Archive for December, 2010

K-Med and medicine balls: checking in on the righty’s rehab, and more

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

It’s a blustery, cold Monday in Atlanta, and do you know where your favorite jack-of-all pitching trades is, four months into his rehab from “Tommy John” surgery? In shorts and gray T-shirt, Kris Medlen was a blur of activity in the upstairs romper room of the Gwinnett Sports Rehab center. 

Just got back from visiting with the young right-hander who is less than a week away now from picking up a baseball for the first time since his Aug. 18 surgery. He was cleared to start doing some light throwing last week by Dr. James Andrews, but the renowned surgeon wanted him to take two weeks working with a medicine ball indoors first before he starts “rainbow” tossing with a baseball next week.

Medlen and trainer Lloyd Van Pamelen Monday morning

Medlen and physical therapist Lloyd Van Pamelen Monday morning

What that looks like is Medlen standing about 15-20 feet in front of a mini-trampoline, propped up at an angle. He starts by throwing a 10-12 pound …

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Sherrill passes physical; Braves’ bullpen restocked

George Sherrill passed a physical and became the newest member of the Braves’ bullpen Friday, two days after the veteran left-hander agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.2 million contract.

The former Baltimore closer had a career-worst season in 2010 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, posting a 6.69 ERA in 65 appearances. Sherrill, 33, still held left-handed hitters to a .192 average,  but right-handers teed off at an alarming .427 clip.

The Braves believe his woes stemmed from mechanical flaws that cropped up early last season. He smoothed his delivery some and showed some progress in the final two months, and the Braves think that working with pitching coach Roger McDowell will help further.

Sherrill gives the Braves a third lefty in the bullpen, with setup man/closer candidate Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty. Sherrill seems more suited to situational-lefty duties at this stage of his career, rather than pitching complete innings like Venters routinely does.

The Braves traded for …

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Braves have moved aggressively in offseason

ORLANDO – The Braves moved quickly this offseason to address glaring needs, and general manager Frank Wren was pleased with the results as baseball’s winter meetings concluded Thursday.

“The sooner you can make the moves you need to make, the better it is for everyone,” he said. “That’s because the sooner you can narrow your focus to smaller pieces or whatever, the better it is for your team.”

Here’s how the Braves put the plan in motion.

– First, they addressed a power deficiency by trading for second baseman Dan Uggla on Nov. 16, baseball’s first significant trade of the winter. The Braves hope to sign him to a long-term contract extension relatively soon.

To get Uggla, they traded All-Star utility man Omar Infante and young left-hander Mike Dunn, denting the bench and bullpen.

Uggla averaged nearly 31 homers and 93 RBIs in five seasons for Florida, and the Braves said All-Star second baseman Martin Prado would move to left field. Prado will switch to third base …

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Braves lose Diamond in Rule 5; why’s Wagner still on roster?

ORLANDO — After the Braves lost left-hander Scott Diamond to the Twins in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday, they selected lefty Rowdy Hardy (Royals) right-hander Eliecer Cardenas (Twins) in the minor league phase of the draft.

Cardenas, 22, was 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA in 38 games (23 starts) at Class-A in 2010. Hardy, 28, went 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 36 relief appearances in Double-A, with 57 strikeouts and 18 walks in 81 innings.

Players selected in the major league phase must be kept on the selecting team’s 25-man roster for the entire upcoming season, or be offered back to the team they came from for half of the $50,000 claiming price.

“We knew all along he was probably the most at-risk guy left off our major league roster,” Wren said of Diamond, 24, who was 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 27 starts last season in Double-A and Triple-A. “But we just didn’t think we could put together our roster this winter with all the spots filled.”

Wren thought there …

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Fredi G. on McLouth, Andruw, and replacing an icon

ORLANDO – It had been more than two decades since anyone except Bobby Cox addressed the media as Braves manager during baseball’s winter meetings. Fredi Gonzalez seemed entirely comfortable in the role Wednesday.

The first-year Braves manager wore a sharp gray business suit and mixed in a few one-liners and anecdotes with  during a 25-minute interview with reporters. All 30 major league managers did the drill over the past three days.

If replacing the iconic Cox carries a lot of pressure, Gonzalez isn’t showing it.

“The ultimate pressure is winning games,” said Gonzalez, a Braves third-base coach under Cox before serving 3-1/2 seasons as manager of the Florida Marlins. “You want to win games. But as far as pressure of replacing him, I’ve never felt that.

