Results tagged ‘ Troy Glaus ’

Times have changed since last visit to Philly

When Roy Halladay tossed his five-hit shutout against the Braves on April 21, he was the odds-on-favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award.  When the Braves left Philadelphia on May 9, they were five games below .500 (13-18) and six games behind a Phillies club that seemed destined to win a fourth consecutive NL East crown.

Oh, how times have changed. 

When Halladay takes the mound tonight, he’ll be aiming to halt his recent woes and close the gap on the first-place Braves, who are five games in front of the injury-depleted Phillies in the NL East race. 

The Phillies, who will be without Chase Utley until at least the latter part of August, have won just 14 of the 31 games they’ve played since coming to Atlanta on May 31 with a half-game lead over the Braves. 

Since tossing his perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, Halladay has gone 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .302 against him.  During his last outing, he recorded 10 strikeouts over eight innings and held the Reds scoreless through five innings. 

Then while allowing four runs in the next three innings, Halladay saw Joey Votto and Jay Bruce prolong his recent longball woes. Seven of the 10 homers surrendered by the Phillies right-hander have been hit during his past four starts.  He allowed just three in his first 13 starts of the season.

Troy Glaus, who is one of the four current Braves who has one career homer against Halladay, will rest his sore left knee again tonight.  But it appears he could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday. 

Nate McLouth will be re-examined within the next two days and if it appears he is no longer bothered by post-concussion symptoms, he could be cleared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment later this week. 

McLouth was able to complete batting practice outdoors without any problem the past couple of days.  Hopefully, this was a sign that he is recovering.  But it also could have been a product of the less-humid conditions that were in Atlanta this weekend. 

One of the reasons the Braves signed Willy Taveras to a Minor League deal was to provide some insurance in case McLouth isn’t able to return and prove to be more productive than he was before he suffered the concussion after colliding with Jason Heyward. 

But for now, Gregor Blanco is providing reason to believe he can serve as a dependable option in center field.  The speedy outfielder has always been able to cover a lot of ground.  But this year, he seems to be taking better routes and cutting down on the mental errors that he displayed in the past.

Oh yeah, Blanco also hit .450 in the six games he played last week.

Heading down to the clubhouse.  I’ll let you know if Omar Infante heads over to the Phillies dugout to give Charlie Manuel a big hug.   

Glaus developing into a strong MVP candidate

Remember that Troy Glaus fellow who went through Spring Training and the first 31 games of this season with just two homers.  Well, he’s on pace to total 31 homers and compile 128 RBIs this season.  

Instead of projecting him as an early favorite to be named Comeback Player of the Year, it might be time to establish his candidacy for the National League’s MVP Award.   If nothing else, the veteran first baseman’s $2 million base salary certainly has to be considered this year’s best bargain.

Given that the Braves took off once Martin Prado moved into the leadoff role, it’s easy to immediately say that that Prado has been the club’s most valuable player.   But we can’t ignore the value of his production has been maximized due to the fact that Glaus has spent the past seven weeks serving as the game’s top run producer.   

While going a Major League-best 26-10 since May 9, the Braves have seen Prado collect 57 of his National League-best 97 hits.  During this same span, Glaus has compiled 35 of his NL-high 53 RBIs.  In the meantime, Jason Heyward, the club’s early-season MVP has hit just .252 with three homers and 18 RBIs (a total that has been affected by the fact that he’s spent a significant portion of this span batting second).  

When the club has needed a clutch hit, Glaus has proven to be that middle-of-the-lineup threat who has maximized the value of the on-base percentages produced by Prado,

Heyward, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.   His game-winning, two-run double in last night’s sixth inning improved his batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position to .444 (14-for-33).   He’s actually recorded 12 hits in the past 25 at-bats he’s had in these situations.    

McCann (10th), Heyward (13), Glaus (16th), Jones (17th) and Prado (18th) all rank among the top 20 NL players in terms of on-base percentage.    With this in mind, it’s pretty easy to figure out why hitting coach Terry Pendleton is no longer feeling the heat that showered down upon him during the season’s first month.

