Results tagged ‘ Tommy Hanson ’

Could Chipper turn things around like he did in 2006?

When Chipper Jones directed Luis Perdomo’s fastball into the left-center field gap on Thursday night, it appeared that he was destined to record his third hit in three innings.    But Padres center fielder Tony Gwynn robbed the Braves third baseman of this rarity with a diving catch that seemed improbable when the ball left the bat. 

“When he caught that ball I was thinking as much as last year was my year, this isn’t my year,”  Jones said.
  
Coming off his first career batting title, Jones entered this season knowing that he likely wouldn’t match the career-best .364 batting average that he compiled last year.   But at the same time, he didn’t have much reason to believe that he’d enter August’s final weekend with a .281 batting average.
 
The last time that Jones’ average sat this low outside the month of April was on June 25, 2006, when he exited that day’s game in Tampa hitting .276.   One day later at Yankee Stadium, Jones recorded a three-hit game and found himself beginning a tear that would carry him through the end of last season. 

During the 423 games Jones played from June 26, 2006 through the end of the 2008 season, he hit .337 with a .436 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage.  

It appeared he was on pace to produce similar numbers when on June 9 of this year, he was hitting .335 with a .442 on-base percentage and a .565 slugging percentage.  But during the 64 games that have followed, he has hit just .242 with a .370 on-base percentage and a .381 slugging percentage. 

Jones was encouraged by his two-hit performance on Thursday night and said that the swing that produced the liner that Gwynn glove would be one that he’d be taking into this weekend’s series in Philadelphia. 

Providing Jones even more reason for encouragement should be the fact that he’s hit .345 with eight homers and a 1.138 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in his last 25 games at Citizens Bank Park. 

Hanson’s perfect bid:  With a win or no-decision during tonight’s game the birthday boy Tommy Hanson will ensure that he’ll produce perfect records during two of his first three months at the Major League level. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last rookie pitcher to record two perfect months with at least four wins was Houston’s Roy Oswalt in 2001. 

Because Hanson was celebrating his 23rd birthday on Friday, we’ll provide him the gift of a mulligan while comparing his success to other Major League pitchers since he debuted.   Thus we won’t factor in his June 7 big league debut. 

In the 13 starts he’s made dating back to June 12, Hanson has posted a 2.68 ERA, which ranks first among the Braves starters and  12th among all Major League pitchers (min. 50 innings) during this span.    One of his primary competitors for NL Rookie of the Year honors, J.A. Happ has posted a 2.47 ERA during this stretch.

Javier Vazquez’s 2.75 ERA ranks 14th in the Majors during this span and Jair Jurrjens’ 2.96 mark ranks 19th.     

Hanson has put himself in ROY race

Before this season started, many journalists wanted to know whether Tommy Hanson would be introduced to the Major League scene in time to warrant Rookie of the Year consideration.  

Consumed by what Jordan Schafer had displayed over the previous six weeks, I primarily told them that Schafer’s contributions over a six-month period would likely trump those that Hanson would be able to provide during the regular season’s final four months.  

But as the first month of Hanson’s big league career comes to a close, you can already argue that he’s running neck-and-neck with St. Louis’ Colby Rasmus at the front of the chase to be named the NL’s Rookie of the Year.   

Five starts into his career, Hanson still hasn’t enjoyed that utterly dominant outing that he’s capable of providing on a regular basis. But while limiting the Red Sox to two hits and issuing just two walks in six innings on Sunday, we at least got a glimpse of how effective his stuff can be against one of the game’s top lineups.  

If the Red Sox don’t possess the game’s top lineup, then that distinction would have to be given to that Yankees bunch that saw Hanson work his magic last week, while pitching around five walks and holding them scoreless over 5 1/3 innings.   

