Results tagged ‘ Tim Hudson ’

Fredi sends Huddy to the mound to face his former Fish

Welcome back as Tim Hudson resumes his tour of Florida.  After making his debut on the Gulf Coast last week, Hudson has positioned himself just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean to start against the Marlins this afternoon. 

Of course, Hudson is essentially just a part of today’s undercard.  There’s a lot more attention being placed on Fredi Gonzalez, who will be matching up against the Marlins for the first time since the club fired him in June. 

But with Gonzalez saying he has no hard feelings toward the Marlins, today’s most interesting angle might center around the exhibition season debut of Julio Teheran, the highly-touted 20-year-old right-hander who ranks as MLB.com’s 10th-best overall prospect.

Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez is among the many who have been amazed at the command that Teheran is showing at such a young age. 

As mentioned a couple weeks ago, Perez says Teheran and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer are the two pitchers that have impressed him the most in camp.

It’s no surprise that he would pick these two hurlers, known for their pinpoint control. The man will always be able to say that he sat behind the plate more than any other catcher when Greg Maddux was standing on the mound.

Arodys Vizcaino, who tossed a scoreless ninth in yesterday’s win over the Nationals, has also made a good impression during the early portion of this Grapefruit League season.

Entering camp, it seemed Diory Hernandez was a lock to begin the season as one of the utility infielders.  But Ed Lucas has at least kept things interesting while recording six hits (all singles) in his first 13 at-bats.  Hernandez has been equally impressive, with five hits, including two doubles and a triple, in his first 11 at-bats.  <p> 

Lucas is at second base and Hernandez at short for this afternoon’s game.  This battle might come down to who proves more valuable from a defensive standpoint, especially at the shortstop position.

Check braves.com later to read about Teheran’s outing and Fredi’s thoughts about managing against the Marlins.  Former Brave and current Marlin Wes Helms said he felt getting fired last summer was the “best thing that could have happened” to Gonzalez. 

BRAVES LINEUP
Prado 5
McLouth 8
Heyward 9
McCann 2
Hinske 7
Freeman 3
Lucas 4
Hernandez 6
Hudson 1 

  

 

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  

 

  

Second week of camp begins

Martin Prado has been one of the first players to arrive at the stadium during Spring Training and he has always been the last to leave this year.  To Brian McCann and those who have known Prado throughout his professional career, this simply isn’t a surprise. 

“You’re not going to find a guy who works harder than him,” McCann said early Monday morning. 

Strength and conditioning coach Phil Falco could only nod his head when he was asked if he basically has to tell Prado that it’s time to leave the weight room.

But Prado has never seemed to believe enough is enough until the late afternoon hours arrive.  Like clockwork, he has been leaving the Spring Training headquarters around 2:45 p.m. ET, or approximately 90 minutes after most of his teammates. 

Prado spent the past two Spring Trainings inspired by the belief that he had to fight for a roster spot.  This year, he’s fighting to prove he can make the quick transition to left field and continue to be the dependable offensive contributor that he has been the past couple of years.

He has spent most of his time focusing on taking fly balls in left field.  But with the realization that he will eventually move back to the infield (this year or within the next couple of seasons), he has also continued to take grounders with Chipper Jones at third base.

PradChip.JPGSpeaking of Chipper, he has had two good days since his surgically-repaired left knee proved to be sore during Saturday’s workout.  As mentioned multiple times, he’s going to have good days and he’s going to have bad days. 

The Braves can only hope that once the middle of March rolls around there are few mentions about his knee. 

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he isn’t ready to announce his Opening Day starter.  But it seems quite obvious that he will choose either Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe, who has made both of the previous Opening Day starts for the Braves.

With this being said, Gonzalez said he will reveal his Grapefruit League rotation tomorrow.  This might provide at least some clue whether Hudson or Lowe will be on the mound for Opening Day in D.C.  

Cox at least thinking about using Huddy and Lowe on short rest

Braves manager Bobby confirmed that he is at least thinking about the possibility of using some of his veteran starters on short rest during the season’s final week. 

This could certainly have an adverse effect on how Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe would fare in the postseason. But as his club entered Saturday staring at a half-game deficit in the Wild Card standings and facing the reality that Jair Jurrjens likely won’t be available for more than a week, Cox simply has to find a way to get to the playoffs. 

