Results tagged ‘ Tim Hudson ’

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 draws comparison to Pujols

When asked about the 450-foot homer that Jason Heyward bounced off the building beyond the right field wall here in Lakeland this afternoon, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton was serious when he said, “He didn’t get all of it, but it went a long way.”

It’s widely recognized that Heyward will likely hit a number of home runs before his big league career is over some time around 2030.  But as the baseball world is coming to realize, his power is just a portion of his talents that set him up to be one of upper echelon talents who realize immediate success at the Major League level.

After watching Heyward battle back from an 0-2 count, spit on a 2-2 fastball that just missed the outside corner and then send Max Scherzer’s 3-2 fastball into orbit, Tigers manager Jim Leyland drew comparisons to the plate discipline and patience he saw from a young Albert Pujols nearly a decade ago.

“Obviously a young man that size, with the strength he has, he looks like a good-looking young player,” Leyland said.  “I was very impressed with his patience at the plate. That’s what I was impressed with more than anything. He didn’t chase any bad balls. That’s what impressed me. I was impressed with his at-bats. He didn’t even offer at anything unless it was a strike.  Pujols was the other guy I saw that was like that.”  <p> 

Braves manager Bobby Cox added, “I don’t think he has swung at a bad pitch yet.”

It will be years before Heyward could even be considered to be put in the lofty realm of Pujols.  But it’s still pretty telling that he’s already drawing comparisons to the Cardinals first baseman, who hit .329 with 37 homers while playing his 2001 rookie season at the ripe age of 21.

Jurrjens to face Yanks:  As originally reported, Jair Jurrjens is once again scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday against the Yankees.  But first the 24-year-old right-hander will test his shoulder one more time during a live batting practice session on Tuesday night.  

Huddy’s outing:  When Tim Hudson needed just 15 pitches to complete two scoreless innings against the Mets last week, he walked away wondering how he had gotten away a number of pitches that didn’t find their intended location. 

Hudson was once again dissatisfied with the fastball command he had while limiting the Tigers to one run and three hits in three innings on Monday afternoon.  But with his changup and sinker working, the 34-year-old right-hander walked away from the outing pretty satisfied. 

Jo-Jo as a reliever:  With yet another strong outing amid the setting of a Spring Training game, Jo-Jo Reyes once again drew some praise from Cox, who believes the left-handed hurler has improved both his sinker and slider. 

After Reyes limited the Tigers to one hit and recorded three strikeouts in two scoreless innings, Cox was asked if the left-hander might be considered for a relief role.

“More and more, it looks like he could,” Cox said. “My idea was always to have him start and be ready.  But if he throws like he’s throwing right now, he could go either way.”

Cox added that this possibility hasn’t been discussed.  Given the limited depth of starters that would be deemed Major League-ready at the beginning of the year, this might end up being an option that is never truly explored.

Odds and ends:  With two more hits on Monday, Troy Glaus has now recorded a single in each of his past five at-bats…Eric Hinske entered Monday with one hit in his first eight plate appearances of the year and exited with his own three-hit performance…You can watch Heyward and the rest of the Braves face Roy Halladay and the Phillies on CSS tomorrow night.   First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.    
    

A review of the Grapefruit League opener

One game into the Braves exhibition season, Tommy Hanson has provided the reminder that he’s a special talent and Martin Prado has already laced a couple of liners that provide indication that he can still hit with his slimmed-down frame. 

And of course, Mr Heyward took advantage of the opportunity to prove his game consists of much more than the power potential that fueled all of those batting practice stories that you read last week. 

Bobby Cox called Heyward’s third-inning single through the right side of the infield, ”  “the hardest-hit single you’ll ever see in your life.”   But just as impressive was the 20-year-old outfielder’s ability to draw a walk after falling behind with a 1-2 count in the first inning.  

After showing good bat control while fouling off an offspeed pitch that seemed to initially fool him, Heyward showed great poise while sitting on a 3-2 curveball.  Then two innings later wanting to increase Yunel Escobar’s options to drive him home with one out, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound outfielder easily swiped third base.

As Heyward slid into third base, I immediately thought about Chipper Jones saying that the phenom would earn a spot on the Opening Day roster once he proved that he has a grasp of the finer points of the game  — like knowing when to hit to the right side and knowing when to take an extra base.  

After the game, I caught up with Darryl Strawberry, who is in camp with the Mets as a special instructor.  The eight-time All-Star had some praise for the Braves outfielder, who has drawn comparisons to him.

