Archive for March, 2011

New Braves manager gets early a.m. call from Cox

WASHINGTON – Fredi Gonzalez was in a cab with some coaches early Thursday morning on their way to the ballpark when his cellphone rang.

It was his old boss, Bobby Cox, aka “The Skipper” to Gonzalez, always.

“He was having coffee, and he called to wish us good luck and to have a good season,” the new Braves manager said of the call from the iconic ex-manager.  “And he said he’d be watching the game.”

Someone asked what time Cox called, and Gonzalez smiled.

“He knows the [routine], so when he called he said, ‘Are you guys getting out of the cab?’ I said, we’re right around the corner from the stadium. [Gonzalez laughed]. So we talked for a little bit.”

The Braves beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 on Thursday in the first game of the post-Cox era. The win came in the same city where Gonzalez won his debut as a big-league manager in 2007, when his Marlins beat Manny Acta’s Nationals on opening day in the first matchup between two major league managers of Cuban …

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Braves’ quotes after opening win at Washington

manager FREDI GONZALEZ

“I tell you what, from D-Lowe all the way to Craig at the end, we had a lot of good things happen. Defensively, Gonzalez a couple of nice plays.

“D-Lowe had that sinker going good and even the base hits he gave up were choppers or balls through the infield. That’s a nice sign to see from a sinkerball pitcher.”

On Chipper Jones’ double:

“That’s was good baserunning. That’s the kind of stuff we like to see. He goes out there at age 38 – he’s probably feeling pretty good opening day – he got a double, then a base hit from the right side. I hope that keeps up for a while.”

On Jason Heyward homering for the second consecutive Opening Day:

“Maybe we need to trick him on Saturday, tell him it’s Opening Day again. He hit that ball a ton. The very next inning, I thought Ankiel got his, and he made it the the warning track. It tells you how strong this guy Heyward is

On rookie 1B Freeman’s scoops:

“That’s not surprising. We saw that in spring training. His …

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Heyward supplies more magic on opening day

WASHINGTON – Just when it seemed like Jason Heyward might be “old” news at age 21, making room in the spotlight for the opening day debuts of rookies Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel, here came that familiar mighty swing.

After introducing himself to Major League Baseball last opening day with a monster home run on his first swing, Heyward was back turning heads Thursday with a first at-bat homer to help the Braves beat the Nationals 2-0.

Heyward took his time getting his first home run this year. Two swings.

And this time Freeman was “in the hole” in the Braves dugout to enjoy it.

“Again?” Freeman said he kidded his friend when Heyward returned to the Braves dugout. “I was just happy for him. A little cutter, he said. He drove through that with his top hand. It’s pretty impressive to see from the side angle like that. He hit that ball hard. Got to, to hit it out in this weather.”

Heyward joined former New York Met Kaz Matsui as the only other player in major league history …

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Braves Opening Day: The Fredi G. Era begins

WASHINGTON – Pete Rose once said of Opening Day, “It’s like Christmas, except it’s warmer.”

Pete Rose dove into Opening Day.

Pete Rose dove into Opening Day.

And he was right. Except it’s not warmer today here in D.C. It’s about 40 degrees with a light rain as your Bravos prepare to start a new era under manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Fans are pouring into Nationals Park and the red, white and blue bunting is affixed to the facades of each seating deck. It’s cold and miserable, but it’s Opening Day, and that’s all we care about here.

Bobby Cox passed him the baton in October. Today, Fredi Gonzlez runs with it.

Bobby Cox passed him the baton in October. Today, Fredi Gonzlez runs with it.

It’s the beginning of the long, winding road, the great, uncharitable annual journey that for most of us – you, me, the players, coaches and manager – is the season that everything else revolves around. The baseball season.

By the way, guess who’s not wearing long sleeves? No, not your Crusading Everyman. I’m rocking a sweater and waterproof boots. (Only one scribe forgot we were no longer in Florida, and …

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Braves could play it safe with Jurrjens – updated

WASHINGTON – Jair Jurrjens pitched a pain-free bullpen session on Thursday in Washington but the Braves could still decide to disable him rather than tempt fate with his sore right side.

Even if Jurrjens goes to the disabled list, he would still be eligible to pitch by Saturday, April 9 during the Braves home-opening series against the Phillies. The Braves could call on minor leaguer Mike Minor to make a spot start in Jurrjens’ place Wednesday in Milwaukee.

