by Opening Day. Cox understands that the veteran right-hander wouldn’t be available on a regular basis during the early weeks of the season.

But with some scheduled offdays present during this two-week stretch, Cox is still at least keeping this possibility alive. 

Assuming that Proctor begins the season on the disabled list, Chavez, Venters and Reyes could be deemed the front-runners in this competition.  Kimbrel undoubtedly has the greatest upside and it’s obvious that Cox really likes this young flamethower.

But Kimbrel could benefit from a little more Minor League seasoning and the Braves would have reason to be reluctant to open a 40-man roster spot for him with the understanding that he might be sent back down when Proctor is deemed ready. 

Chavez has pitched more effectively since struggling in his first two outings and has the experience that he gained while making 73 appearances for the Pirates last year.

Venters or Reyes would team with Eric O’Flaherty to give the Braves two left-handed options during the middle innings. 

With the lack of depth in the starting pitching department, it still would seemingly benefit the Braves to have Reyes start the year with Gwinnett and be stretched out in the event that one of Atlanta’s starting pitchers goes down with an injury.

While Kris Medlen would be available to make a spot start or fill a vacant rotation spot for an extended stretch, you could argue that his move into a starter’s role weakens the depth that could benefit the Braves as they attempt to protect the arms of Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito and Proctor. 

Still with Reyes pitching just one inning in his past two outings, it seems the Braves are seriously thinking about having him begin the year in Atlanta’s bullpen. 

Cox has routinely praised Venters’ sinker and history has shown that he likes to have a pitcher (think Kevin Gryboski) like this available to utilize when there’s a need to erase a threat with a double-play groundout. 

BRAVES LINEUP vs. Cardinals

Cabrera 8
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Glaus 5
Escobar 6
Heyward 9
Blanco 8
Jurrjens 1 

   
 

Coach Glav transforms into Glav the broadcaster

Tom Glavine has arrived and he’s ready to enter the broadcasting world.  The 300-game winner will  call this afternoon’s game against the Marlins with Joe Simpson.  The game can be seen on MLB.TV, MLB Network and SportSouth.

Thumbnail image for 031610 glavine.JPG 

This photo was taken about 30 minutes before Glavine was scheduled to be on the field for a pregame feature.  When asked if he was going to wear the uniform in the broadcast booth or make a quick change Glavine said, “yeah, like Superman.”

Showing the same calm, cool demeanor that existed throughout his career, Glavine didn’t exactly rush over to the main field to prepare for the broadcast.  Instead, he took time to watch Scott Proctor toss live batting practice for a second straight day.

With the back-to-back hurdle cleared, Proctor is looking forward to making his Grapefruit League season debut on Friday night against the Tigers.  The veteran reliever, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, could join the Atlanta bullpen some time in April.  

Glavine will travel south tomorrow when the Braves begin their annual two-game swing in Jupiter.  Wednesday’s game against the Marlins will also be televised and provided by the same aforementioned outlets.  But Thursday afternoon’s game against the Cardinals will not be televised. 

While in Braves camp this week, Glavine will get used to some of the broadcasting duties he will handle this upcoming season and also take advantage of the chance to don the Braves uniform and work with some of the club’s young pitchers. 

In other words, he’ll be preparing for some of the same duties he will possess this season.  While hit title is special assistant to the team president, Glavine will essentially be a jack of all trades this year as he attempts to determine what kind of role he would like to focus on in the future.

After sending this entry originally, I received an email from TBS that revealed John Smoltz will serve as one of their analysts for their weekly national broadcasts.  But more importantly, it sounds like he will team with Simpson to serve as an analyst for the Braves games carried by Peachtree Television this year.

There has been a wealth of pitching knowledge floating around Braves camp recently.  While broadcaster Don Sutton isn’t currently present, Phil Niekro arrived this morning and will stick around for the remainder of the week.

Glavine, Niekro and Sutton stand as three of the 24 pitchers in Major League history to notch 300 career victories.  

Today’s broadcast will allow you to watch Jason Heyward get his first look at Marlins ace Josh Johnson.  But the day’s storylines from a Braves perspective will focus on Takashi Saito’s attempt to rebound from two rough performances and Jair Jurrjens, who will look to duplicate the success he had on Friday, when he debuted with two scoreless against the Pirates 

Jurrjens hasn’t recently felt any discomfort in his shoulder and there isn’t really much reason to consume yourself with worry about him experiencing problems throughout the season.  But it will still be interesting to see how he feels after attempting to complete three innings (or throw approximately 50 pitches) today.

Saito’s problem during his first two outings stemmed from his inability to keep his pitches down.  The Braves don’t seem to be worried yet.  But a third consecutive rough outing from the 40-year-old reliever may provide even more reason to believe Peter Moylan could actually serve as Billy Wagner’s primary setup man for a majority of this season.  

