Roster spots still undecided; Salazar in camp today

Luis Salazar was back in camp today, two weeks after being struck in face by a foul ball and eight days after surgery to remove his left eye. (David O'Brien photo)

Luis Salazar was back in camp today, two weeks after being struck in face by a foul ball and eight days after surgery to remove his left eye. (David O'Brien photo)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – So we’re down to the last week, and most of the position battles we anticipated entering spring training are still up for grabs. At least to some degree.

Fifth starter; last bullpen spot, and the last couple of bench jobs. All still undecided (I say last couple of bench jobs, because Joe Mather has been pretty much a lock to make the team since the Braves signed him, long as he showed he was healthy this spring.)

Salazar

Salazar

Before we get to that, we just got news this morning: Luis Salazar will be in camp today, the first time the Braves minor league manager been back to Champion Stadium since suffering a catrastrophic eye injury after being hit by a foul ball in a March 9 game.

Salazar had to have his left eye removed after surgeons were unable to save it. He and the Braves still expect that he’ll manage the high-Class A Lynchburg team this season, although he will likely miss the early part of the season.

We’ll let you know what Luis says after we talk with him later this morning.

For now, let’s discuss the jobs competition:

First up, the rotation opening. After a rumor spread rapidly on Tuesday’s off day that Brandon Beachy had won the fifth-starter job over lefty Mike Minor, I asked around and was told Tuesday night that report was premature, that it’s not been decided yet.

Beachy has posted better statistics than Minor this spring, but not markedly better. All things being equal, the Braves would prefer to have a lefty in an otherwise all-righty rotation. But that’s not essential (they went all-righty most of last season).

Beachy

Beachy

What it will come down to is, which pitcher do the Braves believe gives them the best opportunity to win now? That’s it. Don’t make it any more complicated than it is, folks. Whom do the Braves believe gives them a better chance to win right now?

If they think the lefty Minor gives them an advantage in a division with a lot of lefty hitters, they’ll go with Minor.

But if they believe Beachy is just more ready right now, that his sharp command and confident, aggressive attitude makes him the better option out of the gate, then they’ll send Minor to the minors (Triple-A Gwinnett, specifically) and have him continue to hone his breaking stuff.

Either way, both of the roommates — Minor and Beachy will share an apartment this season — figure to pitch in the Braves’ starting rotation this season, possibly together. Injuries happen, as we have seen year after year.

Say this for Beachy: at 24, the former undrafted free agent signee has perspective beyond his years. I was looking over some notes from earlier in camp, and came across this interview I did with him on Feb. 21.

“There’s always guys ahead of you and guys coming behind you in this game,” he said. “So if you start looking ahead or behind … you just can’t allow yourself to do that. I try to concentrate on getting better myself.

“I mean, there are so many outside factors, and things are never going to work out the way you expect them to. Something always changes, whether it’s injuries, or trades, or something. Something’s going to happen to throw off whatever plan you have. It’s just not going to work out that way, so you just kind of have to show up every day and do your best, and everything else will take care of itself, I guess.”

What Beachy did in his three big-league starts on (very) short notice late last season was impressive. He posted a 3.00 ERA in those games, striking out 15 in 15 innings while allowing 16 hits and no homers.

But in the first couple of starts we didn’t see the pinpoint command that helped get Beachy to the majors. He walked six in 9-1/3 innings of his first two starts, matching the number of walks he issued in 45-2/3 innings at Triple-A Gwinnett before his promotion (Beachy had a 2.17 ERA in eight games at Gwinnett).

Minor

Minor

This spring, we’ve seen his sharp command. After Beachy pitched in a March 4 road split-squad game that bench coach Carlos Tosca managed, Fredi Gonzalez gave us this report: “[Tosca] said his command was off the charts. He said he could hit a gnat in the ass with his command. [Brian] McCann said the same thing. Put the glove wherever you want and he could hit it.”

• Filling out the bullpen, bench: It seems fairly obvious that the last bullpen spot will go to Scott Proctor or Cristhian Martinez, and the last bench spots to … well, that’s not quite as obvious.

Proctor has been inconsistent this spring, but his stuff has improved, according to GM Frank Wren. (That could be either a strong point in his favor when decisions are made, or a message being sent to drum up trade interest. Or maybe both. We’re not sure.)

