Results tagged ‘ Takashi Saito ’

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
    

 

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.   

   

Heyward gets another day off

When Jason Heyward arrived at the stadium this morning he was surprised to see that his name wasn’t in the lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Blue Jays. 

Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton quickly chimed in with, “Don’t worry kid, you’re going to have plenty of chances to play for a long time.”

Given that two rainy days and one very minor back ailment have limited Heyward to three innings since the completion of Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies, there was certainly reason to believe the 20-year-old right fielder would have been back in the lineup for this afternoon’s contest. 

But because Heyward is scheduled to travel to Dunedin tomorrow and to Viera on Monday night, the Braves opted to give him a chance to enjoy this bright sunny day in the Disney area. 

If the Braves were still seriously debating whether Heyward was going to be on their Opening Day roster, I think it’s easy to assume he would have played Saturday under the watchful eyes of Bobby Cox, who won’t be making the trip on Sunday to see the split-squad team play in Dunedin. 

Cox will instead be with the split-squad team that will send Kenshin Kawakami to the mound to face the Astros in nearby Kissimmee.  The ever-versatile Kris Medlen will start Sunday’s  game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. 

SATURDAY’S BRAVES LINEUP
McLouth 8
Prado 4
Jones 5
Glaus 3
Escobar 6
Diaz 7
Cabrera 9
Ross 2
Hudson 1

NOTES:  Derek Lowe completed his bullpen session in pain-free fashion this morning and was happy to report that he “got everybody out.”  With the blister on his right toe once again covered by tape, Lowe will likely make his scheduled start on Monday night against the Natoinals…Before today’s game, the Braves will introduce Edward Salcedo, the highly-regarded Dominican shortstop that they signed a few weeks ago…Cox was pleased with what he saw while watching Takashi Saito complete a live batting practice session this morning. Saito has had trouble keeping his fastball down during his first two appearances this year.  

Cox clears Heyward and praises Kimbrel

Chipper Jones will be getting the night off and Melky Cabrera won’t be present to talk to Yankees reporters about how he’s doing now that he’s no longer wearing pinstripes.  But Jason Heyward will be in Tampa tomorrow night to do more than simply watch Jair Jurrjens make his Grapefruit League season debut against the defending world champs.

While Jones and Cabrera aren’t scheduled to travel to Tampa, Bobby Cox confirmed that Heyward will be back in the lineup against the Yankees.  The 20-year-old outfielder missed Wednesday’s game because the Braves wanted to give him a chance to rest the sore upper back that he encountered after running into the right field wall during Tuesday night’s game.

“He’ll be in there for sure, no problem at all,” Cox said.

Unfortunately the Braves can’t express the same level of confidence when asked about the odds of Derek Lowe making his next scheduled start on Monday night against the Nationals.  But they are still optimistic that the blister on his right big toe won’t prove troublesome enough to prevent him from making his Opening Day start against the Cubs on April 5.

“Thank God, it’s not his arm,” Cox said.  “You can miss one down here and still be fine.  “I just hope that he can start next time.  I’m sure he can. I think they can tape it up somehow or put Super Glue on it.  I’m just joking.  But I’m sure they can put something down there to toughen it up.  It’s about the nastiest blister I’ve ever seen. ”  <p> 

When Lowe removed his sock to show the blister to reporters, he managed to reveal something that was actually uglier than the one-inning stint that he had just completed against the Mets. 

Lowe felt the blister in the process of opening the game with a strikeout and then over the course of the next six batters he faced, he surrendered four singles, watched Chris Carter continue his recent home run tear and dodged one line drive that seemed destined to drill his forehead.

“Instead of worry about pitching, I was worrying about how to not drag my back toe,” Lowe said.  ” Then I almost took one off the melon there.  That would have been real fun. So it was a wasted day.”  <p>

Because he only threw 27 pitches against the Mets, Lowe will have to make up for this “wasted day”.  But even if he is unable to make his start against the Nats on Monday, he’ll still have an opportunity to make three additional starts, including one that would be scheduled to last five innings. 

