Archive for January, 2011

Braves not pursuing free agent IF Cantu

Despite overtures from Jorge Cantu, which the Braves gave some consideration, they decided not to pursue the free agent infielder as another piece for their bench, according to a Braves official.

Cantu is looking for an every-day job, either at first base or third, and the Braves don’t have openings at either spot. The Braves have rookie Freddie Freeman ready to take over at first base and Chipper Jones coming back from knee surgery to his old spot at third base.

Even if Jones can’t make it back healthy, the Braves prefer to use Martin Prado at third base. Prado is penciled in to start the season in left field.

If the Braves add another bench player, with likely no more than $1-2 million to invest, their greater needs are for a backup center fielder and backup shortstop.

Cantu, who turns 29 on Jan. 30, played for the Braves new manager Fredi Gonzalez as a Marlin. He has hit .274, with 101 home runs and 460 RBIs in seven seasons with the Rays, Reds, Marlins and Rangers. He was …

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There’s a lot on the line for Braves CF McLouth

Even if Nate McLouth weren’t owed $7.75 million in the final year of his contract, if the amount were significantly less, he would go to spring training with a good chance to be the Braves’ opening-day center fielder.

So says Braves GM Frank Wren, who doesn’t seem nearly as concerned about the team’s projected center fielder as many Braves fans are.

The Braves don't want to put pressure on Nate McLouth by saying they're counting heavily on him. But we know they are, right?

The Braves don't want to put added pressure on McLouth by saying they're counting heavily on him. But…

Team decision-makers believe McLouth can bounce back from a concussed, career-worst 2010 season, when he hit an anemic .190 with 12 doubles, six homers, a .298 on-base percentage and a .620 OPS in 85 games (242 at-bats).

“We think he can do it,” Wren said. “I think we saw enough in September, and we’ve seen enough in his career. He’s a good player. I believe, and I think most people around here believe, that what we saw for that first year he was with us was an aberration. That’s not Nate McLouth. I mean, he’s too good a player, …

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Braves sign all arb-eligibles; Prado, Jurrjens top $3 million (updated)

Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens and second baseman-turned-left fielder Martin Prado saw their salaries soar from below $500,000 to above $3 million after agreeing to one-year deals Tuesday and avoiding arbitration.

Relief pitchers Peter Moylan ($2 million) and Eric O’Flaherty ($895,000) also agreed to terms as the Braves again avoided going to hearings with any of their four arbitration-eligible players who had been unsigned.

If teams failed to reach settlements with players by Tuesday, salary figures were swapped and hearings would be scheduled during the first three weeks in February. As expected, Prado and Jurrjens got the biggest pay bumps for the Braves as first-time arbitration-eligible players, one a starting position player and the other a starting pitcher.

Prado, 27, an All-Star second baseman in his first season as a lineup regular in 2010, got a raise from $440,000 to $3.1 million in 2011. He hit .307 with 40 doubles and 15 homers in 2010, and is moving to left …

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Changes at PTV end Turner’s Braves broadcast production

Braves games on Peachtree TV will look and sound more like Braves games on Fox Sports South and SportSouth, and should be available to a wider cable audience.

Peachtree TV is turning over production of its 45 Braves games to Fox Sports South, which will use its own producers, crews and broadcasters. Outside of  Peachtree’s broadcast signal reach, the games will be carried on Fox Sports South or Fox-owned SportSouth — good news for some Braves fans in the South who previously couldn’t get Peachtree games.

Joe Simpson seems likely to continue as broadcast analyst on the 45 games that are switching production to Fox Sports South, but FSS vice president and general manager Jeff Genthner said on-air talent decisions haven’t been made.

Simpson teamed with play-by-play man Chip Caray on Fox Sports South and SportSouth games last season. On Peachtree TV games, Simpson teamed with play-by-play Ernie Johnson Jr., with John Smoltz also serving as frequent guest analyst.

Genthner said, …

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Braves host prospects for rookie development week – updated with roster

The Braves have invited 26 of their top prospects for a new week-long rookie development camp starting Tuesday and going through Saturday at Turner Field.

They will work out each morning on the field with both Braves major and minor league coaches who live in the area, but the primary focus will be on their off-the-field development.

“It’s really just to get them exposed to the environment here and the place that hopefully they’re going to be in the next few years,” Braves director of player development Kurt Kemp said. “(It’s about) getting them in the stadium and in the clubhouse and around the community, around the staff, an enrichment program to hopefully aid in the process of them developing into major league players.”