“You’ve got to start thinking that way,” Cox said.  
 
The Braves could send Tommy Hanson to the mound with regular rest during Monday’s series opener against the Marlins.   Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe could then be asked to pitch the final two games on short rest.   <p>

Lowe has gone 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA in the four regular season starts he has made with three days of rest.  He pitched effectively in three of his four outings.  But while making his most recent attempt on May 18, 2008, he allowed the Angels 10 hits and seven earned runs in five innings.   <p>

Hudson has proven more successful, going 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in the three regular season starts he has made with one fewer than the normal four days of rest.   He tossed eight scoreless innings while making his May 24, 2005 start against the Mets on short rest and found similar success while limiting the Marlins to one run in seven innings on Sept. 17, 2006.   <p> 

Hudson’s only other start on short rest occurred July 18, 2006, when he limited the Cardinals to one run through the first five innings and then allowed them to tally four runs in the sixth inning.  <p>

Santana appears to be heading toward more tough luck

It’s hard to believe Johan Santana arrived at Turner Field this afternoon with a whole lot of confidence.  His Mets teammates, who have scored two runs or fewer in four of their past six games, will draw the challenge of solving Tim Hudson, who has allowed one earned run or less in nine of his past 14 starts and six of his past eight.  

Oh yeah, Santana will be also be staring at the Tomahawk-chested club that has frustrated him throughout his career.   In 11 career starts against the Braves, his teammates have never tallied more than two runs while he’s still been in the game.   This should better explain why he’s gone 2-6 with a 2.31 ERA in these outings.  

And to add to Santana’s woes, he’ll once again be facing an Atlanta lineup that includes Matt Diaz.   After striking out in his final two at-bats of an Aug. 2 matchup, Diaz enters tonight’s game with a .533 career batting average against the former Cy Young Award winner.  

The Braves will be looking to complete their first four-game sweep against the Mets since May 22, 2008.   In case you were wondering, Hudson provided eight solid innings that evening and beat Santana, who was charged with three earned runs. 

Before allowing four earned runs during his Aug. 2 matchup against Hudson, Santana had never allowed more than three earned runs against the Braves.   In fact, he’s allowed two earned runs or less in eight of his 11 career outings against them. 

Hudson hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his four previous starts against the Mets.  The lone earned run he’s allowed them in 13 innings this year came of an RBI double produced by Carlos Beltran. 

I haven’t seen the Mets lineup yet.  But I’m going to guess that Beltran will be playing.  He has hit .381 (24-for-63) with four homers in his career against Hudson. 

BRAVES LINEUP:

Infante 4
Heyward 9
Prado 5
Lee 3
McCann 2
Diaz 7
Gonzalez 6
Cabrera 8
Hudson 1 

Infante gains surprise selection

When we awoke this morning, I think it’s safe to say most of us expected Jason Heyward, Martin Prado and Tim Hudson to be named to this year’s All-Star team.  There was also little shock when the players provided Brian McCann his fifth consecutive All-Star selection.

But the biggest surprise and thrill of the day came when it was learned Omar Infante was granted his first All-Star selection.  It’s obvious that the Braves aren’t the only ones who have recognized the value he brings with his dependable versatility as a utility player. 

“I’m so happy for him,” Hudson said. “I was just thrilled when I learned that he made it.  That’s just great.”

The fact that Infante has hit .353 against the Phillies this year likely aided his cause when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel began looking at options to strengthen his bench.

The .345 batting average Infante has compiled with runners in scoring position since the start of the 2008 season ranks fifth among all Major Leaguers who have compiled at least 200 plate appearances in this situation. 

“We feel like we got a good player there, who  is a contact hitter, who can handle the bat,” Manuel said during TBS’s Selection Show.

Making his third All-Star selection and first since 2004, Hudson said he is looking forward to taking his son Kade down on the field to be surrounded by the game’s other greats during the Home Run Derby on July 12.

Prado will start at second base in place of the injured Chase Utley.  Heyward has said that his injured left thumb will likely keep him from playing. 

The five All-Star selections are the most the Braves have totaled since sending seven players to the 2003 Midsummer Classic.

UPDATED:  Billy Wagner is part of the Final Vote Ballot.  You can help the veteran closer make his final All-Star appearance by casting your votes through Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.    
 

Where is Mark Cuban when you need him?