Still this isn’t exactly what the Braves envisioned when Cox went against tradition and made the early announcement that Lowe will serve as his Opening Day starter.  The only other time I remember the veteran manager making this announcement this early was before the start of the 2004 season, when he bestowed the honor upon Russ Ortiz, who responded with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP.  

Ortiz’s selection was either based on the 20-win season he had notched the year before or more likely the fact that for the first time since the first George Bush was president he was unable to provide this honor to somebody named Glavine, Smoltz or Maddux.

Nevertheless, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Cox will stay on the safe side of superstition and never again make an early announcement about his Opening Day starter.

Exiting sarcasm mode, Cox had nothing but good things to say about the way Craig Kimbrel looked while recording a pair of strikeouts and issuing a contested walk in a scoreless 10th inning against the Mets.

Cox said that plate umpire Jeff Kellogg admitted he missed a third-strike call that would have prevented Kimbrel from issuing his leadoff walk to Ike Davis.  But young fireballer, who has been called “the right-handed Billy Wagner”, seemed unfazed as he responded with consecutive strikeouts and then ended the inning with a harmless pop fly.

Kimbrel’s ability to make his fastball look like it’s rising has Cox raving about his ability to serve as a top-notch closer in the future.

“A scientist will tell you that it’s an illusion, but it does come up a little bit,” Cox said of this fastball that has been clocked in the upper 90s. “It looks like it’s going to be low and it’s not.”

Saito and McLouth prolong struggles:  Closer Billy Wagner bounced back from his shaky debut with an easy scoreless inning against the Phillies on Tuesday night.  His setup man Takashi Saito’s attempt to experience a similar rebound prove unsuccessful as he was charged with three earned runs during his one-inning appearance against the Mets. 

“He was up with everything,” said Cox of his 40-year-old reliever who issued a leadoff walk and later surrendered a two-run double to Carter and an RBI triple to Adams. 

Saito didn’t have the opportunity to blame this outing on the discomfort of his contracts.  The lenses he was wearing were different than the ones he was wearing on Friday, when he allowed the Pirates two runs in one inning. 

Former Pirate Nate McLouth had another rough afternoon and now has just one hit through his first 16 at-bats of the year.  It’s still way to early to be alarmed about results down here. But with that being said, you certainly have to hope that the six strikeouts he’s incurred so far don’t signal a trend.  
 

  

  

   

Odds and ends from Day 2 in Braves camp

Before the Braves begin their workouts on this sunny Sunday morning in ESPN land, I figured I’d provide you a couple of light-hearted notes that have been gathered during the early days of this camp that is still awaiting the arrivals of Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus, Jason Heyward and a handful of other position players, who aren’t required to report until Monday.

When Derek Lowe called the Braves this winter to express interest in changing his number to 24, he was told the number had already been claimed by Nate McLouth, who was forced to change his to appease Billy Wagner’s request to wear number 13. 

“The only reason that I took 24 is because it’s my favorite TV show and Lost isn’t a number,” said McLouth, who wasn’t willing to divulge what kind of compensation was provided by Wagner.

Lowe said he last wore 24 in high school and has since been unable to claim it in the Majors. When he played for the Mariners, some guy named Ken Griffey Jr. was wearing it and he’s unsure of why it was unavailable during his days in Boston.  Then when he signed with the Dodgers, he learned the number had been retired for Walter Alston.

Wagner’s redneck football:  Wagner is big believer in the benefits a pitcher can gain by throwing a football and he’s spent some time the past couple of days gripping the pigskin while sitting at his locker. 

“It strengthens the arm, but also helps your grip,” Wagner said.  “You’ve got to have strong fingers to throw a football correctly.” 

While sitting at his locker this morning, Wagner tossed the football across the room to Takashi Saito and quickly learned that the Japanese hurler certainly hasn’t had much previous experience throwing one. 

After Saito’s ugly unorthodox throwing motion produced a few wobblers acrosss the room, Wagner said, “He’s going to teach me Japanese and I’m going to teach him redneck football.”

Bye-bye Yankees paraphernalia: When hard-throwing left-handed reliever Mike Dunn learned that he had been traded to the Braves that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees, he gained the sense that he’d been provided a better opportunity to reach the Majors.

