Results tagged ‘ Yunel Escobar ’

Braves getting healthy as Opening Day approaches

Jason Heyward said that he hopes to return to action tomorrow and Craig Kimbrel now knows that he will begin the upcoming season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer.

As the Braves prepare to oppose CC Sabathia and the Yankees this afternoon,  you can devour these mostly injury-related tidbits that were gathered during batting practice. 

While Yunel Escobar’s back was healthy enough for him to return to return to today’s lineup, the Braves are going to give Heyward at least one more day to rest the shin splints that began bothering him on Sunday. 

When I spoke with Heyward this morning he said, “I hope to play tomorrow.”  But the 20-year-old outfielder added,  “I know this is something that isn’t just going to go away immediately.” 

While Bobby Cox said that there’s a chance Heyward might play tomorrow against the Astros, his tone provided indication that he might wait until at least Thursday before putting his 20-year-old phenom back in the lineup.

Having already compiled 49 at-bats during the Grapefruit League season, Heyward has made all of his necessary preparations for the season.  Even if he rests for another day or two, he’ll still be able to get his timing back while playing the final games of the exhibition season.

Heyward took batting practice this morning and provided further indication that there isn’t any reason to think he won’t be ready for Monday afternoon’s Opening Day game against the Cubs.

Backup catcher David Ross still seems confident that he will be available on Opening Day.  But Ross, who also experienced a pain-free batting practice session this morning, will spend the next couple of days testing the strength of the right groin muscle that he strained on Thursday. 

Ross’ concerns were further diminished this morning, when he was able to run sprints  and do striders without feeling any discomfort.

As for Jordan Schafer, he has recently started taking live batting practice and believes he could join the Gwinnett roster at the end of April.  The 23-year-old center fielder said that he’s been able to strengthen his surgically-repaired left hand and is no longer bothered by the fatigue that it presented earlier this year.   

Kimbrel impresses: With 14 career appearances above the Class A level, Kimbrel arrived in camp as a long shot to win a bullpen spot.  But the 21-year-old right-hander certainly made a strong impression before learning this morning that he will begin the season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer. 

Based on what he saw, Cox said that Kimbrel already has the stuff to be a successful pitcher at the big league level.  But the Braves want him to continue improving his command through the regular work that he wouldn’t receive if he began the season in the Atlanta bullpen.

Kimbrel will remain with the big league club this week and will likely make an appearance during one of the exhibition games played against the White Sox this weekend.

First time for everything:  Having been involved in professional baseball since arriving in Dodgers Minor League camp in 1960, Cox has seen plenty of oddities the game can present  But when the Yankees send Pat Venditte to the mound this afternoon, the Braves manager will see an ambidextrous pitcher for the first time.

Venditte pitched for the Venezuelan Winter League team managed by Eddie Perez this past winter.  Perez said the young Minor Leaguer has good stuff from both sides of the plate, but is especially effective against left-handed hitters. 

You can watch today’s game on MLB.TV and CSS.  Brian Jordan and Mike Morgan will serve as the broadcasters. 

Cabrera 9
Prado 4
Chipper 5
Glaus 3
Escobar 6
Diaz 7
McLouth 8
Sammons 2
Kawakami 1   


Minor injuries linger as Opening Day approaches

While spending this past weekend with a bunch of West Virginia fans in the hospitable city of Lexington Ky., I guess I missed a couple of big events in Braves land.  But I’m still thinking it was a lot more fan watching my family members celebrate WVU’s victory just minutes from the UK campus.

When I arrived in Kentucky on Friday afternoon and saw that Bobby Cox had told Jason Heyward that he will begin the season as his starting right fielder, the sarcastic side of me said, “‘well that’s one way to draw attention away from a story about a Minor Leaguer who had been busted soliciting a prostitute.”

But really, this announcement had everything to do with the fact that Cox didn’t seen any reason to delay the inevitable.  Even before the Grapefruit League season began, I think we all assumed that Heyward would be starting in right field next Monday afternoon.  

