Archive for March, 2010

Next for Braves: Astros

Who: vs. Astros

When: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

TV; Radio: CSS; 1230, 1340.

Comment: Derek Lowe (2-0, 4.00 ERA) gets a final tuneup before his opening-day start against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. Lowe will cut back his innings for this start against Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

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Escobar back in lineup, Kimbrel headed to Gwinnett

Dark Star, Fla. – The Braves’ first equipment truck is already headed back to Atlanta, the unlicensed Jason Heyward No. 22 shirts are already being sold near Turner Field, and it’s T-Minus 55 hours, 10 minutes until my flight home.

Not that anyone’s counting.

We’re starting to wrap it up here at Dark Star, and the only people more excited than you are that spring training is ending and the season’s about to begin is everyone here – players, coaches, manager, and ink-stained wretches who’ve been here chronicling their exploits since Feb. 19.

Escobar's in lineup after missing three games with sore back

Escobar's in lineup after missing three games with sore back

Anyway, first things first. The news today: Heyward’s out of the lineup for a third consecutive game due to shin splints; Yunel Escobar is in the lineup after missing three games with a sore back; and future closer Craig Kimbrel is going to begin the season as Triple-A Gwinnett’s closer, as we’d anticipated.

More on Kimbrel in a moment.

Heyward followers, never fear. Non-licensed …

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Chavez likely to get one of last two ‘pen spots

Clearwater, Fla. – With five games left before it all starts to count, five Braves pitchers are still competing for two available bullpen spots.

But one spots seems earmarked for right-hander Jesse Chavez, who had a 1-2-3 inning Monday and drew praise again from manager Bobby Cox.

Even when Chavez surrendered eight runs and 11 hits in his previous two appearances, Cox lauded his performance and said statistics were no indication of how he’d pitched in those games – that he’d been victimized by bad luck and a lot of groundball hits.

So after Chavez pitched a perfect inning Monday, both pitcher and manager seemed relieved not to have to defend his performance or explain away hits and runs.

“Good for the ball to bounce my way today, finally,” Chavez said. “What was it, 11 straight singles? I mean, more than half didn’t even get out of the infield.

“I just took the same approach I did the last four or five times out – keep the ball down, just let it play out. Got some ground balls …

Continue reading Chavez likely to get one of last two ‘pen spots »

Conrad, Hinske homer in win over Phillies

Clearwater, Fla. — Brooks Conrad hit a tying two-run homer in the seventh inning and Eric Hinske hit a winning solo shot off Ryan Madsen in the ninth as the Braves beat the Phillies in front of a sellout crowd of 9,068 at Bright House Field.

Conrad has been in a close race all spring with fellow utility infielder Joe Thurston for the last open spot on the Braves bench. Manager Bobby Cox reiterated Monday that no decision had been made….

Tim Hudson allowed four hits, two runs and two walks with eight strikeouts in six innings pitching for Class AA Missisippi against Gwinnett in an intraorganization game. Hudson and Braves officials decided to have him pitch in the minor league game instead of facing the division-rival Phillies twice in one week so late in spring training….

The Braves will install Greg Maddux’s retired No. 31 in Turner Field’s Monument Grove Tuesday in a 2 p.m. ceremony open to the public. Other retired numbers in the Grove belong to Hank Aaron (44), Eddie …

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Reyes making decision difficult for Braves

Clearwater, Fla. – He has pitched so well as a reliever this spring, the Braves are considering Jo-Jo Reyes for one of two bullpen vacancies instead of the starting rotation at Class AAA Gwinnett.

Problem is, if Reyes is in the ‘pen instead of getting “stretched out” as a starter at Gwinnett, there isn’t another minor-league starter the Braves consider ready to fill in if one of the major-league starters goes down.

“We haven’t made up our minds on anything,” manager Bobby Cox said after the left-hander pitched two perfect innings in the Braves’ 5-4 win against Philadelphia on Monday at Bright House Field.

