Lakeland, Fla. – Good morning from not-so-sunny Tiger Town and Joker Marchant Stadium, where the rain is supposed to stop in time to have the field ready for the 1:05 p.m. scheduled first pitch.
We need to get this started on time and play it relatively quickly, so I can get outta here and go watch the OU-UNC/Blake-Tyler matchup.
Garret Anderson is in the lineup at DH, batting third (Chipper has the day off), and Casey Kotchman is in the lineup at first base, batting sixth.
Easy drive over here this morning, with Otis cranked on a Sunday morning. The remastered “Otis Redding Sings Soul” is just about a perfect album, the second disc a beautiful stereo version (original disc was mono, and it’s disc 1 in this package; both discs have some great additional live stuff and other tunes).
Anyway, we already had news this morning with the expected, official announcement of Derek Lowe as the starter for both opening day April 5 at Philly, and April 10 home opener vs. Washington.
No surprise there, since the two off days in the first week allow the Braves to start Lowe on regular rest in both openers. Said last week, I figured that might be the case when I saw a Braves print ad in the AJC promoting the home opener, with only one player pictured — Lowe.
As expected, Kenshin Kawakami is the starter pushed back a couple of days by the move. He’s scheduled to make his Braves debut with an April 11 start in the second home game against the Nationals.
Perhaps the only minor surprise when Bobby Cox announced the first-week rotation plans this morning was that Jair Jurrjens, not Javier Vazquez, would start the second game on April 7 at Philly (there are off days April 6 & 9).
“Doesn’t matter, both are terrific,” Cox said of the Jurrjens/Vazquez order. “It’s a real good rotation.”
Lowe’s eager to get another shot at opening day after going 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA in three consecutive season-opening starts for the Dodgers during 2005-2007, including a loss against the Braves and Tim Hudson in ‘06, when Lowe gave up nine hits and seven earned in five innings for Los Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.
“It really is a great honor to be able to pitch that [opening day] game,” Lowe said this morning. “There’s so much excitement, so much anticipation, especially the way we’ve [played this spring] and especially with it being in Philly, a rival game, and they’ll be putting up the [World Series] flag….”
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment. Schafer and The Decision pending: Plenty of you have asked, and now I’m finally ready to say, I think Jordan Schafer is going to get the center-field job over Josh Anderson and Gregor Blanco.
Schafer has hit .396 with a .429 OBP and .585 slugging percentage in 53 at-bats, with 14 strikeouts, three walks and a team-high five stolen bases (nearly half the team’s total of 11 steals). He has a homer among seven extra-base hits.
Anderson has hit .286 with a .298 OBP and .482 slugging percentage in 56 at-bats, with six strikeouts, one walk and two stolen bases. He has homers among his six extra-base hits.
Blanco has options, so he could be sent down. Anderson doesn’t have options, but all indications from Braves people is that that isn’t going to be a determining factor in this decision – if Schafer makes them a better team, he’s going to be the guy.
And I think most who have a say in this, or an opinion, agree that they look like a better team with Schafer on it.
If that’s the way it goes, if Schafer gets through this week unscathed, and if Braves can’t get anything of value for Anderson in a trade, I’d guess – just a guess — they’d outright him to the minors if he cleared waivers.
At this late date in spring, there might be a decent chance he could clear waivers, since a claiming team would have to keep him on its roster.
Then again, perhaps the White Sox or another team that might not want to give up even low-level prospect value for him now, might be interested if all they have to do is claim him off waivers.
I talked to Josh a little while yesterday, and wasn’t able to fit the quotes in the paper. So I’ll give some of it to you here now.
Asked him if he’s felt a little better the past week or so, since he has six hits in his past 16 at-bats.
”I went through a stretch in the middle [of spring] where I was just trying to get comfortable, just trying to find that place where you’re hitting pitches you should be hitting,” he said. “The last couple of weeks I felt way more relaxed. It took a while for that comfort to get there. I’m getting there now.”
Some of you might be thinking, he’s getting there, but it might be a bit late, given Schafer’s performance all spring. I asked Anderson if he’s pleased with his own spring perforamance:
”I’m satisfied,” he said. “This spring’s gone good. My bunting’s come a long ways; I’ve worked every day on it. I feel good on defense. My legs feel fresh. I’m pleased with the way things have gone, really.
”Would I like to be hitting .500? Absolutely. Everybody would like to be on fire. It takes me a couple of games, sometimes a couple of weeks, to get that feeling back. I’m indoors all winter. Once you get back in the game, it’s about getting that comfort, as well as trying to work on stuff, too.”
Is there an uneasiness entering this last week of camp?
”It’s always been a competition the whole time,” he said, “so I view this week no different than what it’s been the last several weeks. I, by no means, am letting up. In my mind, I believe I can do it, and I’m just going to try to keep that mindset, think positive and try to think about the best outcome happening.”
1. Johnson, 2B
2. Escobar, SS
3. G. Anderson, DH
4. Francoeur, RF
5. Kotchman, 1B
6. Infante, 3B
7. Schafer, LF
8. Ross, C
9. J. Anderson, CF
1. Granderson, CF
2. P. Polanco, 2B
3. Ordonez, RF
4. Cabrera, 1B
5. Guillen, LF
6. Thames, DH
7. Inge, 3B
8. Treanor, C
9. Ramon Santiago, RH
♣ Hey, you folks want to hear a terrific country song you’ll probably never hear on a country station anymore? The great, underappreciated Tom Russell singing “Blue Wing” years ago. Click this link and see the lyrics and the video of him singing it. (I actually prefer his edgier alt-country stuff from the past decade, but this is one of his older, pure-country tunes.)
♣ Feel like more music during a Sunday rain delay, so here’s the mighty Clash doing “Straight To Hell.”
“CORTEZ THE KILLER” by Neil Young
He came dancing across the water,
With his galleons and guns,
Looking for the new world,
And the palace in the sun.
On the shore lay Montezuma,
With his coca leaves and pearls,
In his halls he often wandered,
With the secrets of the worlds.
And his subjects gathered ’round him,
Like the leaves around a tree,
In their clothes of many colours,
For the angry gods to see.
And the women all were beautiful,
And the men stood straight and strong,
They offered life in sacrifice,
So that others could go on.
Hate was just a legend,
And war was never known,
The people worked together,
And they lifted many stones.
They carried them to the flatlands,
But they died along the way,
And they built up with their bare hands,
What we still can’t do today.
And I know she’s living there,
And she loves me to this day,
I still can’t remember when,
Or how I lost my way.
He came dancing across the water,
What a killer.