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?

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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 before Cox made the announcement after Sunday’s workout.

“He was our winningest pitcher,” Cox said of the decision to start the 36-year-old right-hander. “Last year against Philadelphia [opening day] he pitched eight shutout innings and gave up two hits. And he’s a veteran.”

Lowe went 15-10 in the first season of a four-year, $60 million contract, but his 4.67 ERA was far and away the highest among regular Braves starters. His .301 opponents’ batting average tied for second-worst among National League starters.

The Braves will start Jurrjens in the second game April 7 against Chicago, after an April 6 off day that’s there  in case of an opening-day rainout.

Tommy Hanson is to start the April 8 series finale against the Cubs, and Hudson will make his season debut April 9 at San Francisco.

The Braves plan to bring back Lowe on regular rest for Game 5 at San Francisco before Kenshin Kawakami makes his first start April 11 against the Giants in the sixth game.

Jurrjens was 14-10 with a staff-best 2.60 ERA last season, but has been slowed this spring by shoulder inflammation. He’s scheduled to throw his first bullpen session Monday and could pitch in a game next week.

Cox indicated  if Jurrjens were healthy, he would have been considered for the opening day start. “But I like Lowe right now,” Cox said. “We think we match up with anybody, that [the order] doesn’t really matter.”

Hudson went 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA in seven late-season starts after returning from a year-long recovery for ligament-transplant elbow surgery. Cox said Hudson would get an extra day’s rest before his last two spring starts and his first two starts in the season.

“We’re trying to take care of Hudson in the first part of the season, to keep him strong and ready for the stretch drive,” Cox said. “And we can give Hanson and Jurrjens more days [rest] in the second half. That’s the theory. That’s the madness behind it.”

Cox said the plan was tentative and might be adjusted if Jurrjens has any setbacks in recovery from shoulder inflammation. For now, the Braves believe Jurrjens has plenty of time to get ready for the regular season.

This will be the fifth opening-day start in six years for Lowe, who was charged with two hits and no walks in eight scoreless innings of a 4-1 win at Philadelphia. He had been 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA in three previous opening-day starts.

“There’s an honor to it,” Cox said of starting opening day. “Lot of first game jitters, excitement. You’ve got to have the right makeup to handle that. He can pitch big games, that’s for sure.”

The Braves sought to trade a starter this winter to open a spot and free some payroll after signing Hudson to a three-year extension. But they they couldn’t find any trade partner without the Braves agreeing to eat a large portion of the $45 million he’s  owed.

They traded Javier Vazquez instead, after he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young Award balloting. Vazquez had one year at $11.5 million left on his contract.

61 comments Add your comment

AZ Braves Fan

February 28th, 2010
5:57 pm

not saying it….

Chocolate Jesus

February 28th, 2010
5:57 pm

April 5th is opening day.

The Grinch

February 28th, 2010
5:59 pm

I just made some observations at the end of the last blog, if anyone’s interested.

I like Lowe as the starter, and said so a week or two ago. He’s focused and durable. His sinker was coming out nice and low in BP. JJ is the only other one I would consider, but if he has to come out of game one with a shoulder problem half this city would hang themselves from the nearest tree. Good move, Bobby.

Chipper's Daddy

February 28th, 2010
6:07 pm

“This will be the fifth opening-day start in six years for Lowe, who was charged with four hits, two runs and no walks in eight innings of a 4-1 win at Philadelphia last opening day.” I hate being an editor but anybody see anything wrong with this.

And Roodge Owns

February 28th, 2010
6:10 pm

The run came on such a bad pitch they charged him for two.

Chipper's Daddy

February 28th, 2010
6:11 pm

Also the opener is on April 5th…

Chipper's Daddy

February 28th, 2010
6:13 pm

Otherwise I like the move, giving Lowe the nod. Let’s get him straight early. Not to mention this kind of makes up for the offseason drama. Everything is okay in Braves land.

