Archive for February, 2011

Wren says Braves’ defense isn’t a concern

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Braves’ 126 errors in 2010 were only one off the league high, and winter acquisition Dan Uggla’s 34 errors in the past two seasons were the most among major league second baseman.

The Braves moved All-Star second baseman Martin Prado to left field, which should improve outfield defense. But what about the infield, with Uggla and aging third baseman Chipper Jones, with his surgically repaired knee? Will the sum of the defensive parts be any better than 2010?

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The Braves got 2B Dan Uggla for his 30-homer bat, but say his defense (34 errors in two seasons) isn't the concern that some make it out to be. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Inside the clubhouse, it’s not the issue that some of us make it out to be.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think errors contribute a great deal to losses,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “I mean, that [126 errors] is still less than an error a game. And it depends on when the errors happens. With nobody …

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Uber-prospect Teheran makes quick impression

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – He’s rated one of the top three pitching prospects in all of baseball, and Braves right-hander Julio Teheran made a few more believers in the opening week of spring training.

The Colombian right-hander drew plenty of attention while throwing batting practice against Braves hitters on a backfield.

Top Braves prospect Julio Teheran made a believer out of veteran catcher Scott Ross in the first week of camp. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Top Braves prospect Julio Teheran made a believer out of veteran catcher David Ross in the first week of camp. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

“I usually don’t like to buy into all the hype, but I was pretty impressed,” veteran backup catcher David Ross said. “When he located – and he did it on probably 10 of the 30 pitches he threw – it was, in my opinion, pretty unhittable.”

Ross was  referring to pitches thrown exactly where Teheran wanted them. A hard thrower who only turned 20 three weeks ago, Teheran has what scouts call “electric stuff,” coupled with pinpoint command of three pitches.

“Real live [arm],” new Braves manager Fredi …

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Finally healthy again, could Schafer challenge for job?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Hindered for two seasons by a hand injury, center fielder Jordan Schafer finally looks fit again — and raring to go. This is good news for the Braves.

Suddenly, center field doesn’t seem like it’s Nate McLouth-or-bust. If Schafer is the player he was before an April 2009 hand fracture, outfield depth might not be an acute concern.

Jordan Schafer (right) is healthy again after being slowed two seasons by a fractured left hand. Here he chats with rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman while wating to hit. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Jordan Schafer (right) is healthy after being slowed two seasons by a fractured hand. Here he chats with rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

“I think when we get to the end of spring, if he’s had a great spring, he’s going to make us think about some things, for sure,” general manager Frank Wren said. “Whether it’s where he should play, or does he fit on our team somehow.

“He’s clearly a talented guy that got off track for a couple of years.”

After playing only 135 games in two seasons, conventional wisdom says Schafer starts the 2011 season in the minors, where he could …

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Uggla launches one; Chipper’s knee is sore

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The most impressive batting-practice homer of the day belonged to Dan Uggla, the new second baseman the Braves expect to add a lot more sock to their lineup in 2011.

The ex-Marlins slugger hit a moonshot off a coach pitching batting practice on a backfield adjacent to Champion Stadium.  The ball carried over the left-field fence, over a wide walkway between ballfields, over another fence, and landed on the next field over.

Third baseman Chipper Jones, here fielding a grounder Saturday, said his surgically repaired left knee was sore during the workout. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Third baseman Chipper Jones, here fielding a grounder Saturday, said his surgically repaired left knee was sore during the workout. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

“It’s coming,” Uggla said when a couple of teammates complimented him on the long ball.

Catcher Brian McCann said the November trade for Uggla was just what the Braves needed.

“We filled a need that we had here for a while,” McCann said. “The best thing about him is he shows up and plays hard every day. You can count on him playing 150 games. He’s going to play through …

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A. Gonzalez catches up with former/new boss F. Gonzalez

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — He was the last of the Braves’ position players to arrive, but shortstop Alex Gonzalez reported fit and upbeat Saturday, then spent some time on the practice field catching up his new — but familiar — manager.

First-year Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had the shortstop on his teams for several seasons in the Marlins’ minor league organization, and also served as third-base coach for Florida in Alex’s first two major league seasons in 1999-2000.

“I’ve seen him grow up,” said Fredi Gonzalez, who had his share of run-ins with the shortstop when Alex was in his late teens and early 20s, back when his immaturity was an issue.

These days, the 34-year-old is praised by teammates and others for his work habits and attitude.

