Lake Buena Vista, Fla. - We start off the blog with a little update from Chipper Jones’ agent, B.B. Abbott. I spoke to him this morning to see where he and the Braves were in their discussion over a contract extension for Jones.
He said the dialogue with the Braves was ongoing and open, but nothing is close just yet. Abbott said he didn’t expect anything to happen until Jones gets back from the WBC at the earliest, and not necessarily then either.
Abbott said Chipper has decided to loosen any expectation that he might have an extension worked out with the Braves by the end of spring training. Abbott said he’s willing to continue negotiating after the season starts.
First off, Jones is playing in the WBC now and could be away from Braves camp up until March 24. He doesn’t want his contract situation to be a distraction from what he’s doing for the U.S. team either.
But he also doesn’t want the Braves to feel up against it with less than two weeks possibly to work out a deal when he gets back.
“He understands it’s a unique spring training and he doesn’t want to set any parameters that are unreasonable because he does want to finish his career here,” Abbott said.
My impression on why Chipper originally thought he’d want to have a deal worked out by the end of spring is that he might have gotten a little anxious about his future when the whole John Smoltz situation went down, and he also didn’t want his contract to be a distraction during the season.
But Abbott pointed out that when they restructured Chipper’s contract a few years ago, they worked it on some during the course of the season. Chipper was able to leave most of it up to Abbott and then get involved when things got close. So as usual, it sounds to me like Chipper is willing to be flexible.
There’s still a chance they could work a deal out when Chipper gets back from the WBC. I’m just saying it’s not do-or-die now at the end of camp.
“He decided to let it happen if it’s going to happen,” Abbott said. “He’s not going to get engrossed in it. He’s a little more comfortable with the process now.”
OK, now time to empty the notebook a little bit, since I’m going to file this blog before I get to the ballpark. It’s a night game tonight 7:05 against the Astros. Jo-Jo Reyes on the mound.
Some points were raised earlier this week about Mike Gonzalez and his velocity. He’s mostly upper 80s with his fastball right now, which raises some eyebrows for those who expect he should be up in the low 90s by now at least. After all, this is a guy who was throwing mid-90s before his elbow surgery and mid-90s late last season.
I asked Gonzalez about it, whether he’s concerned about it, and here’s what he said:
“No it’s one of those things where spring training comes around, and I’m 88-90, 88-90,” Gonzalez said. “And I see the Phillies, I see the first game, the first nah nah nah, nah nah nah (that’s my attempt to spell out the ESPN theme for ya), before you know it you look back and it’s 95, 96. I don’t worry too much about the velocity. It comes out when the bell rings.”
Asked Bobby Cox the same question.
“It takes it a while to build it up, and adrenaline (kicks in),” Cox said. “I don’t care – if he can locate the heater, because his 88-89 looks real fast in the dugout to me and with that curveball he’s got, it really looks quick.”
Gonzalez knows he’s got a month more down here to build up his arm strength. He said the most important thing is his elbow feels good.
“It feels good, there’s no pain,” Gonzalez said. “I feel nothing in there, even last year when I started coming back on rehab I could feel the achiness, the tenderness, I was still trying to work through that. But now I go out there and throw I don’t feel anything in there.”
A few other tidbits and we’ll call it a blog:
Kelly Johnson on being more aggressive at the plate, something that helped him during his 22-game hitting streak last September:
“I’m just going up and being ready to hit from pitch one,”
Johnson said. “I made a point to be looking to swing the bat early in the count, regardless of pitch, just put bat on ball and the ball in play and good things will happen.”
It’s something Cox sand Terry Pendleton have wanted him to work on for a while now, and he’s taking it to heart. What he said next sounds like TP’s influence to me:
“You don’t get three great pitches to hit every at-bat,” Johnson said. “If you did everybody would probably hit a lot better than they do. Be ready to hit the one they might get.”
Casey Kotchman on Garret Anderson’s defense:
“That’s one thing in my opinion he doesn’t get enough credit for,” Kotchman said. “The smart routes and the ground that he covers in the outfield, with the arm that he has. I saw some plays he made last year that you’re going ‘Wow.’ He went out there a long ways and caught some balls that looked like they were certainly doubles or triples. I guess when you hit and you hit and you hit, maybe your defense gets overlooked, which isn’t a bad thing. A couple 1,000 hits they’ve got to overlook something.”
Tonight’s Braves lineup:
Josh Anderson CF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Garret Anderson LF
Casey Kotchman 1B
Yunel Escobar SS
Jeff Francoeur RF
Martin Prado 3B
Clint Sammons C
Jo-Jo Reyes P