Now with Opening Day exactly one week away, the Braves just have to hope that a couple days of rest will prove to be enough for Heyward to get rid of the discomfort caused by the shin splints that have bothered him the past couple of days. 

This morning, Cox said shin splints can “bother you for a while.”  But with his tone, it was obvious that he doesn’t seem to concerned about this minor ailment.  It appears Heyward will likely return to the lineup in the next day or two. 

In other injury-related news, Yunel Escobar will miss today’s game against the Phillies in Clearwater because of a sore back that has kept him sidelined since Friday. 

“He worked out great (on Sunday), but woke up stiff today,” Cox said. “So I told him to stay back.” 

Heyward and Escobar have spent the past five weeks making all of their necessary preparations.  Now the Braves will provide them whatever rest necessary to provide them a chance to enter the regular season at or at least near full strength. 

ROSTER BATTLES:  Heading into these final days of the exhibition season, it appears the Braves are still debating whether to give their final roster spot for a position player to either Brooks Conrad or Joe Thurston. 

Things haven’t exactly changed since I last posted an entry on Thursday.  During the past three games, Conrad has gone 0-for-8 and Thurston has gone 0-for-6.  This race is currently too close to call.

On the bullpen front, Cox said there are still a number of relievers still battling for the final two spots.  Four of those relievers  —  Jesse Chavez, Craig Kimbrel and LHPs Jonny Venters and Jo-Jo Reyes —  will be pitching against the Phillies this afternoon.  Scott Proctor is the other pitcher who is still being placed in this mix.

With the belief that Proctor will be given a few more weeks to strengthen his arm, I’m still thinking that Reyes and Chavez will get the final two spots in the bullpen.  Then of course after a couple of weeks one of these guys will be sent to the Minors to make room for Proctor.

HUDSON vs. Minor Leaguers:  Instead of facing the Phillies for the second consecutive time, Tim Hudson will pitch in a Minor League game back at Disney this afternoon.  Check back later this afternoon for his results.

The Phillies are sending J.A. Happ to the mound to face the Braves for the second time in six days.  This certainly shouldn’t bother Brian McCann, who took the southpaw deep twice last week at Disney.

TODAY’s LINEUP vs. Phillies
Cabrera 8
Prado 4
McCann 2
Glaus 3
Diaz 7
Infante 5
McLouth 8
Hicks 6
Medlen 1


Braves renew contracts of Escobar and Hanson

After proving unsuccessful in their attempts to reach agreements regarding salary figures, the Braves were forced to renew the contracts of Yunel Escobar and Tommy Hanson. 
The Braves made this announcement on Wednesday afternoon while revealing that they had come to an agreement with each of their other unsigned players who have not yet recorded enough service time to have their salaries determined through the arbitration process.   

Financial details of the salaries assigned to Hanson and Escobar were not made available.   Their salaries for the 2010 season will be based on the scale the Braves utilize for each of their unsigned players, who have recorded anywhere from 0-3 years of service time at the Major League level.

“It’s just part of the game and something that we won’t even think about tomorrow,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said.  “It’s a procedural move that we make today to get everyone officially under contract and then we move forward.”  

Escobar, who has hit .301 and compiled an .801 OPS while serving as the Braves shortstop during most of the past three seasons,  said that he was not going to let this bother him.   He made $425,000 last year and will seemingly see a slightly higher figure this year.

“I’m not worried about my contract,” Escobar said with Martin Prado serving as his interpreter.  “I’m just worried about playing the game and helping the team make the playoffs.”  

Hanson, who was unavailable for comment, made the prorated portion of Major League Baseball’s minimum salary of $400,000.  After making his Major League debut on June 7, the 23-year-old right-hander went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA.   His third-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting factored into the salary the Braves offered for this upcoming season.     

“It’s one of those situations where you wish you could come to an agreement, but at the same time, we like every other club have a salary scale for our 0-3 players and we feel like we reward them more than most, maybe not as much as some for their service and their performance,”  Wren said.  “We also have additional bonuses we pay for guys getting awards, awards votes and all of those kinds of things.”  