This same Braves team that couldn’t  score during the season’s first five weeks, now ranks second in the NL in runs scored, trailing the Reds by one run. They averaged 4.0 runs per game in the 32 games they played through May 10. They have averaged 5.6 runs per games in the 35 games that have played since May 11, when Heyward was moved toward the top of the lineup to join forces with the other OBP machines.   

When asked to vote for May’s Player of the Month, I went with Heyward because he had proven to be every bit as effective as Glaus in most offensive categories except for RBIs.   But because the young phenom had given Glaus the chance to drive in these runs, I gave him the nod.  

Obviously my reasoning wasn’t shared by other writers throughout the country.  

If asked to name the club’s MVP through June 17, I probably would have to give the nod to Prado because of the fact that he has proven to be the productive leadoff hitter this club desperately needed.
 
But if Glaus continues to take advantage of the run-producing opportunities that he’s gaining,  it will be hard to look at his numbers and not view him as a legit MVP candidate.

Look ahead:  Next weekend the Braves will celebrate Alumni Weekend at Turner Field by bringing back a number of their former players.  To get a jump on the festivities, they will welcome Dayton Moore’s Kansas City Royals to Atlanta this weekend.  

It’s no secret that Moore, the former Braves assistant GM, has spent the past few years filling his new organization with familiar faces that he was introduced to during his days in Atlanta.   

The 25-man roster that Royals manager Ned Yost (a former Braves coach) will field for tonight’s series opener includes six former Braves –  Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies, Kyle Farnsworth, Brayan Pena, Anthony Lerew and Wilson Betemit.   

Oh yeah, that Zach Greinke dude who was included in 999,999 trade rumors involving Jeff Francoeur will be on the mound to face the Braves on Saturday night.  The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner will match up against Kris Medlen.   

Rainy update from PNC

While we’re sitting through a rain delay here at PNC Park, here are some tidbits that were gathered this afternoon.

Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to rest Troy Glaus tonight and start Eric Hinske at first base tonight.  While Glaus could certainly benefit from a break, I think Cox also saw this as an opportunity to give Melky Cabrera a chance to get rolling.  With Hinske at first base, Cabrera will be be in left field. 

The switch-hitting Cabrera is hitting just .200 this season but has posted a .237 mark against right-handed pitchers.  Virtually everybody has hit Pirate starter Charlie Morton this year.  But he has had his greatest troubles against left-handed hitters, who have compiled a .350 batting average against him.

Heyward’s improved approach:  It does seem like Jason Heyward has been a little less selective since Cox suggested that he be more aggressive early in the count.  But Heyward thinks the success he has experienced over the past three weeks is just a product of the natural development process.  

During the first 20 games of his career, Heyward hit .224 (15-for-67) with four homers 25 strikeouts and a .358 on-base percentage.   In the 18 games he played since Cox expressed his desire, the Braves 20-year-old right fielder hit .367 (22-for-60) with five homers, five strikeouts and a .458 on-base percentage.   <p>

His ability to significantly improve his on-base percentage seems to be product of the fact that he struck out once every 2.68 at-bats during his first 20 games and just once every 12 at-bats during the 18 games he has played since Cox told media members that his young outfielder needed to start swinging the bat a little more often.  <p>

“You can’t hit with two strikes against you every at-bat,” Cox said. “Especially with runners on, if you get a pitch to hit, you better hit it.  He’s smart.  He’s got a great idea at the plate every at-bat.  He’s not going to swing at the first pitch, unless it’s a great pitch.”    <p> 

To his credit, Heyward didn’t then immediately evolve into a free-swinger.  He still has put the first pitch of an at-bat in play just six times in his career.   But it does feel like he is drawing hitter’s counts much more frequently than he did during the early weeks of the season.

Entering Saturday, he was hitting .192 (14-for-73) when ending an at-bat with a two-strike count.  But when he had put a ball in play when ahead in the count, he had hit .356 (16-for-45).

