Archive for January, 2011

Veteran Lopez provides more rotation depth (updated)

The Braves already had more starting pitchers than could fit into a rotation, and they added more depth Monday by signing veteran right-hander Rodrigo Lopez to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Lopez, 35, was 7-16 with a 5.00 ERA for Arizona last season in his first full season since ligament-transplant elbow surgery.

General manager Frank Wren said rookies Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy remain the primary candidates for the fifth spot in a starting rotation that features returners Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens.

The Braves also owe veteran Kenshin Kawakami $6.7 million in 2011, but are trying to trade him before the season.

“He pitched pretty well last year at times,” Wren said of Lopez. “He’s a veteran guy. We’ll give him a chance to compete for a spot in the spring and see how it plays out.”

Lopez led the Diamondbacks with 200 innings pitched, issued only 57 walks, and had 15 quality starts in 33 games, tied with Ian …

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High expectations await Venters in pre-spring camp

This time last year, Jonny Venters came to the pre-spring pitching camp at Turner Field a virtual unknown. Nobody outside maybe the coaches’ offices knew of his 95 mph sinker, and even that didn’t do much for his nerves.

“I’d never been to the stadium,” Venters said. “I was so nervous. (Pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) was watching me throw my bullpen, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I think I threw five strikes the whole time. ‘They’re going to send me home.’”

This time around, he still has the giddiness. “It’s still cool for me to walk through here,” he said. But throw in some serious expectation on top.

With the retirement of Billy Wagner, Venters and rookie Craig Kimbrel are candidates for the closer’s job.

“I didn’t think too much about what role I’d be in,” said Venters, who tied for sixth among all NL relievers with a 1.95 ERA in 79 games as a rookie last season. “I just want to go out and attack hitters and wherever that takes me …

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Sherrill looking for big improvement in 2011

Pitching coach Roger McDowell’s camp these next two weeks gives newcomers like reliever George Sherrill a chance to get to know his new teammates and coaches and get comfortable in his new surroundings.

He has more than that on his mind. Sherrill is looking to rebound from an off 2010, which saw his ERA balloon to 6.69 and right-handers hit .427 off him.

Sherrill held left-handers to a .192 batting average but that wasn’t much consolation to the 33-year-old veteran left-hander.

“Just deception-wise was why I was able to get lefties out, but pretty much the whole year I had no clue where it was going,” Sherrill said. “Walks were up a little bit. It was just a constant battle of trying to fix whatever was wrong.”

He walked 24 batters in 36 1/3 innings for the Dodgers, while striking out 25.

Sherrill said he probably tried 10 different arm slots and 20 different sets of mechanics throughout the year. Heading into this year, he hopes to simplify. McDowell has a head …

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Braves’ Chipper Jones is … Delta Air Lines gate agent?

Turns out Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is a man of many talents. On Monday, he took a turn at the microphone working a Delta Air Lines gate at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, directing passengers onto a departing flight for New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

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Braves sign RHP Rodrigo Lopez to minor league deal

The Braves signed 35-year-old Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training, the team announced Monday afternoon.

Lopez provides the Braves more depth for their rotation, though Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are still expected to be the top contenders for the fifth spot.

Lopez went 7-15 with a 5.00 ERA in 33 starts last year for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He did throw 200 innings, though, in his first full season since elbow reconstruction surgery in August of 2007.

Lopez, a native of Mexico, is 75-82 with a 4.85 ERA in nine major league seasons with the Padres, Orioles, Rockies, Phillies and Diamondbacks.

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Hanson benefits from offseason workouts at Boras facility

Hanson sports full beach, at least for a few more days before trimming up for Spring Training

Hanson sports full beard, at least for a few more days before trimming up for Spring Training.

Don’t let the overgrown offseason beard fool you. Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson has been working hard this offseason, taking advantage of some new resources available to him.

Hanson spent the winter in Southern California working out at the Boras Sports Training Institute with a team of trainers.

Hanson changed agents last summer to Boras and said at the time, it was about more than money, but access to Boras’ staff of trainers, nutritionists and a sports psychologist.

Hanson went to California for a week with the intention of getting familiar with a new workout program and coming back to Atlanta, where he’s now makes his permanent home and where his family has moved from Redlands, CA.

Instead, he decided to stay the whole winter, renting a home in Dana Point, Calif. and driving to Boras’ facility in Aliso Viejo five to six days a week.

“It was everything I wanted to do,” …

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Chipper working through tendinitis in surgically-repaired knee

 

Chipper Jones has been battling tendinitis in his surgically-repaired left knee, but it’s something he expected as a “byproduct of having surgery.”

Jones said he faced similar issues the first time he had surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 1994. This time, he said, it’s on a smaller scale, given that his surgery was arthroscopic. He said it’s normal.

“It’s one of the steps along the way,” Jones said Monday morning at Turner Field. “Now that you’re starting to get into the every day hustle bustle of getting yourself ready for spring training, you’ve got aches and pains. Tendinitis is just one of those steps you’ve got to get by.”

Jones began getting daily treatment last week and said his knee has felt great ever since. He’s continued to hit in the batting cages every day at Turner Field. He’s still aiming to return as the Braves opening day third baseman.

“Ever since I’ve been in here every day getting treatment, I’ve had no …

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Braves’ voluntary pre-spring pitching camp starts Monday

The Braves begin Coach Roger McDowell’s voluntary two-week pitching camp Monday at Turner Field.

Pitchers will use the two weeks leading up to spring training to throw bullpen sessions, typically every other day, to continue building up arm strength. Braves pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Monday, Feb. 14 and begin workouts the following day.

Among pitchers who either live in the area or are in town for the Braves caravan and are expected to participate are: Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty, Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill, and Cory Gearrin.

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Pendleton ready for new role as first base coach

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

So this isn’t exactly the warmest and fuzziest place to talk about the topic I want to bring up today – Terry Pendleton’s job change – especially given the tone on the blog of late inspired by a certain frequent visitor in recent days.

Nevertheless, (Jack Wilkinson, are you reading?) I got a chance to talk to Pendleton last week at the rookie camp, and some of you have asked how he’s reacted to the change in his role, from hitting coach to first base coach.

We first got a clue in October, when he agreed to stay and take the new job as first base coach for Glenn Hubbard, who was not retained. I’m sure some of that has to do with the fact that this is where Pendleton makes his home, this is where he’s raising his kids, and this organization is still home. But that also said to me, this isn’t a guy full of resentment either.

Pendleton will be spending less time on the rail

Pendleton will be spending less time on the rail

Can’t remember the last …

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Braves launch online service to share season tickets

The Braves have launched a new online service to help both current and prospective season ticket holders share and distribute their tickets. It’s available at braves.com/sharedtickets.

It’s a tool that allows prospective season tickets holders to find partners to share tickets with by browsing other accounts for seat locations, price and dates that appeal to them. Current season ticket holders can also use it to invite friends, family and colleagues to join their group, as well as to manage the distribution of tickets.

The service is free.

“This innovative and easy-to-use online tool will give fans who are interested in purchasing season tickets the opportunity to find partners to share the cost and will help our current season ticket holders organize and distribute their tickets,” Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing Derek Schiller said in a release. “We feel strongly that this is a simple way for fans to find others who share the same passion for …

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