Martinez is valuable because of his versatility – he can pitch an inning of middle relief, set up on occasion, or fill in with multiple innings if a starter is knocked out early or there’s a long rain delay. Gonzalez knows this from their time together with the Florida Marlins, and has listed Martinez’s strengths more than once this spring.

As we sit here Wednesday morning, I don’t know how that decision is going to go. So won’t bother guessing or acting like I do. Ask me in another few days, maybe it’ll be clearer.

Which brings us to the bench. Interesting choices to make here for the final jobs.

Wilkin Ramirez’s speed and power were briefly a big topic of discussion a couple of weeks ago, after a game when the former Tigers outfield prospect homered to straightaway center and had even Chipper Jones talking about what he might mean for the roster.

However, fact is that Ramirez, 25, needs to become a more consistent hitter, and getting sporadic playing time off the major league bench is not an ideal place to do that.

As much as some fans seemed surprised when Brooks Conrad was brought back to camp, and assumed the Braves must’ve just been doing him a favor, the fact is that they’ve not forgotten how many games he helped them when with late-innings clutch hits last season. His eight errors in seven games at season’s end and in the division series were all that some remembered, but didn’t negate, in the Braves’ view, what made him such a big piece of their team last season.

That’s my long-winded way of getting to this: I think he’s going to make the team.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say the last three bench spots go to outfielder/corner infielder Joe Mather (that’s been pretty much a lock since they signed him), Conrad and … Ed Lucas.

Lucas has far more defensive versatility than Diory Hernandez, and is good enough to back up Alex Gonzalez at shortstop, at least for a short stretch. If there was a more serious injury and they weren’t comfortable with Lucas at short for 15 games or whatever, they could bring up Diory or someone else.

Conrad

Conrad

Between the defensive-versatlity edge that Lucas has, and his overall offensive numbers in the minors, including a career-best season last year in Triple-A, he just seems to me like he’s put himself in position to win that last job.

Also, don’t forget he’s another player whom Braves officials, particularly Wren, have mentioned signed him this winter. That can be a good indicator, in these cases, provided a player doesn’t raise any red flags in the spring, either for some sort of previously underestimated flaws or potential attitude issue.

♣ Whither Lopez? Beachy and Minor have shown that either is ready to handle the fifth-starter role, thus making Rodrigo Lopez expendable. The Braves signed the veteran Lopez for depth, in case Minor and/or Beachy had any setbacks or didn’t look ready.

Without Lopez they have six quality starters, plus Kenshin Kawakami. And since Kawakami’s late arrival to camp has surely lessened the likelihood of the Braves finding a suitor to trade for him and pick up even one-third of the $6.7 million Kawakami is owed, they might have to do what at one time seemed extremely unlikely – have Kawakami start out the season in the minors.

That might be the only way the Braves can spark trade interest, because he probably hasn’t pitched enough this spring – and won’t have time to — for teams to feel confident that Kawakami is ready to fill a rotation spot.

That’s why Lopez’s name is now making the trade-rumor rounds. There are teams that need starters, and the Braves have a surplus of healthy starters.

Though the Braves signed Lopez for depth, and considered Minor and Beachy the primary candidates for the fifth-starter job, Lopez didn’t come to camp thinking a minor-league assignment was in the offing. He told me as much the first week of camp. He came to win the 5th-starter job.

That’s not happening, and he presumably wouldn’t be the first guy called if they had an injury to the opening-day rotation. He might not even be the second guy called if they had two injuries; that could be Kawakami, if he’s still around.

So look for Lopez to be shopped, or at least for the Braves to listen when desperate teams call this week.

Braves lineup

  1. Prado LF
  2. McLouth CF
  3. Chipper 3B
  4. McCann C
  5. Uggla 2B
  6. Heyward RF
  7. Gonzalez SS
  8. Freeman 1B
  9. Hudson RH

♣ OK, let’s post this and get down to the clubhouse. The Braves had a meeting at 8:30 a.m. today, so early clubhouse time was interrupted.

We’ll close with one of the many terrific tunes that James McMurtry did at his show Friday night at Eddie’s Attic (between the NCAA tourney on four hi-def channels and McMurtry, it was a good weekend tohave off and be home in Atlanta).

You can hear the song here (and see a good video).

