(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien.)
Hello strangers! Been a while, a long while. Time to dust off the keyboard (and the last of the sheetrock dust from my hair) and see if I remember how to blog.
DOB is getting some well-needed time off this week, which I had some of myself last week. Let’s hope he makes better decisions on what to do with his off time than one I made last week, “hey, let’s paint the living and dining room. Won’t that be fun?”
Let’s just say that between trim painting and blogging, you guys are looking awfully good right now. So let’s get started.
With the Braves having already made their biggest move of the offseason without me – welcome Mr. Dan Uggla – where do we go? This week we just have the Tuesday deadline to offer arbitration to top notch free agents, which the Braves probably won’t offer to Derrek Lee, their only candidate (more on that later).
While we wait to see if Eric Hinske accepts the Braves contract offer for one year, and somewhere around $1-1.5 million, let’s go to our old standby, whose locker we’ve been visiting with some regularity for the better part of oh, 15 years….U Kno Who. Chipper Jones.
Jones on the knee: First order of business with Jones is the rehab on his surgically repaired left knee. Chipper says it’s going well. He’s actually played golf on it a few times and it’s felt solid. He’s done some running and the strength feels “pretty good.”
He’s been cleared to start swinging a bat, having passed the three-month mark since surgery, but it’s something he said he’ll wait a few more weeks to do. That’s not because he’s hearing any alarm bells, as much as taking a more veteran approach perhaps. He called it the “Bobby Cox approach,” having learned that when you think you’re ready, take another day.
“I’m ready to hit right now, but I’m going to give it another week or two of weights and rest and hopefully getting that much more strong before I step in and start doing it every day because once I start doing it every day, it’s going to take it’s toll at the beginning,” Jones said. “I just want to be as in shape as possible when I start.”
He normally starts hitting at the first of the year. This time he plans to start a little before Christmas.
Jones did confess to having a bit of a scare on a recent hunting trip in Kansas with former Brave Adam LaRoche when he stepped in a hole with is left foot, of course.
“It sent chills up my spine when I did it,” Jones said. “But nothing bad happened.”
He’s been able to “climb trees and walk miles upon miles of rough terrain” on these hunting trips, if you’re looking for a good sign.
Jones on the Uggla trade: Big thumbs up on the deal that brings Uggla from the Marlins for Omar Infante and reliever Mike Dunn.
“That’s one of the best deals you’re ever going to see a general manager pull off,” Jones said. “We need right-handed sock. We’ve been looking for it out of the outfield spot and it was right there under our nose at the second base spot.”
Course it wouldn’t have worked without the versatility and unselfishness of Martin Prado, Jones pointed out. And from one guy who’s made a move to left field for the good of the team to another, Jones thinks Prado will be fine with the move.
“Listen, Martin loves the game of baseball,” Jones said. “As long as he has an every day job, he doesn’t care where he plays. I would imagine at some point in his career that will change because we all want to settle in and play one spot. But Martin loves this game, loves this organization and will play anywhere to help us.”
Jones also said he completely understands the need to have Prado in place to play third if Chipper can’t go, or to give him days off in his comeback. He knows there are going to be questions, and ones nobody can answer until spring training.
“When spring training comes around, mentally I’m going to be ready,” Jones said. “Just hoping that physically, the knee follows suit. But we’re not going to know until we get down there…and start doing baseball activities on a day-in and day-out basis.”
As for Uggla, Jones has known him for years, and said the two have kidded about “how good he’d look in the red, white and blue of a Braves uniform.” Now that it’s a reality, Jones said he is going to make it part of his mission this season to encourage Uggla to sign with the Braves long-term and be a “cornerstone for years to come.”
He makes a pretty good sales pitch. Here’s a preview of what Uggla is apparently going to hear quite a bit of from Chipper this season;
“Bottom line is he’s got an opportunity here to play in a competitive market on a competitive team year in and year out with a salary structure almost double what he’s used to playing on,” Jones said. “Plus (it’s near) his hometown (of Nashville). What better situation could you find yourself in?”
Jones on Gonzalez: He said Fredi Gonzalez was his one and only pick, if he’d had one, to become only the second big league manager he has ever played for. (Looky there, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Let’s see an editor come in my blog and fix it.)
“He’s got a lot of Bobby’s qualities,” Jones said. “And he’s got a lot of other really, really good qualities. He’s a really good people person. He’s good at reading people. He’s good at delegating responsibility. I think everybody in our clubhouse knows and loves him and respects him.”
Jones was curious though, after playing his entire career for Bobby Cox, if spring training was going to become more boot camp-ish. And he called Fredi to ask about it. He wanted to know how much of a culture shock he and the team might be facing. And as a team leader, he wanted to know if he or his teammates needed to prepare differently for spring training.
“I think guys were scared to death that we were going to have to show up in spring training and have to run a six-minute mile or a 30-second shuttle run, things like that,” Jones said. “We’re used to playing ourselves into shape throughout the course of a six-week spring training. The new-age managers like for guys to come into camp ready to play nine innings and 162 games first day of spring training, and that’s just not the way it’s been done here.”
Jones said Gonzalez assured him he wouldn’t be turning things upside down, that he would bring his own flavor here and there but not make wholesale changes.
Jones on CMT?: Yes, believe it, it’s to happen.
Jones’ new hunting buddy Jason Aldean has asked Jones to present him at CMT’s Artist of the Year Awards. Aldean was selected to be honored on a show to air Dec. 3 along with Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Zac Brown Band. The taping is in Nashville on Nov. 30.
“I’m trying to figure out whether I should take (wife) Sharon or not, if Carrie Underwood is going to be there,” Jones said laughing.
Aldean has become a good friend of his by way of his friendship with LaRoche. Jones said Aldean, who’s from Macon, told him he bat-boyed some when Jones was with the Macon Braves in 1991.
Jones attended the Aldean and Luke Bryan concert Saturday night at the Gwinnett Arena, along with current and former Braves Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, David Ross, Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur and Kelly Johnson. He said Bobby Cox and his wife Pam sat in the front row, right next to Fredi Gonzalez.
“Right in the middle of the concert they did a tribute to Bobby, made him stand up, wave to everybody,” Jones said. “Dude, it was awesome.”
OK onto other things, like a Youth movement
Matt Young continues to make his case for a backup outfielder’s job, by tearing it up in winter ball.
He’s hitting .379 (47-for-124) in 34 games for Mayos de Navojoa in the Mexican League, with five doubles, one triple, four homers and 18 RBIs. He went 3-for-4 Sunday with a double, a homer and three RBIs.
He hit an even .300 last year for Gwinnett, and could be the answer as a backup center fielder behind Nate McLouth. He’s only 5-foot-8 (in his spikes?) but the Braves like him.
Tuesday deadline for offering arbitration
Tuesday is the deadline teams have to offer arbitration to their Type A or B free agents in order to get draft pick compensation if those free agents sign with other teams. The only Braves player that would fit that bill is Lee (Billy Wagner is retiring and Takashi Saito had a stipulation in his contract that he be released.)
The Braves are not expected to offer arbitration to Lee, because it would be a big gamble to make for a guy who is coming off thumb surgery and would command at least $10 million in arbitration, while they have Freddie Freeman ready to step in at first base. He wouldn’t be as easy as say, Rafael Soriano, to trade on the fly if he accepts arbitration.
OK, whoa that was plenty long. Don’t want to have you guys sick of me already in my first day back in a while. Comment away.