Kimbrel needs more time:   The decision to send Craig Kimbrel back to Triple-A Gwinnett further proved why the Braves felt the need to hire Dave Wallace as their new Minor League pitching instructor this offseason.  

With Kent Willis handling this role over the course of the past few years, the Braves too often found themselves stocking their Major League pitching staff with young pitchers who still hadn’t learned the finer points of their craft.  

There are still some concerns about Kimbrel’s control.  But the six walks he issued in 3 1/3 innings for Atlanta were likely a product of nerves.  The kid threw strikes while at Gwinnett earlier this year and he’ll likely show this same kind of control when he returns to Atlanta. 

More alarming to the Braves Major League coaching staff was the fact that Kimbrel proved to be very slow to the plate while throwing all of his pitches from the stretch.   In order to maximize the potential of his tremendous arm, the 21-year-old right-hander will spend the next few weeks and possibly months developing a delivery that will allow him to be less susceptible against opposing basestealers.

Kawakami Update: Kenshin Kawakami’s back discomfort has subsided over the past few days and he is expected to make his start against the Marlins on Tuesday.

Looks like we’ll get this game started at some point tonight.  But as of 7:50 p.m. ET, the tarp was still on the field.
 

Braves hope their offensive woes stayed in Atlanta

It’s early, but based on the frustration I could sense in the clubhouse after last night’s loss to Jamie Moyer and the Phillies, I’d have to say the Braves players and coaches share many of the worries you developed while watching them split this recent homestand.

Yes, the Braves managed to win win three of six on this past homestand.  But at the same
time, they needed two dramatic ninth-inning comebacks to prevent going
1-5 during this stretch against the Rockies and Phillies.

It will be a homestand remembered for the two clutch hits that Jason Heyward provided to erase deficits with two outs in the ninth inning.  But even Heyward encountered struggles during this homestand, hitting .211 (4-for-19) with seven strikeouts.  

During this six-game stretch at Turner Field, the Braves hit .225, which is actually better than the .214 mark they have compiled over the previous 10 games entering tonight’s series opener against the Mets. 

Yes,  the Braves were burdened by the fact that they faced Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and Ubaldo No-No Jimenez during this stretch.  But in the seven games that they didn’t face these elite hurlers, they managed to hit just .249, a mark that would rank as the 11th-best in the 16-team National League this year.  

J.D. Drew, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and reigning National League Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan have provided the reminder that many talented players can find their batting averages resting below the Mendoza line during this early stage of the season. 

But as Braves manager Bobby Cox will certainly attest, you can’t have too many key players falling into this category at one time.  

Through the first 15 games of the season, Nate McLouth (.171), Troy Glaus (.170), Matt Diaz (.167) and Melky Cabrera (.125) all find themselves serving as the holes that Jeff Francoeur, Jordan Schafer and Kelly Johnson were during the early portion of the 2009 season. 

McLouth has shown some recent promise and at least provided indication that it’s time for him to play everyday and prove he can be the leadoff hitter the Braves envisioned entering Spring Training.  Yes, he hit just .200 (3-for-15) during the homestand. 

But he followed Tuesday’s walk-off homer with what I thought was a solid 0-for-4 effort against Halladay.  He put good wood on the ball with each of the four balls he put in play. 

As for Glaus, I haven’t exactly seen him benefit from the clutch two-run homer he hit in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s thrilling victory.   That stands as the only hit he’s tallied in his past 23 at-bats  –  a span that includes eight strikeouts. 

Last impressions are always the strongest and the fact that I think there’s more reason to worry about Glaus than McLouth, might just be a product of the fact that the Braves first baseman accounted for two of the 11 strikeouts Jamie Moyer has posted in 18 innings this year.  

Diaz’s early-season struggles aren’t anything new.  On the way to hitting .313 last year, he hit .216 in April. 

Cabrera’s early struggles only seemingly confirm the belief that he will be best utilized as a fourth outfielder, whose versatility will allow him to platoon with Diaz and occasionally give McLouth or Jason Heyward a breather.

Making matters worse for the Braves is the fact that Yunel Escobar is hitting .203 and has totaled just three RBIs since driving in a career-high five runs on Opening Day.  His offensive woes have seemingly affected his body language. 