James McMurtry 032610

“HOLIDAY” by James McMurtry

The in-laws are waiting the games have begun
The cell phone keeps ringing “don’t answer it hon”
The whole thing’s arranged just to aggravate Dad
And it’s amateur day on the old super slab
The kids are strapped down like a half load of pipe
All safe in their car seats they fuss and they gripe
Well you can’t hardly blame ‘em it must be a bitch/Counting the crosses off down in the ditch
This one’s got flowers, this one’s got a wreath
This one’s got a name painted down underneath
Was the road all iced up, were they going too fast
Here’s five in a circle left from the last holiday
Holiday

There’s a three-trailer rig just a throwin’ up spray
Not legal to run on this kind of a day
But g– damn the smokies and the four wheelers too
Stay offa my bumpers or the same goes for you
There’ll be none for him
He that wants it the most
As he hauls it on out to the Oregon coast
No turkey no gravy no Zinfandel wine
You just stay over right and we’ll get along fine
He’s missing the football, missing the fun
He’d play with the grandkids but he’s off on a run
And some hat’s on the radio singing his song
But it don’t make a damn
He’s in for a long holiday
Holiday

Now granny she’s yelling
She’s ready to eat
She’s havin’ conniptions
‘Cause they won’t take their seats
But she’s got ‘em all gathered now under one roof
With her camcorder loaded
She’s gonna get proof
But do you have to wear that
Well I just don’t see why
Please pass the potatoes/Aw eat s— and die
Did you hear about Ellen, she’s leaving, you know
How ‘bout those Packers, think it’ll snow?
And the minute it’s over they’ll scatter like quail
Off down the freeway in the teeth of a gale
Silent and shattered And numb to the core
They count themselves lucky
They got through one more holiday
Holiday

The highway patrolman
He stands in the rain
He just lets it run down to soften the stain
Of the blood on his pant leg
From working that wreck
And he won’t forget it
In time for the next holiday

Departing Chicago at 9:52
In clean desert camo all baggy and loose
Sits an Iowa Guardsman alone by the gate
The place sure looked different, in 1968

When he traveled with mom, first time on a plane
To visit some kin, he’s forgotten their names
But he remembers the soldiers, still in their teens/In their spit polished boots and their pressed army greens
With the creases so sharp, and their faces so smooth
But their eyes looked so heavy, he wondered how they could move
Now he’s got that same look, like his insides are black
He’s in his mid forties and he has to go back/And he can’t even smoke while he waits for his plane
The uniform’s different, but the mission remains
To do like they tell you, don’t make a fuss
Why’s not an issue, so don’t think too much
You just do what you have to, shut up and drive
If you come apart later, well at least you’re alive
You can get you some help, you can deal with it then
And life will be better, ‘til it happens again

‘Cause there’s something inside us that won’t let us be/In stalks through our days ‘til it’s too dark to see
And it’s damn near as deadly as Texans on ice
Lord don’t they beat all
Y’all have a nice holiday

1,500 comments Add your comment

northbeach Scott

March 23rd, 2011
9:18 am

I have two second row tickets behind the Braves on deck circle for today’s game at Lake Buena Vista to see Huddy pitch against the Marlins. If you are in Tampa and want them, let me know. You can have them for free.

TennesseePaul

March 23rd, 2011
9:25 am

Luis Salazar will be in camp today

This is just amazing that he could return to camp so swiftly. It’s two weeks later and he’s able to get back to camp. I know he probably isn’t doing any heavily lifting of sorts, but just that a man can suffer such a tragic injury and two weeks later be walking around back at the park… amazing.

Thanks for the work D.O’B. I look forward to hearing what you learn from Salazar.

Realist

March 23rd, 2011
9:33 am

Great work yesterday on Gonzo’s workout methods, Carroll.

Amazing that this is all new to Braves vets . . .

Justin

March 23rd, 2011
9:36 am

The last rotation spot is going to Minor. You don’t want to have an all right handed staff.

richbrave

March 23rd, 2011
9:38 am

Good logic there DOB. I thought HERNANDEZ over LUCAS, but you know the flavor around the clubhouse. That’s why you get paid. Ifd I worked there I might believe LUCAS has the inside track also. CONRAD and MATHER, yes.

Can you think any team would take a package of LOPEZ, CONRAD, and YOUNG for an INFANTE-type super-sub assuming any such a player exists in the majors. I’m not aware of anyone myself.

McFann Ô Ô

March 23rd, 2011
9:38 am

Thanks for the new Blog, Chief! That’s great news about Coach Salazar! :)

wheelz007

March 23rd, 2011
9:38 am

Great Blog DOB. Lot’s of good info this morning.