“I’m excited to come here and play,” Dunn said. “It’s a good chance for me.  I’m not saying anything bad about the Yankees. They took care of me and I love them, but I think I have a better opportunity outside of the Yankees organization.”

As for Dunn’s family members, who pull for a range of teams located in the western portion of the country, they welcomed the opportunity to end their days of pulling for the Yankees. 

“I tell you the family was pretty happy to get rid of the Yankees stuff,” Dunn said. “No matter what team I’m on, they’re going to cheer for them and that’s going to be their new team.   But they were pretty happy to get rid of their Yankees stuff and drop the YES Network immediately.”

Wagner, who grew up within a family and rural Virginia community that includes plenty of Braves fans, also seemed to draw a positive reaction from friends and family members when he opted to sign with Atlanta in December.

“It’s funny because now everybody back home says, ‘now I can truly root for you,’”  Wagner said.

  

 

       

    

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.

Wren heading to Indy with a shorter shopping list

Now that we know that Tiger Woods wasn’t slipping out in the middle of the night to take advantage of one of last week’s door-buster sales, it’s time to focus on the remaining shopping list that Braves general manager Frank Wren will take to next week’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.
  
Would it have been more appropriate to refer to them as window-busting sales?

Regardless, it’s safe to say Wren certainly came out swinging during the early stages of this offseason.  While bidding adieu to a pair of Type A free agent relievers (Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano) who could net him four picks in next year’s Draft, Wren grabbed a pair of Type A free agent relievers (Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito) while losing just one draft pick.   

Saito would have been labeled a Type A free agent had the Red Sox not dropped them from their 40-man roster in October.  This was simply a procedural move that provided them the opportunity to pursue the Japanese right-hander at a cost cheaper than the option (worth at least $6 million) that was in his contract.

Wren certainly took a small risk by offering arbitration to both Gonzalez and Soriano when he had a good sense that in the next 48 hours he would sign both Saito and Wagner.  But it was a calculated one primarily based on the fact that Gonzalez and Soriano now arguably stand as the two best relief options on a free-agent market that grew thinner this week when the Braves reconstructed the back-end of their bullpen. 

There’s very little reason to believe Gonzalez would align himself with Scott Boras and then opt to take the one-year contract that would come via accepting the arbitration offer.  He’s going to get some of the same attractive multi-year deals that will be offered to Soriano, whose health history provides even more reason for him to find the security provided by a multi-year offer.  

Soriano and Gonzalez have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday to accept these arbitration offers.  It’s hard to imagine them doing this and ignoring the opportunity to field the offers that will be made by those teams that may have seen their wish lists shortened this week by the signings of Wagner and Saito. 

With his bullpen needs filled, Wren will head to Indianapolis with the opportunity to focus his attention on finding at least one bat and a suitor that is willing to deal for either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. 

The Braves still seem hopeful that they’ll be able to move Lowe instead of Vazquez.  My feeling has been that John Lackey, the top starter available on this year’s free-agent market, will sign before the Braves are able to move one of these two hurlers. 

But Wren doesn’t believe this is necessarily true.   

“I think teams have to have some sense of what the market is,” Wren said. “It’s the unknown that makes it difficult for clubs.  The top guy doesn’t necessarily have to sign.  But the top guy has to have a market established.  That will obviously create some players and some non-players.” 

In other words, during next week’s meetings, when we start hearing what clubs are offering Lackey, we may gain a better sense about which teams will prove to be the most likely suitors for Lowe and Vazquez.

Whether the Braves deal Vazquez, who is set to make $11.5 million in the final year of his contract, or Lowe, who is owed $15 million during each of the next three seasons, they will still seemingly have a similar amount of fund to fill their offensive needs. 

If they are able to trade Lowe, it still seems like they will have to eat somewhere between $1-2 million per year.   Thus their potential cost savings made by dealing either of these two hurlers may be only differ by this same range.  

As he evaluates who will play first base and fill his final outfield void, Wren has his sights set on finding a right-handed bat.  Marlon Byrd’s agent, Seth Levinson, said earlier this week that the Braves have “strong interest” in his client. 