NRBQ

February 28th, 2010
6:18 pm

Stunning.

Let’s hope the Cubs match strategies and bring their #4 guy out to toe the rubber.

Probably not.

GovClintonTyree

February 28th, 2010
6:27 pm

NRBQ, they’re paying him $15,000,000. He can damn well toe the slab and throw an opening day four-hitter.

A. Dylan Thomas

February 28th, 2010
6:29 pm

i caught it too chipper thats an awfully mean scorer that charges a pitcher with 2 runs in a game where the oppossing team only scored 1 run.

Tbravefan

February 28th, 2010
6:39 pm

Good call by Bobby – Legs is gonna kick some serious behind this season!

stew

February 28th, 2010
6:52 pm

I think Tommy should be the opening day starter. I think Lowe and KK are the weak links in our rotation. We should have eaten Lowe’s salary.The Yanks would have. Actually the signing of Lowe was a good move. At the end of 2008, we had one pitcher (JJ). The addition of Lowe, Vasquez, Tommy, and Huddy transformed a weakness into a strenghth. KK was rather erratic. Lowe started the season well but ended up leading the league in hits allowed as his velocity dipped from the low 90s to 86-87. If Lowe can increase his giddyup he might be serviceable. In a couple of years I expect to see a rotation of JJ, Tommy, Julio, Arodys, and Randall. Hope they all pan out.

P. W. Hjort

February 28th, 2010
6:52 pm

Guess whose starting opening day? Doesn’t matter.

NRBQ

February 28th, 2010
6:53 pm

If that’s the way it works, Gov, then I guess I missed all those games Mike Hampton won for us.

The most shocking aspect is naming the opening day starter in February, before one spring inning has been pitched. I’ve followed baseball since you were still in office, and I don’t remember hearing of it before.

[...] Here’s David O’Brien’s recap of Cox’s surprising announcement Sunday. The decision had some reason to it. But it’s also typical Cox: Show loyalty to the veteran and try to give him an early confidence boost. Fact is, if Lowe — who had a 6.65 ERA in his final six starts and allowed the second-highest opponents’ batting average in the majors – bounces back this season, it’s a significant boost to the rotation and the team. [...]

Casey from Idaho

February 28th, 2010
7:09 pm

The rotation actually sets up nice for the rest of the season. It’s not like you really match up starter-for-starter with anyone after the 1st series of the season. The important part is that we’ll be running JJ, Tommy, and hudson out there on successive nights. That’s a 3-game winning streak. Then if Lowe can continue it, and KK can keep it going, you send a 5-game streak back to the 3 aces in hopes that they can run it to 7 or 8. This is how streaks are put together and divisions are won. If you read Bobby’s quote, this is how he plans for it to unfold. Sont get caught up with the Chicago series. Nothing is won in the 1st week of April.

Nathan

February 28th, 2010
7:14 pm

Charged with 2 runs and 4 hits in a 4-1 win? A game which he gave up no runs and only 2 hits?
Check your stats DOB.

Jeremiah

February 28th, 2010
7:28 pm

Branch Rickey

February 28th, 2010
7:33 pm

At least Kelly Johnson and Frenchie won’t be in the opening day lineup !

scottbravesfan

February 28th, 2010
7:33 pm

Jurrjens should be the opening day starter. If he’s too injured to go that day then it should be Hudson.

Abner Doubleday

February 28th, 2010
7:51 pm

“Nothing is won in the 1st week of April”. Casey from Idaho: Bobby Cox has blown numerous seasons in April, including last season. He stuck with Jordan Schafer who came out like gangbusters the opening week and finally was demoted after two months hitting a whopping .204; a “contact hitter” who was striking out on a record pace. Kelly Johnson did absolutely nothing & finally was benched (.216) in late June in favor of Martin Prado who had proven in the past he deserved a starting job, but got overlooked in favor of a Bobby favorite. We’ll see if Bobby torches the overused bullpen by July as in past seasons.