After Sunday’s performance, a fan tweeted, “could Tommy Hanson be a candidate for Rookie of the Year if he keeps pitching this well?”   My response was, “if the Braves turn things around, he’s the club’s MVP.”  
Hanson has started five of the nine games the Braves have won since he joined the rotation.   His four wins this month exceed the combined totals of Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez, who have each totaled one more victory in June than the winless Jair Jurrjens.   

While going 1-3 with a 1.98 ERA and limiting opponents to a .197 batting average and .554 OPS, Vazquez was undoubtedly Atlanta’s most impressive starter in  June. But because the Braves scored just six runs during the 37 innings that he was on the mound this month, he also has to wear the unenviable tag of being  “the most unlucky”.  
 
During a four-start stretch that has seen him allow opponents a .356 on-base percentage and surrender just two runs, Hanson has obviously been somewhat lucky.  But the game’s greatest pitchers will tell you that you can often create your own “luck” and the big right-hander has done so while limiting opponents to two hits in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position. 

Hanson’s current streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings dates backto the fourth inning of his June 12 start against the Orioles.  Since allowing that final run at Camden Yards, he has allowed opponents to load the bases five times and then managed to escape unscathed. 

With 17 walks and 18 strikeouts in his first 29 career innings, Hanson has provided every indication that he needs to improve.  Of course, given the results that he’s gained while battling inconsistent control with his fastball, he’s also provided even more reason to wonder just how great he could prove to be. 

During Spring Training, Guy Hansen, a long-time pitching coach in the Braves Minor League system, compared Hanson to Toronto’s Roy Halladay.  Then Sunday, Chipper Jones echoed this comparison to the former AL Cy Young Award winner. 

Going from the impressive to the least impressive, we now turn our attention toward Derek Lowe, who will attempt to end his three-game losing streak against during tonight’s series opener against the Phillies. 

Lowe, who has posted a 12.34 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .433 against him in his past three starts, will be looking to begin anew in the same impressive fashion that he displayed while tossing eight scoreless innings against the Phillies on Opening Night.   <p>

While winning just seven of their previous 21 games, the Phillies have hit .240 with a .399 slugging percentage.  Still the 29 homers they’ve hit during this span is exactly half of what the Braves have totaled throughout this season.
 
From a pitching perspective,during this 21-game stretch, the Phillies have posted a 4.84 ERA and allowed 29 homers, which is just 20 fewer than the Braves have allowed through their first 75 games this season. 

Thanks to the Phillies and Mets, the Braves have lost 20 of their last 32 games and still enter this week’s series just five games behind the front-running Phillies.
  
While the visits made by the Red Sox and Yankees created a great buzz around Turner Field last week, this week’s series will prove much more influential.  The Phillies won each of the nine games they played in Atlanta last year and if they leave town celebrating another three-game sweep this week,  the Braves will be staring at an eight-game deficit and their focus may have to toward the 2010 season. 
 

Hanson proves strong enough to start

After making it through his warmup session in the bullpen, Tommy Hanson has taken the mound to make this afternoon’s start against the Red Sox. 

With Hanson battling the flu, the Braves were prepared to go with Kris Medlen.  

The Braves also announced this morning that they’ll skip Kenshin Kawakami’s next turn in the rotation.  Thus, Derek Lowe will start Tuesday’s series opener against the Phillies on regular rest.  Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez will start the final two games against the defending world champs. 

Kawakami, who was struck on the right side of his neck with a Joba Chamberlain line drive on Wednesday, will start Friday’s series opener against the Nationals in Washington D.C.  This arrangement will allow Hanson to start the following day with an extra day of rest.

McCann deserves an All-Star start

As an objective journalist, I’m not supposed to serve as Brian McCann’s campaign manager.  But while presenting the facts, it seems like it would be pretty easy to persuade you to click here  and show McCann the final-week support he needs to earn the nod as the National League’s starting catcher during this year’s All-Star Game.
 
