Can’t you almost taste it now? The season is all but upon us. Day after tomorrow, people, day after tomorrow!
While DOB unpacks and repacks, to go from spring training to the season opener Sunday night in Philadelphia, let me bring this exhibition season to a close. There’s just a little tidying up to be done on the roster, and then we’ll be on our way.
First and foremost is whether Jordan Schafer gets the center field nod, or the Braves choose to give the job back to Gregor Blanco to give Schafer a little more seasoning time in Gwinnett. I, for one, figure it’ll be Schafer, who was in the starting lineup yesterday in Kissimmee with all the regulars, but we’ll have to see for sure.
I’d guess the Braves will announce roster decisions after tonight’s game against the Tigers. That way those guys can have their things packed and ready to go to fly to Philadelphia on Saturday night.
This time last year (only it was a week earlier), the first of two exhibition games at Turner Field, the Braves announced five cuts and acquired Ruben Gotay from the Mets on Friday night. They left one final roster decision until Saturday – that was between Jeff Bennett and Buddy Carlyle. So I’d expect something along those lines this time as well.
Both Bennett and Carlyle are expected to be on the roster this time around, and from what DOB reported yesterday, the back end of the Braves rotation should be intact with Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan both ready for Opening Day.
It would appear Manny Acosta, Kris Medlen, and Boone Logan are the odd men out in the bullpen, and Blanco and Brandon Jones in the outfield. There’s a decision left to be made on David Ross, who strained his groin on Tuesday. Clint Sammons is ready to open the season as the backup catcher if Ross needs to go on the disabled list. The Braves can wait until Sunday to make that call. Roster cuts, though, have to be made by midnight Saturday, I believe.
So details, details, then get us to Sunday night vs. the World Champs.
The Braves caught their first break of the year, and it hasn’t even started – Cole Hamels was pushed back from the Opening Day start for the Phillies to their fourth game on the year, a road start against the Rockies on April 10. He had a shot for the elbow inflammation he’s had and needs the extra time.
That means it’ll be Brett Myers on the mound Sunday night vs. the Braves on ESPN2. This is Brett Myers who lost twice in two starts against the Braves last year, and the Phillies only lost four games to the Braves all year. Myers allowed 10 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings and failed to make it out of the fifth inning either game.
For his career, Myers is 4-8 with a 4.60 ERA against Atlanta in 26 appearances, including 19 starts.
Francoeur has had more at-bats against Myers than any of his teammates – going 6-for-31 (.194) with a homer and two RBIs. Chipper and McCann see Myers well – Jones is .333 (10-for-30) with three homers and seven RBIs and eight walks off him, McCann is hitting .370 (10-for-27) against him with a homer and six RBIs.
But not to get too far ahead of ourselves…
This time last year, I think I made kind of a silly-sounding plea to come out to Turner Field and take in the games the next two days. Judging from the tiny crowds, I’m thinking nobody actually took me up on it, so this time around, I’ll just say, hey, it’ll be fun to be back in the ballyard. Can’t believe we’re back around again. Seems the years go faster and faster as we go.
I think the Braves have a lot to feel good about, heading into the season. The fact that there’s not a whole lot to sort out in the next two days is just one of the signs.
Of course, that doesn’t exactly show up in preseason reading materials. I just read this morning in Baseball America that they’re picking the Braves to finish fourth in the NL East – fourth – behind the Mets, Phillies, and Marlins.
Sports Illustrated had the Braves third. Hey when you’ve got the defending World Champions and the team lots of folks are picking to make the World Series – Mets – in your division, then third is about as good as you’re going to do. (SI has Mets over Angels, pause for reflection, and Baseball America has Red Sox over Mets.)
But I, for one, don’t see this year as being nearly so miserable for the Braves. And besides, nobody was picking Phillies over Tampa Bay last year, so what the heck?
With that, I’ll open it up for discussion and prediction. And I’ll report back from the ballpark this afternoon.
Tonight’s lineup (and notice the starting center fielder):
1. Yunel Escobar SS
2. Kelly Johnson 2B
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Garret Anderson LF
6. Jeff Francoeur RF
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Jordan Schafer CF
9. Greg Norton DH
pitching Javier Vazquez