“He has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself,” Strawberry said.  “That’s a big part of this game.  If you believe in yourself, you can excel.  He has a good idea about what the game is all about.  He’s going to go through some highs and lows.  That’s just what the game is all about for everybody.  If he stays focused and plays hard, he will be very special.”

Check out more of Strawberry’s comments within a story that should post shortly on MLB.com and braves.com.  

If Heyward isn’t deemed ready for the Majors at the conclusion of camp, the starting rightfielder’s job will go to Melky Cabrera, who laced a single the other way during the second inning and made an over-the-shoulder catch that drew attention from Cox.

“It wasn’t a great play,” Cox said. “But it was a (darn) good play in these conditions with the wind and you couldn’t see the ball.”

Cox also took time to send some praise in the direction of Kris Medlen, who allowed one hit and registered a strikeout in two scoreless innings.    

Tuesday’s negatives:  Nate McLouth experienced a rough debut with a pair of strikeouts, including one that was registered with a questionable call on a check swing.   Another former Pirate, Jesse Chavez also proved unable to provide the same kind of impression he had during the early days of camp. 

Chavez was charged with three runs  — two earned — three hits and one walk in just one inning of work.   His damage might have been reduced had shortstop Brandon Hicks not lost a liner in the sun.

“Chavez was just geeked up a little bit, just fastball, fastball, fastball,” Cox said. “He fell behind and got hit.  He didn’t really have a chance to pitch.”

Tomorrow’s game:  Tim Hudson is scheduled to pitch the first two innings of Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Mets at Disney.  Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty headline the cast of relievers who are scheduled to appear.  Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus should also be making their exhibition season debuts.   

 

Lowe draws the short straw

When I approached Tim Hudson this morning to ask him about the club’s plans to provide him an extra day of rest before his first few starts of the regular season, I was prepared for him to tell me that his arm feels great and that he’s fine with this arrangement. 

After providing this confirmation, Huddy asked if the Giants were going to have an offday before he makes his season debut against them in their April 9 home opener.  He was trying to figure out whether he’d get a chance to oppose his buddy Barry Zito, who had risen to prominence with him in Oakland. 

When I informed him that he’d more likely face Jonathan Sanchez, Huddy said, “Well tell their manager not to get any ideas about holding (Tim) Lincecum back for their home opener.”

Instead it looks like Derek Lowe will draw the short straw and match up against the reigning Cy Young Award winner. So within the season’s first five days Lowe will likely be opposed by Carlos Zambrano and Lincecum. 

And then to top things off it appears he won’t pitch during the early season series against the Padres.  Hey, but isn’t it great to have the honor of making yet another Opening Day start?

Grapefruit League opener:
  The Jason Heyward batting practice tales grew stale a few days ago.  It’s time to see what the kid can do against live pitching and MLB Network will provide you a chance to watch him make his Grapefruit League season debut against the Mets tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET. 

The weather forecast for the Port St. Lucie area isn’t exactly promising.  But if the rain holds off, you’ll get a chance to see Tommy Hanson start and likely work two innings before handing the ball to the bullpen, which will consist of Kris Medlen, Jesse Chavez, Mike Dunn, Chris Resop, James Parr and Manny Acosta. 

Dunn and Chavez have put themselves in position to battle for the last remaining spots in the bullpen.  For now, I’d still have consider Acosta a long shot, who may draw attention from some pitching-needy clubs over the next couple of weeks. 

Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus and Matt Diaz are not scheduled to make the trip to Port St. Lucie.  They will likely make their GL season debuts when the Braves host the Mets on Wednesday afternoon.

Hudson is scheduled to start Wednesday’s game.  The relievers will consist of Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty, Mariano Gomez, Stephen Marek (the remains of the Mark Teixeira trade), Johnny Venters and Jeff Lyman.

Venters seems to be a long shot to begin the season in Atlanta’s bullpen.  But the 24-year-old left-hander has caught Bobby Cox’s attention with his sinker.

“He’s got a good chance to do something with that kind of sinker,” Cox said. “He’s got to pitch in the big leagues with that kind of sinker.”

Chipper potential early retirement: I’ll admit that I have never given much thought about the possibility that Chipper Jones would walk away from the game if he struggles again this season.  But while talking to him again this morning for the story currently on MLB.com and braves.com, I will admit that there was definite sincerity in his voice and facial expressions. 

At the same time there was an excitement about the results he could realize after working with his dad to fix the mechanics of his swing.  While watching him last year, I thought he was being victimized by self-induced pressure to supply the club with power. 