Rich Clary

February 28th, 2010
8:07 pm

Did he say anything about starting Jason Heyward?

Bobby Cox

February 28th, 2010
8:30 pm

Sorry, Rich. I got Melky penciled in for rightfield. We might see Jason about June 1st.

NRBQ

February 28th, 2010
8:34 pm

Abner,

You do know Schafer had a broken wrist, right?

It was a failure of management to allow him to flail a way for weeks while injured.

rainman

February 28th, 2010
8:37 pm

Enter your comments here

Gil In Mechanicsville

February 28th, 2010
8:45 pm

Personally, I think Lowe is a good choice for the opener. Perhaps smooths over some of the ruffled feathers from the off season trade rumors and makes Derek feel a bit better about he entire situation. That said, Bobby is going to have a pretty big quiver this year when setting up his pitching rotation. Reminds me a bit of the quartet Earl Weaver was blessed with while in Baltimore back in the early sixties. Not an ugly duckling in the bunch. Certainly going to be the envy of a lot of big league ball clubs this season. Now, if this bunch can just score more than 2 runs a game I think we are in for a fun ride.

Gil In Mechanicsville

February 28th, 2010
8:47 pm

And if you think Lowe is really a number four… well, you just don’t pay much attention to baseball.

Gil In Mechanicsville

February 28th, 2010
8:48 pm

I’ll take him (Lowe) and 4 more just like him…

Abner Doubleday

February 28th, 2010
9:03 pm

NRBQ, yeah, he had a broken wrist, but who was penciling in the name Jordan Schafer every night? The lineup SUCKED enough, but the guy was not hitting or getting on base. What was Kelly Johnson’s excuse? I’m surprised Kelly & Greg Norton aren’t still on the roster !

Earl Weaver

February 28th, 2010
9:06 pm

Gil, this Braves’ staff is good on paper, but a far cry from what I had in the early 70s . I had four (4) 20-game winners one season !

Bobby Cox

February 28th, 2010
9:08 pm

Gee, Skip. I told Frank, “We can’t give up on Kelly Johnson”. What happened? We gave up on Kelly Johnson. I really miss the kid. Greg Norton, too.

rainman

February 28th, 2010
9:31 pm

Lowe ain’t chopped liver! I kept quiet when so many were blasting Wren for not dumping Lowe and not getting enough for Vasquez. Well, considering the reality of the situation, it’s about what I expected.
Lowe — somebody above said why don’t the Braves just eat his contract like the Yankees would do – whatcha smokin’?
He is a solid starter and was our major FA aquisition last year.
At the time, he was hired to be our #1 starter – that’s why they gave him a four year, 60 mil. contract. When you are dealing with an 80 or 90 million payroll – you can’t just eat 15 mil. for another roster spot and lose a valueable member of the rotation. They tried to move him, but there were no takers. Sure, he had an off-year ERA wise, but he’s gonna get his 15 wins year in and year out.
So, given that Lowe was going to remain with the team, Vasquez was the only other realistic option.
Vasquez — when you are on a limited payroll, his 11.5 mil. salary is still a chunk. He is in the last year of his contract and it’s doubtful the Braves would have been able to resign him anyway. We all would have liked more in return for Vasquez, but the other teams knew we had to dump salary and a starting pitcher — and they knew they were only buying a one-year contract.
I hope Melkey has a solid year and I hope the young pitcher we got is as good as his prospect ranking would indicate.

NRBQ

February 28th, 2010
9:49 pm

Gil, with all due respect, if you take Lowe and four just like him, you staff will lead the league in batting average allowed. He won 15 due to run support, while Vasquez won in spite of a lack thereof.

I’ve read this blog since its inception. You can say off-handedly that I don’t follow baseball, but I’ll wager I’ve watched since you were quite young. I don’t post much because there’s a strong bias against anyone who would question Cox’s coaching acumen, and it comes from the top.