Odds and ends from a rainy Saturday

Rain prevented the Braves from doing the fielding and baserunning drills today.  But Mother Nature wasn’t able to prevent Jair Jurrjens from taking another step in the right direction with the 20-minute long toss session he completed in the soggy outfield grass. 

Jurrjens said he felt good after throwing from a distance of 120 feet, but more importantly he truly looked like he was comfortable with his throwing motion by the time this session was completed. 

After throwing for five or 10 minutes, Jurrjens walked back toward Braves catcher Brian McCann, who was located along the left field foul line.  While standing next to the team’s trainer Jeff Porter, Jurrjens stretched his arm and spun it around in a helicopter motion multiple times. 

When he resumed throwing a few minutes later, Jurrjens’ throwing motion was looser and he seemed to have a little more life on his throws. 

Dating back to Feb. 17, when he learned his right shoulder discomfort was a product of inflammation, Jurrjens has said he would have to do more stretching than usual to get his shoulder to cooperate. 

Now it appears Jurrjens will get his next test on Monday, when he will likely begin throwing on a downward plane again off the mound.  If all goes well, he will likely need to complete three or four side sessions before being cleared to make his first Grapefruit League start. 

This puts him on schedule to make this start during March’s second week and be in position complete at least one five-inning appearance before the regular season begins.

In other words, there’s still a good chance Jurrjens will take his first turn through the rotation during the regular season’s first week.  But for now, the Braves can only show patience as their prized 23-year-old hurler does everything he can to make sure the shoulder doesn’t prove to be a lingering problem throughout the season.

Quick hits:  Bobby Cox said that he’s currently leaning toward starting the year with Nate McLouth as his leadoff hitter.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  Yunel Escobar seems to be only other legit option and he’s too valuable in a run-producing role.    

Tom Glavine is expected to arrive in camp around March 17 or 18.  When asked what Glavine would do, Cox said the 300-game winner would take in the Spring Training environment and spend some time helping with some of the young pitchers. 

“Tommy can do whatever he wants,” Cox said and I don’t think he was necessarily kidding.  Glavine will have the opportunity to see how Jason Heyward is progressing and take a look at some of the organization’s top Minor League pitchers. 

When the club’s top young pitchers are discussed, Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino, the prized return from the Yankees in the Javy Vazquez trade, immediately come to mind.  But Frank Wren provided the reminder that right-hander Randall Delgado should also be placed in this advanced category. 

Wren indicated that a couple of these top pitching prospects could begin the season with Class A Rome.  But he added that they all will likely spend some time together this year in Class A -Advanced Myrtle Beach’s rotation.

Cox said that he will announce the Grapefruit League rotation on Monday.  The team’s first game will be played on Tuesday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.   

Let the Hot Stove season begin

When I arrive at Citizens Bank Park for this afternoon’s  Division Series workout,  I’m going to present Ryan Howard with the First Annual White Flag  —  an award that will be presented to the player that proves to be the most destructive to the Braves over the course of the regular season.

Howard won this year’s award in a close battle against Dan Uggla and Jeff Bennett, who  will receive an autographed picture of Kevin Brown to recognize that he was  unanimously chosen as the Braves player who was most destructive against clubhouse property this year.

When the Braves won seven of the first nine games they played against the Phillies this year, Howard hit .250 with two RBIs, seven strikeouts and a .659 OPS.  The powerful first baseman didn’t homer or walk during this span

While dropping six of the final nine games played against the defending world champs, the Braves saw Howard hit .438 with eight homers, 14 RBIs, eight strikeouts, two walks (one intentional) and a 1.776 OPS.

Despite his early struggles, Howard still hit more homers (8) and  collected more RBIs (16) than any other player against the Braves this year.  Among those who registered at least 20 plate appearances, his .794 slugging percentage ranked fourth behind Jay Bruce (1.000), Ryan Braun (.833) and Andre Ethier (.800).

During their final six wins against the Braves this year, the Phillies totaled 27 runs.  Howard drove in 11 of those runs and each of these RBIs came courtesy of the longball.

When Tommy Hanson took the mound during home games this year, he was serenaded by Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy.”