But it was interesting to hear him say that he feels his bad habits developed over the previous five years while attempting to compensate for a variety of different injuries.   As the story mentions, he believes he might need to face live pitching for a few weeks before truly gaining comfort with these refined mechanics. 

No interest in Mateo:  One of our more knowledgeable bloggers inquired today about the Braves possibly having interest in Wagner Mateo,  a 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican whose $3.1 million agreement with the Cardinals was voided last year because he failed a physical. 

But a Braves source have since informed me that they do not have any interest in Mateo.  

Lowe named Opening Day starter

With a vote of confidence, Braves manager Bobby Cox has announced that Derek Lowe will be his Opening Day starter for the second straight season.

Lowe will take the mound when the Braves open the 2010 season against the Cubs on April 5 at Turner Field.   Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson are slated to pitch the other two games against the Cubs that week and Tim Hudson is scheduled to make his season debut on April 9 in San Francisco. 

Lowe’s eight scoreless innings against the Phillies on Opening Day last year served as one of the highlights of a season that soured for him down the stretch.  But he was provided this honor once again from Cox, who views the veteran sinkerballer as a “big-game” pitcher.

As long as his shoulder cooperates, Jurrjens will start the April 7 game against the Cubs.  Hanson would start the series finale the next day.  This arrangement provides Hudson a chance to pitch with at least one extra day of rest before each of his first three starts in April.

Hudson made seven starts after returning from Tommy John surgery last year and all indications are that he is healthy.  But the club wants to take it easy on him early and possibly be in position to monitor the innings completed by Jurrjens and Hanson during the season’s second half.
 

“We’re trying to keep (Hudson) strong and ready for the stretch
run, so that we can run him out there as often as we can and give Hanson and
Jurrjens a chance to be the guys that get the extra days in the second half,” Cox said.

Lowe would likely return to the mound for the April10 game in San Francisco.  Kenshin Kawakami would make his regular season debut the following day during the series finale against the Giants.

LATE ADDITION: 

Grapefruit League rotation:

Tues @ Mets  —   Hanson

Wed vs. Mets  —  Hudson  (Moylan and O’Flaherty also scheduled to pitch)

Thurs. vs. Pirates —  Kawakami

Fri. vs. Nats  —  Lowe (Saito and Wagner also scheduled to pitch)

Sat. @Astros — Medlen

Jurrjens will begin throwing off the mound again on Monday and after at least three side sessions, he could slot into the spot currently filled by Medlen.  

Odds and ends as Braves pitchers and catchers report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman 

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.  

The Waiting Game

As we wait to see how this offseason’s chess match will unfold, let’s go back to this time last year, when you were exhausting your refresh buttons with the hope of learning that the Braves had acquired Jake Peavy.  

One year later, many, if not all, of you are rejoicing that fact that Peavy didn’t feel that the future was very bright in Atlanta.   Had the Alabama native chosen to waive his no-trade clause to play closer to home, the Braves would have lost Yunel Escobar and likely the comfort to once again dig into their organizational depth to acquire Javier Vazquez in early December.

This topic has been debated many times and I present it only to set up the consequences of the waiting game that clubs experience during these early days and weeks of the offseason.  

While waiting to see if Peavy would provide the Padres the OK to attempt to send him to Atlanta, the Braves held off on their attempt to obtain Nick Swisher from the White Sox.   The Yankees acquired Swisher on Nov. 13 and 24 hours later, Braves GM Frank Wren revealed that he was no longer actively pursuing Peavy.  

As the Braves saw their left fielders combine to hit .270 with 17 homers, 70 RBIs and a .725 OPS this year, Swisher was hitting .249 with 29 homers, 82 RBIs and an .869 OPS for the world champions.   

(I used the left fielders as the comparative point because I would assume that Swisher would have started the season there while Jeff Francoeur maintained his position in right field).  

Had the Braves been able to get Swisher in the same deal that brought Vazquez to Atlanta, there’s no guarantee that the Braves would have improved their fate.  But they wouldn’t currently find themselves potentially looking for an outfielder during a second consecutive offseason.  

If Swisher had joined the Braves, it’s hard to tell how the rest of the offseason might have unfolded.  Along those lines, maybe his presence would have prevented the Braves from making the Nate McLouth midseason acquisition that still has a chance to prove very profitable.

While we don’t know this for sure, we certainly realize that everything that occurs in November and December has an effect on what transpires between the first weeks of April and November.  And with that one sentence we’ve once again proven that instead of referring to this current period as “the offseason” it would be more appropriately be called “the non-playing season”.