So I get that. But you needn’t dismiss my baseball knowledge or my opinions just because I question the conventional wisdom that’s considered sacred here.

Branch Rickey

February 28th, 2010
10:14 pm

Starting pitchers are like a hot stock; they are a valuable commodity. Vazquez, with decent run support, should have won 25 games in 2009; his best season by far, surpassing his career average. Frank Wren should have gotten a whole lot more than what he did. Yeah, we got two promising pitching prospects, but we don’t know if they’ll pan out. The need was for OFFENSE, and it was not addressed. Braves’ fans need to stop swallowing the Kool Aid Braves’ management is spoon feeding you ! Demand more from your team and stop talking about 14 meaningless divisional “championships” !

Branch Rickey

February 28th, 2010
10:19 pm

Rainman, a “chunk” of the team payroll is $29 million; or ONE THIRD of the 2010 team payroll. This is what the Braves are paying for two very average players – Derek Lowe and Chipper Jones, neither of which are considered premier players by knowledgeable baseball fans. Both are old and on the downside of their careers. This is the corner Frank Wren has painted himself into, with no money to acquire premier talent.

jay dubu

February 28th, 2010
10:24 pm

I haven’t seen it listed previously, so here’s a link for conversation with Derek Lowe on 680 am in Atlanta. Mentioned his issues from last season.

http://www.680thefan.com/audio/Derek%20Lowe%20TRA%20022410.mp3

Chris from the Rock

February 28th, 2010
10:57 pm

Jo-Jo is getting the shaft, once again.

The_Superhoo

February 28th, 2010
11:34 pm

Lowe is NOT our Ace. Crap pick to open with him.

Branch Rickey

February 28th, 2010
11:44 pm

With an ERA pushing 5.00, Lowe is neither the “ace” or deserving of the opening day assignment. The season hasn’t even started and Bobby Cox is making stupid decisions ! He’ll be platooning Matt Diaz (.313) with Melky before you know it !

greg norton

March 1st, 2010
12:11 am

Somethings never change.

Conyers Braves Fan

March 1st, 2010
4:33 am

Surprising that the announcement came so early. However, Bobby Cox gave some good background on his decision. Since he is accountable for what he does, its his call.

Hooter Girl

March 1st, 2010
5:55 am

I’m for starting Rick Mahler!

LivinInAL

March 1st, 2010
6:27 am

Good choice, good timing, takes away some uneeded drama.Good way to get the season started. After the first week the rotation becomes the routine.

emptyseats

March 1st, 2010
6:55 am

if they wanted the starters to have more rest, maybe they shouldn’t have traded their best starter

Brad

March 1st, 2010
7:24 am

Brian

March 1st, 2010
8:32 am

Why does it matter so much who makes the opening day start? If no one got hurt, the “first” two starters would start 33 games, and the other three 32. The significance of the “opening day starter” is basically zilch.

My goodness, the things some people find to complain about…

George

March 1st, 2010
8:38 am

This is what makes Bobby a great “players manager” . Lowe will have a good year and Bobby is a winner no matter what happens.

I must be the Crazy One

March 1st, 2010
9:27 am

KK is gonna suprise a lot of people this year. The guy was lights out last half of the season, and when he’s dialed in he can go pitch for pitch with anyone (ask Dice K, Roy Halladay).

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/052309/spo_442971767.shtml

Anyone writing him off as a weak link this year didn’t watch him pitch in the last half. He’s gonna be the best #5 in the majors. So sayeth the Crazy One.

P. W. Hjort

March 1st, 2010
9:28 am

Brian (March 1st, 2010 8:32 am EST): Why does it matter so much who makes the opening day start? If no one got hurt, the “first” two starters would start 33 games, and the other three 32. The significance of the “opening day starter” is basically zilch.

My goodness, the things some people find to complain about…

My thoughts, exactly.

bvillebaron

March 1st, 2010
9:35 am

Seems like this is a decision that doesnt’ need to be made on February 28th when the opener is April 5th.