My suggestion would be for the Braves to provide a friendly reminder to their pitchers by playing this song whenever Howard strolls to the plate at Turner Field in the future.  Or maybe they should just cut to the chase and play Aerosmith/Run DMC’s  “Walk This Way”.  

Before flying to Philadelphia last night, I went to Turner Field to talk to Bobby Cox and Frank Wren.  Here are some of their interesting thoughts that weren’t included in the story I wrote for and

At the All-Star break, I chose Yunel Escobar as the team’s first-half MVP and I think I’d have to say he deserves he still deserves this distinction when evaluating the entire season.   (We’ll debate that in a blog I’ll post later this week).

Anyhow, those mental mistakes that tarnished Escobar’s tremendous talents during the first half were basically non-existent during the second half.  He committed just two errors in his last 75 games and continued to take advantage of a healthy percentage of the opportunities he was provided to drive in runs.

When I asked Cox if Escobar made some impressive strides this year, he chose not to address the improvement element.  But he does now share the opinion that Chipper Jones expressed last year, when Escobar’s name was being included in the Jake Peavy trade talks.  
“He’s the best shortstop in baseball right now,” Cox said.  “I can’t think of anybody better honestly.”

Another guy who would draw consideration as the club’s MVP this year is Martin Prado, whose value extended far beyond his .307 batting average.   He’s not  a Gold-Glove infielder, but he certainly enhanced the club’s defense after he was provided a chance to play second base on a regular basis.

When asked about Prado, Cox talked about what he’s heard about the defensive skills Prado has shown while playing the outfield in Venezuela.

“They say he’s a real good outfielder ,” Cox said. “That’s why we weren’t hesitant to put him out there  (on Sunday)) when we had to pinch-hit  (Brooks) Conrad to try to win the game.  He plays right field on a regular basis in Venezuela.  He has for the past couple of years.  So he’s a possible candidate.”  

Yes the Braves will be looking for a power-hitting, right-handed outfielder.  But I wouldn’t expect Prado to ultimately fill this need.  

Cox’s comment likely had something to do with the fact that the Braves don’t know what they’ll do with Kelly Johnson.  Despite his struggles this year, Johnson is still drawing attention from a number of clubs, who recognize his talents and believe he can still experience some of the success  that has been on display in the past.

So I would think they’ll be able to trade him before reaching a point where they may have to debate whether to tender him a contract.

“We just can’t give up on Kelly,” Cox said. “He had too solid of a season last year.  I think if he’d have gotten the at-bats, he’d have been close with all of those numbers (from 2008), except for the batting average maybe.  But the homers, doubles and triples, if you add another 250 at-bats would have probably been the same.

“I feel bad about Kelly Johnson, not being able to get him in there at all. After Prado got in there, you couldn’t take him out.  He was the hottest hitter we had.”

Next week, Jason Heyward will begin competing in the Arizona Fall League.  At the same time while the Braves are holding their planning meetings in Orlando, the 20-year old top prospect’s name will be a hot topic of discussion.  Or that’s at least Cox’s expectation.  

Heyward has just 173 at-bats above the Class A level.  This was Wren’s response when he was asked if the club could go into Spring Training with an open mind about the possibility of the young phenom starting the 2010 season in the Majors:  

“I think it’s premature to have any mindset about Jason,” Wren said. “We know that he’s an outstanding  young talent.  We just want him to go play in Arizona and get as much experience as possible.  We’ll see where that takes him.”  

I’ll be covering the Phillies-Rockies Division Series and the NLCS.  But obviously I’ll be keeping up with the Braves-related news and updating this blog frequently.    The Hot Stove season will allow us to keep this forum just as lively as it was during Spring Training and the regular season.  

Does this portion of the schedule still elicit optimism?

The Braves are about to embark on that portion of their schedule that looked so appealing as recently as Thursday, when there was still seemingly some reason to feel optimistic about their postseason hopes.  

Mathematically the Braves are still alive and while closing the season against the Nationals (seven games), Mets (three games) and Marlins (three games), they certainly have the chance to finish the season in impressive fashion.  

