(Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Greetings from Port St. Lonely (as our friend Tom Glavine used to say) on a beautiful day in South Florida, where it’s oddly not very breezy and the humidity is low.
The Mets writers have been busy this morning writing about second baseman Luis Castillo’s release. He’s gone but he’ll still make his $6 million. Seems the cash-heavy Mets will stay that way.
For the Braves, meanwhile, Jason Heyward is back in the lineup today. That shows you how the back is holding up, to return to the lineup last night after five games out, then play a day game after a night game with a two-hour bus ride mixed in.
“I don’t think he would have missed a game if we’d been in the regular season this past week,” Braves GM Frank Wren said this morning. “It’s just precaution.”
We talked to Frank for a while this morning by the batting cage, on a variety of subjects, including some of the roster decisions to come, so I’ll just try to hit them quickly and get this blog posted by game-time.
Wren said during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast that in keeping with his philosophy of always tinkering with the roster and looking around for what the team needs, he’d like to add another right-handed bat off the bench to complement left-handed Eric Hinske.
He clarified this morning that he meant that more in the big picture – something he’d like to have ideally – than something that might happen in the next two weeks before the Braves break camp.
“I think in a perfect team, that would be something that we would look for, but that may not be now,” Wren said. “That may be over the course of the season as we (go) because it’s also got to be the right guy; it’s not just any right-hand bat. We like our options that we have internally.”
The way things are shaping up right now, Hinske, David Ross and Joe Mather are pretty much givens (DOB has covered extensively why the Braves like Mather, despite his lack of production this spring), leaving the last two bench jobs down to, I’m guessing, Diory Hernandez or Ed Lucas for one spot – to assure the Braves have a true shortstop to back up Alex Gonzalez, and the other spot is Brooks Conrad’s to lose, given that he’s a switch-hitter, proved to be a clutch hitter last year, and is adding a little first base to his duties this spring (he played in a B-game at first a few days ago, and said he played nine or 10 games there for Gwinnett in ’09.)
Also in consideration there would be Matt Young and Wilkin Ramirez.
The way Nate McLouth is playing this spring, you figure the Braves will want to get Jordan Schafer at-bats every day in Gwinnett and can call on him easily if McLouth goes down.
Here’s what Wren had to say about Conrad this morning when I asked if they were happy with how he’s handled himself this spring, despite his .194 (6-for-31). He got two hits the other day vs. Boston in one of the rare games where he got a handful of at-bats.
(Conrad has had a slow offensive start and two errors, but doesn’t seem to have let the three-error nightmare to end last season bog him down)
“Brooks has handled himself very well,” Wren said. “He got so many big hits for us last year. We’re happy with what we’ve seen.”
Wren said these next 10 days or so will be big for players battling for the final bench, bullpen and fifth starters spots.
“Guys will start separating themselves and will aid you in making those final decisions,” Wren said.
I did ask Wren about reliever Scott Proctor, who gave up five runs in 2/3 innings last night to watch his spring ERA rise to 9.35. Cristhian Martinez seems to have moved into the lead for the last bullpen spot.
“Last night (Proctor) couldn’t get it going, but up until last night I thought the two times before he threw the ball very well,” Wren said. “Spring training, guys have nights where it just doesn’t work, and you can’t base too much on one outing. Over the course of the spring how are they trending, are they coming around, is their stuff getting better? And Scott Proctor I think we’ve seen his stuff get better over the course of the spring.”
What Martinez brings, though, is more versatility as a long man and potential spot starter, if needed.
“He can do a variety of jobs, from a multi-inning to spot start to getting some guys with that changeup,” Wren said. “He has some versatility which definitely makes him intriguing.”
1. Prado LF
2. McLouth CF
3. Heyward RF
4. Ross C
5. Hinske 1B
6. Mather 3B
7. Conrad 2B
8. Hicks SS
9. Jurrjens P
Jair Jurrjens is on the mound today and will attempt to go six innings. Getting to that time where things are serious. Following him will be Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.