This would have been a good weekend to have Mark Cuban calling the shots here in Braves land.  I think it’s safe to say that he would have attempted to create some fireworks or simply have some fun by using today to announce Fredi Gonzalez as the newest member of the Braves organization.

In fact, Cuban would have likely done something like stage a press conference to be shown on the big screen in center field while the Marlins are taking batting practice tonight.

But with Cuban worrying about Dirk Nowitzki’s future in Dallas, the Braves will likely wait at least another week or two before revealing that Gonzalez will serve as some kind of advisor for the remainder of this year. 

Admittedly, I rolled my eyes when some of you said adding Gonzalez to the organization would hurt the feelings of guys like Eddie Perez or Terry Pendleton, who at one time may have been in line to serve as Atlanta’s next manager.   I mean this is the big leagues and they are big boys, who entered this season knowing that Gonzalez would become a favorite for the managerial job if he became available.  

But I do get the sense that there are members of Braves management who share this concern.  Thus if they do eventually give Gonzalez a role where he can spend the next few months evaluating the organization’s talent and personalities at both the Major and Minor League levels, they’ll do so much more quietly than Cuban would have. 

While resting yesterday, the Braves gained a half-game on both the Mets (2 games back) and Phillies (4 games back)    Before going to Philadelphia on Monday to compete against what’s left of the injury-ravaged defending National League champs, the Braves will receive a stiff challenge this weekend from three of Gonzalez’s former pitchers.

During tonight’s series opener, Kris Medlen will be opposed by Josh Johnson, who has recently been the game’s top pitcher and quite honestly it wouldn’t be hard to argue that he has been every bit as impressive as Ubaldo Jimenez throughout this entire season. 

In his past nine starts, Johnson has gone 5-2 with an 0.83 ERA and limited opponents to a .183 batting average and  .226 on-base percentage.  Within the 65 innings that have encompassed this span, he has recorded 60 strikeouts and issued 11 walks.  

Jimenez is still considered widely considered the midseason choice to win the NL Cy Young Award.  But his league-leading marks in ERA (1.83)  and quality starts (14) have been matched by Johnson, who leads the NL in WHIP (0.96) and opponents OPS  (.544).  The .199 batting average he has surrendered has been bettered only by Mat Latos (.197). 

In attempt to regain an optimistic tone, I’ll let you know that Medlen ranks fifth in the NL with a 4.15 strikeouts-to-walk-ratio, one spot ahead of Johnson’s 3.96 mark. 

Anibal Sanchez, who has gone 6-2 with a 2.64 ERA in his past nine starts, will take the mound for the Fish on Saturday afternoon to oppose what should be a rather determined Tommy Hanson.  Based on his mood, there hasn’t been any indication that Hanson has been mentally scarred by his past two outings. 

When Ricky Nolasco opposes Tim Hudson in Sunday’s series finale, it will be the first time he has stood on the Turner Field mound since Sept. 30, the night that he recorded 16 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. 

By the time Hudson toes the rubber Sunday night, he will have likely learned that he has gained his third career All-Star selection and first since 2004.  Considering there are a number of deserving candidates, that previous sentence might have been a bit presumptuous. 

But it’s hard to imagine Hudson won’t find a place on this year’s NL pitching staff.  He ranks fifth in ERA  (2.37) and his 13 quality starts are just one off the league-leading mark posted by Jimenez, Johnson and Adam Wainwright.  In addition, he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts. 

While converting 16 of 18 save opportunities and posting a 1.15 ERA, Billy Wagner has also made himself a solid candidate for this year’s All-Star roster.  His ERA is better than the marks posted by any other NL closer. 

But when attempting to fill a 13-man pitching staff will there be room for Wagner, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton and Brian Wilson?  Heck I didn’t even mention Francisco Cordero or Matt Capps, who have posted the NL’s top two save totals while compiling higher ERA than any of the aforementioned deserving candidates.

There are also a number of deserving starting pitchers that could bump Hudson out of the equation.  If Michael Bourn isn’t selected to serve as an outfielder, Roy Oswalt might end up being Houston’s representative.  The only other clear possibility would be Astros closer Matt Lindstrom, who could further diminish the odds of Wager gaining a selection. 