But while losing two of three to the Phillies this past weekend, the Braves fell 5 games behind the Rockies in the National League Wild Card race and seemingly lost the opportunity to fully take advantage of the schedule that awaits them.   

Trying to keep things positive after Sunday afternoon’s loss, Chipper Jones said that teams there are a number of instances throughout the season when clubs lose five and six games in a row.  

Well over the past month, the Rockies have encountered two lengthy skids that didn’t prove devastating to their postseason hopes.    While Colorado lost five straight from Aug. 26-30, the Braves gained two games and moved to within 3 games of the Wild Card’s top spot.

When the Rockies lost four straight from Sept. 12-15, the Braves gained 3 games and still found themselves five games back and further lamenting what they’d squandered during the first week of this month, when they squandered two sixth-inning leads against the Marlins and then got swept at home by the Reds.  

While the postseason aspirations are now truly hanging by a thread, the next couple of weeks should prove to be interesting for the Braves, who within the next week could learn whether Bobby Cox has decided to return to serve as their manager for at least one more season.   

Escobar’s removal:  It was somewhat surprising to see Cox remove Yunel Escobar from Friday night’s game after the shortstop made the fatal mistake of jogging toward first base in the same manner that Garret Anderson and many of the games other veteran do on a regular basis.  

Less than an hour earlier, I was telling a scout about how much better Escobar’s attitude had been.   Since his “talk to me when I get three hits” episode right after the All-Star break, he’s actually been pretty easy to deal with.  More importantly, he was seemingly smiling and interacting with his teammates more in the clubhouse.

During Thursday night’s game when he had slid in ahead of a tag at the plate and was ruled out, Escobar probably shouldn’t have shown up umpire Dan Iassogna by pointing toward Martin Prado and asking his opinion.  But at the same time, I thought the Braves shortstop displayed  his improved maturity when he didn’t react when Iassogna was seemingly baiting him to say something to him.  

Still even with all of the access that I get to the club, I still don’t see everything that evolves in that clubhouse.   Thus I have to think that Escobar’s removal from Friday’s game was based on something more than his decision to lackadaisically move toward first base.

There are still occasions when Escobar proves to be melodramatic.  The latest instance occurred on Saturday night, when he got hit in the left arm with Pedro Martinez’s 71 mph curveball and then remained on the ground before looking into the Braves dugout to see if the trainers were going to come out to check on him.

It was quite obvious that Escobar didn’t gain any additional supporters in the Braves clubhouse on Sunday, when he revealed that the damage created by this slow curve was going to prevent him from playing in the series finale against the Phillies.

LaRoche returns:   Adam LaRoche arrived at Citi Field today and told Cox that he was ready to return to action.  LaRoche is still feeling some discomfort in the middle of his back when he begins to swing.

McLouth 8
Prado 4
Jones 3
McCann 2
Escobar 6
Anderson 7
LaRoche 3
Diaz 8
Lowe 1 

LaRoche sits with sore back

Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche was out of the lineup for Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the Phillies because of a sore back. 

LaRoche strained his back while diving for a ball during the latter portion of Friday night’s loss to the Phillies and felt further discomfort before exiting Saturday night’s game in the seventh inning.

“It wasn’t horrible until I took my last swing on a changeup or something,” said LaRoche, who took some additional swings in the batting cage before confirming he was unavailable for Sunday’s game.  “Hopefully it’s nothing that will keep me out very long.”

The Braves also started Sunday’s game without Brian McCann, who was given a day to rest, and Yunel Escobar, who told the Braves he was still feeling discomfort courtesy of the Pedro Martinez curveball that struck his left arm on Saturday night.

Cox pulls Escobar again

Yunel Escobar has proven to have a much better attitude over the course of the past few weeks.  But when he took a lackadaisical stroll toward first base at the end of the first inning of Friday night’s 9-4 loss to the Phillies at Turner Field, the talented shortstop once again drew the ire of Braves manager Bobby Cox. 

This action led to Cox removing Escobar during the middle of a game for the second time this year.  Two defensive mental lapses during a June 13 game against the Orioles also led the Cuban shortstop to face the embarrassment of being pulled. 