When the latest ballot results were released on Monday, it wasn’t too surprising to see that Yadier Molina was still leading the way among NL catchers.  St. Louis fans have always shown strong All-Star support to their favorite Cardinals.
 
But it didn’t make much sense to see that over the course of seven days, Molina had doubled his lead over McCann to 315,973 votes.
 
While hitting .279 with five homers and a .736 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), Molina is enjoying a solid season and if you want to bring defense into the equation, then maybe you can make a case for him pleasing the hometown fans with his presence in the starting lineup during this year’s All-Star Game, which will be played at Busch Stadium on July 14.
 
But even while accounting for their gloves can you truly say that Molina is more deserving than McCann, whose .318 batting average is 39 points higher than Molina’s mark, which ranks second among NL catchers? 

In addition, McCann’s .915 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage)  is 169 points better than any other NL catcher.
 
Having essentially missed the month of April while dealing with blurred vision, McCann doesn’t possess the same kind of power number that have helped him gain an All-Star selection during each of his first three full Major League seasons. 

But even with this long absence, McCann ranks second among NL catchers in homers (6) and third with 29  RBIs. 

With 52 fewer at-bats, McCann has tallied five more RBIs than Yadier Molina.  And in 63 fewer at-bats, he has moved to within 12 RBIs of the leading mark posted by San Francisco’s Bengie Molina, who also paces the NL catchers with 10 homers. 

Dating back to the start of the 2006 season, McCann leads all Major League catchers in doubles, homers, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.   

While these marks shouldn’t necessarily affect this year’s voting, they do serve as further proof that McCann and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer have undoubtedly established themselves as the game’s top offensive catchers. 

With this in mind, there’s little doubt that McCann will gain a fourth consecutive All-Star appearance.  But while he’ll never admit it, the satisfaction of this latest selection would be accompanied with the disappointment that will be felt if he doesn’t get the starting nod that he seemingly deserves. 

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

The Yankees are here:
   When the Yankees last visited Turner Field in 2000, the opener of that three-game series pitted Greg Maddux against Roger Clemens.    During this battle between eventual 300-game winners, Maddux allowed seven earned runs and 13 hits in 5 2/3 innings.  But with Clemens allowing six runs  — four earned —  in five innings, the Braves claimed an 11-7 win that was aided by Brian Jordan’s  four-RBI performance.
 
With Tommy Hanson slated to start against Chien-Ming Wang tonight, this week’s series opener doesn’t provide the same kind of epic pitching matchup.  But it’s going to be fun to see how Hanson handles himself while staring at the Yankee pinstripes during what will be just his fourth Major League start.
  
When asked yesterday about the potential anxiety he might experience while pitching to Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez, Hanson said, “They’re hitters, so if I make my pitches, I feel like I’m going to be alright.”
 
If asked to compare Hanson to former Braves, I’d have to say he possesses Kevin Millwood’s quiet confidence and John Smoltz’s dominant arsenal.  The kid is going to be special and his celebrity will instantaneously grow if he produces a gem in front of the New York media tonight.
 
Heyward update:  Jason Heyward missed three weeks with a strained right oblique.  Since returning to the Class A Myrtle Beach lineup last week, he has four hits in 17 at-bats.   The rosters for this year’s Futures Game will be announced later this week and there’s obviously a chance that Heyward will be among those invited to participate. 

Welcome Mr. Hanson

I’m not sure how Tom Glavine and John Smoltz passed the time leading up to their Major League debuts, but it’s quite obvious that they weren’t provided the technological luxuries that Tommy Hanson utlized to calm his nerves heading into this afternoon’s game. 

As he played solitaire on his iPod or iPhone, Hanson didn’t seem fazed about the fact that he was about to experience a debut that had been hyped more than the ones that Glavine and Smoltz experienced at the start of their illustrious careers. 

“Those guys weren’t as heralded,” Cox said.  “Noboby really knew John (Smoltz) because we had traded for him and then he came through our system.  Everybody knows Tommy (Hanson) because of Spring Training.” 