CB

March 23rd, 2011
9:42 am

Mikeyc588

March 23rd, 2011
9:45 am

I think the all-right-handed staff thing is overblown in the age of 12 man pitching staffs and lefty bullpens. Would it be nice to have a mix? Sure, I guess. But I think it’s much less important given that we have Sherrill, O’Flaherty and Venters down in the pen. The 5th starter will face the Phillies what, 3 or 4 times? And for this team, it’s just as much about how we play OUTSIDE the division as in it. We need to start consistently beating the teams we’re supposed to beat.

Mikeyc588

March 23rd, 2011
9:46 am

Meant lefty specialists, not bullpens.

RHR

March 23rd, 2011
9:46 am

Great news about Salazar!

Sad news about Liz. I see her face every morning as I have a framed black and white photo of her hanging in my powder room. Classic dark haired blue eyed beauty. May she rest in peace.

Jimmy

March 23rd, 2011
9:46 am

Great bloggage DOB!
For all you losers who don’t have MLB.TV (like me), the Braves are on ESPN friday at 1300 (Phils) and Monday at 1800 on FSS (Marlins).

I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Ed Lucas. He is a very valuable asset to the team.

northbeach Scott

March 23rd, 2011
9:47 am

DOB, glad to have you back for some meaty insights. The last week of ST will be very interesting.

After seeing Beachy and Minor pitch, I think I would give the nod to Beachy because of his dominating mound presence and command. Minor is not far behind, but he might benefit from 6 AAA starts to work on his breaking stuff.

I am going to try and make both SS games on Friday in hopes of seeing both pitch to see if I feel differently, then. Since Beachy already pitched against Detroit, perhaps he will go against the Phillies and Minor the Tigers.

keylargo

March 23rd, 2011
9:48 am

Elizabeth Taylor dies.

In Fredi I Trust

March 23rd, 2011
9:48 am

Without Lopez they have six quality starters, plus Kenshin Kawakami.

That made me laugh, and I am home alone today. Looks like Kawacrappy has lost his way here in Atlanta.

DOB, I will be in Milwaukee in 2 weeks on Thursday April 7th for the afternoon game between the Braves and Brewers. I will be sitting right behind the Braves dugout. Are you going to be at this game by chance? Would like to meet you and thank you for your hard work on this site.

alimc

March 23rd, 2011
9:48 am

Welcome back, DOB!
@northbeach Scott…i WISH i was in tampa!!!

RHR

March 23rd, 2011
9:48 am

Say, you think that old Chipper Jones guy will make the team? He’s almost 40, and injured all the time. I think he’s done. :D

Ed Lucas? I believe he changed my oil last week.

bravesgirlnc

March 23rd, 2011
9:49 am

Hope you had a nice few days off DOB. Gotta be tough only having a couple of days to catch up on “real life” stuff and then traveling again. I did that for a brief time when I did college recruiting.
Anyway, thanks for the great insight. Tell Salazar we are rooting for him!

bravedan

March 23rd, 2011
9:49 am

DOB,

What about the Orioles’ Jake Fox for Wren’s right handed bench bat. He has 8 homers this spring, plays 1st, 3rd and the outfield? They talked like he might be available on the ESPN broadcast yesterday. If we could get him and trade for the Rangers’ Chris Davis (lots of potential and very good at 1st and 3rd, possibly could play the outfield) and say bye to Mather and Conrad and hello to Ramirez or Young, we would be better, in my opinion. What would we have to give up to get Fox and/or Davis? Thanks

Bob the Blogger

March 23rd, 2011
9:53 am

Lucas has to make the team from what I’ve seen. He can play all infield and outfield positions, and has always hit in the minors. Last year, he hit .307 and hit 13 HRs at AAA, and in 2009 he hit .290 and stole 18 bases in 20 attempts at AA. And he’s 28 years old, so he’s not a kid who needs to be playing every day to develop.

