Wren: Schafer still big part of Braves’ future

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Jordan Schafer, here listening to hitting coach Terry Pendleton, has been told to pull back in order to be ready for the long haul and avoid any setbacks after hand surgery.

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Patience and taking it easy, these aren’t things that come naturally for young Jordan Schafer.

But he knows that’s how it needs to be this spring. So he’ll do it.  Or try.

The Braves center fielder is regaining strength in his surgically repaired left hand, and the team doesn’t  want him pushing too hard in an effort to impress during spring training. No need for that. Not this time.

Schafer was instructed not to do any hitting Wednesday, so he didn’t.

“His hand is weak,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s having — not a setback – he’s just sore from starting out again. It’s going to be a process for him just about all spring.

“We want him to be ready for the season, whatever it takes.”

Ready for a long season, as opposed to ready for opening day against the Chicago Cubs. Barring injuries to other outfielders, he is likely to open at Class AAA Gwinnett.

“Truthfully, I’m not worried about it at all,” said Schafer, 23. “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.”

He got his cast off in December and gradually built his workload in recent weeks. After increasing his hitting in the opening week of camp, he had some discomfort.

“It’s good,” he said of the hand. “But I still need to get some strength back in there. Where I had surgery, that feels really good; 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 [at spring training], so….”

But it’s clear from talking to him that all this down time and rehab has worn on him. This isn’t anything he’s used to, or ever wants to get used to. That’s why he wants to do this right this spring, in hopes of getting past this injury and not having another season undermined.

“No more of that,” said Schafer, who doesn’t want to become known as a player who’s not durable or can’t be relied upon. “I’ve never been hurt — this is the first time I’ve really missed a lot of time being hurt. It’s a pain in the ass, but like I said I just need to make sure I’m healthy before anything.”

A year ago he won the opening-day job in center with his spring performance, outplaying Josh Anderson and Gregor Blanco in Grapefruit League games and exciting everyone with sensational defense and potent offense. Anderson was traded.

But after Schafer hit two homers in the opening series at Philadelphia, he hurt his hand in the home opener. He tried to play through the injury but was never the same, and he was hitting .204 with 63 strikeouts in 167 at-bats when he got demoted on June 2.

Schafer never told anyone how much his hand hurt and asked to stay in – he now admits that was a mistake — but Cox still takes responsibility for keeping him in the lineup.

“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.”

After his demotion, he went on the disabled list and had multiple exams for recurring soreness before an MRI finally showed the fracture. He had surgery in September.

The Braves traded for center fielder Nate McLouth immediately after sending Schafer to the minors. They added versatile outfielder Melky Cabrera from the Yankees in the December trade for Javier Vazquez.

But general manager Frank Wren is adamant when he says that Schafer hasn’t slipped in the Braves’ view. I asked Wren that specifically, whether Schafer had slipped as a prospect from the organization’s perspective.

“Not at all,” Wren said. “He still can do all the same things, and there’s a lot of guys in the history of the game that had a stumble or have taken a step back when they got to the big leagues the first time. As long as the ability’s there and the player’s willing to work and fight through it, you feel good about it. We see him as a big part of the future.”

If rookie phenom Jason Heyward wins the right-field job this spring, the Braves would likely use Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera in left field. If they decide that Heyward needs a little more time in the minors, Cabrera could start out in right field.

Either way, there is no rush to get Schafer into the lineup. They just want him healthy, so he can have a full season after missing large chunks of the past two seasons for a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension in 2008 and the injury.

“From my perspective, he just needs to play baseball,” Wren said. “When he plays, he plays very well. He needs to continue to get as many at-bats and regain what he lost in the last year or so with injuries and various things. To me, that’s what’s going to determine when he gets here full-time.”