Among those invited to attend are top pitching prospects Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino and position players like Matt Lipka, Tyler Pastornicky and Edward Salcedo.

The Braves plan to hold this event every year going forward. Kemp said it’s …

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Braves claim reliever off waivers from Mariners

The Braves claimed right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, hoping the move might pay off even half as nicely as their last waiver claim from Seattle.

Left-hander Eric O’Flaherty was a waiver claim from the Mariners in November 2008, and in two seasons with the Braves he’s gone 5-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 134 relief appearances.

Varvaro, 26, was dropped from the Mariners’ 40-man roster on Jan. 3, after posting an 11.25 ERA in four major league appearances in 2010, his only major league experience. He allowed six hits, six walks, five runs and two homers in four innings in those games.

In 50 appearances last season in Double-A and Triple-A, he had a 4.02 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 65 innings.

In five seasons in the minors, he was 12-28 with a 5.06 ERA in 151 games (48 starts) totaling 385 strikeouts and 223 walks in 364-1/3 innings.

A former collegiate standout at St. John’s, Varvaro was projected as a possible first-round draft pick before …

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Aaron to be honored as part of Civil Rights Game

A tribute to Braves icon Hank Aaron will highlight four days of activities surrounding the fifth annual Civil Rights Game between the Braves and Philadelphia Phillies May 15 at Turner Field.

Braves icon Hank Aaron

Braves icon Hank Aaron

The game moves to Atlanta for 2011 and 2012, after previous stops in Memphis and Cincinnati. The Braves and Phillies will wear Negro League-themed uniforms.

With the move to Atlanta, a city at the center of the Civil Rights movement, comes an expanded schedule of events connected to this year’s game. The May 12 red-carpet tribute to legendary Braves slugger Aaron at the Fox Theatre includes a screening of the acclaimed documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.

Other activities include a Bud Selig diversity business conference and trade fair, a youth summit, a roundtable discussion on baseball and the Civil Rights Movement, and the Beacon Awards banquet May 14 at the Omni Hotel.

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Snow, ice fatigue? Think “pitchers and catchers report”

Turner Field on Thursday, covered in ice nearly four days after the storm...

Turner Field on Thursday, covered in ice nearly 4 days after storm…

Pitchers and catchers report….

Those are four blessed words for baseball fans. Particularly this year, with much of the country blanketed with snow and our fair city (and much of the South) still hobbled by ice that’s not been touched by plow on many streets, including mine, due to the fact we’re poorly equipped to handle any sort of real winter storm.

It's not too much longer, folks....

… but we'll be here before you know it, folks.

Anyway, it’s coming quickly folks. Pitchers and catchers report.

The epic, tedious bowl season finally ended with the annual crowning of another SEC team as national champion, and fewer than five weeks remain before Braves pitchers and catchers report to Dark Star, aka ESPN’s Wide World of Sports on the fringe of the Disney World fun sector at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

They’re due in Feb. 14, with their first workout the following day. The rest of the position players are to report Feb. 18, although most will be …

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Chipper encouraged by first swings since knee surgery

 

 

 

 

 

Jones is back in cage for first time since surgery

Jones is back in cage for first time since surgery. Photos by Brant Sanderlin

 

 

 

To see exclusive AJC video of Jones’ first swings since surgery, click here.

Chipper Jones’ swing looked the same as it always does, only he was sporting baggy gray sweatpants to go with the familiar tobacco dip in his bottom lip, the toe tap and the sweet level follow-through.

If Jones was favoring his surgically-repaired left knee Friday morning, it didn’t look like it, when he got back into the batting cage for the first time in five months since his career was threatened by a torn knee ligament.

“Swing never changes,” marveled former Brave and current Giants infielder Mark DeRosa, who joined Jones and Brian McCann for a turn in the cages at Turner Field. “It’s the same as when I first watched him take bp in the minor league cages in the spring of ’96.”

Jones started out with soft toss from Braves coach Terry Pendleton, 8-10 swings from the left side, 8-10 from the right. Then …

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Ex-catcher Walbeck to manage Rome Braves

Former major league catcher Matt Walbeck will manage the Braves’ Class-A Rome affiliate, replacing Paul Runge.

Walbeck, 41, was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A manager the past two seasons, and won Eastern League Manager of the Year honors in 2010.

The Braves hired Walbeck after Runge took a minor league field coordinator position with the Houston Astros. In November, the Braves announced Runge was moving up to the Rome position after six years managing the rookie-league Danville team.

Runge interviewed for the Astros job at the Winter Meetings in December.

Walbeck played 11 seasons for five major league teams from 1993 to 2003.

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