“We’re shooting for that (April 6), but the window is getting smaller and smaller,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Jurrjens’ Thursday morning.

After the game, Gonzalez was noncommittal about the Braves’ plans for Jurrjens, saying he would provide more information on Saturday, an indication the Braves might play it safe.

“I felt good,” said Jurrjens who mixed in all his pitches during a 30-pitch session in the tunnel at Nationals Park. “I’ll just play it day-by-day and see what kind of decision they make.”

Jurrjens …

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Braves Opening Day lineup

Braves 2011 Opening Day lineup vs. Nationals

  1. Prado LF
  2. McLouth CF
  3. Jones 3B
  4. McCann C
  5. Uggla 2B
  6. Heyward RF
  7. Gonzalez SS
  8. Freeman 1B
  9. Lowe RHP

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Opening day is here, and the Bravos are excited

WASHINGTON – With the Philadelphia Phillies limping to the starting line this season, four-time National League East champions looking a bit vulnerable, you might think the Braves would place utmost importance on getting off to a fast start.

You know, in order to build an early lead on the division rivals.

But that’s not how they’re approaching it. The Braves enter their season opener Thursday (1:05 p.m.) against the Washington Nationals both confident and realistic, knowing the race is a 162-game marathon that won’t be decided in April.

“It’s hard to even really talk about any other team,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “We want to get off to a fast start for ourselves. We’ve just got to focus on what we can do and not worry about the Phillies or anybody else.

“We just have to take care of business as it comes.”

Derek Lowe (16-12, 4.00 ERA in 2010) goes for his third consecutive opening-day win against familiar foe Livan Hernandez (10-12, 3.66 ERA) at Nationals …

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Jurrjens scheduled to throw bullpen on Thursday

Jair Jurrjens is scheduled to throw a bullpen Thursday in Washington, his first work off a mound since leaving a March 24 spring start in Dunedin with pain in his right side. That should give the Braves an indication whether he’ll be able to make his first start of the season Wednesday in Milwaukee.

If Jurrjens is unable to go, the Braves can place him on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 25, start minor leaguer Mike Minor in Milwaukee and have Jurrjens back as early as April 9 at home against the Phillies.

“All the time I’ve played catch, it felt fine, no problem,” said Jurrjens who played catch three times in the past four days. “I feel good; we’ll see tomorrow.”

Beachy finishes stellar spring

Brandon Beachy pitched four scoreless innings in his final tune-up of a spring in which he beat out Mike Minor to win the fifth starters’ spot. He showed again Wednesday just why, allowing five singles but no walks and striking out five. He worked around jams in the first …

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Lowe gunning for third straight Opening Day win

Derek Lowe is going for his third straight win on Opening Day Thursday when the Braves start the season in Washington against the Nationals. But it hasn’t always been quite that easy for the 37-year-old right-hander.

Lowe actually lost three consecutive Opening Day starts as a Dodger with an 8.44 ERA. And last year he benefitted from a 16-run onslaught by the Braves over the Cubs on a day he gave up five runs in six innings.

The eight shutout innings he pitched against the Phillies on Opening Day 2009 are actually the anomaly, Lowe said. He’s 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in six Opening Day starts overall.

“I feel like I’ve really tried probably too hard,” said Lowe, who’s been better known for what he does come October. “In your first game, everybody feels strong, so you may go a little bit too fast. Whereas the playoffs, you pretty much have thrown 200 innings; your delivery is a lot smoother.”

Lowe said he brings a different confidence into this Opening Day start than his first two …

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Braves remove retired Wagner from 40-man roster

The Braves released Billy Wagner from their 40-man roster Wednesday, resolving a paper-pushing issue that’s been looming since the 39-year-old closer announced he was retiring at the end of last season.

The issue was complicated, Braves general manager Frank Wren said, because Wagner was in the middle of a multi-year contract when he decided to retire. He had a $6.5 million option for 2011 that automatically vested.

Had the Braves put Wagner on the voluntary retired list, he would have been tied to the Braves for the rest of his career. Had the Braves simply released him, they’d have been on the hook for his 2011 salary.

So the agreement they reached Wednesday allowed for the Braves to release him, Wagner to agree to waive his 2011 salary, the Braves to retain exclusive rights to Wagner until the end of the 2011 season and for Wagner to be granted the right to free agency in 2012, if he chooses to come out of retirement.

Wren said Wagner has no immediate plans to come out of …

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