Actually before Hanson impressed during his first big league camp this year, he was well known throughout the baseball world.  After his 0.69 ERA allowed him to become the first pitcher named the Arizona Fall League MVP, the big right-hander became as heralded as any of the game’s pitching prospects.    

There’s no doubt that Hanson will battle some of the same nerves that his close friend and roommate Kris Medlen encountered during his May 21 Major League debut.

But at the same time, he’s confident that he won’t experience the same kind of meltdown that led Medlen to throw find the strike zone with just three of his 18 third-inning pitches. 

When asked if he’d provided Hanson any advice, Medlen said, “what do you mean, like how not to (stink) during your debut?”

When Glavine debuted on Aug. 17, 1987, he allowed six earned runs and lasted just 3 2/3 innings against the Astros.   

While introducing himself to the Majors on July 23, 1988, Smoltz limited the Mets to one run over eight innings.

The likes of Chuck James, James Parr and Kyle Davies have provided the reminder that a career path isn’t determined during the debut or first few starts of a pitchers career. 

But it would certainly be nice to see Hanson experience a good start to a career that the fans of Atlanta would like to enjoy for many years to come.   

Right move, wrong time

When the Braves released Tom Glavine on Wednesday, Chipper Jones said that we were all denied the opportunity to see a storybook conclusion to a splendid career. 

While it certainly would have been fun to watch Glavine dip into the fountain of youth and enjoy a successful summer in Atlanta, this was actually a fairy tale that was doomed the moment the Braves opted to sign Glavine in February. 

Had the Braves opted against signing the veteran left-hander, they would have spent a couple of days dealing with the public backlash that would have stemmed from the fact that they said goodbye to both John Smoltz and Glavine in a span of six weeks.

Instead, they’ve now bid adieu to Smoltz and Glavine within a span of six months and both of these organizational icons currently find themselves wanting to have nothing to do with the Braves.
 
Those wounds will eventually heal and there will once again be a day when both Glavine and Smoltz will once again proudly associate themselves with the organization that they helped resurrect during their youthful days in Atlanta.
 
While still bitter about what he perceived as limited communication during this past offseason, Smoltz actually found his emotional blow to be far less severe than the one delivered to Glavine.
 
As I look at all of the details that surrounded Glavine’s departure, I can only conclude that this was the right move that was executed at the wrong time.
 
Had the Braves opted to provide Glavine the opportunity to make his anticipated regular season debut this weekend, the controversy would have surrounded the fact that the Braves were allowing their emotional ties to block the bright future possessed by Tommy Hanson, who will now be able to make his Major League debut on Sunday.
 
Upset about the tone of Wednesday’s farewell meeting, Braves president John Schuerholz has issued a public apology that he says he’ll also personally convey to Glavine.
 
But really the only fitting apology would be the one that centers around the fact that over the last two weeks, the Braves strung Glavine through three Minor League rehab starts while fully understanding that he would be ready to pitch in Atlanta at the same time they were ready to bring Hanson to the Majors. 

There’s no doubt that Glavine would have been a nice insurance policy if the Braves starting rotation would have suddenly been decimated by injuries.  But barring a rash of health-related issues, it’s long been obvious that there wasn’t going to be a vacant rotation spot once the 43-year-old left-hander was ready to begin testing himself against big league hitters. 

Thus when Glavine aggravated his shoulder during his April 12 Minor League rehab start for Double-A Mississippi, the Braves should have at least talked to him about the possibility that his ensuing rehab would prolong to the point, where he might no longer needed in Atlanta. 
Whatever initial disappointment Glavine might have felt would have paled in comparison to the disgust he is currently feeling.

I can at least buy the possibility that the Braves might have still been hoping to see a mix of increased velocity and consistent control when Glavine made his May 28 rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett.  But given that they obviously weren’t impressed with those results, it seems like they could have at least voiced these concerns before having him make a 90-minute trek to Class A Rome for a rehab start on Tuesday night. 