Martin Prado, who will likely start at second base in Chase Utley’s absence, and Jason Heyward seem to be the only Braves who should expect to hear their names announced during Sunday afternoon’s selection show (noon on TBS).  I will be surprised if Hudson and Wagner don’t gain selections and there’s still a good chance the players will once again give Brian McCann a selection. 

But some time Sunday afternoon, I think we’ll be looking at Troy Glaus as one of the deserving players who were not selected.  Albert Pujols will start at first base and Reds first baseman Joey Votto will most definitely gain a reserve spot. 

I heard Peter Gammons jokingly say Phillies manager Charlie Manuel won’t go to Anaheim to manage the NL team if it doesn’t include Roy Halladay.  Well the same can be said about Ryan Howard, who along with Adrian Gonzalez will almost definitely gain a selection before Glaus. 

Trade front:  As you know the Braves are looking to add a bat before the July 31 trade deadline.  But right now, I don’t gain the sense that they are actually targeting specific players or even have a preference whether they gain a right-handed or left-handed bat. 

The most popular names linked to them have been David DeJesus, Corey Hart and Jose Bautista. Right now, the sense is that the Royals want too much in return for DeJesus.  But who could blame them.  Last time I checked, I think he was rumored to be on the wish list of 29 Major League clubs and part of the entourage that will be playing with LeBron James next year.

Bautista was simply ridiculous while compiling 12 of his 20 homers in May.  But how much are you going to give up for a career .237 hitter, who has batted .229 this year and just .204 in the 42 games he has played outside of Toronto.  

Just a few months ago, Hart was drawing negative comparisons to Jeff Francoeur.  Like Francoeur, Hart has turned things around this year and in a much more impressive manner.  In the 44 games he has played dating back to May 15, the Brewers outfielder has hit .299 with 15 homers and a .999 OPS. 

In other words, Hart spent the past six weeks living up to the lofty expectations that have surrounded him since he established himself as a 20-20 player in 2007 and ’08.  If he’s available and the price is right, he’s the guy the Braves should target.

It was interesting to see Atlanta-Journal Constitution columnist Mark Bradley throw B.J. Upton’s name into the mix the other day. During the 2008 postseason, there wasn’t a player that I enjoyed watching more than Upton. 

Though he has struggled in the two years that have followed, the potential is certainly still there for Upton.  My guess is that he won’t be available at this time of the year. But if the Rays grow impatient with his development and attemp
t to cut costs by moving him in the offseason, he should be at the top of Frank Wren’s wish list.     

Resop is ready to pitch for some Major League club

Chris Resop has plenty of reason to believe he’ll join a Major League roster within the next week.  The Braves now have to decide whether it will be theirs or one of the many Major League clubs that need to improve their pitching staff.

The one-hit shutout that Resop completed for Triple-A Gwinnett in Norfolk last night will likely spark enhance his position on the trade market.  But despite the fact that he has spent the past three months dominating the International League, other clubs have shown just mild interest in trading for this 28-year-old right-hander, who has been rejuvenated since becoming a starter. 

Sources have indicated that there wasn’t a single scout from a Major League organization in Norfolk last night to watch Resop complete this masterpiece.  In fact the one scout that was present was representing a club from the Korean Baseball League.   

With this in mind, there’s further reason to believe Resop could be in uniform at Turner Field on Tuesday when the Braves begin a three-game series against the Rays. 

If the Braves don’t add Resop to their Major League roster by Tuesday, then he is contractually obligated to demand a trade or request to be a free agent.   The latter option certainly won’t come into play. 

Without gaining some return, the Braves certainly aren’t going to simply waive goodbye to a guy who has posted a 1.84 ERA and compiled an IL-best 81 strikeouts in the 73 1/3 innings he has completed for Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

It’s understanding that clubs are skeptical about a 28-year-old pitcher who has posted a 5.61 ERA in 57 career Major League appearances (all as a reliever).  But at the same time, they have to recognize that his move into the rotation this year has led him to become more of a pitcher than a thrower. 

No longer trying to blow his four-seamer past opponents, Resop has baffled opponents with a heavy dose of two-seam sinkers and a curveball that is certainly much better than it was when he last appeared in the Majors with the Braves during the 2008 season.

If the Braves are unable to trade Resop, they will likely add him to their bullpen on Tuesday.  This would seemingly provide them a chance to send Jesse Chavez to Gwinnett to work on his secondary pitches, namely the curveball that he’s trying to develop.