30 comments Add your comment

Joe P

February 24th, 2010
6:50 pm

Alex Tetzner

February 24th, 2010
6:53 pm

josh anderson

February 24th, 2010
7:03 pm

the sooner the Braves release him, the better off they will be and he can catch on with another minor league team

Delaware Brave

February 24th, 2010
7:17 pm

Josh Anderson – are you bitter? Ha ha, good one.

wjones

February 24th, 2010
7:22 pm

“josh anderson

February 24th, 2010
7:03 pm
the sooner the Braves release him, the better off they will be and he can catch on with another minor league team”

Please don’t be bitter, Josh. No shame in being a fourth OF with great base-stealing skills. Keep your average respectable, stay healthy, and a MLB pension will be yours.

Barry McGwire

February 24th, 2010
7:31 pm

That’s my boy.

Brad Kominsk

February 24th, 2010
9:38 pm

Keep fighting Josh Anderson, I did and look what I accomplished . . . excuse me, “Sir, would you like fries with that?”

You are a winner, Josh, just like me.

Brad Komminsk

February 24th, 2010
9:44 pm

Keep fighting Josh Anderson, I did and look what I accomplished . . . excuse me, “Sir, would you like fries with that?”

You are a winner, Josh, just like me.

ElBraggO

February 24th, 2010
10:00 pm

“- I left him in there because of his defense. I thought we’d hit enough to get by.” Go Bobby go, this is the Braves biggest problem -MISMANAGEMENT- on the baseball diamond. I don’t think Atlanta has much of a chance with this manager. Go Braves 2011.

UF Brave

February 24th, 2010
10:25 pm

I think Schafer will be a great major league CF in the near future…and maybe even a great leadoff hitter. He definitely needs to start out at AAA so he can play every day and continue to develop better plate discipline. I could see him getting called up later in the season. And I would love to see the Braves move McLouth to LF next year. McLouth, Schafer, and Heyward could be one heck of an outfield next year!

BuzzMeat

February 24th, 2010
11:17 pm

Josh Anderson…LOL, that was a good one. I read the comment and thought someone was being crazy until i saw it was Josh Anderson talking.

On a Related note, I really am gonna miss those, Loaf Garret on a Blackberry posts!

Elon Brave

February 24th, 2010
11:36 pm

I know what Wren and Bobby say. But something about Schafer being a “big part of the Braves future” just doesn’t feel right to me.

JohnSmith242

February 25th, 2010
12:11 am

ElBraggO:

Bobby has been known to lie for the sake of his players, and something about that quote of his in the article strikes me as facetious. Cox often plays his guys when they’re hurt, but he’d never do that with an out-and-out injured player. The probability is that Schafer was less than truthful about his wrist, so of course Bobby penciled him into the lineup…and is now trying to deflect possible blame from one of his guys.

David O'Brien

February 25th, 2010
12:15 am

JohnSmith: You and I had a similar reaction to that quote.

bravesfaninNashville

February 25th, 2010
2:35 am

It’s great to know that Jordan is on his way to recovering from his wrist surgery. I believe the way he played the first series of last year 2 homers off tough pitching is the one we’ll see long term. I’m rooting for him because I believe he has the most natural talent in our outfield besides Heyward. If he could become a consistent leadoff hitter and above average defender we could have 2/3’s of a great outfield for years to come with him and Jason. We still need a right handed power threat in our future. We’d be very susceptible to strong left handed pitching with our outfield of Heyward, Schafer, McLouth and McCann catching and Freeman at first base. Our only right handed threats would be Prado and Escobar and possibly whoever replaces Chipper. It would be nice to be balanced better than that. Fun year ahead I look for Jordan in June or July and we trade Nate or Matt and stock our farm system or replace Glaus if he’s not working out.

Charles

February 25th, 2010
2:48 am

What happened to Cody Johnson, is he at spring training camp? I know he strikes out a lot,any chance he could move up to Gwinett and be ready for next year?