Braveone

March 23rd, 2011
9:54 am

From the previous blog which had 1,300 comments, Ward led the way with 71 posts. There were 172 different poster names. Here are the Top 25:

Rank Poster Frequency

1 Ward 71
2 P’cola Brave 67
3 nolie 66
4 Tomahawkin 53
5 cabravesfan 46
6 Venice JIm 39
7 richbrave 38
8 jeffrey d 35
9 Brava 32
10 CraZy 31
11 Venice Jim 29
12 Tom O’Hawke 28
13 Mike S 26
14 Big Nick 25
15 David O’Brien 23
16 Bat Masterson 21
17 McFann Ô Ô 21
18 ncscoots 21
19 BFChris26 20
20 Jake W. 20
21 phil 20
22 Ease® in Woodstock 19
23 Snotboogie 19
24 Lew 18
25 P-Town Brave © 18

keylargo

March 23rd, 2011
9:54 am

DOB – Are the Braves taking all or most of their starters to the Phillie game tomorrow? They sure could help their cause by establishing early that they are going to play the Phillies tough all year.

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
9:54 am

I can understand the Braves’ conundrum when it comes to Proctor and Martinez for the final spot in the pen. Both have been inconsistent and spotty this spring but Martinez less so. I’m pretty sure however, that neither would have any trouble finding a job with another team. Lots of folks are always looking for middle relief on the cheap….

Beachy certainly impressed me when I saw him pitch against Washington. That said, it may not have been enough to edge out a lefty in whom the Braves have more invested. Good problem to have though.

Eight starters…. Might be just enough depth to make it through a 162 game season.

EB

March 23rd, 2011
9:57 am

Thanks for all the great info DOB, and welcome back! I can’t believe we only have 8 days til the start of what I am thinking is going to be an AMAZING season. Go Braves!!!!

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
9:59 am

richbrave an INFANTE-type super-sub assuming any such a player exists in the majors

His name Marteen Prado, and just like Infante’ he has a regular job now….

Eric from MO

March 23rd, 2011
10:00 am

Justin how does an all right handed rotation matter? I mean really, it isnt going to change a strategy in games. In the bullpen it matters, but not in the rotation.

D man

March 23rd, 2011
10:01 am

Braveone – wow! You must really be bored.

Northbeach Scott – I wish I could take you up on that offer. I gotta get back to work. :)

Venice Jim

March 23rd, 2011
10:01 am

Who is Venice Jlm, and why did he steal my posts? :roll:

Glen W

March 23rd, 2011
10:01 am

I was at that game in Washingotn too Gil. He hung in there even when things were not going his way. I really like him and if Minor needs even a little bit of work I think Beachy gets the nod.

Soph

March 23rd, 2011
10:04 am

I saw that yesterday, VJ and was going to comment on the name change but got distracted and forgot. Cost you a top 3.

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
10:04 am

Lucas said he can play 7 different positions, I am assuming the two he can’t are pitching and catching but I would not be surprized to learn he could serve as a number 3 emergency guy like Diaz was for Bobby.

Eric from MO

March 23rd, 2011
10:07 am

I wonder how often in the season does a manager go, wait I am going to throw this starter because he is a lefty and the other is not. My guess is very seldom. Lets think about this, say we play the Phillies and the we have an off day mixed in there, do you think Freddie is going to throw Minor over Lowe, Hudson, Hanson, or JJ because he is a lefty. I doubt it. Do you think Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz would of been better than say Maddux, Smoltz, and Roger Clemons since Glavine was a lefty? The numbers of lefties or righties in rotation does not matter.

P-Town Brave ©

March 23rd, 2011
10:07 am

This the blog for today?

ATLBRAVE

March 23rd, 2011
10:09 am

Go Braves! Cant wait for opening day at the TED! Always a great read DOB

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:09 am

So the OverNight Crew has decided that Tomahawkin will now be known as Lemon Drop? Really got to wonder about that bunch.

Venice Jim

March 23rd, 2011
10:10 am

Soph – or Top 2 for the less mathematically-challenged… ;)

It must have been when I was using cab’s work computer to do my essay scoring, and I changed from her name to mine – my eyesight never caught the typo…

by the way, my favorite new spelling from the essays – “igspesoly”…

IVAN ...

March 23rd, 2011
10:11 am

DOB……………

Here’s one who hopes Brooks C. makes the team. I think he gets beyond the error bug and helps this version a stronger team.

Venice Jim

March 23rd, 2011
10:12 am

P-Town Brave – you sound disappointed…

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:12 am

Something else I’ve wondered about (of a more serious nature) – Why are so many thinking they will convert Vizcaino to a reliever? With Lowe and Hudson’s years with the team limited to the next couple and Kimbrel, Medlen and Venters already in the fold, what would the purpose be? Seems to me that he’d be better off in the rotation.

wheelz007

March 23rd, 2011
10:14 am

IVAN

I agree. Brooks did way too much last year to help us win games. I hope he makes the team.