But it seems like Byrd, who hit 14 of his career-high 20 homers inside Texas’ offensively-friendly ballpark this year, stands as just one of many candidates that Braves are evaluating.   
Some of the Braves players are lobbying for the club to bring Mark DeRosa back.  DeRosa would certainly prove valuable in the fact that he could play a number of different positions and add some power potential to the roster. 

It’s believed that DeRosa would be willing to take a “hometown discount” from the Braves.  But it might take some time before his view of a discount corresponds with what the Braves are willing to offer.  

As the next week progresses, we’ll likely learn more about the interest being shown to these players and other free-agents like Jermaine Dye, Xavier Nady and Mike Cameron.  In addition, Wren has made it known that he could opt to fill his offensive needs via trade.

“Right now, there are a lot of different possibilities,” Wren said.
 
Odds and ends:  Don’t forget that you can help Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren  and Ernie Johnson, Sr. move one step closer to the Hall of Fame by voting for this year’s Ford C. Frick Award.  Click here for the ballot.
 
You may have noticed that Wagner will wear the No. 13 jersey that was adorned by Nate McLouth last year.  Wagner said that he knows he may have to provide McLouth a portion of his new $7 million contract to show appreciation for the opportunity to continue wearing this number that he has sported dating back to his childhood days in Virginia. 
 
Wagner said the number has gained more sentimental value since his now-deceased grandfather provided him a medal that was engraved with the No. 13.   The medal was one of the ID pieces that his grandfather wore while working in the coal mines.
 
Tim Hudson invited Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen to join him for last week’s Iron Bowl in Auburn, Ala.  As a sign of appreciation the two comical hurlers arrived on Hudson’s former campus and asked where they might be able to buy some Alabama gear.  

Braves sign Saito

Remember when I recently wrote that Frank Wren and procrastinator should never be used in the same sentence?  Well, I certainly wasn’t lying.

Now we’ll just have to see if the Braves continue their press conference series with a Friday afternoon press conference. 

During today’s press conference that announced Takashi Saito as the newest member of Wren’s reconstructed bullpen, Braves manager Bobby Cox praised the Japanese right-hander who will now primarily serve as the setup man for closer Billy Wagner, who you may remember was the featured guest during Wednesday’s installment of “Afternoon press conferences at Turner Field.”

“We’re very fortunate to get two outstanding relief pitchers in the last two days and we haven’t even been to the Winter Meetings yet,” Cox said. “We’re way ahead of the game.”

So how does Cox plan to utilize these two former closers, who like their predecessors (Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano) provide a left-handed, right-handed mix.

“I think Takashi could have gone to any team that he wanted to,” Cox said. “Here when Wagner isn’t closing, he’ll be closing and setting up and vice-versa at times depending on who we’re facing.” 

In other words, if there comes a time when Wagner needs a rest, Cox at least for now, has a plan to occasionally utilize Saito as his closer.

“I can remember when Takashi was with the Dodgers and he was lights out,” Cox said. “It became an eight-inning game.  He was throwing that good over there when Grady Little was the manager.  I know what Grady thought of him  –  a lot, very highly.  I can’t wait for him to get to Spring Training and get the season going.  I feel extremely good about the tail end of our nine-inning game.” 

Saito, who developed a friendship with Wagner while they spent the final six weeks of this past season together in Boston’s bullpen, said that he had an opportunity to talk to Kenshin Kawakami about the Braves and the city of Atlanta. The two hurlers crossed paths during a television appearance in Japan last week.

Last year, Kawakami became the first Japanese native to play for the Braves at the Major League level.

“I asked (Kawakami) a lot of question and he explained a lot about the Atlanta area and the team and the manager and everything,” Saito said. “Everything seemed so positive.  He was always calling me as well, telling me about the Braves.  All of the information I’ve heard is very positive.”

Now that Wren has secured a pair of quality late-inning relievers at a cost that will likely remain below $12 million (depending on Saito’s incentives), he can place his focus on his needs to determine who will play first base and fill his final open outfield spot. 

In the process, he will continue to attempt to find suitors for Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. For now, the club still would have a preference to deal Lowe.

I need to write the main story for the site.  Just wanted to throw this up to talk about what Wren has done in the past two days.       

 

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