After Glavine tossed six scoreless innings for Rome, Braves general manager Frank Wren said you can’t accurately judge results based on the stats compiled during a Class A game.  While understanding that a future Hall of Famer could have some fun teasing 19-year-old prospects with his changeup, I can’t quite understand why the Braves gave him this assignment that seemingly provided no reward. 

Understanding that he wasn’t suddenly going to start consistently throwing 85 mph fastballs, Glavine has drawn his own conclusions about why he was scheduled to pitch in Rome. 

“I’m pretty certain they knew Tuesday afternoon that we were going down this road, yet they still paraded me out in Rome to a sold-out crowd,” Glavine said.  They never asked me if I wanted to pitch somewhere else.  They wanted me to pitch in Rome. They make money off of me being there.  So why would they want me to pitch somewhere else?”

While the Braves didn’t recently give Glavine his due respect, they certainly showed some when they provided him a contract in February without any clear indication about how he would perform once he began pitching. 

Had Glavine made his scheduled regular season debut on April 18, he would have been in position to make seven starts before the Braves were ready to promote Hanson.  During the course of those seven starts, he would have made $3.25 million or $464,285 per start.  If Derek Lowe makes 35 starts this year, he’ll make $457,142 per start.  

In other words, while knowing that Hanson would likely be ready when June arrived, the Braves still were willing to show Glavine respect with a financial obligation that further strapped them at a time when they were still attempting to fill a greater need with a power-hitting outfielder. 

So to say the Braves don’t respect and admire all that Tom Glavine did for their organization isn’t exactly accurate. 

But because of their actions over the course of the past couple weeks, they found saying goodbye proved to be more painful than it would have been in February or April. 
 

Medlen to start Tuesday

Kris Medlen is going to make his Major League debut when he starts in place of Jo-Jo Reyes against the Rockies on Tuesday night. 

During the six starts he’s made for Triple-A Gwinnett this year, Medlen has gone 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA and limited opponents to a .167 batting average.   The 23-year-old right-hander  hasn’t allowed a run in his past 19 2/3 innings. 

With these dominant stats, Medlen has provided himself the opportunity to make his Major League debut before Tommy Hanson, who is widely considered the game’s top right-handed prospect.   Hanson, who is 1-3 with 1.99 ERA in seven starts for Gwinnett, is  still expected to be promoted to Atlanta within the next month or two. 

Reyes, who is 0-9 with a 6.58 ERA in his past 18 Major League starts, will now assume a spot in the Braves bullpen.  

Bats prepared to come to life at Turner Field

Instead of dissecting statistics to determine why the Braves have encountered most of their success on the road, you can look at the simple fact that Brian McCann and Garret Anderson have been in the same lineup just once at Turner Field this year.

OK, now let’s delve into the numbers to show why the Braves have gone 2-9 at home since opening Turner Field with a three-game sweep of the Nationals.  In these 11 games, the Braves have hit .236 with THREE homers, a .329 on-base percentage and a .325 slugging percentage.

While going 6-2 on their recently-completed road trip, the Braves hit .285 with seven homers, a .380 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage.   This improved production was obviously a direct result of  Anderson and McCann returning from the disabled list last week.

With the Braves opening a 10-game homestand on Friday night against the Diamondbacks, the home fans should also be prepared to see the return of Chipper Jones’ bat, which slumbered as McCann and Anderson dealt with their ailments. 

During the past 11 home games, four Braves players produced a .300 batting average (min. 20 at-bats)    —  Omar Infante  (.355), Jeff Francoeur (.310), Casey Kotchman (.306) and Yunel Escobar (.300).   The next-best batting average compiled during this span was .208 — a mark produced by both David Ross and Kelly Johnson. 

