Archive for February, 2009

Braves’ Lowe debuts in Dunedin

 Dunedin, Fla. –- We’re here in Dunedin for the debut of Derek Lowe, and the crowd brings to mind a recent description that Tampa Bay reliever Joe Nelson had for the Rays’ new spring home of Port Charlotte, Fla.: looks like a casting call for Cocoon III.

 Alright, alright it was just a joke, and not even mine. I just stole and relocated it. We don’t need missives from Dunedin residents.

 Anyway, Lowe is scheduled to go two innings today, like all Braves starters in their first outing of the spring. His Jays counterpart is none other than Roy Halladay, continuing the first-week trend of aces for the Braves.

 They faced Detroi’s Justin Verlander in their Wednesday opener, then Houston’s Roy Oswalt, Pittsburgh’s Tom Gorzelanny, and now Halladay, who might just be as good as any pitcher in the game.

  We get a lot of debate on the old blog and elsewhere about Lowe and whether he’s an “ace” or a true No. 1. My answer is that, while he’s not going to absolutely dominate as many …

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Kawakami debuts for Braves

 Bradenton, Fla. –- This is a story Bobby Cox has told a couple of times this week, with a smile that says, this is one that will be told for years.

  It was early in the morning last Sunday at Champion Stadium when the Braves manager arrived in the clubhouse and ran into Kenshin Kawakami and his interpreter Daichi Takasue.

  Bobby was surprised to see them, since players were getting their physicals that day and the team workout was to start three hours later than usual.

  “What are you doing here?” Bobby asked.

  “Physical,” Takasue answered.

  “Not here,” Bobby said, and explained to them that the clinic where players got their physicals was on the other side of Kissimmee, perhaps a 20-minute drive. Then he got directions for them.

  “One more problem,” Takasue said.

  “What?” Bobby asked.

  “No gas,” Takasue said, explaining that their rental car was low on fuel.

  “How much do you have,” asked Bobby, who handles such situations with a hell of a lot more patience than …

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Go to the TV, Hanson’s pitching

 Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – It’s mere coincidence that today’s game is on ESPN and Tommy Hanson is making his debut, but what a sweet coincidence for Braves fans who can get in front of a TV.

    I mean, seriously, this is a much-anticipated debut. Granted, it’s just two relief innings (third and fourth innings) in the second Grapefruit League game on the slate, a game that has very little significance otherwise.

  But Hanson is the best pitching prospect the Braves have signed and developed since Kevin Millwood, and has the potential to make a far greater impact on the organization for years to come.

  The 6-foot-6, Oklahoma-born, California-raised right-hander has star potential, and if it doesn’t seem fair to put that burden on such a young pitcher before he’s pitched above the Double-A level, well, it’s too late.

  When you’re the first pitcher ever to win the MVP award at the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, word gets around, and expectations soar. And honestly, I’ve …

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Let’s play some ball, folks

  Lakeland, Fla. – Welcome to a sun-splashed 70-degree afternoon at Tigertown, where we’re here for a big Grapefruit League lid-lifter (old baseball clichés acceptable in late February) after a bike ride across the heart of Polk County. 

   Jair Jurrjens have vengeance in mind as he takes on the team that traded him a way a winter ago in a package with center-field prospect Gorkys Hernandez in exchange for shortstop Edgar Renteria, which now looks to have been one of the more one-sided trades of the past decade.

  OK, so we’re exaggerating a bit about vengeance. I don’t know that Jurrjens, after winning 13 games in a stellar rookie season, is going to have revenge in mind today when he pitches two innings against his old team on Feb. 25.

  But we’re not exaggerating about that trade’s one-sidedness.

  After his outstanding two years with the Braves, Edgar fell off badly last year, hitting .270 with 10 homers, 55 RBI and a .317 OBP and .382 slugging percentage in his one season …

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G. Anderson: New Brave “quiet, underrated”

  Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Before anyone advances toward the edge of a building, let me relieve any concerns by telling you that Garret Anderson is the building. Or will be.

 He’s on the ground here, getting his physical, and they’ve already set up for the press conference that’ll probably happen after this morning’s workout. Still no official word from the Braves, but I think that’s probably just because the time for the press conference isn’t official.

 Anyway, the point is, he’s here and the Braves are happy to have him.

 “He’ll make a difference,” said Chipper Jones, who ideally wanted the added outfield bat to be right-handed, but said he’s pleased with the addition of Anderson, a .296 career hitter with 272 homers and 1,292 RBI in 14 seasons, all with the Angels.

