Archive for February, 2010

Dented truck, smashed sunroof … Heyward’s hitting

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – A dented Coca-Cola truck and a smashed sunroof on a team executive’s car. The carnage from Braves prospect Jason Heyward’s first rounds of batting practice Tuesday.

“He’s strong as an ox,” hitting coach Terry Pendleton said of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound rookie right fielder.

“Every ball was just scalded,” said manager Bobby Cox, who compared the sound of the ball off Heyward’s bat to when Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle took batting practice.

The Coke truck was rolling past the right-center field fence at Champion Stadium when Heyward hit a screamer towards the gap. The ball kept rising, the seemed to hone in on its target, smashing into it with the sound like a brick against a garage door.

A few swings later, the same truck was parked in a lot behind the right-field fence. Heyward, 20, hit a ball completely over it, smashing the sunroof of assistant general manager Bruce Manno’s car.

“I have a big frame, I guess that’s where some of that comes from,” …

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Cox’s first-day speech was presumably his last (UPDATED)

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Bobby Cox stood in the middle of the clubhouse Tuesday morning and spoke to the Braves, as he’s done before the first full-squad workout every spring since the dawn of man. OK, not quite  that long.braves.0222 n

But today was a little different, because the venerable manager was doing this for what he insists will be the final time. He announced in September that he’s retiring after this season, and he hasn’t wavered. Today at the beginning of his annual speech — one of the very few speeches Cox makes to his team in the course of a season  — he told everyone it was his last, then spent a few minutes thanking all the clubhouse attendants, trainers, front-office workers and players for their help over the years.

He said he looked directly in the eyes of some of the younger players, and saw they were paying close attention. Someone who was present said he appeared to get a little nervous at the beginning, before the part where he thanked everyone.

“Yeah, he did [look …

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What’s a five-tool player?

5 – Sometimes  baseball writers assume everyone knows what a five-tool player is. But of course that’s not, so for their benefit here’s what it means when we write, as I did today, that Jason Heyward is a five-tool player (while usually failing to explain myself at that time).

If a player is considered a five-tool player, it  means that scouts judge him to excel in hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, fielding and throwing.

To interact with DOB, see his main blog entry http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-braves-blog/2010/02/22/coxs-first-day…ly-be-his-last/

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Heyward arrives in camp, jaws hit floor

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Jason Heyward reported to spring training Monday, then jaws hit the floor. Millionaire athletes reached for words to describe the masher from McDonough, whose already epic physique has become more so.

“He’s an outside linebacker,” pitcher Derek Lowe said of Heyward, who enters spring training with a good shot at winning the right-field job at age 20. “He’s huge.”

“He’s Jevon Kearse – he’s The Freak,” third baseman Chipper Jones said, comparing baseball’s top-rated prospect to the Tennessee Titans defensive end. “I’m telling you, he’s a bigger version of Freddy McGriff.”

Far bigger.

Heyward is 6 feet 5 and 245 pounds, up from 230 last season. The 20-year-old McDonough native insisted he did nothing special this winter to add weight.

“Nothing’s changed, same workouts,” he said. “I’m growing. Twenty years old, growing into that grown-man strength hopefully soon.”

If he’s not there yet, it’s frightening to think what he might be when he gets there.

Most of …

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Chipper: Some (e.g. him) must step it up

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Chipper Jones has a big, new tattoo and a big, new right-handed slugger behind him in the lineup.

At 37, the third baseman still has adrenaline pumping on reporting day, even if he was later than usual Monday on account of seeing his buddy Jason Aldean play a country-music concert in Augusta over the weekend.

“The excitement is still the same,” Jones said on the eve of his 18th major league spring training. “The dawn of a new season is exciting for everybody, it doesn’t matter how old you are. You’re anxious to get in camp and see the guys you’re going to live with for the next eight months.

“It’s like the first day of school. Everybody knows what it’s like the first day of school. This is a lot like that. You’re a lot more serious about things from a personal standpoint, but the excitement is there nonetheless.”