This lineup obviously revolves around the success of Jones and the team-worst .143 batting average he produced during the past 11 home games was a direct result of some of the impatience he showed while facing pitchers, who didn’t feel the need to challenge him without Anderson and McCann hitting behind him. 

The 11 walks Jones drew during this 11-game span represent half the total he’s tallied through the first 27 games that he’s played this year.

“I stayed as patient as I could,” Jones said. “Some teams were just determined not to pitch to me.  Other teams were taking their chances.  It’s going to make Garret and Mac making guys pay whenever they do walk me. That’s how you get 2-0 fastballs and 3-1 fastballs.  There weren’t a lot of those.”

In the five games that Jones has played since Anderson returned to the lineup and started hiting cleanup, he has hit .400 with three doubles and seven walks  — four intentional. 

After Jones recorded two doubles and a sacrifice fly during his first three plate appearances against the Mets on Wednesday, he drew two consecutive intentional walks. 

Anderson followed the first intentional walk with a sacrifice fly and the second with a fly ball that would have put Yunel Escobar at third base with one out in the ninth inning of a tied game if Mets right fielder Ryan Church hadn’t made a perfect throw to third baseman David Wright.

Obviously, I’ve been very critical of Anderson and a lot of that stems from the fact that because of his reserved demeanor, you can’t get a good read about his desire to be in Atlanta. 

There’s no doubt that he should have taken the short drive to Gwinnett County to play at least one Minor League game before returning from the disabled list.  In addition, he still has provided indication that he’s going to cost the Braves some runs with his limited range in left field.

But while getting the chance to watch him play over the course of the past week, I’ve seen seen a professional hitter, who will provide a presence in the middle of the lineup by putting the ball in play with regularity when runners are in scoring position.

While giving credit where credit is due, I’m also ready provide some to Kenshin Kawakami, who has allowed two earned runs and completed at least five innings during his past two starts against the Mets and Phillies.  I still don’t think he should be considered anything more than a fourth or fifth starter.  But if you’re fourth or fifth starter is providng these kinds of efforts on a consistent basis, then you’re probably feeling good about your rotation as a whole. 

Speaking of fifth starters, I think it’s pretty safe to assume we won’t be seeing Jo-Jo Reyes making another big league start in the near future.   Instead, I think we should expect to see Charlie Morton taking Reyes’ spot in the rotation until Tom Glavine is ready to resume pitching near the end of this month.

Tommy Hanson will still likely arrive in June.  But until then, he’s going to gain a little more Minor League seasoning, while Morton is given the chance to prove that he can carry his recent success to the big league level.

The Braves are going to be looking to find some power before the trade deadline and with a surplus of arms, there may be a number of teams interested in Morton, who has allowed just four earned runs in his past 27 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett.    

 

Waiting on the boys from Gwinnett

Well it’s good to see a Braves pitching staff producing dominant stats similar to the ones that Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine produced back in the day.  Unfortunately it seems like the some of the guys producing these numbers in Gwinnett County are still a few weeks away from making the 30-mile trek to the organization’s home base in Fulton County. 

In their past 15 games entering Saturday, Triple-A Gwinnett’s starting rotation had posted a 1.17 ERA.  That equates to 11 runs in their past 84 2/3 innings, or one fewer run than Kenshin Kawakami has allowed in his past 9 2/3 innings. 

Tommy Hanson has allowed two earned runs in his past 18 innings and Kris Medlen has totaled 13 consecutive scoreless innings to lower his season ERA to 1.17. Charlie Morton limited Durham to one run and six hits in eight innings on
Friday night.  The lanky right-hander has allowed just three runs in
his past 20 innings.  

Obviously it hasn’t been surprising that the two weakest links in the Atlanta rotation this year have been Kawakami and Jo-Jo Reyes, who has assured himself of going at least 11 months between Major League victories.

Because the Braves decided to give Kawakami a three-year, $23 million contract in January, some might have gained the impression that he could prove to be a difference maker.  But at 33 years-old the Japanese right-hander has provided every indication he’s nothing more than a fourth or fifth starter.