IVAN ...

March 23rd, 2011
10:14 am

Lew…….

top of am..

On vacation this week, got nothing done so far this week…

Calling for rain later today on Lake Hartwell……

Wanted to go fishing today, wind is up this morning……………

IVAN ...

March 23rd, 2011
10:15 am

Big “10-4″ wheelz007.

JOJO

March 23rd, 2011
10:16 am

Please no CONRAD. With his error totals he could not play for me in Doubla A His errors cost the Braves moe games than his bat won.

Soph

March 23rd, 2011
10:17 am

Ok, ok top TWO then.

“igspesoly”? What is that supposed to be and please don’t say especially.

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
10:18 am

Eric from MO It is always good to have guys who can change the hitter’s “eye angle”. It keeps guys from being able to zero in on a spot to see the ball coming out of a pitcher’s hand. Likely the biggest reason to mix up Lowe and Hudson in the rotation because they are so similar.

Funny game baseball, for all the talk about how teams look for the 6′7″ flame thrower, guys like Beachy and Kris Medlin always seem to find success even without all the hype of being the next “Big Unit”…

As for the final bench spot, it often come down to what the needs of the team are. Lucas may simply fill the need better than Hernadez or Rameriz.

monty

March 23rd, 2011
10:21 am

I said the other day that the 5th starter spot should go to the guy who had the better spring. I may have been naive in saying that according to the blog today. If one guy has “slightly” better stats at what point does slightly better become just plain ole better without the adverb? It looks like it depends on which guy you had favored from the outset. If the Braves favored the lefty then obviously Beachy would of had to do something other-wordly to win the job, (if all it boils down to something as simple as “righty vs lefty”).I suspect that if Minor had pitched like Beachy this spring and Beachy had Minor’s stats the difference may have been more than “slightly better.” I don’t care really who gets the spot, although if Minor does, then if I were Beachy it would definitely be a bummer to feel like you performed better (if only slightly) , but the other guy gets it because you throw from the wrong side. If sent down everyone knows it’s not the end of the world, but I’m sure disappointing none the less. Personally I think Beachy is mentally tougher than Minor right now, he throws strikes, has comand of all his pitches, and he doesn’t give up the long ball.

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:22 am

IVAN – Well, if the wind isn’t too bad, right before a storm with the barometer dropping is good fishing weather. With the wind, maybe some catfish off the bottom using old chicken livers?

Your knees doing any better?

Fish Bisch

March 23rd, 2011
10:23 am

Lopez is the worst out of all the 5th starter candidates on the list. Cut Connie.

ncbravesfan

March 23rd, 2011
10:23 am

Everyone fusses over Conrad’s poor fielding, but the fact of the matter is that if he makes the Braves 25 man roster, it will be for his bat, The Braves will have Lucas or Hernandez for defense. If a critical at bat comes up late, I’d much rather see Clutch Conrad than Lucas or Hernandez or Mather. And personally, I think he be a much more determined player given the way last year ended.

Venice Jim

March 23rd, 2011
10:23 am

Soph – since you told me not to say especially, I am unable to answer your question…

N8

March 23rd, 2011
10:25 am

This is a comment from the end of the other blog by Versiroth, it’s broken down into sections with my response for each.

“Guy’s, I know having a reknown trio of pitchers in the minors like Teheran, Delgado and Viscaino is exciting, but in reality, we’ll be lucky if one of these guys ends up a star.”

This is where things get grey and fuzzy. The word “star” is subjective. Do you consider Jurjjens a “star”? Do you consider Derek Lowe a “star” at this point of his career? I’m not looking for all three of them (Vizcaino, Teheran and Delgado) to be stars. I hope (like you) that ONE of them becomes a star, with the other two becoming viable ML starting pitchers. Minor, Beachy and Medlen are also in the mix. Even IF the Braves decided to trade Hudson, Hanson and Jurjjens, in a year or two, it is likely that a team could do much worse than a rotation of 5 guys out of Beachy, Minor, Delgado, Teheran, Vizcaino and Medlen. Lets not forget that John Smoltz (save his post season magic) wasn’t a “star” until his 96 season. Before that he showed many flashes of brilliance with some wild command and mental breakdowns before that.

“I could even see Viscaino being converted into a reliever with his high 90s fastball.”