Or the Braves could opt to send Craig Kimbrel back to Gwinnett to get the regular work he needs to aid his development. 

Whatever the case, Resop will likely be in a Major League uniform at some point next week.

McLouth update:  Still haven’t received any updates about Nate McLouth’s condition.  If the Braves are forced to place him on the disabled list, it would make sense for them to promote Brandon Hicks to serve as a backup infielder while Omar Infante would spend the next couple weeks seeing more time in the outfield. 

Brett Clevlen, who has been on the disabled list since May 24, still hasn’t resumed playing and Jordan Schafer isn’t even an option.  Even if Schafer had not had some setbacks that prevented him from beginning to play in May, he needed to spend at least half this season and maybe longer in the Minors to make up for the time he lost over the course of the past two seasons.

Look ahead:  The Braves will spend the next six games playing against the leaders in the AL Central (Twins) and AL East (Rays).   They enter this stretch with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Phillies, the same exact advantage they held when they began this 11-game road trip. 

Tim Hudson will take the mound looking to continue his success against the Twins.  In 13 career starts against them, he has gone 6-2 with a 2.12 ERA.  Justin Morneau (1-for-6) and Joe Mauer (0-for-3)  have had limited opportunities to face the Braves right-hander. 

But this would certainly be a good night for the Twins to put Jim Thome in their lineup.  He is 9-for-16 with four homers in his career against Hudson. 

Bobby Cox has opted to use Brian McCann as his designated hitter tonight.   This gives Hudson a chance to throw to his good friend David Ross. 

When McCann has been behind the plate this year, Hudson has posted a 2.62 ERA and seen opponents hit .246 with a .344 OBP.  When Ross has served as his catcher, the veteran right-hander has posted a 2.20 ERA and limited opponents to a .189 BA and .237 OBP.   

 

   

Does Chipper still have something left in the tank?

Based on what we’ve seen over what has amounted to nearly a full calendar year, it’s hard to imagine that Chipper Jones is just two years removed from his first career batting title. 

Dating back to June 9 of last year, Jones has hit .229 with 12 homers, a .363 on-base percentage and a .357 slugging percentage.

Among every other Major League player who has compiled at least 450 plate appearances during this span, Lyle Overbay (.228), Clint Barmes (.221), Carlos Pena (.216) and Brandon Inge (.208) are the only who have posted a lower batting average.  Barmes, Inge and Pena have done so while totaling at least 20 home runs. 

Jones’ .357 slugging percentage ranks as the 13th-worst mark posted during this span.  To provide some clarity, he has produced less power than Michael Bourn (.365) and just slightly more than David Eckstein and Ronny Cedeno, who have both posted .354 marks. 

But as Marlins right-handed reliever Brian Sanches showed while issuing Jones the go-ahead, four-pitch, bases-loaded walk in last night’s victory, the Braves 38-year-old third baseman is still being pitched to in a cautious manner. 

The 100 walks that Jones has drawn dating back to June 9 have been trumped only by the totals that have been issued to Albert Pujols (104), Adrian Gonzalez (103) and Chone Figgins (102).  His 33 walks this season rank fourth in the Majors and equal the total drawn by the great Pujols.

It’s almost as if pitchers feel like they’re still facing the same guy that hit .352 with a .448 on-base percentage and .618 slugging percentage during a 358-game stretch that extended from June 26, 2006 through June 8 of last year.

Within this stretch that extended through four seasons, nobody compiled a better batting average or on-base percentage than Jones. His .618 slugging percentage was bettered only by the .620 mark posted by Pujols.

Then seemingly overnight everything changed for Jones. Through the first 47 games he played last year, he hit .331 with a .451 on-base percentage and .567 slugging percentage.  While the power was off slightly, the numbers were at least somewhat comparable to the ones he’d produced over the course of the previous few years. 

At 38 years-old, it’s understandable that Jones is no longer producing the same kind of numbers that punched his ticket to Cooperstown. But along with age, maybe his struggles are a product of the fact that he no longer is protected by the same kind of threat that Mark Teixeira provided while he was hitting cleanup in Atlanta. 

There seems to be a popular opinion that it is time for Jones to move out of the third spot in the lineup to make room for Jason Heyward.  While I see this as a logical option, maybe there’s reason to keep Jones where he is and give him the protection Heyward would provide while manning the  cleanup spot, a position that would give the 20-year-old phenom more RBI opportunities than he has had since moving into the two hole.