But with Hanson and Medlen waiting in the wings, it would be hard to argue how Kawakami could fit in as one of the top five pitchers in the Atlanta rotation over the life of his three-year deal, which runs concurrently with Derek Lowe’s.

As for Reyes, he has shown flashes that he has the capability of being solid third starter.  But as his developmental process continues to grow even longer, the 24-year-old left-hander continues to find ways to extend a losing streak that now extends back to June 23.

With improved control and the development of a solid breaking ball, Reyes possesses almost all of the tools he needs to be a successful big league pitcher.  But he’s still lacks the ever-important ability to overcome adversity. 

As soon as Yunel Escobar botched a second-inning grounder during the second inning of Friday’s game against the Phillies, you could basically see Reyes come unwound.  He then issued a four-pitch walk to the .182-hitting Chris Coste before lobbing Cole Hamels’  swinging bunt into right field.

Should Reyes have let Hamels’ slow roller roll foul?  Should he have simply thrown through Hamels to draw an interference call?  Taking either one of these actions might have provided an immediate solution that would have likely prevented the Phillies from constructing their four-run second inning. 

But mistakes like this are going to occur and Reyes’ most glaring sin proved to be how he reacted to the growing adversity that he faced following Escobar’s error. 

I’m certainly not going to be hypocritical and claim that Morton should have been brought to Atlanta before Reyes.  Because he  was injured most of Spring Training, Morton really wasn’t even an option when Reyes joined the big league rotation on April 18. 

In addition, I was among those who believed Reyes was the better choice because he seemed to be mentally tougher.  But if he struggles on Wednesday against the Mets, Morton should be given a chance to prove himself during the final weeks of May.

Obviously, Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen are the top options available in Gwinnett.  But because they aren’t on the 40-man roster, Morton be given the chance to maintain a rotation spot until one or both of those young right-handers are promoted in June. 

Or Morton could at least fill a rotation spot until Tom Glavine is ready to return in a couple of weeks.

Regardless of how you analyze this, Reyes is running out of opportunities to prove himself.   Despite the fact that he’s improved over the course of the past year, it’s hard to see great potential when you look at the fact that he’s 0-9 with a 6.61 ERA in his past 18 appearances (17 starts).

While the Braves have the option to move Reyes back to the Minors, they aren’t exactly in a position where they could do the same with Kawakami.  First of all, he deserves more than five career starts to prove himself and secondly, by doing so the organization would be acknowledging the mistake that they made by giving him the lucrative three-year contract.

Things aren’t exactly going to get any easier for Kawakami when he opposes the Phillies at the homer haven known as Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.   Having allowed five homers during the first 25 2/3 innings of his career, the baseball gods have given him the cruel assignment of making consecutive road starts in the band boxes located in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. 

When I drew the analogy that this would be like sending Appalachian State into Ann Arbor on consecutive weekends, the AJC’s Dave O’Brien reminded me that going into Michigan isn’t much of a challenge now that Rich Rodriguez is coaching there. 

And with that, my day has been made. It’s nice to know that non-West Virginians are now making fun of the man that both the Hatfields and McCoys love to hate.  

      

Waiting on updates from McCann and Glavine

Regardless of how Jair Jurrjens fares against Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, this should be an interesting day for the Braves.  We should learn more about Brian McCann’s condition and Tom Glavine may provide some information about his future.

McCann was scheduled to visit Dr. Alan Kozarsky this morning to gain more clarity about why he’s been experiencing blurred vision in his left eye since the season started.  Hopefully, the remedy will prove to be as simple as once again undergoing Lasik surgery.

It’s understandable that his vision could have changed since he initially underwent this procedure at the age of 23 at the end of the 2007 season.  But while admitting I can’t spell ophthamology without Google’s assistance, I still have to wonder what has caused the dry sensation he’s complained about.

