Port St. Lucie, Fla. – Greetings from Port St. Lonely, as I’ve heard Tom Glavine call it, where the Braves will play the Mets for the fifth time in eight days (relax, sticklers, I’m kidding.) The Braves will face ace Johan Santana, whose elbow was apparently not as bad as some predicted. It’s also much more of a usual Mets lineup with Carlos Beltran back from the WBC.
Carlos Delgado, who also played for Puerto Rico, has gotten a few more days off, but the Braves will see Reyes, Castillo, Murphy, Church etc. (scroll down and see lineup). So it’ll be a good test for Jair Jurrjens and the Braves and their sparkling 16-4 record. Only the Angels and their 16-4 record are as hot, all across spring training (Cactus League included).
OK wait, scratch that. Mets PR guy just came through the press room and told us Beltran had been scratched due to a stiff neck. Jeremy Reed will get the start in center field and the cleanup spot.
(And can I also say it’s hard to type with sticky fingers from barbecue ribs? DOB wasn’t kidding. The food here is off the charts.)
The Mets are 9-11 this spring, including three losses to the Braves 5-1, 7-4 and 12-1. So if the Mets win today, how much trash talking will be there on the ol’ blog? Well, there will be aplenty either way, I figure.
Anyway, it’s overcast here at the moment (35 minutes or so before game time) and windy, like it always is. The grounds crew guy assures me it will not rain. That’s good news for the Braves too. They’ve got their first real off day of spring training tomorrow – no simulated games, no workout, no nothing. They had three Mondays off, prior, but there was always something going on. Bobby Cox and the coaches, especially, have a well-deserved day of nothing coming.
Cox said if they had to turn the lights on at the stadium in Disney tonight, they’d get a game in today with somebody and take tomorrow off.
It’s that time of spring, where guys are getting tired and Cox recognizes that. He was talking in the dugout about how he should have cancelled batting practice today and let the buses leave Orlando much later than the 8:30 departure this morning. Normally, he says, early in camp, on bus rides, guys are talking, playing cards, cutting up. This morning, he said, two minutes into the trip, everybody was zzzzzzzz.
Some other things I learned from the dugout this morning….I asked about cuts (Andy K, you owe me – ha). Cox said he didn’t think they’d do cuts until March 26, which is Thursday. And even then they’d probably keep a lot of the guys in camp anyway. They’re short on bodies, which is obvious when you realize that most everybody made the trip today except those who are still sick (Casey Kotchman, and now Brandon Hicks) or nursing injuries (Chipper Jones, Garret Anderson) and of course in the WBC (Brian McCann).
And those guys should start falling in before long. Chipper is expected to get back in there on Tuesday night against the Pirates. Garret Anderson, who’s been doing some running on his strained right calf, was thinking the end of the week if all goes well.
“We’re trying to make sure we don’t rush him,” Cox said. “If he can play the last seven days, parts of them, we’ll be fine.”
Depending on what the U.S. team does tonight, Brian McCann will be back in camp either Monday or Tuesday. He’s flying back from the west coast and coming off a pretty extended “road trip” so I wouldn’t expect to see him in the lineup until maybe Wednesday.
Glavine, by the way, was feeling good this morning, Cox said. Had a smile on his face. So he apparently rebounded OK from yesterday’s outing, his first “real: game of spring (when he threw three scoreless vs. the Mets).
As for cuts, they will just be the next round. The final round will, of course, come when the Braves are back in Atlanta for back-to-back exhibition games against the Tigers April 3-4. I asked Bobby about the center field race, and he said, “We’ll make that decision on the last day, probably.”
He’s going to let this play out and for the moment, it seems too close to call. Entering today’s game (Sunday), Josh Anderson was hitting .295 (13-for-44) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs (including his pinch hit two-run shot yesterday), six RBIs and a stolen base. Jordan Schafer was hitting .385 (15-for-39), with four doubles, a homer, two RBIs and five stolen bases. Both are playing good defense.
I was thinking about this the other day, that it must be a little awkward for them, competing like they are, and lockerring just a few down from each other in the Braves home clubhouse. But then I saw them today walking through the visiting dugout together, talking about hitting. From what I picked up, it was about choking up with two strikes. It was back and forth and pleasant and…well, again, I marvel at how well guys deal with things like that. Girls wouldn’t speak (yes, I’m stereotyping. I apologize now.)
And speaking of guys and how they get along, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what was at stake today, and why it might be a good thing I’m on the beat today!
We’ve got Kansas (DOB’s alma mater) taking on Dayton (Mark Bowman’s alma mater) and while I’m sure both will be nothing but gentlemen, I still don’t think it’d be too pretty having them watching the game together. Eh?
For those of us whose teams have eeked through to the Sweet 16, we’re just happy to be here, thanks. And it’s one more day on the beat before I toss it back to David O’Brien.
Josh Anderson CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Greg Norton 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Matt Diaz LF
Martin Prado 3B
Clint Sammons C
Jair Jurrjens P
Jose Reyes SS
Luis Castillo 2B
Daniel Murphy LF
Jeremy Reed CF
Ryan Church RF
Fernando Tatis 3B
Marlon Anderson 1B
Rene Rivera C
Johan Santana P