Dark Star, Fla. – Just watched an impressive batting-practice session pitched by what I believe will be the Braves’ opening-day starter, Tim Hudson, and now watching what appears to be the younger, slimmer brother of Braves left-hander Eric O’Flaherty.
Actually it’s O’Flaherty. Dropped a lot of weight in the offseason, and he really does look several years younger because of it. The face, you know? How some guys (or girls) lose 5-10 pounds and a disproportionate amount of it seems to have come off their cheeks and neck? No? I should get more sleep? OK, noted.
Hey, take this as a good early omen for the Braves if you want to: Two days in a row, I woke to rain and completely socked-in, nasty conditions here. Only to see the rain cease in plenty of time for the field to dry and the Braves to have batting practice on the main ‘yard here at ESPN Wide World of Family Fun Sports Entertainment Youth Athletic Leagues Cost Parents A Fortune Exposition/Recreation Center. Or something like that.
But seriously, a few things of interest on this second day of full-squad workouts:
♣ J.J. is getting better: Jair Jurrjens told me this morning his pitching shoulder feels better and he’s expected to do some long-toss today. That’s obviously good news for him and the Braves, who’d like to have the 15-game winner be able to make his first Grapefruit League start only a week late, perhaps even sooner than that.
Jurrjens gave everyone a scare when he had soreness and tightness after reporting early to camp about 10 days ago, after feeling a twinge or pop in his shoulder when he made a submarine-style, across-the-body throw during a loosely run game in Curacao before he left for Florida.
He said he’s learned from that and will be more careful in the future. Fortunately, he learned without paying a big price, or at least it seems that way now.
After a week of rest and rehab, he played catch two times in the past three days. The shoulder has improved significantly each day, and if the long-toss goes well, it’s safe to say Jurrjens might be only a week or so behind the other pitchers.
He’s been throwing off a mound since December, a little longer than most of the starters other than Hudson, and that might end up helping him if he’s able to quickly bump his program back up and get in the rotation without missing more than one turn when Grapefruit League play starts Tuesday against the Mets in Port St. Lousy, Fla.
♣ Jordan Schafer update: Tattoos now cover each arm from elbow to shoulder, and it’s intricate work with faces of angels and all kinds of … no, wait. This isn’t a tatt update. It’s a serious update on the kid’s progress after surgery for a broken left hand, an injury that ruined his 2009 season.
Schafer got the cast off before Christmas and has been hitting and doing everything else. But he’s still got quite a ways to before the hand is back to full strength, and it seems obvious he’ll spend at least the first part of the season shaking off the rust and regaining his stroke at Triple-A Gwinnett.
“Truthfully, I’m not worried about it at all,” he said. “Whatever they want to do. I just want to be healthy. If I’m healthy, I know my talent and my skills. I know I’m good enough to play when I’m healthy. I just need to make sure I’m healthy.”
And that’s why he didn’t hit today. The hand’s a bit sore, tired. Trainers suggested he chill for a day. He agreed, without a fight this time.
“It’s good,” he said of the overall status of his surgically repaired hand. “But I still need to get some strength back in there. Like where I had surgery, all that feels really good. There’s no pain in it at all. It’s just my hand’s still weak. I was in the cast so long, I have to do the rehab stuff every day, all kinds of stuff.
“It’s all in my joint, and my hand, you can tell this part [points to inside edge of palm] isn’t like thick like this is here [points to other hand]. It’s just going to take time.
“I have to watch it. I’ll hit off the tee to try to warm up, then I’ll take, like, 20 swings and I’ll stop. I’m trying not to push it too much. We’ve got six weeks, so….”
The atrophy that set in while he was in a cast is something that takes some time to get past, and his hand gets fatigued when he’s done a fraction of the workload he could always handle before.
“His hand … it’s weak,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s having — not a setback – he’s just sore from starting out again. He’s just kind of taking it easier. Today he’s not hitting at all. It’s gonna be a process for him just about all spring.
“We want him to be ready for the season, whatever it takes.”
The Braves would like to have Schafer ready for the majors by midseason. Overdoing things now, trying to rush to get back by opening day wouldn’t be wise, especially since they already have Nate McLouth in center field and could be set in left (Matt Diaz, Melky Cabrera) and right if Jason Heyward is ready to take over in right.
“Schafe last year unfortunately broke his hand, and played with it,” Cox said. “It really wasn’t fair to him. I was kind of selfish, I left him in there because of his defense. I thought we’d hit enough to get by. But at any rate, we’ve got a little more depth in the outfield with Melky Cabrera.”
Schafer is one who always followed the work-harder take-more-batting-practice philosophy, fix things by working until they’re ironed out. But he’s learned, after trying to play with that hand injury last season, that there are some things you can’t ignore.
And Schafer knows it would be a mistake to ignore what his body’s telling him and try to get his hand strength back by just swinging and swinging in the batting cages.
♣ J.R. House signed: If you’re interested, there’s a short blog separate that I filed earlier. Yes, he’s the former stud high school quarterback. No, he’s not going to make this team, barring a series of injuries. He’s a 30-year-old journeyman catcher/corner infielder who provides minor-league depth.
Alright, got to get down to the field for end of batting practice and then to the clubhouse.
♣ Diversions: I’m going to try to find the new Johnny Cash CD this afternoon, if there’s a decent retail place that sells it within 10 miles of Dark Star. They closed the Virgin Records store that used to be over at Disney (thanks all you download-only customers for ruining the record industry; OK, only kidding. Sort of). Anyway, let’s go out with some blues on a cloudy day.
The legendary Albert King had a hit with this:
“THAT’S WHAT THE BLUES IS ALL ABOUT” by R. Patterson, J. Strickland
Oh you come home one evenin’
To nothin’ but the four walls
And then ya find your phone been disconnected
You can’t even make no call
Ya hung out for your baby, oh, an’ she’s not there
You look in the closet, buddy, an’ you find it’s all bare
Oh, that’s what the blues is people
That’s what the blues is all about
Well that’s a hard pill to have to swallow, um!
When you find what the blues is all about
Now listen to this:
I went out to my backyard
Ya know I whistled for my dog [3 whistle sounds]
He ran up under the house, people
Like he didn’t even know me at all
Now I hadn’t fed him in two or three days
An’ he was lookin’ kinda thin
Oh, when your dog turn his back on ya, buddy
You know ya haven’t even got a friend
That’s the blues, people
That’s what the blues is all about
Oh it’s a hard pill to swallow, um!
When ya find out what the blues is all about
Oh, look out!
I think I got ‘em!
I went out to my mailbox
I got a bunch o’ bills that I can’t pay
I guess my wife been out shoppin’ again
While I been at work all day
I see the man comin’ with his tools
Now is he gonna cut off my water?
You know they got my gas yesterday
An’ they comin’ right back for the lines tomorrow
Ah, that’s what the blues is people
That’s what the blues is all about
Well that’s a hard pill to swallow, buddy
Oh, when you find out what the blues is all about