But as I mentioned in last night’s game story, if the Braves do indeed decide to put Omar Infante at shortstop for tonight’s series opener against the Mets, it won’t be solely because Escobar has struggled from an offensive standpoint. 

During Wednesday night’s game against Halladay, the Braves loaded the bases with one out and then saw Escobar rip a sharp grounder that hit the mound and landing in the glove of a diving Chase Utley, who flipped to first base to begin the run-preventing, inning-ending double play. 

Escobar appeared to be pacing himself down the first base line and a National League scout later told me that he had him clocked at 4.54 going down the line.  Just to give you an idea of what that means, I mentioned that to one of the Braves coaches and they playfully responded, “isn’t that what Eddie (Perez) ran?” 

Then Escobar played a role in the three-run third inning the Phillies constructed against Derek Lowe on Thursday night.  While the official scorer gave Martin Prado the error, there were some in the Braves clubhouse who felt that his double-play feed to Escobar was certainly good enough for a double-play to have been turned. 

My thought was that Prado’s feed was certainly good enough to account for at least one out.  But seemingly preparing to leap over the oncoming runner, Escobar dropped the feed and consequently allowed the Phillies to score two of the three runs they tallied that inning. 

Escobar is a tremendous talent, who has the capability of proving to be one of the game’s best shortstops.  But as the Braves leaned last year while benching him at least three times, there are times when it’s best to make him sit and think about things for at least one game.

As for Glaus, some of you have suggested that the Braves platoon him at first base with Eric Hinske.  I haven’t gained a sense Cox is ready to do this. But the career numbers indicate this is something that might work if Glaus continues to struggle.

GLAUS 
vs. LHP   1267 ABs  .275 BA  87 HRs  .949 OPS
vs. RHP   3784 ABs  .247  219 HRs   .820 OPS

HINSKE 
vs. LHP   673 ABs  .221 19 HRs  .667 OPS
vs. RHP  2439 ABs .263 BA 94 HRs .805 OPS

With Glaus having basically missed all of last year, the Braves are
certainly going to give him more than 15 games to get re-acquainted to
the speed of the game.  But this might be an arrangement that Cox occasionally at least toys with over the next couple days and weeks. 

    

 

 

Looking back on an improbable finish

While watching highlights of last night’s incredible finish, I noticed Bobby Cox’s reaction after Jason Heyward drilled his game-tying, two-out homer in the ninth inning.    While his players instantly celebrated when Heyward’s blast cleared the wall, Cox paused and then began clapping in an excited manner.  

When I get to Turner Field today, I’ll ask him if he remembers his reaction.  But my guess is that his split-second pause was just a product of the fact that he had to give himself time to think, “you’ve got to be kidding me, this kid did it again.”

As great as anybody thought Heyward could be, I think it’s safe to say that he has proven to be even greater during the first 13 games of his career.   Through the first seven games he’s played at Turner Field, he has already produced a memorable homer with the first swing of his career, contributed a walk-off single and foiled the rival Phillies with last night’s blast off Ryan Madson.  

At the ripe age of 20, Heyward has already proven to be Mr. Clutch in Atlanta.   He is hitting .727 (8-for-11) with runners in scoring position and .750 (6-for-8) with two outs and runners in scoring position.   During the eighth and ninth innings combined, he has batted .555 (5-for-9) and his two ninth-inning homers have been hit with the Braves trailing.  

It’s impressive enough to look at the fact that he has compiled 16 RBIs through the first 13 games of his career.  But while watching ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning, many of us learned that Ted Williams was the only other Major League player under the age of 21 to tally 16 RBIs through the first 13 games of his career.  

Still even with all of these impressive statistics, there’s a way to argue that Heyward’s homer simply added to the improbable events that occurred last night.   Down 3-0 with two outs in the ninth, the Braves needed just nine pitches and four at-bats to create a 4-3, 10-inning victory that put them in a first-place tie with a Phillies club that has navigated a much softer schedule through the season’s first two weeks.  