“I think that it’s almost like a family member, your dad or uncle, saying, ‘We’ve had this car in the garage in our family for 30 years, here’s the keys. It’s in great shape, just drive it, keep it …

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Braves to add Sherrill as third lefty reliever

ORLANDO — Left-hander George Sherrill had a bloated 6.69 ERA in a career-worst season for the Dodgers in 2010, but there was a reason the Braves and others including Philadelphia wanted the free-agent reliever.

It’s because the former Baltimore closer remained effective against left-handed hitters. Despite his .311 overall opponents’ average in 2010, Sherrill limited lefties to a .192 average. During the previous three years, they hit a puny .156 against him.

The Braves and Sherrill agreed to terms Wednesday on a $1.2 million contract, pending a physical exam. It was previously thought that the stocky veteran was leaning toward signing with the Phillies. The Orioles were among his other suitors.

“He’s a very effective guy against lefties,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said of Sherrill, who will be 34 in April. “His numbers early in the season obviously weren’t as good [as they have been in the past]; he had 52 saves in ‘08 and ‘09.

“He performed at a much higher rate in …

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Medlen cleared to begin light throwing

Braves pitcher Kris Medlen has been cleared to begin throwing after a visit to Dr. James Andrews on Monday in Birmingham. Medlen is four months into his rehabilitation from elbow reconstruction surgery. For the next two weeks he’ll begin doing light throwing and lobbing at 30 feet.

Medlen said he is on track to begin throwing off a mound in spring training. Recovery from “Tommy John” surgery typically requires about 12 months, which would put him back, at best, in late August or September.

Medlen went 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 31 games last year, including 14 starts, before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He had surgery on Aug. 18.

“I talk to (Braves reliever Peter) Moylan all the time and he says when you start throwing, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Medlen said. “The last 3 ½, four months – it’s flown by. I’m excited about how fast it’s going.”

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Braves set to ramp up negotiations with Uggla

ORLANDO – While Braves officials  talk to teams and reps for free agents at baseball’s winter meetings about deals to strengthen the bench and bullpen, negotiations on a potential Big Deal have been on hold.

That changes soon, when general manager Frank Wren and Dan Uggla’s agent ramp up negotiations on a possible contract extension to retain the power-hitting second baseman well beyond the 2011 season.

The Braves got Uggla in a Nov. 16 trade for infielder Omar Infante and reliever Mike Dunn.

“We had a nice discussion when he was in for the [introductory] press conference,” Wren said. “We’re going to get to further discussions probably in the near future. I’ve talked to his representative [recently] but nothing substantative, negotiation-wise.”

A two-time All-Star and 2010 Silver Slugger winner, Uggla has averaged nearly 31 home runs and 93 RBIs in five seasons. He could command at least $10 million in arbitration for 2011 and become a free agent after the …

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No deals for Braves, but they’ve got possibilities cooking

ORLANDO – Left-handed reliever, right-handed outfielder, utility infielder and a new team for Kenshin Kawakami. Not necessarily in that order.

Those were remaining items on the Braves’ to-do list. Considering the way things were popping Monday on a busy opening day of baseball’s four-day winter meetings, the team might be able to check an item or two off this week.

On a day when retired Braves manager Bobby Cox — here in his team advisory role — and new manager Fredi Gonzalez both spent some time relaxing and schmoozing in the crowded meetings-hotel lobby, Braves general manager Frank Wren and his band of assistants, scouts, past and present managers and assorted other team officials also spent a lot of time feeling out other teams in the pursuit of potential trade partners.

Trading Kawakami is a priority, and the Braves have had discussions with a few interested major league teams including Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. The Braves might have to cover about $5 million of his …

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Remember Jordan Schafer? CF is prepping for big return

ORLANDO — While Braves officials sip coffee at opening sessions of the Winter Meetings Monday morning at Disneyworld, a few miles away a Braves center fielder will already be well into a rigorous 6-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week workout regimen that he’s confident will help restart his stalled career.

Schafer hit a home run in his major league debut against the Phillies on Opening Day 2009.

Schafer hit a home run in his major league debut against the Phillies on Opening Day 2009.

If you don’t think 24-year-old Jordan Schafer can do it, if you’re among those who’ve written off the kid who pretty much owned 2009 Braves spring training and homered that opening day at Philadelphia in his big-league debut, he understands.

Really, he does.

At some frustrating points in the past year, Schafer himself wondered whether he’d regain the strength in his left wrist and hand, after bone-fusion surgery in September 2009 and dispiriting setbacks in the recovery.

“I had doubt in my mind going through the injury and everything that followed,” said Schafer, who has struggled mightily …

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