“It’s a predicament because Jo-Jo’s a starter backup guy if we sent him out [to the minors]. If we keep him, he could help us here, too. But then who’s the starter if somebody gets hurt?”

The Braves have Kris Medlen as a jack-of-all-trades reliever/spot starter, but he’s arguably too valuable in that role to move him to the rotation if a starter goes down for more than one …

Continue reading Reyes making decision difficult for Braves »

Kawakami to face C.C. and Yankees

Next for Braves

Who: vs. Yankees

When: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

TV; Radio: CSS; 680

Comment: In his final Grapefruit League start, Kenshin Kawakami (0-1, 3.20 ERA) faces Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia. Kawakami pitched six scoreless  innings of four-hit ball Thursday against Pittsburgh.

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The sore shin heard ’round the (baseball) world

Clearwater, Fla. – The Braves made it to the last week of spring training without a significant injury, but now they have one. Well, sort of. Let me explain.

Understand, a mild case of shin splints isn’t typically considered a significant injury.

But nothing about Jason Heyward and the J-Hey spring has been typical, so shin splints – or a cold, for that matter – become significant. At least to a large number of our readers, who understandably want to know everything about the rookie phenom including, of course, when he’s going to be back in the lineup.

Can’t answer that for you today, but I can assure you that the Braves don’t consider this a troublesome situation, and don’t seem at all concerned about him being ready for opening day Monday against the Chicago Cubs.attachment

One person with the team told me if it was the regular season today, he’d be in the lineup. And GM Frank Wren himself said yesterday – after Heyward was scratched from the lineup over in Viera — that it’s just …

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Rehabbing Proctor roughed up in one-inning “start”

Viera, Fla. – He’s a month ahead of schedule in his return from elbow surgery, but Scott Proctor refuses to use it as an excuse for anything.

The veteran reliever gave up three runs, two hits and a walk before recording the first out of the Braves’ 9-3 loss against the Washington Nationals Sunday at Space Coast Stadium.

“It’s kind of weird now, sometimes your rhythm gets off,” said Proctor, who allowed a single, a walk and Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run homer in the first inning, then retired the next three batters including one strikeout.

“Today was one of those days where you battle,” he said. “But you’re going to have those during the season. Surgery is no excuse at this point.”

Proctor pitched the first inning after the Braves, thinking the game might get rained out, moved starter Tommy Hanson to a morning minor league game.

As it happened, the full nine innings were completed an hour before thunderstorms and heavy rain arrived.

After Proctor and bullpen candidate Jesse Chavez

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Braves officials quash Ross trade rumor

Viera, Fla. – Braves officials scoffed at a report claiming they told teams that veteran catcher David Ross was available.

“I can tell you, we wouldn’t even think about trading him,” manager Bobby Cox said. “That’s completely made up. It doesn’t make any sense.”

ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote in his Saturday blog that “other clubs report the Braves have told teams he’s available — possibly in a catcher-for-catcher swap for a younger backup-catcher type.”

Considered one of the top backup catchers in baseball, Ross hit .273 with seven homers and a solid .888 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in 128 at-bats last season, filling in ably for All-Star catcher Brian McCann.

Ross is in the second year of a two-year, $3 million contract, and teammates say he’s an integral part of their team chemistry as one the most respected and popular players in the clubhouse.

“That [ESPN rumor] made no sense whatsoever,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “That’s one of the things we like …

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Next for Braves: at Phillies

Next for Braves

Who: vs. Phillies

When: 1:05 p.m.

Where: Clearwater, Fla.

Radio: 680

Comment: Kris Medlen fills in for Braves starter Tim Hudson, who will pitch in a minor league game to avoid facing the Phillies a second time in a week. The Phillies plan to start lefty J.A. Happ, who gave up two homers to Brian McCann on Wednesday.

Continue reading Next for Braves: at Phillies »