MP

February 25th, 2010
3:17 am

Elbraggo – It is pretty obvious (well maybe not) that Cox is trying to take the pressure off of Schafer and put it on himself. Its a great coaching move, especially since the opinion of a hardhead does not matter to one of the most succesful managers in the history of baseball.

old timer

February 25th, 2010
6:14 am

I hope Schafer pans out, but I don’t think he is going to be much of a factor this year. I like the outfield we have without him, especially if Heyward can provide some power.

Anyone concerned that we don’t have a lefthanded starting pitcher?

KnoxDawg

February 25th, 2010
8:05 am

He’s a precocious kid but all indications are that he has matured a great deal since making the Dennis Rodman-type entrance to spring training 2 years ago. Baseball is a humbling game. Putting that aside, he appears to have a lot of talent and we look forward to him having a good season at AAA where he can develop some consistency. Let’s not rush him like last year. If he can do that, he could be up by the All-Star break ot later. I agree with the ealier comment that mcLouth, Shafer and Heyward would be a great outfield. The first two need to avoid the injuries that held them back.

hal

February 25th, 2010
8:09 am

we have a left handed starter named tom glavine only one year older and now on good terms lol

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

February 25th, 2010
8:40 am

If Shafer keeps listening to Pendleton, he’ll wind up at single A. Can anyone tell me who has become a better hitter under TP’s watchful eye? Anyone………….anyone at all

JeanE

February 25th, 2010
9:49 am

Why rush he or Jason Heyward? I say they both start the season in AAA, then I get a chance to go see them play up close and they get more seasoning. I don’t care how good Heyward looks in spring training, that doesn’t mean anything. McCann is an exception, not a rule.

Scuba Steve

February 25th, 2010
10:20 am

“Anyone concerned that we don’t have a lefthanded starting pitcher?”

I heard rumors that Hanson decided to become a lefty in the off season and will show his skills in Spring Training.

Reid in EAV

February 25th, 2010
10:53 am

Funny thing, ElBraggO — my brother had just emailed me that Cox quote as an example of what sort of leader Cox is. Obviously what happened last year was boneheaded on Schafer’s part, trying to play through an injury instead of admitting it and healing up, and if anyone was “selfish” it was Schafer himself. But there’s Cox, as he so often does, stepping up and taking it on the chin for his player so his player isn’t dogged publicly.

And this (plus other things that denizens like to criticize — like giving players chances to play their way out of slumps) is why most, if not all, who play for Cox will run through walls for the guy. Unlike the innings put on bullpen arms, the results of late-game decisions, or a .600 OPS guy hitting in the 5-hole, this isn’t something that can be quantified except in terms of Ws. And those speak for themselves.

jethro bodine

February 25th, 2010
11:40 am

I for one continue to have concerns bout Shafer’s maturity. It used to be about his big ole SUV and his showboating his stardom. Now he’s sporting a superfluity of tattoos on both arms. I know that tattoos are “the thing” among a lot of big leaguers, but what do they say about moderation and good judgement? I’m afraid that Shafer will never show the kind of maturity that Heyward has and that Shafer’s career heads south over something utterly stupid.

David O'Brien

February 25th, 2010
12:53 pm

NEW BLOGGAGE

ElBraggO

February 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

ElBraggO

February 25th, 2010
4:03 pm

I am glad to see there are people that can read Bobby Cox’s mind, I would think the signal would be to weak to pick anything up. But being you have the ability, please tell me, what was he thinking, when he put Liebrant in to pitch against Puckett in the 11th inning in game 6, with the game and the world championship on the line, way back in 91.While you are at it, please tell me what was going on in his head last year when night after night after night, he sat there watching Shaffer go down in flames at the plate, and not suspect something was wrong. Even someone as stupid as me, could see something was wrong.

Clip file 2.25.10 — NYFSBlogs

February 25th, 2010
5:52 pm

[...] Center fielder Jordan Schafer is being told to proceed slowly after surgery on his left hand. Schafer, 23, is projected to start at Triple-A Gwinnett. His stats last season suffered because he [...]

ElBraggO

February 25th, 2010
10:23 pm

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