“He just has lapses, where I think he forgets,” Cox said.

Escobar moved gingerly out of the box when he grounded out to end the
first inning.  His slow approach might have prevented him from taking
advantage of  Chase Utley’s errant throw, which slightly pull Phillies
first baseman Ryan Howard off the bag.

Cox inserted Omar Infante to play shortstop before the start of the third inning. He said his decision to wait an inning was based on his desire to allow Infante to get loose. 

“I didn’t want to put anybody in just off the bench on the third out not loose,” Cox said.

Over the course of the past two months, Escobar has proven to be a better clubhouse figure.  In addition, while making highlight plays on a nightly basis, he has committed just one error in his last 63 games.

“He’s been as good as any shortstop that I’ve seen over the past couple of months,” a Major League scout said earlier this week.   

Clutch hits have provided rotation more consistent support

While discussing the different feeling that has existed in the Braves clubhouse over the course of the past few weeks, Derek Lowe said, “We believe that we’re going to win every day instead of just hoping that we’re going to win.”  

During the first three months of this season, Lowe and the rest of the Braves rotation simply hoped that the offense could manufacture enough to support their efforts on the mound.  But over the course of the past month, they’ve had the opportunity to toe the rubber with the confidence that their efforts won’t be wasted by a slumbering offense.  

While there’s no disputing just how important it was for the Braves to take the three of four from the Dodgers this past weekend, it might be more appropriate to say that this season’s turning point actually occurred with the 2-1 win at Wrigley Field on July 7.
Coming off of three consecutive losses that had killed the momentum they’d gained by sweeping the Phillies the previous week, the Braves gained that one-run victory with a pair of RBIs from Brian McCann and Javier Vazquez’s ability to outduel Carlos Zambrano. 

Dating back to that July 7 game, the Braves have hit .277 with a .355 on-base percentage, a .440 slugging percentage and 34 homers (1.10 per game).   In the process of going 20-11 during this stretch, they have hit .302 with runners in scoring position.

In the 82 games they played leading up to that date, they’d hit .261 with a .331 on-base percentage, a .396 slugging percentage and 66 homers (.80 per game).    During this 39-43 stretch, they hit .266 with runners in scoring position.

Obviously the biggest difference in these stretches comes from the fact that they’re now generating homers and clutch hits with much more frequency. 

During those first 82 games, Yunel Escobar hit .408 (31-fo-76) with runners in scoring position and over the course of the past 31 games, the talented shortstop has hit .450 (9-for-20) in these situations.

That rough early stretch was hindered by the fact that Kelly Johnson hit just .188 (9-for-48) with runners in scoring position before experiencing his Minor League stint.    Since unseating Johnson at second base and becoming an everyday member of the lineup, Martin Prado has hit .370 (17-for-46) with runners in scoring position.

Jordan Schafer also obviously hindered the offense during the first two months in numerous ways, including the fact that he recorded just five hits in his 46 at-bats with runners in scoring position. 

Jeff Francoeur actually hit .250 with runners in scoring position during the season’s first 82 games.  Still while that stat looks good compared to the .192 mark he compiled last year, it’s not the one you want to see generated from a guy who had 12 more at-bats in that situation than any of your other players during that span.

Since joining the Mets, Francoeur has hit .314 with runners in scoring position.  But this is just one of the many of his statistics that look better than the ones he compiled in Atlanta. 
In his first 33 games with the Mets, Francouer has hit .303 with five homers  (equal to the mark he compiled in 82 games with the Braves) 20 RBIs and a .820 OPS  (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

Still like Francoeur has proven to be better off away from the undue stress he placed upon himself in Atlanta, the Braves are certainly better in right field without his presence. 

In the 85 games they played with Francoeur primarily in the lineup on a daily basis, the Braves saw their right fielders hit .255 with a .286 on-base percentage, a .355 slugging percentage, five homers and 37 RBIs. 