  “We’re a little left-handed for my tastes,” Jones said this morning. “But what are you gonna do? We tried and tried and tried [to get a hitter]. I can’t believe some of the guys still on the market are still …

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With G. Anderson added, Braves ready to play

  Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – We’re starting Week 2 of spring training, and it already seems like we’ve had a month or so of news. Now that the Braves have added Garrett Anderson, seemingly their last big need (outfield bat), maybe we can shift focus to what’s on the field, right?

  I’m sure you all are ready. I know I am. Grapefruit League plays starts Wednesday. Yes, we don’t have to wait much longer at all.

   By the way, I just watched Jason Heyward doing a baserunning drill, working on his leads and first step, and it’s something to see that 6-foot-4 frame unwind and that long stride start turning over. One of those guys who can blaze from home to second or first to third, but takes a little while to get into top gear because he’s just so big. Still, the man stole 15 bases last season at Class A Rome, which says something about his speed (did I mention he’s really tall? Listed at 220, but looks like he might have put on 10-15 pounds since hitting the scales for that …

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Chipper on Hanson: He’ll be No. 1 starter

   Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – As first impressions go, Tommy Hanson will be tough to beat anytime soon. Everyone who meets him and/or sees him pitch agrees, this young dude is as close to can’t-miss as they come, with a towering upside, both literally (he’s 6-foot-6) and figuratively.

   Bobby Cox compared his slider to John Smoltz’s the other day. Folks, Smoltz might have the best slider in the majors.

   This morning I asked pitching coach Roger McDowell what he liked about Hanson, he said, “Everything. He does everything right…. Now it’s just seeing him face hitters [in spring games]. But everything so far, he’s done right. True professional. A young kid — young man – who understands professionalism.”

  I mentioned to bullpen coach Eddie Perez what McDowell said. Perez has watched Hanson throw in the bullpen and on Field 2 since camp opened.

  ”I don’t like everything about him,” Perez said, pausing for effect. “I like more than everything.”

  And on and on. Ask players their …

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Gorgeous day for Braves at ‘yard

 Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – It’s an absolutely postcard-perfect day here at Dark Star Ballpark, where the Braves will be hitting the field a few hours late today because of physicals for players this morning. Same schedule Sunday, workout starts at 1 p.m. each day.

  As I type, players are starting to stream in, and a group of four Dominican players is strolling across the outfield in street clothes, one standing out from the others by his sheer size. Oh, yes, that’s Rafael Cruz, the wide-bodied reliever the Braves signed after a scout saw him throwing 96-98 mph this winter for Aguilas in the D.R. Winter League.

  Word has it that after the Braves signed him, a half-dozen other scouts approached him following his next game, when Cruz touched 99 on the radar guns. He waved them off, explaining that he had already signed with the Braves.

  He hasn’t shown that stuff yet in camp, but the Braves think he might either be fatigued from winter ball or just waiting, holding back his …

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Griffey’s gone, so now what?

Lake Buena Dark Star, Fla. – OK, so where were we? Before the blog got hijacked by controversy and confrontations, I believe we were talking about … oh, I don’t even remember.

Did I mention that to get to the AJC rental unit here in picturesque Kissimmee, one must drive down highway 192, past Seven Dwarfs Lane, past Medievel Times and turn right at the massive Wal-Mart? OK, just making sure.

We should have a get-together by the lake behind the house, the lake with the “Do Not Feed The Alligators” sign, which beneath that top line has this “All small animals must be on leashes.” (We’re not making this up, by the way.)

Those who’ve lived in Florida know what that’s all about. When I lived down in South Florida, you’d hear about gators lunging out of the edge of a subdivision pond and eating some poor old lady’s little dog like you or I would eat a french fry.

But anyway, the outfield.

Oh, wait: Tom Glavine’s contract is supposed to be finalized Friday morning. But the lefty …

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Griffey to Atlanta: Nevermind

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Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Uh, oh.

Ken Griffey Jr. crushed the Braves’ hopes Wednesday night, and did a pretty good number on my evening, too.

Two days after Griffey told a close friend that he planned to sign with the Braves — which we reported in the AJC, to the chagrin of Griffey, his agent, and the Braves — the outfielder reversed course and decided to go to the Mariners, the team he played for during the first 11 seasons of his illustrious career.

It’s the fourth time in four months the Braves fell short pursuing a star they thought they had a good chance to get (including one, Rafael Furcal, they said they had an oral agreement with) and now general manager Frank Wren will have to look elsewhere to boost an …

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