“It feels good to be back on this team,” said Alex Gonzalez, acquired in a July trade from Toronto for Yunel Escobar in a swap of shortstops. “Being here from the All-Star break to the postseason, it felt like a …

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Fredi’s Day 1 speech: outdoors and to the point

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez held his first-day full-squad meeting in center field on Saturday. The message was basically this: show up on time, play hard, get back to the playoffs. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez held his first-day full-squad meeting in center field on Saturday. The message was basically this: show up on time, play hard, get back to the playoffs. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Before Saturday, it had been two decades since a manager other than Bobby Cox addressed the Braves before their first full-squad workout  of spring training.

When new manager Fredi Gonzalez took the reins and spoke to his team Saturday, the setting was different – he held the meeting in center field – but the message similar to ones by his mentor Cox.

“He complimented our club from last year, which I thought was cool,” said veteran third baseman Chipper Jones, who heard his 19th opening-day speech, and first from anyone other than Cox, who retired. “And he said there was no reason why we shouldn’t be right back there again.”

It was basic stuff from Gonzalez, a former Braves third-base coach who replaced  Cox after spending …

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Kimbrel set the strikeout bar at dizzying height

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Setting the bar high is one thing, but what Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel did last season as a rookie was unheard of.

We’re talking strikeouts. Kimbrel pitched 20-2/3 innings for Atlanta while shuttling back and forth between Triple-A Gwinnett and the majors. In those 20-2/3 innings, he struck out 40 batters.

That’s 40 strikeouts in 20-2/3 innings, a ratio of 17.4 K’s per nine innings. That not only led all major leaguers who pitched at least 20 innings last season, it led all major leaguers who’ve pitched at least 20 innings in any season.

The second-highest ratio in history (20 innings minimum) was also posted last season by Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. Only Marmol did it in a full season.

Kimbrel was far short of minimum-innings standards for official records. But it was nevertheless impressive. The 22-year-old Alabama native pitched in only 12 games above Class A before last season.

Kimbrel is expected to be a closer for …

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Rebuilt Chipper, relocated Prado are key components

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Their 2010 All-Star second baseman had a season-ending oblique tear and hip pointer, and is now playing left field. Their former All-Star third baseman had season-ending knee surgery and is trying to come back at age 38 — 39 in April — still at the hot corner, still hitting third.

Chipper Jones leaves a backfield after a workout Friday that included his first baserunning on his rebuilt left knee. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Chipper Jones leaves a backfield after a workout Friday that included his first baserunning on his rebuilt left knee. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Is this any way to gear up for a season-long battle with the powerhouse Philadelphia Phillies?

The Braves think so. And after watching ol’ (or old) Chipper Jones display his familiar sweet swing in the batting cage and test the twice-repaired knee running the bases Friday, and watching versatile and amenable Martin Prado race smoothly around left field, they might be right.

Only time will tell, but there are reasons for optimism as the Braves head into their first full-squad workout Saturday.

Prado has played only sparingly in the outfield …

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Gonzalez won’t dwell on how pitchers look this early

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he doesn’t place much emphasis on what he sees from pitchers in the opening week of camp, when they’re just getting back into the swing of things.

“For me, all I’m watching for is free-and-easy arm action and if they are around the plate – which I’ve been impressed with all these guys, they’ve been around the plate,” Gonzale said. “Everybody I’ve seen, and I’ve made a point to see [almost] everybody.”

He noted that Jair Jurrjens and rookie fifth-starter candidate Brandon Beachy looked good pitching Thursday, and Gonzalez also took note of elite Braves right-handed prospect Julio Teheran.

“Real live [arm],” he said. “Lotta, lotta life.”

Camp of early arrivers

Position players weren’t due to report until Friday, but shortstops Alex Gonzalez and Diory Hernandez were the only position players on the Braves’ 40-man roster not in camp by Thursday.

The first full-squad …

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Hinske ends nomadic streak with return to Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After reporting to spring training with four different teams in four years, Eric Hinske was happy to be in familiar surroundings when he reported to Braves camp Thursday.

“It’s real good for me,” said the versatile veteran, who re-signed with the Braves after helping lead them to a 91-win season and wild-card playoff berth. “It’s nice to come in and know everybody.

“I never wanted to leave. I got a lot of other offers, but this is where my heart was. I definitely wanted to come back to Atlanta.”

It was a resounding winter for the 33-year-old Wisconsin native, who watched his beloved Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh. Hinske watched the game on a big-screen TV he has in an outdoor rec area of his Scottsdale, Ariz., home.

When one of the Braves’ new coaches asked him where he was from Thursday, Hinske smiled and said, “Wisconsin, home of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.”

The left fielder and corner …

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