Somehow, inexplicably, this is the Braves only trip here all spring, only 10 miles down the road from Disney. Hm….The Astros come to Braves camp three times this spring, but the Braves? They’ll be going to Jupiter three times. But hey, lucky for me I get to make this trip to balance out tomorrow’s jaunt to Fort Myers.
Speaking of long trips…news of the morning was that Kenshin Kawakami is scheduled to arrive in Orlando tonight from his native Japan after missing the first two weeks of camp with visa issues.
He’s to get his first workout in tomorrow morning in Braves camp. Those who aren’t traveling tomorrow to play the Red Sox will stay back and work out at Disney.
The Braves are looking for trade partners for Kawakami and hoping more teams enter the picture (with a little more cash) as their pitching needs become clearer during the spring. Kawakami is making $6.7 million in the final year of his three-year contract after going 1-10 last year.
Sherrill working on sinker/change
Reliever George Sherrill’s issues against right-handers last year for the Dodgers have been well-documented. The disparity is pretty eye-popping – left-handers hit only .192 off him and right-handers pretty well walloped him at .427.
I just struck up a conversation with him this morning over his crossword. He was kind enough to put it down, and he gave some insight into what he’s doing to improve his results against right-handers. He wants to become more than the lefty specialist he was for the Dodgers last year.
Sherrill is working on a sinker (two-seam fastball) and changeup to use against right-handers this year. Those two pitches are ones he quit throwing back in 2006 when he said he lost a feel for them.
“Facing righties, the first pitch would be up and away,” Sherrill said. “The second pitch, I’d overcorrect and it’d be cutting down and in to a righty. It was this drastic change, and all of a sudden I’m behind 2-0 and then I’ve got to come back with four-seamers. So from that point on I just started throwing four-seamers.”
As a closer for the Orioles Sherrill relied mainly on his four-seamer and slider.
He said he threw four or five sinkers in his outing on Monday (he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk vs. the Astros but got out of the inning on a double-play grounder by lefty Michael Bourn). He isn’t getting the results with it he wants yet, but that’s what spring training is for, to work on new pitches and get comfortable.
“I found grips that work,” Sherrill said. “It’s just a matter of getting used to the timing and making sure that I’m not making it do stuff.”
And in case you’re wondering if he still has the magic against left-handers, Astros 23-year-old catcher Jason Castro got a taste when he struck out looking vs. Sherrill on Monday.
“With the kid, (Brian) McCann just told me he asked him if he had faced me before, and (Castro) said no,” Sherrill said. “(McCann) was like ‘Good luck. I’ve faced him I don’t know how many times and haven’t seen a pitch yet.’ I threw a slide step and it was really right down the middle and it just froze him.”
(McCann is 0-for-2 with a strikeout against Sherrill by my exhaustive research.)
Musings from Jones on Jim Thome
ESPN’s Buster Olney was in the house this morning, over at Braves camp and asked Chipper Jones for some thoughts on veteran slugger and eternally nice guy Jim Thome…And Jones gave some colorful stuff that I couldn’t resist sharing. First of all he said when the Twins and Braves played in interleague play last year, both Jones and Thome were convinced they’d retire. At that point, Jones said he figured there was “zero chance” either one of them would come back.
But yet the 40-year-old Thome is back in camp with the Twins and here’s Chipper at almost 39 trying to come back from knee surgery (he’s in the lineup at DH for the third straight day).
“I don’t know if we were tired or fed up or just in a bad place mentally,” Jones said. “It sounded like two old grannies just complaining on the porch step in their rockers, just tired of the whole thing. But it’s amazing what a good year by him and a playoff run by us and whatnot can do to change your mind.”
Jones said he’s known Thome since the two played on rival teams in Triple-A, Jones for a prospect-studded Richmond Braves team and Thome for the Charlotte Knights back in 1993. Get a load of one of their “meetings.”
“My first brawl in professional ball was against Charlotte when him and Manny (Ramirez) and all those guys were in Charlotte,” Jones said. “And he and I came across each other in the melee and next thing I know I was pinned up against the backstop, with my face up against the netting. And I look over and my mom and dad are like three rows away from me and had the look of horror in their eyes. It was just one of those moments where you cry for help because once he got his big paws on me, I was done.”
At this point, he breaks into laughter.
“But we’ve been, I think, mutual admirers ever since,” Jones said. “We’ve certainly had a lot of knockdown drag-outs when he was in Philly and the World Series in 95 (with the Indians). There for a while we were the only two guys who really wore our uniforms with our socks showing. Not a better guy on the planet I wish him the best.”
And for his latest: Jones is looking to get three at-bats today in his third straight game at DH. When asked this morning when he might get in on defense, he said “end of the week.”
If he were in the field today he might only get two at-bats, but he doesn’t feel like he works up much of a sweat, simply DHing and wants more action.
Lineup watch: Joe Mather makes his first start of spring at third base today. The new utility bench player can play either corner outfield or infield spot.
1. Jordan Schafer LF
2. Nate McLouth CF
3. Chipper Jones DH
4. Dan Uggla 2B
5. Jason Heyward RF
6. Joe Mather 3B
7. Freddie Freeman 1B
8. J.C. Boscan C
9. Diory Hernandez SS
Pitching: Tommy Hanson, Jonny Venters, Stephen Marek, Michael Broadway, Jairo Asencio, Eric O’Flaherty.