In the 28 games that Matt Diaz and Ryan Church have shared the position, the Braves right fielders  have hit .257 with a .348 on-base percentage, a .396 slugging percentage, three homers and 15 RBIs. 

There’s not a drastic difference in these numbers.  But the improved on-base percentage has provided a greater flow to a lineup that has obviously been upgraded since those days when Schafer and Johnson were providing daily frustration.  

McLouth update:  Nate McLouth felt better while chasing down some fly balls during Wednesday’s batting practice and vowed that he’ll definitely be in the lineup for Friday night’s series opener against the Phillies.

McLouth was excited to tell me that he got a shipment of Michigan gear today and that Derek Lowe, another Wolverines fan, immediately dug into the box and dressed himself from head to toe in maize and blue.  

It’s certainly nice to talk to somebody else that’s excited about the start of the college football season.  But I guess McLouth forgot my feelings about Rich Rodriguez are on par with the way many of you feel about Bill Hohn.


Church 8
Prado 4
Chipper 5
McCann 2
Garret 7
Yunel 6
LaRoche 3
Diaz 9
Lowe 1


Traveling to the park in style

buck commander.jpg

If you saw the Buck Commander bus heading toward Turner Field early Saturday afternoon,  there’s a chance you saw all of the bearded men pictured on the side and simply assumed that you’d just seen ZZ Top’s new tour bus.  
But I’m going to have to guess that there weren’t too many of you, who realized that Chipper Jones was on board and simply allowing his good friend and business partner Willie Robertson to give him a lift to the park
Robertson, who was in Atlanta this weekend for a hunting-related convention, is the founder and president of the Buck Commander company that is financially supported by a handful of Major Leaguers, including Jones and Adam LaRoche.
After making his debut with the Braves during Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Dodgers, LaRoche jokingly said that he was going to spend the next two months living in the bus and keep it parked in Jones’ driveway.
When told of LaRoche’s plan, Jones provided his best Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson impersonation by simply raising his eyebrow.
Still LaRoche was given the opportunity to drive the bus back to Jones’ residence on Saturday night and in the process, he thinks there’s a chance that he might have caused Jones’ wife, Sharon, some aggravation.
“I think I ran over some of Sharon’s plants or flowers  pulling it in there,” LaRoche said.

Escobar update:  While taking batting practice in the indoor cage this afternoon, Yunel Escobar had some trouble getting his bat around on the inside fastball.  The swelling around his right wrist has subsided.  But he likely won’t know if he’ll be able to play during Monday’s series opener in San Diego, until he has the opportunity to take some swings and make some throws during the afternoon hours.  <p>
Hudson update:  Because he believes there’s a chance he could resume his Minor League rehab assignment next weekend, Tim Hudson won’t accompany the Braves on their trip to Southern California.  Instead, he’ll stay in Atlanta and continue to rehab the mild left groin strain that he suffered before Friday’s schedule rehab start.  
Hudson remains hopeful that this ailment won’t prevent him from rejoining the Atlanta rotation some time this month.

Norton’s rainbow:  While Greg Norton was certainly due to record pinch hits on both Friday and Saturday, there wouldn’t have been much reason to believe this would be the time he’d break out of this slump if you would have seen the multi-colored bruise he gained on his calf courtesy of a foul tip on Thursday night.
Initially Norton didn’t think it was a big deal and didn’t really realize any swelling until the Braves charter flight left Ft. Lauderdale and was en route to Atlanta.   The Braves medical staff drained some of the blood out of his calf on Saturday and the veteran pinch hitter has spent the past couple days limping around with his leg heavily wrapped.
The bruise extends from ankle to knee and I’d detail some of the colors present if I’d actually seen them before.   Believe me when I say it’s harder to look at Norton’s calf than it was to watch Jeff Bennett attempt to keep inherited runners from scoring.
Minor League Rehab stints:
  Both Omar Infante and Buddy Carlyle will play for Class A Rome on Tuesday night.  Carlyle, who believes he could return to the Atlanta bullpen soon, will pitch the first two innings.  This will mark the beginning of a Minor League rehab assignment for Infante, who has been out since May 20 with a broken left hand.  

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