Troy Glaus came to the plate in the ninth inning hearing the displeasure of fans, who were unhappy about the fact that he’d booted a Ryan Howard grounder in the top of the fourth and then hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded and Heyward on deck to end the bottom half.

Or maybe those boos were a product of the fact that he was coming to bat with a .181 batting average.  Or maybe it was because he had produced just one hit in the 10 at-bats that he had previously compiled in either the eighth or ninth innings.  

Whatever the case, those boos quickly turned to cheers when Glaus belted Madson’s fastball over the left-center field wall.  His second homer of the year, set the stage for Heyward, who  came to the plate with just four hits in 27 at-bats with the bases empty.  

Stick with me, this was a night where improbability reigned.  Thus in order to figure out how Heyward fit the story line, I had to take advantage of the opportunity to use this early-season trend that really doesn’t bare a whole lot of significance.  

Heyward’s blast opened the door for Billy Wagner to produce a perfect inning and set the stage for Nate McLouth, who came to the plate to begin the top of the 10th inning hitting just .138 (4-for-29).  His most recent extra-base hit had occurred in the sixth inning of last year’s 15-inning season finale against the Nationals.

But after drawing a 2-2 count, McLouth made his first career at-bat against Jose Contreras a memorable one.  After drilling his game-ender into the right field seats, the Braves center fielder celebrated the first walk-off homer of his career in unique style.  

Finally provided the opportunity to carry through with a plan they devised last year, the Braves players and coaches didn’t rush on the field to celebrate this moment with McLouth.  Instead, they pranked him by going down the dugout stairs and heading toward the clubhouse.

“I looked when I got around second (base) and everybody had gone (toward the clubhouse),” McLouth said.  “I didn’t know what to do when I crossed home and there they were waiting for me in the tunnel.  I kind of did the weird little dance before I got down there.  I didn’t know what to do to be honest with you.   I knew I had to slam the helmet at some point, so I did that when I crossed home.”  <p>  

In case you haven’t seen video of this prank, click here to view it.   You can hear John Smoltz laughing with his broadcast partner Joe Simpson and saying, “That’s perfect.”

Further showing the camaraderie this club seems to have, the Braves certainly concluded an improbable finish in perfect fashion.   Entering the ninth inning, McLouth and Glaus had combined to hit .164 (12-for-73) with one extra-base hit.   

Entering tonight’s game against Roy Halladay, they carry a fresh sense of confidence and the tremendous momentum created by two consecutive walk-off victories.  

While Halladay presents a tremendous challenge, we’ve all quickly learned that anything is possible as long as Mr. Heyward is in the house.  

Braves ready to take this show north

Just returned from the clubhouse and it’s pretty safe to say that all the guys are ready to compile a couple of at-bats during this afternoon’s game against the Tigers and then head to Atlanta as quick as possible. 

As I was shooting the breeze with Jason Heyward this morning, I said something like, “well it will be nice for you to get back to your own bed tonight.”  When he responded, “yeah, for like five days”, I said “enjoy it, you’ll come to appreciate even these opportunities that allow for just a short stay at home.”

That advice I provided Heyward will not benefit him as much as the words of encouragement that he received from Hall of Famer Al Kaline this morning.  The former Tigers outfielder came to the Braves clubhouse to see Bobby Cox and then took time to tell the young Braves outfielder things like “good luck, play hard, work hard, etc.”   

Cox will likely announce his Opening Day roster after either Friday or Saturday’s game.  I’m still guessing Brooks Conrad gets the last spot for a position player and that Jesse Chavez and Jo-Jo Reyes fill the final two bullpen spots. 

As for lineup projections, it still seems like Melky Cabrera will hold the leadoff spot until Nate McLouth can regain a consistent groove.  

Today’s lineup also provides reason to believe there will be some instances when Brian McCann is placed in the cleanup spot when the opposing team is starting a right-handed pitcher. It’s also interesting to see that Heyward is batting sixth and Yunel Escobar is in the seventh spot of the order.

