Archive for December, 2010

Kimbrel poised and ready for closer’s challenge

Craig Kimbrel is only 22. He’s about to get a shot at taking over the Braves closer job this spring, with the retirement of Billy Wagner. He has a lot on his mind.

But at home in Huntsville, Ala. on Tuesday afternoon, as he drove from doing some deer hunting to throwing for the first time this winter, Kimbrel sounded like the kind of person who could handle it.

When asked at what point last year he realized he could do the major league job, here’s what he said:

“There was never really a point last year where I didn’t think I could do it,” Kimbrel said. “I can’t go on the mound and think ‘I can’t do it,’ because then I’ll be in a losing situation.”

He wasn’t in too many of those. Kimbrel and his 96, 97 mph fastball allowed only one earned run in 20 2/3 innings over four major league stints last season, going 4-0 with an 0.44 ERA. This was on top of going 3-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 23 saves for Triple-A Gwinnett.

When Wagner went down with an oblique …

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To celebrate the New Year, we project Braves’ 2011 lineup

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien)

Well it’s been a pretty quiet week after Christmas so far, as you might expect with much of the world, including the baseball one, still enjoying time away from the daily grind.

If you’re like me, you’re still eating Christmas leftovers and too many sweets, enjoying the last few days before resolution time when we’ve got to start whipping back into shape.

This is about when players start ramping up their workouts, both throwing and hitting. January is when a lot of them start rolling down to Turner Field a few days a week, to hit with the coaches and then late in the month and into early February, pitchers will start throwing with Roger McDowell in the pre-spring training pitcher’s camp, or whatever we’re calling it these days.

(Just got off the phone with rookie reliever Craig Kimbrel who was on his way to throw today for the first time this winter. I’m posting a separate blog on that so check it …

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Video: How do Braves w/ Uggla stack up vs. Phillies?

AJC Braves writer David O’Brien talks with CineSport’s Noah Coslov about the Braves’ offseason moves and how Atlanta could fare against the pitching-loaded Phillies.

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Wren Q&A: Payroll’s ample to win; speed re-emphasized

Since becoming Braves general manager just over three years ago, Frank Wren has worked at a busy, sometimes frenetic pace, making trades, signing free agents and overseeing changes – some of them major – both on the field and in the front office.

The Braves ended a four-year postseason drought in 2010, but the injury-depleted team fell short of its goal to get venerable manager Bobby Cox back to the World Series in his final season before retirement. The Braves lost in the first round to San Francisco, and two days later Wren introduced Fredi Gonzalez as manager.

Wren gave Chipper Jones a three-year, $42 million extension, now counting on him to bounce back from knee surgery.

Wren gave Chipper Jones a three-year, $42 million extension, now counting on him to bounce back from knee surgery.

Wren also moved quickly this offseason to trade for slugging second baseman Dan Uggla, and the sides have been negotiating a long-term extension that would keep Uggla in Atlanta long after his free-agent eligibility next winter.

Wren, 52, took a break last week from his family’s scuba vacation in …

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Braves’ Wren on payroll, ownership; DOB’s Top 50 CDs

Denizens and everyone else, here’s to a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, rockin’ New Year and all that.

Now, a new blog and Top 50  CDs of 2010 list for you to peruse, use or abuse as you see fit.

In spring training or during the season, there’s usually too much rather than not enough for us to write and blog about. But coming up with a fresh topic during the holidays can be difficult, particularly when you cover a team that moved quickly to complete its major offseason moves by early December.

But we got what we needed for this holiday blog via a conversation with GM Frank Wren, as he literally sat on a beach in Cozumel this week, following a couple of morning scuba-diving sessions with his vacationing family. He said the reef off that Mexican resort is one of the best anywhere for diving, and also added that it was 80 degrees and he had a bit of a sunburn.

Braves GM Frank Wren introduced new manager Fredi Gonzalez in October, the first in series of Braves offseason moves that came in rapid succession.

Braves GM Frank Wren introduced new manager Fredi Gonzalez in October, the first in series of Braves offseason moves …

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Uggla reportedly close to extension with Braves

The Braves are reportedly closing in on signing second baseman Dan Uggla to a five-year extension worth about $60 million, according to the Boston Globe.

