Archive for February, 2010

Hanson to start Grapefruit opener

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Tommy Hanson will start the Braves’ Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the New York Mets at Port St. Lucie, Fla., while Tim Hudson gets the home opener Wednesday against the Mets.

The most anticipated Braves pitching appearances  might be in relief  Friday, when new closer Billy Wagner and setup man Takashi Saito are scheduled to pitch in a home game against Washington.

Derek Lowe will start that game against the Nationals, and it was announced Sunday he will start the April 5 regular-season opener against the Chicago Cubs.

Kenshin Kawakami will start Thursday against Pittsburgh, and Kris Medlen fills in for starter Jair Jurrjens on Saturday against Houston.

The Braves hope Jurrjens, recovering from shoulder inflammation, will be ready to make his first start next week. He will throw off a mound Monday for the first time this spring.

Following are planned Braves relievers for the first Grapefruit games.

Tuesday: Medlen, Jesse Chavez, Michael …

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Lowe picked to start opening day

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Ten weeks after the Braves gave up on trading Derek Lowe, manager Bobby Cox named him the opening day starter.

The surprising announcement that Lowe would start the April 5 opener at Turner Field against the Cubs came Sunday, weeks before Cox has named opening day starters in previous years.

“I wanted to do a good job with the reporters in my last year,” quipped Cox, who intends to retire after the 2010 season.

What do you think of the decision to start Lowe on opening day?

  • Like the vote of confidence in the veteran
  • Don’t like the decision, but understand because of the circumstances
  • I’d have waited and gone with Jurrjens if healthy
  • I’d have picked Hudson or Hanson instead

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Jair Jurrjens’ sore shoulder and a plan to find extra rest for Tim Hudson in the early season played in the decision. It was also a vote of confidence in Lowe, the focus of trade rumors this winter.

Lowe left Champion Stadium …

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Braves finally won in Chipper’s absence

Chipper says he's going to shorten his left-handed swing and hang onto the bat longer

Chipper says he's workinig to shorten his left-handed swing and hang onto the bat longer.

DARK STAR, Fla. – It was the worst season of Chipper Jones‘ career, but something good came out of it for the Atlanta Braves.

And no, you hardbitten cynics – ahem — I’m not talking about the possibility that Chipper would actually follow through on a vow to retire if he struggles in 2010 like he did in 2009, thus absolving the Braves of about $28 million he’s owed during the 2011-2012 seasons.

(I’m with Bobby Cox on that one, and just have a hard time believing Chipper would do that. But I also don’t think he’ll struggle like that again this season.)

No, what I’m talking about, the positive development vis-à-vis Chipper’s ‘09 struggles, is how the Braves finally managed to win some games, plenty of games, without him in the lineup. That’s something they’d not been able to do much at all during his remarkable three-year stretch before The Slump.

Take a look at these startling …

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No team’s won 3 straight NL pennants since 1945

I was debating the 2010 season/postseason with colleague Jeff Schultz, who was talking about how strong the Phillies are and how tough it will be to knock them off.

I agreed, but said their pitching’s not great and one key injury (Roy Halladay? Ryan Howard?) could make them vulnerable.

Then I asked him, when’s the last time an NL team won three consecutive pennants? I didn’t even know the answer, just knew it had been at least 20 years and that history says the Phillies won’t do it. So I looked it up.

Without looking it up, do most of you all realize how long it’s been since a team won three consecutive NL pennants? The Braves won back-to-back pennants a couple of times since the League Championship Series era began in 1969, and the Reds and Dodgers have also won consecutive pennants in that period.

But the last team to win three in a row? You have to go back more than six decades. That’s right, you’ve got to go back to the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals of Stan …

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Glavine expected in camp to do … whatever

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. —   Retired pitcher Tom Glavine will probably come to spring training around March 17 in his new capacity as a team official, manager Bobby Cox said Saturday.

Much like Glavine’s wide-ranging new job description with the Braves, his role in camp will be varied and basically unspecified, according to Cox.

“Hang out, talk to people, watch the games, get in a uni — Tommy can do whatever he wants,” Cox said, smiling.

Glavine recently accepted a position as special assistant to Braves president John Schuerholz. The position will entail front-office work and broadcasting, but also on-field coaching or advising in spring training and the minor leagues.

Wagner back in camp

After being sent home with flu-like symptoms Friday, closer Billy Wagner was back in camp for Saturday’s workout on a chilly, damp afternoon.