While wrapping up the Florida portion of their exhibition schedule today, the Braves are going up against right-handed knuckleballer Eddie Bodine.   With this in mind, it’s time to wish a happy 71st birthday to Phil Niekro. 

The baseball accomplishments that I share with Niekro are limited to the fact that our fathers bought our first baseball gloves at a little sporting goods store in Wheeling, W.Va called Kelly Mikes.  

TODAY’S LINEUP vs. Tigers
Cabrera 7
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Glaus 3
Heyward 9
Escobar 6
McLouth 8
Hinske DH

Heyward provided another day to rest

As Jason Heyward went back to the right field wall on Tuesday night to attempt to rob Jayson Werth of the two-run homer that he hit off Kenshin Kawakami, I was half expecting to see the young phenom leap to the top of the wall, make the catch and then perform a dismount that would have made Shaun White proud. 

Instead, Heyward proved mortal while running face-first into the wall and watching helplessly as the ball fell into the Braves bullpen.  In the process, the 20-year-old right fielder tweaked his upper back and led Bobby Cox to take the precautionary route by giving a chance to rest during this afternoon’s game against the Mets.

“It’s nothing, he could play easily,”  Cox said. “I told (our trainer Jeff Porter) that I’m going to make 10,000 people mad today.”   <p>

Heyward, who compiled each of his three plate appearances after running into the wall, is expected to be back in the lineup on Thursday night, when the Braves visit the Yankees. 

As this camp has progressed, it has been fun to hear writers, players and coaches compare Heyward to a number of different players from yesteryear.   Fred McGriff, Darryl Strawberry and Dave Parker have been popular choices. 

Cox provided an interesting comparison yesterday when he linked his young outfielder to Larry Walker, who arrived in the Majors with a large athletic frame and the same kind of five-tool talents possessed by the Braves young outfielder. 

Thoughts about Halladay: When Matt Diaz arrived this morning, he asked if Roy Halladay had been as impressive on Tuesday night as his line (3 IP, 3H, 0ER, 5 Ks) indicated.  My immediate response was “ask Martin Prado”. 

Halladay froze Prado with front-door cutters for called third strikes during the first and third innings.  It would have been great to see replays of both of these picture-perfect pitches to see just how identical they when they crossed the inside black portion of the plate. 

Four of Halladay’s five strikeouts came at the expense of Prado and Nate McLouth, who has struck out five times in the 12 at-bats he has recorded entering this afternoon’s game. 

Like it’s too early to begin worrying about McLouth, it’s also far too early for Troy Glaus to be overly excited about the fact that he has singled in each of his past eight at-bats. 

“It’s a positive reinforcement,” Glaus said. “But I’ve been doing this long enough that it doesn’t matter right now.  I’ve had good springs.  I’ve had bad springs.  I’ve had in between springs.  It doesn’t matter.”

Glaus’ hot streak will be delayed until Thursday.  Like Heyward, he has been given the day off.

BRAVES LINEUP
McLouth 8
Prado 4
Chipper 5
Hinske 3
Cabrera 9
Diaz 7
Infante 6
Ross 2
Lowe 1

Lowe is scheduled to pitch three innings today.  Takashi Saito, Kris Medlen, Kyle Cofield, Mariano Gomez, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are scheduled to serve as the relievers.   

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.    
    

Busy holiday season for Wren and the Braves

After making my 11-hour journey back home for the holidays yesterday, I learned that that yesterday’s trade of Javier Vazquez had made many of you just as sick as my three female passengers, who had never previously been introduced to the twists and turns on West Virginia’s mountainous turnpike. 

But after looking at this trade and getting a feel for what the Braves learned while navigating this year’s trade market, I’d have to say the only reason that I currently dislike Braves GM Frank Wren stems from the fact that he made a point this morning to point out that the Mexican beaches he is enjoying lack the snow and cold temperatures that exist here in Wheeling, WV.   <p>

Before getting into this trade, let’s touch on Troy Glaus, who will seemingly become the Braves new first baseman once he’s able to get to Atlanta to undergo a physical.  Weather conditions in the northeast part of the country  imited hindered his immediate travel plans. 