NOTES:   After Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over the Nationals, Bobby Cox jokingly said, “Heyward has his worst game down here and still got on base two times.”   The 20-year-old right fielder recorded a broken-bat infield single in the first inning and later drew his seventh walk (28 plate appearances) of this exhibition season.

* Nate McLouth’s struggles continued last night as he went 0-for-3 and saw his batting average drop to .040 (1-for-25).  But if you’re stretching for a sign of optimism, he did put the ball in play during each of his three plate appearances. 

McLouth, who has struck out a Major League-high 10 times, has said that he has come to realize that something usually clicks during a certain at-bat during Spring Training. We’ll see Thursday if the ball he hit to deep center in the third inning on Tuesday night was a sign of better things to come.

*  TalkingChop.com’s Martin Gandy has prepared a book appropriately titled “Talking Chop 2010 Annual.”  This book reviews the 2009 season, previews 2010 and provides a comprehensive look at the organization’s most significant players.

Those interested in purchasing or learning more about this book can go to Gandy’s blog or just click here. 

 * The Braves will hold an Open House at Turner Field on Sat. March 27 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET.  Fans will have a chance to run the bases, throw in the bullpen, enjoy many of the stadium’s interactive entertainment options and view some of the seats available via season ticket packages.  They are advertising one full-season package that costs $249 ($3 per game).

Today’s Braves lineup vs. Marlins
Cabrera 8
Heyward 9
Chipper 5
Glaus 3
Diaz 7
Infante 4
Ross 2
Hicks 6
Jurrjens 1
    

 

Mother Nature provides Jurrjens a chance to pitch

(UPDATED WITH HANSON INFO)

Mother Nature cooperated long enough for Jair Jurrjens to complete his two scheduled innings in scoreless fashion.  But a second-inning rain delay forced Tommy Hanson to simulate his four-inning appearance in the covered batting cages here at Disney.

This morning it didn’t look like the Braves would have a chance to send Jurrjens to the mound to make his Grapefruit League debut against the Pirates.  But the rain that has pelted this area over the past two days subsided just long enough for the 24-year-old right-hander to complete his work in impressive fashion.

Having already gotten himself warm by the time play was halted with one out in the bottom of the second inning, Hanson went sent to the batting cages to complete this work that keeps him on his regular schedule.   He’ll attempt to complete at least four innings again on Wednesday, when he returns to the mound to face the Marlins in Jupiter.

Jurrjens opened his outing by getting Andrew McCutchen to look at three consecutive strikes and exited it having allowed just one hit  — Ryan Doumit’s second-inning leadoff single. 

The game was halted during the bottom half of the second inning after Yunel Escobar drilled that struck Ross Ohlendorf on the back his right leg, just above the knee.

During the bottom of the first, Martin Prado provided a leadoff single and advanced to third base when Nate McLouth’s well-placed bunt single drew a wayward throw from Ohlendorf.  But  Prado got caught in a rundown after Chipper Jones directed a grounder to first base and McLouth got picked off attempting to steal third base.    

BRAVES LINEUP
Martin Prado 4
Nate McLouth 8
Chipper Jones 5
Troy Glaus 3
Brian McCann 2
Yunel Esbobar 6
Jason Heyward 9
Matt Diaz 7
Jair Jurrjens 1

Notes:  Bobby Cox said that Scott Proctor will pitch in his first game around March 19.  The right-handed reliever has impressed with the arm strength he has shown while attempting to return from Tommy John surgery…Tom Glavine will arrive in camp early next week and handle the broadcasting duties for Tuesday’s game against the Marlins.

Jurrjens throws while Chipper and Heyward sit

MLB.com’s Peter Gammons arrived in Braves camp today just in time for Jason Heyward’s first day off since the Grapefruit League season began. 

Braves manager Bobby Cox said he selfishly wanted to put Heyward in the lineup for the sixth straight day, but was persuaded by his bench coach Chino Cadahia a day to rest.

Chipper Jones will also miss this afternoon’s game against the Astros because of a jammed right thumb that he incurred when he got jammed with a pitch on Friday.  Not wanting to aggravate this ailment that he has occasionally battled in the past, Jones plans to rest at least one more day before possibly returning to the lineup on Tuesday night against Roy Halladay and the Phillies.

Jair Jurrjens’ 24-pitch live batting practice session was completed in a pain-free manner this morning and the 24-year-old right-hander will likely repeat this exercise on Wednesday.  It now appears that his first Grapefruit League start could come Saturday against the Blue Jays.

Scott Proctor also impressed Braves manager Bobby Cox with the live batting practice session he completed this morning.

“He’s really firing the ball,” Cox said of the right-handed reliever, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Proctor could begin pitching in games within the next week to 10 days.  Once he does, the Braves will gain a better sense about when he could be added to their outfield mix.  While possible, Opening Day still seems to be a rather optimistic projection.     