The veteran closer asked for advice from former Braves pitcher Gene Garber during the workout, then chatted with him at length in the clubhouse …

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Chipper adds muscle, adjusts swing

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – After slumping through the second half of a career-worst season, Chipper Jones examined what went wrong and came to a couple of conclusions.

His swing was too long, and his strength was too low.

That’s why the Braves’ 37-year-old third baseman reported to spring training last week not only bigger and more muscular, but also accompanied by Larry Jones Sr., his father and personal hitting coach.

“We’re just going over some stuff, points of emphasis,” said Larry Jr., aka Chipper, who described what he and pops noticed.

“Early in my career I would keep both hands on the bat through the swing,” he said, “and over the years I’ve gotten a lot longer with my swing because I’m letting go.”

And now?

“I’m trying to get back to a shorter, quicker, more powerful swing left-handed by keeping both hands on the bat,” he said. “And it’s a little weird for me, but that’s what this [spring training] is for, to just get a ton of repetitions.”

Jones won a his first …

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Healing Jurrjens could be ready for mound

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — After completing another flat-ground throwing session without shoulder pain, pitcher Jair Jurrjens was pining to get on the mound.

Braves manager Bobby Cox thinks it’s time to let him. He said that Jurrjens could throw his first bullpen session Monday, provided his shoulder feels good on Sunday.

Jurrjens, who was 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA last season, has been sidelined by shoulder inflammation during the opening week of spring training. He was hurt making an awkward throw in a loosely organized game in his native Curacao two weeks ago.

“The last two (sessions) have been great,” said Jurrjens, who threw from distances of 60, 90 and 120 feet during a 20-minute session in the outfield Saturday, while the Braves worked out in covered batting cages on a chilly, damp afternoon at Champion Stadium.

“I’m just waiting to find out what they think. I’m ready to get on the mound. I feel great. I threw some changeups, sliders, didn’t feel anything.”

During a similar …

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Heyward on Baseball America cover — again

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. –  Jason Heyward has become a regular on the cover of Baseball America, which has the Braves’ outfield phenom on front again for its new Top 100 Prospects issue out now.

He shares this cover with Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who signed a record-breaking contract after being the No. 1 pick in the June draft.

Heyward was featured on the cover of the industry publication four times in the past 12 months. The  Henry County High graduate was Baseball America’s 2009 minor league Player of the Year, and he’s BA’s No. 1-rated prospect, just ahead of Strasburg.

Florida outfielder Mike Stanton is No. 3 on the BA prospects  list.

The Braves have four prospects in BA’s top 100, tied with nine other teams for fourth-most behind the Rays (seven) and the Cubs and Indians (five apiece).

Braves first-base prospect Freddie Freeman is No. 32, and right-handed pitchers Julio Teheran (51) and Arodys Vizcaino (69) round out the Braves’ ranked quartet. …

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Proctor’s elbow ligament “was like yellow mush”

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Scott Proctor is ahead of schedule in his return from elbow surgery, and the Braves think the tough-minded setup man could be ready in April.

“I feel great,” said Proctor, 33, less than 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery and already throwing full bullpen sessions. “I haven’t felt this good since high school.”

Manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s really coming and just has to build up arm strength. I think his first [game] appearance will be in the middle of March. He’s not far off.”

Proctor was one of the best relievers in baseball when he churned out consecutive 83-appearance seasons in 2006 and 2007. He had a 3.52 ERA with 89 strikeouts in a whopping 102-1/3 innings for manager Joe Torre’s New York Yankees in 2006.

Despite injuring his elbow during 2008 spring training with Torre’s Dodgers, Proctor still made 41 appearances around a midseason stint on the disabled list. He had a 6.82 ERA in 33 games before pain forced him to the DL.

Proctor signed …

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Braves are cautious with Jurrjens (shoulder)

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Jair Jurrjens’ sore pitching shoulder has already kept him off the mound for the first week of workouts, and the Braves think it will be at least a few more days before they let him on the hill.

A vital member of the Braves’ starting rotation, Jurrjens was diagnosed with shoulder inflammation a few days before camp opened. An MRI showed no damage to the rotator cuff or labrum.

Jurrjens, 23, progressed from light throwing to long-tossing at 90 feet Wednesday and again Friday, with what was described as minimal discomfort. If he can long-toss without pain from 120 feet this weekend, he could get on the mound early next week.

“He was begging Roger to throw today,” said manager Bobby Cox, who agreed that was probably a good sign that Jurrjens’ shoulder felt better.

The Braves begin Grapefruit League play Tuesday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie, Fla. If Jurrjens misses only a couple of starts, he might still have enough time to be ready when the …

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