When reached on Thursday afternoon, neither Uggla nor his agent Terry Bross would comment on the report, other than to speak in general terms.

“I’d like to think so,” said Uggla, when asked if the two sides were close.

Uggla traveled to Atlanta Thursday to hit with Braves new hitting coach Larry Parrish but returned to his hometown of Nashville later in the day. He did not undergo a physical, which would indicate a deal was imminent.

A person familiar with the negotiations said the two sides had talked the past two days and that the guaranteed fifth year seemed to be the last hurdle.

Uggla reportedly turned down a four-year $48 million dollar deal with the Marlins because he was seeking five years. That prompted the Marlins to trade him to Atlanta, in his final year before free agency.

The Braves, who traded utility man …

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Don Sutton on Lee, Phillies rotation, some of all-time greats

Braves broadcaster and Hall of Famer pitcher Don Sutton knows a thing or two about great rotations. He pitched alongside Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and he broadcast games pitched by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Here’s what he had to say about what the signing of Cliff Lee does for the Phillies rotation:

“If they stay healthy, they could be one of the best in the history of the game,” Sutton said. “What I like is they are four guys who have small egos. They’re going to blend well together. If they stay well, we’re going to be talking about them years from now.”

Sutton said one of things he loves about baseball is being able to talk about history and comparing the great staffs and players from one year to the next.

With Lee joining Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, it’s kicked up conversations about whether they will rank with the best rotations in history. Are they better than the Braves of the 1990s, like the staff of Maddux, Glavine, John Smoltz …

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Teheran tops Baseball America’s Braves Top 10 prospects

Right-hander Julio Teheran topped Baseball America’s list of Top 10 Braves prospects released on Wednesday. Teheran won the Braves’ organizational pitcher of the year last season and figures to be one of the top prospects in all of baseball entering the 2011 season. With another good season he could get his first taste of the major leagues this season.

Included in the list are the other two young top pitchers coming up in the organization in Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino, and two pitchers who figure to battle for the fifth starters’ spot this year in Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy. First baseman Freddie Freeman and last year’s supplemental first round draft pick shortstop Matt Lipka are the only position players who made the list.

Here’s the complete list of the Braves Top prospects:

1. RHP Julio Teheran

2. 1B Freddie Freeman

3. RHP Randall Delgado

4. LHP Mike Minor

5. RHP Craig Kimbrel

6. SS Matt Lipka

7. RHP Arodys Vizcaino

8. RHP Brandon Beachy

9. LHP Brett …

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In wake of Lee signing, don’t expect Braves to change course – updated

For those wondering what the Braves reaction to Cliff Lee’s signing with the Phillies, it won’t be knee-jerk.

While the Phillies just added the gem of the free agent class to an already vaunted rotation, Braves general manager Frank Wren said Tuesday it won’t have any direct bearing on their next move.

“It really has no impact on the construction of our roster,” Wren said in an e-mail. “We will continue to work to get better, but we are in most regards ready for spring training. We feel our club matches up well with other clubs in our division.”

The Braves took care of their biggest need last month by trading for Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, the power bat they’d been seeking for the middle of the order. Since then they’ve added some key pieces to their bullpen in veteran Scott Linebrink and left-hander George Sherrill and they resigned Eric Hinske for their bench.

Those moves have catcher Brian McCann excited about the season regardless of what the …

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Reliever O’Flaherty is fully recovered from mono symptoms

Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty has fully recovered from lingering effects of mononucleosis and started his offseason throwing program on Monday.

O’Flaherty missed much of the 2010 season with the virus, which kept him out for six weeks starting in July, and then again late in the season when he suffered from vision problems and lightheadedness. He pitched in only 15 games after the All-Star break.

Doctors believed his symptoms were after-effects of mononucleosis, and he was told the same thing by a doctor in his hometown of Seattle.

“He just said my body needed rest,” said O’Flaherty, who spends his offseasons in Bellevue, WA. “When I got home after the season, I rested for two weeks. I barely even left the house. I started to feel better in a week or two and now I feel great.”

He’ll play catch three to four times a week, building up to be ready for pitching coach Roger McDowell’s voluntary camp at Turner Field in late January.

O’Flaherty will return to …

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