Steven Lemon

March 1st, 2010
10:00 am

Typical nonsensical move by Bobby and by the majority of voters. Derek Lowe was the Braves’ winningest pitcher only because he was bailed out by the offense on numerous occasions and Jurgens was let down by the bullpen just as often.

I can understand a vote of confidence too, but what does this “vote” do for Jair, who was the team’s most consistent starter all season?

Thank God this is Bobby’s last season. Maybe next year I can hang up my YANKEES hat and start wearing my Braves cap more often. Lord knows I’ve waited long enough.

rico43

March 1st, 2010
10:57 am

I’d guess that this decision allows Jair to work towards his first start without wondering or pressing himself to MAYBE be the Opening Day guy. Lowe pitched one of his best games of 2009 on Opening Day last year. This decision is not worth an iota of stress or anxiety.

Hoops Dawg

March 1st, 2010
12:33 pm

If there had been blogs back then to comment on Braves’ moves, opening day speculation 1989 might have gone something like this:
“If we hadn’t traded our best pitcher to the Tigers, we’d have a great opening day guy. The Tigers won their division and we still finished last. And we got little in this trade.” Of course, that turned out to be one of the best trades in Braves history, as we ended up with a Hall of Fame performer, John Smoltz. In the Vasquez trade, we received a very versatile player (Melky) and an excellent pitching prospect(Viscaino) for a guy we wouldn’t have signed anyway. Get off Wren’s back about this trade-It makes sense given the pitchers still on board, and if it works out half as well as the Smoltz trade, its a slam dunk.

The_Superhoo

March 1st, 2010
1:34 pm

Melky SUCKS. end of story. his crappy performance to date was bolstered up to an artificially “high” level by the Yankees offense.

he’s gonna be a black hole of offense.

Nathan

March 1st, 2010
1:39 pm

You guys must be kidding. Any real Braves fan will notice as see that the order of the rotation doesn’t mean a thing. Bottom line being that every 5th day, some guy will take the ball. It’s still 1 through 5 and it’s not that hard to see. Most of you critics have probably never played a game in your life so you should just keep quiet and be the fairweather fans you are.

[...] Lowe will get the start on opening day (to appease him), the rest of the rotation to finish out the first week will be:  Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Hudson and Kenshin Kawakami.  That is a rotation with three aces, one future ace and one very manageable 5th starter.   [...]

RC in ATL

March 1st, 2010
3:13 pm

“Cox not changing his approach in 2010″ – BIG NEWS THERE! When has he ever changed his approach.

“Lowe the Opening Day starter” – first head-scratcher of the year for old Bobby! Gotta coddle our $15 million man to keep him happy, I guess. Whatever happened to the best pitcher starting Opening Day? Hello Jurrjens? Hello Hanson?

Gosh…am I the only one who thinks this year can’t be over soon enough?

jerry

March 1st, 2010
6:05 pm

We’re trying to take care of Hudson in the first part of the season, to keep him strong and ready for the stretch drive,” Cox said. “And we can give Hanson and Jurrjens more days [rest] in the second half. That’s the theory. That’s the madness behind it.

They gave Hudson a 3 year contract and now they have to nurse him through the 1st half of the season? Is that the madness Cox was talking about?

Clip file 3.1.10 — NYFSBlogs

March 2nd, 2010
10:03 am

[...] Derek Lowe will pitch Opening Day. He could have been traded this past offseason. Jair Jurrjens starts Game 2 against the Cubs. Tommy [...]

2010 MLB Opening Day Starting Pitchers

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[...] Diamondbacks Atlanta Braves – Derek Lowe Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox Chicago Cubs Chicago White Sox Cincinnati Reds Cleveland Indians [...]

Hanen

May 5th, 2012
10:26 am

Stopping by from dad blogs. My son loves the outdoors too. I just psteod yesterday about how excited he got over rocks. I think boys should be excited about going outside. I am glad mine is. Great looking blog!

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