So with some of the Braves doctors already beginning their vacations, it will likely be after the holiday break before Glaus could be introduced as the newest member of the Braves roster. 

Now back to the pitching front, where the Braves committed to trading either Vazquez or Derek Lowe once they gained the belief that Tim Hudson actually provided more certainty than either of these other two veteran right-handers. 

It’s no secret that the Braves pushed hard in an attempt to find a suitor for Lowe.  But in the process, they found just a couple of potential suitors and each of these clubs wanted them to eat about half of the $45 million the veteran sinkerballer is owed over the next three years. 

Given that Vazquez finished fourth in this year’s balloting for the National League Cy Young Award, there was reason to believe the Braves would have a much easier time moving him. 

But as time passed, it became apparent that among the clubs looking to acquire a starting pitcher via trade, the Yankees stood as the only potential suitor willing to spend as much as $10 million. 

With this in mind, the Braves were thrilled when the Yankees were interested enough in Vazquez to highlight this five-player trade with the inclusion of Arodys Vizcaino,  a 19-year-old right-hander who was rated by Baseball America  as the third-best prospect in the Yankees organization. 

The Braves view Vizcaino as being just as promising as Julio Teheran, a soon-to-be 19-year-old right-hander who was tabbed their third-best prospect by BA.

While making his frustrations known last week, Lowe playfully talked about reports that indicated the Braves were now just looking to get prospects for him.  This led the witty right-hander to ask, “What’s next?  You think they’ll be able to get an “L” screen for me?”

With Vizcaino, Mike Dunn and Melky Cabrera, the Braves got much more than they would have received in return for the salary dump they would have made by trading Lowe. 

Obviously to find value in this trade you have to look far beyond Cabrera, who will serve as a cheap versatile outfielder who can play each of the three outfield positions.  When the Braves are facing a tough right-handed pitcher, he could spell Matt Diaz in left field.  When they are facing a tough lefty, he could spell Jason Heyward in right field. 

Or maybe he just assumes an everyday role in right field until Heyward is deemed Major League ready.  Whatever the case, the Braves certainly didn’t view him as the centerpiece of this deal. 

There’s no doubt that it’s tough to see Vazquez depart after just one year in an environment where he proved to be so comfortable.  He’s a true professional who had a positive impact on Yunel Escobar, Jair Jurrjens and many of the other players in the clubhouse. 

But when it came time to make projections, the Braves certainly couldn’t assume that Vazquez would definitely match the career-best season he enjoyed this past season.  In fact, there were some members of the organization, who felt it was much smarter to sell high on him and avoid having to sell low on Lowe. 

Even with Lowe coming off a career-worst season and Vazquez coming off a career-best season, recent history indicates you could place them in the same category. 

Durign the past three seasons, Lowe went 41-35 with a 3.91 ERA and 605 innings pitched. Vazquez went 42-34 with a 3.74 ERA and 644 1/3 innings pitched during this span. 

Given that Vazquez spent two of those seasons in the American League and is three years younger, you could certainly argue that he was the guy to keep.  But at the same time, the Braves also came to the realization that he was the only member of this duo who was going to provide any kind of return. 

Thus while exercising your right to voice your opinion about this trade, keep in mind that it was one that was necessitated once the Braves made the decision to provide Hudson with his three-year contract extension. 

If you weren’t in favor of bringing Hudson back, then you certainly have reason to be upset about the fact that Vazquez’s time in Atlanta was limited to just one season.  But while kicking and screaming about this, keep in mind there was no guarantee that the Vazquez that appeared last year was going to materialize yet again in 2010. 

Before saying happy holidays to all you loyal bloggers, I’d like to add that Wren left Lowe a lengthy message after the pitcher voiced his displeasures to me about the fact that it seemed like the club was giving up on him after just one year. 

A few hours later, Lowe sent Wren a text message that essentially said there were no hard feelings. 

OK, time for me to send Wren my own holiday wishes. I’m thinking it will consist of a reminder that stepping on seashells will prove much more painful than walking through this snow. 

  

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