While McCann is in the early stages of a career that could one day be preceded by the words “Hall of Fame”, Glavine is simply hoping for the opportunity to enhance the numbers that will be linked to him when he’s immortalized in Cooperstown. 

Tomorrow will mark the two-week mark since Glavine asked for two more weeks to evaluate the status of of his troublesome left shoulder.  If he hasn’t realized some improvement this week, he’s not interested in waiting around another couple of weeks before resuming  preparations.  This would essentially take him back to the point he was when he arrived at Spring Training in early March and set up the likeliehood that he wouldn’t be ready to make his first start until some time in June.  

Thus within the next two days, we can expect to  hear him say that he’s going to begin another Minor League rehab within the next week or that he’s ready to put an end to his storied career that has included 305 wins. 

Even before Glavine found some success during Spring Training, there was reason to believe there should be fewer concerns about him than Kenshin Kawakami.  This was based solely on the fact that he’s spent the past 20-plus years learning exactly what it takes to retire Major League hitters.

The 7.06 ERA that Kawakami has notched in four starts isn’t nearly as concerning as the fact that he’s allowed at least one homer during each of his outings.  This development hasn’t exactly been surprising.  During the early days of camp, it was apparent that he has a tendency to live up in the zone with far too many pitches. 

That’s a recipe for disaster while facing hitters that physically stronger than the ones that served as the opposition during his successful days in Japan.

With this being said, Kawakami has the potential to be a successful fourth or fifth starter in the Majors.  The first homer he surrendered to Jay Bruce on Sunday came courtesy of a mistake he made in a situation when he should have issued a walk.  The opposite-field shot snuck inside the left field foul pole. 

From there it seemed like Kawakami allowed his emotions to get the best of him.  He could have easily escaped the fifth inning unscathed.  But as the adversity built with an intereference call on a potential double-play grounder and an infield single, he began to throw more high strikes, much to the delight of Joey Votto and Bruce, who has now hit .609 with four homers in six career games against the Braves.

Still regardless of what occurs with Glavine or Kawakami during the next few weeks and months, the Braves rotation is shaping up nicely for the final months of the season.  

While regaining his aggressive approach during his past two outings, Jurrjens has enhanced the strength of a rotation that has been solidly anchored by Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez.  And of course, it won’t be long before we start to see Bobby Cox sending Tommy Hanson to the mound every five days.

Through his first four starts for Triple-A Gwinnett, Hanson is 0-3 with a 2.18 ERA.   He has allowed one earned run or fewer in three of those outings and opponents are hitting just .205 against him. 

It was encouraging to see Hanson complete six innings with 95 pitches against Charlotte on Friday night.  During his two previous outings, he had reached the 95-pitch mark before completing five innings and was removed to preserve the arm strength that could prove to be so benefiical in Atlanta during the season’s final months.

Kelly’s inconsistencies:  During the first eight games of the season, Kelly Johnson hit .333 with a .412 on-base percentage.  But in the past 10 games, the current leadoff hitter has batted .111 with a .220 on-base percentage. 

This better explains why the Braves have scored two runs or fewer in six of their past 10 games.  It hasn’t helped that Chipper Jones missed three of those games or that McCann’s bat has essentially been absent since the end of the season’s four game. 

But Johnson’s inability to serve as a catalyst in the leadoff spot during the past 10 games, has certainly played a factor. 

With McCann absent,  Johnson and Yunel Escobar have to find a way to consistently provide Jones with run-producing opportunities.  Casey  Kotchman has spent the past three games in the cleanup spot and he’s still on pace to go homerless this year.

During the just-completed nine-game road trip, the Braves received a .135 (5-for-37) batting average, .220 on-base percentage and .162 slugging percentage from the batters hitting in the leadoff spot.  Those players batting in the ninth spot of the order hit .167 with a .333 OBP and .208 SLG.  

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