Like I said last week, attempting to find the best makeup of this Braves lineup is like attempting to piece together a large jigsaw puzzle that has no corners or ends.   But Martin Prado has proven to be the best option in the leadoff role and with the belief that he will start to hit consistently, I think Yunel Escobar might be best served to bat second. 

There might be some late-inning matchup problems if Heyward and Brian McCann (who would bat fifth vs. RHP) were positioned together in the lineup.  But to give Jones one last attempt to prove he still can be a productive threat in the middle of the lineup, I think it’s at least worth seeing what he could do with Heyward sitting behind him for at least a week or two. 

If this wouldn’t work, then Jones certainly needs to move down to the sixth or seventh spot of the lineup.  But before completely giving up on him with the assumption that age has been the primary factor in his decline, it’s seemingly worth giving him a shot to see more hittable pitches.

Tonight’s matchup:  Looking to conclude this road trip with a 4-2 record, the Braves will conclude this three-game series against the Marlins by sending Tim Hudson to the mound to oppose Ricky Nolasco.  As many of you likely remember, Nolasco notched 16 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings when he last faced the Braves on Sept. 30.  

Nolasco had totaled 16 strikeouts in his three previous starts against the Braves last year.  The right-hander posted a 1.82 ERA in the five appearances (four starts) he made against Atlanta during the 2006 season.

But in his past seven starts against the Braves Nolasco is just 2-3 with a 6.02 ERA.

Hudson is 8-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 15 career starts against the Marlins.  In the eight career road starts he has made against them while pitching for the Braves, he is 6-1 with a 2.44 mark. 

   

 

 

Quick turnaround brings Braves to San Francisco

Welcome to San Francisco, where the Braves are just now awaking and preparing for this afternoon’s game that would have appropriately been presented by Red Bull, Monster or any other  approved energy booster.
 
The last pitch in last night’s 2-0 loss to the Cubs was thrown at approximately 9:55 p.m. ET and about 90 minutes later, the Braves embarked on a five-hour charter flight that got them to their hotel here in San Francisco at about 2:30 a.m. PT, or just shy of  the time that many of you in Atlanta were preparing to go to the office or take the kids to school. 

While it might not sound good, the Braves players would have still been able to get around six or seven hours of sleep before heading to the ballpark.  Of course, knowing Bobby Cox, he probably went to the stadium around 7 a.m. to continue preparing for this weekend’s series that could seemingly be played without the services of Chipper Jones, who strained his right oblique muscle during last night’s game.

Shortly after arriving in San Francisco around 5 p.m. PT yesterday, I started to get texts and emails that alerted me that Jones had exited with what was originally termed a “sore right side”.    Initially it seemed like it might be something that sidelines him for just a couple of days and that still might be the case.

But having been down this road a couple of times, I’d have to say that Jones’ postgame comments at least provided reason to believe that he could miss the entirety of this six-game West Coast swing that pits the Braves against the Giants and Padres. 

In the past when Jones has been dealing with oblique issues, he has occasionally removed himself because he felt one more swing could severely aggravate the region.  But last night when he said something like “it bit me pretty good”,  I immediately gained the sense that we could be seeing Omar Infante and Brooks Conrad playing third base at least through Thursday’s series finale in San Diego.

Check back later this afternoon for an update on Jones’ condition and today’s lineup.   Tim Hudson was on my flight out here to the Bay Area and thus had the opportunity to get plenty of rest before making his season debut today. 
My guess it that Jason Heyward will fill in for Jones  in the third spot of the batting order.  Or Cox may choose to bat Heyward second and move Martin Prado into the third spot.

Looking at the small sample sizes provided, Nate McLouth, Brian McCann and Yunel Escobar enter today’s game looking forward to prolonging their success against Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.

Escobar has three hits, including a double, in six career at-bats against Sanchez.  McLouth has homered in the process of matching the 3-for-7 career performance that McCann has posted against the southpaw. 

However the lineup is now situated, the Braves seem to be better equipped to survive for a few days without Jones.  They went 16-12 without him in the starting lineup last year.    This was a definite improvement in comparison to the previous two seasons — 2008 (17-27) 2007 (12-18).  

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