If the pieces come together as boldly for the Braves as that new ink-etched deer head on his upper right arm, they’ll be in business. …

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Hammerin’ Hank visits Braves camp

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – The biggest Brave stopped by spring training Monday, and Hank Aaron made it a point to walk through the clubhouse for what he said was the first time in 20 years.

“I’ve been in the clubhouse, but not during spring training,” he clarified, adding that the sights and smells brought back memories. “I remember going through the clubhouse and my hands were bleeding and tired and everything was sore. But I kept right on going.”

Aaron, 76, fielded questions on a wide range of topics including top prospect Jason Heyward, who could open the season for the Braves in right field, Aaron’s old position.

Heyward, too, is a black Southerner — from McDonough, an Atlanta suburb. Aaron has voiced concern in the past about declining numbers of blacks in the majors, and the Braves haven’t had more than one or two blacks on their roster in recent years.

He was asked if he was encouraged that Heyward could be the new face of the Braves.

“It’s encouraging, but I’d like to …

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Braves sign Dominican shortstop prospect

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — The Braves signed highly regarded Dominican shortstop prospect Edward Salcedo to a free-agent contract that includes a $1.6 million signing bonus.

The Braves viewed him as the equivalent of a high first-round draft choice, and think Salcedo could become either their shortstop or third baseman in a few years.

“This is a significant signing for us,” said Johnny Almaraz, Braves director of international scouting. “We feel that Edward is one of this year’s most talented prospects.

“He has outstanding makeup, and the combination of his fielding and hitting ability make him one of the of the top international players we’ve seen in a while.”

Salcedo is rated as a strong defensive player and a better hitter, with a line-drive swing and good power potential. He’s more advanced than most 18-year-old draft picks, and will likely play shortstop at Class-A Rome.

Several other teams had pursued him in recent months including the Arizona Diamondbacks, who reportedly …

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K.K.’s run support was among the worst

3.22 – Kenshin Kawakami’s run support per nine innings pitched in 2009, which would have tied for the lowest run support in the National League if he’d had enough innings to qualify. He pitched 156-1/3 innings, just below the 162-inning minimum.

The Braves scored one or no runs while he was in 11 of his 25 starts, and two runs while he was in four others.

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McLouth’s 24 a tribute to Bauer power

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – When Derek Lowe called the Braves offices recently to see about switching to No. 24, he was told it was too late. Nate McLouth had already taken it.

And would you care to guess why McLouth decided to go to No. 24 after agreeing to give up No. 13 to new closer Billy Wagner?

Hint: Jack Bauer.

“I took it because 24 is my favorite show,” McLouth said. “And Lost isn’t a number.”

He added that he hoped to “parlay it into an appearance on 24.”

Wagner wanted to keep No. 13, which he’s worn since his grandfather, a former mine worker, gave the left-hander his miner’s ID tag with that number on it.

Jordan Schafer, who wore No. 24 last season, switched to 2 after McLouth took 24.

Lowe laughed and said it’s the latest in a series of No. 24 denials he’s faced since wearing the number when he was young.

He couldn’t wear No. 24 as a Seattle rookie in 1997 because it belonged to Ken Griffey Jr. Couldn’t wear it with Boston because it belonged to Mike Stanley, then …

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Hudson impresses in back-to-back sessions

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – If the Braves weren’t sure that Tim Hudson was healed completely from August 2008 elbow surgery, they wouldn’t have signed the veteran to three-year, $28 million extension in November.

But if they wanted more evidence for comfort’s sake, they got some as team officials watched Hudson throw batting practice Saturday and again Sunday during the first two days of pitchers-and-catchers workouts at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

“Excellent,” manager Bobby Cox said. “Back-to-back days. He’s right there. Splitter, breaking ball, cutter, four-seamer, sinkers, everything. Right on the money.”

Hudson went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA in seven late-season starts after returning from the disabled list following a 12-month recovery from ligament-transplant surgery. He is 56-39 with a 3.76 ERA in 128 games since being traded to the Braves in December 2004, after going 92-39 with a 3.30 ERA in 183 starts for Oakland.

After watching the 34-year-old work intently on Sunday, Cox …

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