BRAVES LINEUP vs. Astros

Nate McLouth 8
Martin Prado 4
Melky Cabrera 9
Troy Glaus 3
Brian McCann 2
Yunel Escobar 6
Matt Diaz 7
Brooks Conrad 5
Tommy Hanson 1

Murphy arrives; updates on Jurrjens and Proctor

Dale Murphy has arrived in camp and had the opportunity to reunite with his former teammates Gene Garber and Glenn Hubbard.  If not for the grey hair and creaky knees,  there might be some who could draw memories from 1978, when each of these guys were part of the group that Bobby Cox assembled during his first Spring Training as a big league manager.   

Of course you might also want to ignore the chilly conditions that arrived in the Disney area during the late-morning hours.  My guess is that West Palm Beach seldom felt as wintry as these conditions, which greeted the cast of backups that the Mets brought north for this afternoon’s game.  

For the second straight day, the Braves pitchers will be facing a lineup that doesn’t include Jeff Francoeur, whose former No. 7 Braves jersey is now being worn by non-roster invitee Joe Thurston.

As for the Braves, their lineup once again includes Jason Heyward, who has been moved down to the fifth spot of the lineup to account for the additions of Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus, who didn’t play during Tuesday’s Grapefruit League season opener.  

BRAVES LINEUP
Melky Cabrera 8
Martin Prado 4
Chipper Jones 5
Troy Glaus 3
Jason Heyward 9
Yunel Escobar 6
Matt Diaz 7
David Ross 2
Brett Clevlen DH

Bullpen sessions:  Jair Jurrjens made another step in the right direction with a mound session that consisted of approximately 30 pitches this morning.  The 24-year-old right-hander mixed fastballs and changeups during this session that was described as “pain-free” by Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell.  

“He had no problems,” McDowell said. “Everything went well.”     

If Jurrjens feels good tomorrow, he’ll be scheduled to complete a longer bullpen session on Friday.  While optimistic about the progress, McDowell still isn’t willing to place a particular timetable on his young right-hander, who reported to camp dealing with some discomfort caused by inflammation in his right shoulder.

But if Jurrjens continues on his current path, there’s certainly reason to believe he could make his first Grapefruit League start some time during the latter portion of next week.  

McDowell also reported that Scott Proctor looked strong during his 40-pitch bullpen session this morning.  The veteran right-handed reliever, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, will begin throwing live batting practice on Friday.   

It still seems optimistic to believe Proctor could break camp as a member of the Atlanta bullpen.   But the 32-year-old right-hander remains encouraged about the progress that has allowed him to reach a point where he is throwing with what he deems 90 percent of his effort.  <p>

“I keep taking steps in the right direction, not moving in the wrong direction, thank goodness,” Proctor said.  “I’m feeling really, really good.  I’m looking forward to at least getting a hitter in the box.”

In response to a comment from an earlier entry,  I want to thank you for providing me this opportunity to prove that I could prove capable of providing you an update that hopefully proved worthy of your expectations.  
 

Chavez impresses and Proctor appears to be ahead of schedule

The Braves enhanced the depth of their bullpen this past offseason and while watching his pitchers throw during their first official workout of the season, Braves manager Bobby Cox came away impressed by a number of the new acquisitions.
 
After Saturday’s workout concluded, Cox said he was impressed with what he saw from his closer Billy Wagner and his primary setup man Takashi Saito.  But he also had high praise for Jesse Chavez, the right-handed reliever who was acquired in exchange for Rafael Soriano in December.  

“I remember how hard he threw, but I didn’t know he had that changeup,” Cox said of Chavez. “The way he threw it today, it looked like he’d been throwing it forever, with the location and the break.”  

Chavez made an impression on Brian McCann, who labeled the reliever one of the toughest guys he faced last year.  Now he’ll be spending the next couple of weeks attempting to win one of the final available spots in the bullpen.  

Wagner, Saito, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty and Kris Medlen are in position to account for five of the seven available bullpen spots.  Chavez, Craig Kimbrel, Luis Valdez and surprisingly Scott Proctor  appear to be in position to battle for the final two spots.  

While Valdez wasn’t present on Saturday because of visa problems that are preventing him from getting to the United States, Proctor impressed Cox with a 50-pitch bullpen session that served as part of the rehab process that has followed the Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgical process he underwent in May.  

Originally, the Braves didn’t think Proctor would be available during the first month of the upcoming season.  But Cox said the veteran right-handed reliever might be ready to be part of the Opening Day roster.  

“He’s going to have plenty of time,” Cox said. “We’re going to get him out there as much as we can.   I think he will be ready out of camp.   If he’s not, he’ll be real close.”  

Cox said based on his velocity, Proctor seems to be ahead of where Peter Moylan was during the first week of camp last year.  As you likely remember, Moylan returned from this same surgical process in time to be part of the Opening Day roster.  

Saito and Kawakami chose not to throw live batting practice during the first day of workouts.  Instead both Japanese pitchers opted to get all their work in during 10-minute bullpen sessions.

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