The Braves have a new No. 25 today, and he’s not going to remind anyone at all of former Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones.
In fact, newly arrived — he just got here at 12:30 p.m. – Barbaro Canizares might possibly be one of the worst defensive players the Braves have had on their major league roster in quite some time, based on what I’ve heard of the 29-year-old Cuban rookie first baseman
”I heard he can’t run, can’t throw and can’t field, but the sumbitch can hit,” is what one Braves player told me this morning.
The Braves put Greg Norton (and his .098 average) on the disabled list (sore ankle) and called Canizares this morning from Triple-A Gwinnett, where the big dude (6-3, 240) was, indeed, hitting like a man possessed.
He was second in the International League with a .344 average and team-highs of 17 doubles, eight home runs, 37 RBI and a .945 OPS, including a .412 on-base percentage and .533 slugging percentage.
”We got a healthy body, and a guy who’s known as a good hitter,” manager Bobby Cox said. “The guy can hit. I’ve only seen him a couple of days in spring training. He’s not known for the glove; he’s OK at first.
”I wouldn’t expect Gold Glove performances, but he’s been playing over there” at first base for Gwinnett.
Canizares is batting cleanup today behind Chipper Jones, who wasn’t exactly qualified to give a scouting report on the big fella.
”I wouldn’t know him if he walked up and said, ‘Hey, how ya doing?’” Jones said.
Rookie pitcher Tommy Hanson, who makes his second major league start tomorrow at Baltimore, was a teammate of Canizares in April and May.
”He just goes up there and rakes,” Hanson said. “That’s what he does. He’s a hitter. When I was there he was on a tear.”
I asked Hanson if he thought Canizares would be a “4-A” hitter who tears it up in Triple-A but struggles against major league breaking balls or well-located fastballs, etc.
”He hits everything,” Hanson said. “He tries to set up pitchers. I think he’ll be able to hit here.”
As for his defense, well…. “That’s part of his game that needs work,” Hanson said. “But as far as hitting, he’s a great hitter.”
Canizares split his time pretty equally last season between first base and designated hitter at Triple-A Richmond, where he hit .300 with 28 doubles, 13 homers and 67 RBI in 134 games.
He has played 40 of his 58 games this season at first base, and the timing of his callup will permit the Braves to use him as a DH in interleague games at American League parks in Baltimore and Boston on the nine-game trip that starts tomorrow.
Cox said Norton had been sick since the last trip, and then hurt his ankle two nights ago taking a swing. He said he aggravated it last night while leaping for a line drive at first base.
Norton went 0-for-8 the past two games filling in at first base, his first times playing any position all season. Norton is 4-for-33 as a pinch-hitter.
He’s 2-for-32 (.063) batting left-handed this season, after hitting .289 (39-for-135) from that side last season, when he was one of the top pinch-hitters in baseball.
Martin Prado (strained groin) is day-to-day and starting first baseman Casey Kotchman (calf strain) is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday. It’s not certain if Kotchman will be ready that day, but he’s made progress the past few days.
♣ Driving ‘em in: Yunel Escobar has made a few careless plays in the field like the one last night, but the strong-armed shortstop is having a stellar season at the plate, batting .302 with an .808 OPS, 14 doubles, five homers and 31 RBI in 49 games. (By the way, while I’m thinking about it, did you realize the Braves have two guys from Havana in their infield? Imagine if Brayan Pena, another from Havana, was still the backup catcher (David Ross is catching today in the day game, not Brian McCann. Ross is 6-for-18 with two homers against Pirates lefty Paul Maholm).
Escobar ranks third in the NL with a .414 average (24-for-58) with runners in scoring position, behind only Brad Hawpe (.460) and Joey Votte (.432) and one spot ahead of Chipper Jones (.400, 14-for-35).
Chipper leads the majors in average with runners in scoring position at two outs at .571 (8-for-14).
I found this to be a telling stat: Escobar has come to the plate with 100 runners on base and 70 in scoring position this season, while Casey Kotchman (14 RBI) has come to the plate with 101 runners on base and 71 in scoring position.
Jeff Francoeur (25 RBI) has come to bat with a team-high 120 runners on base and a team-high 84 in scoring position.
♣ No support for J.J.: Here’s how bad it’s been for Jair Jurrjens, whose All-Star bid is probably going to fall short because of lack of run support.
He has a 2.91 ERA in his past 11 starts, but just a 3-4 record in that span. Yes, 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA.
The Braves scored one or no runs while he was in six of those 11 starts.
In his past six home starts, he’s 1-3 with a 3.18 ERA, and the Braves scored one or no runs while he was in four of those starts.
Alright, game’s about to start. Canizares literally arrived at the ballpark 40 minutes before the first pitch (Braves benefited big-time today from the proximity of their Triple-A park to the major league field, since they didn’t make the Norton DL decision until after Norton showed up this morning limping.)
Let’s close with a gem from the late, great Townes Van Zandt, and hope that Steve Earle does this one when we go see Steve tomorrow night here in Atlanta.
“LUNGS” by Townes Van Zandt
Well, won’t you lend your lungs to me?
Mine are collapsing
Plant my feet and bitterly breathe
Up the time that’s passing.
Breath I’ll take and breath I’ll give
Pray the day ain’t poison
Stand among the ones that live
In lonely indecision.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you’ve found
You fool, it’s only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another.
Salvation sat and crossed herself
Called the devil partner
Wisdom burned upon a shelf
Who’ll kill the raging cancer
Seal the river at its mouth
Take the water prisoner
Fill the sky with screams and cries
Bathe in fiery answers
Jesus was an only son
And love his only concept
Strangers cry in foreign tongues
And dirty up the doorstep
And I for one, and you for two
Ai’nt got the time for outside
Just keep your injured looks to you
We’ll tell the world we tried