We’ve long known that the Braves are going to end up trading either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez.  Based on what happens to John Lackey, we’ll gain a better sense about where the Braves might send either of these two right-handers.  

As the top available free-agent starting pitcher Lackey will command interest from those same clubs that would be financially-capable and willing to assume the $45 million cost that Lowe will bring over the course of the next three seasons.  

Early indications are the Braves believe that the Yankees or Angels might be willing to deal for Lowe.  Before doing this, the Yankees will make a run for the younger Lackey, whose financial demands will determine whether the Angels attempt to bring him back to continue his role as their ace.  

If Lackey does exit Southern California, there is a belief that the Angels would then attempt to work a trade for the Blue Jays to acquire Roy Halladay, who will cost just $750,000 more than Lowe next year.   

This obviously could further complicate things for the Braves, who are looking to move one of these starters to create the financial flexibility to take care of some of their other roster needs   —   first baseman, closer and outfielder.  

So while the Braves would like the opportunity to keep Vazquez, they may find that they have to deal him before paying the consequences of the waiting game that will transpire as they wait to see whether there will be a team that is willing to trade for Lowe.  

If the Braves are able to deal Lowe, then they are expected to begin seriously discussing the possibility of offering Vazquez an extension that would keep him in Atlanta beyond the 2010 season.
 
Vazquez found a comfort zone in Atlanta and he has made it known multiple times that he doesn’t want to be traded.  But for now, like the rest of us, he finds himself simply playing the waiting game.

Hudson update:  Speaking of waiting games, it looks like the Braves will finally be able to announce Tim Hudson’s three-year extension before Thursday concludes.  Just to play it safe, let’s just assume that I meant tomorrow or any other remaining Thursday during this calendar year.  

McDowell has high praise for Wallace:   As you likely read yesterday, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell is a big fan of Dave Wallace, who was recently hired as the club’s Minor League pitching coordinator.  McDowell met Wallace during the early 1990s and has the highly-respected pitching guru for giving him his first shot at being a pitching coach at the professional level.
 
You can’t discount the fact that McDowell and Wallace share a history and more importantly many of the same beliefs about pitching.   Too many young pitchers have recently arrived in Atlanta and shown that they haven’t yet received the proper development at the Minor League level.   

This should change under the leadership of Wallace, who will be able to provide the Braves young pitchers with many of the same beliefs and philosophies that he’s shared and gathered during his many conversations with his close friend Sandy Koufax.  

“We have a history and I think for a lack of a better word he’s ‘the best’,” McDowell said on Tuesday “He’ll make the kids better and I think he’ll make the coaches better.  The body of work that he’s had under him speaks for itself.  Dave is as quality as you get.” 
 
McCann’s event:  If you want to do something other than watch West Virginia beat Cincinnati on Friday night, you should head down to Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium to see Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Tim Hudson, Kelly Johnson and Leo Mazzone participate in the inaugural Brian McCann Rally Softball Game.  

With the help of Delta Air Lines, McCann has been able to organize this event which aids the Rally Foundation in its fight to find better cures and treatments for children battling cancer.   First pitch is set for 7:35 p.m. ET and a home run derby will begin at 7 p.m.   

Question to ponder:  As I was leaving Yankee Stadium after Game 6 of the World Series last week, a Japanese reporter approached me and told me how excited they were that Hideki Matsui had just been named the World Series MVP.
 
In fact, he said that he and many of the other members of the Japanese  felt that this honor was bigger than the accomplishment that Ichiro Suzuki achieved in 2004, when he recorded a record 262 hits.
 
Needless to say, I’m going to have to say I view Ichiro’s season-long accomplishment to be a bigger deal.  What is your view? 

Hudson passes physical

Tim Hudson has passed his physical and essentially made his three-year contract extension a done deal.  But the Braves may wait until the conclusion of the World Series to formally make this announcement.

Hudson and the Braves agreed to the terms of the three-year extension last week and then had to wait to find a doctor that the insurance company would approve. 

Financial specifics of this three-year extension were not yet revealed.  

Hudson nearing extension

A source familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday night that Tim Hudson could be just a few days away from agreeing from the three-year contract extension that the Braves have offered.

“It’s getting pretty close,” said this source, who added that there are just a few “small details” that need to be ironed out. 

While financial specifics were not revealed, it’s believed that this three-year extension will likely be worth $24-27 million. 

In the seven starts that Hudson made after returning from Tommy John surgery this year, he went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA.  The 34-year-old right-hander allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of those seven outings. 

“He looked pretty good to me,” said a National League scout. “He looked like he was back to normal.” 

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