Totally agree with that. I can see a scenario where Teheran is a rotation mainstay, Vizcaino moving to the pen (though if Kimbrel is lights out, that seems like a waste), and Delgado possibly being traded.

“So, don’t be so quick to dump guys like Hanson, Minor and JJ to make room when two of the three have already had success at the highest level and the third may also end up being very good as well.”

Well, two of those guys (Hanson and JJJ) have had success as major leaguers and also happen to be Boras clients. Which tells me the liklihod of both remaining Braves beyond their first bout with free agency is minimal at best. Adding to the projection that at some point in the next year or two (if the young trio appears to pan out), one of them is going to be traded. I still think Jurrjens is a goner after this year. Perhaps at the deadline if Minor and Beachy are both pitching well and the Braves are desperate for a bat for the stretch run.

“I hope the above trio all turn out great, but again, that rarely happens.”

Again, perhaps that is just setting the sights too high. I’m more interested in having 4-5 guys in the rotation that give a consistent performance and put the team in position to win. With the core of this offense being pretty stable now (Prado, Heyward, Uggla, Mac and perhaps Freeman), and the two young guns in the pen, I’m more interested in 25 man roster balance with a handful of stars mixed in.

I don’t think it’s any more of a stretch to think Jurjjens will come back as strong as before, or that Lowe will maintain his fantastic finish last year (and spring start this year) over 35 starts, than it is to assume that at least 3 or 4 out of Beachy, Minor, Medlen, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino are going to be viable ML starters in the very near future.

Perhaps not Smoltz, Avery, Glavine and Maddux as a rotation.

But probably good enough to make this team very solid for years to come. Add to that, Hudson isn’t going anywhere and if he’s still healthy and pitching well at the end of this contract, I could see them keeping him around. Can’t see him wanting to uproot his family late in his career. So my gut tells me that Hudson finishes his career as a Brave.

ncbravesfan

March 23rd, 2011
10:25 am

That should have been “he WILL be a much more determined player”. How come you can’t edit on here?

Nova Scotia Steve

March 23rd, 2011
10:25 am

DOB: I’ve been reading all Spring.

I truly hope Mather contributes to the Braves – hey I’m a fan. But based on his performance, he’s hasn’t done anything to show me he belongs on the club.

I understand he’s out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to AAA (and it’s unlikely he’d clear – and potentially could be picked up by an NL East club).

I just don’t think he’s done much (based on performance) to earn a spot on the club.

DAP

March 23rd, 2011
10:26 am

lew Why are so many thinking they will convert Vizcaino to a reliever? With Lowe and Hudson’s years with the team limited to the next couple and Kimbrel, Medlen and Venters already in the fold, what would the purpose be?

maybe the purpose would be to use him as a reliever until they need him. the current 5 man is intact at least for the next two years. they need to trade some pitchers just to make room for tehran and delgado, who are also close. if vizcaino is ready to pitch in the bigs, there is a chance they wont have room as a starter, so giving him innings as a reliever might be the next best thing. its been done before.

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:26 am

Thing is that the Braves really need a RH Pinch Hitter and even though Conrad is a switch hitter, Left is his much better side. I think that’s why Wren said they’re looking for a RH bat. They can always use Hinske as the LH Pinch Hitter should they not go with Conrad.

DAP

March 23rd, 2011
10:26 am

JOJO His errors cost the Braves moe games than his bat won.

got any proof of that?

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
10:27 am

Oh by the way, the one thing I noticed this year was a collective change in the batting philosophy of the Braves. Lots of level swings, noticeable absence of the big upper cut type swing that makes hitters susceptible to off speed pitches.

One last comment about Beachy, he has one of those change ups that causes hitters to take that “bunny hop” swing because they are so badly fooled by the pitch.

Soph

March 23rd, 2011
10:28 am

VJ – math is to you as spelling is to me. Makes me cringe.

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:28 am

DAP – I would go along with that rationale IF we did not have Kimbrel (the annointed new closer of the future), Every Day Jonny Venters and Medlen returning (along with all the starters we already have for the rotation (negating the need for Meds starting).

Why would they convert a guy who has always been a starter and figures to be a good one when he is not needed in relief?

IVAN ...

March 23rd, 2011
10:30 am

Lew…..

Been w/o the knee braces for over a week………..

Have been taking glocosimine tabs daily for 6 weeks…

Knees feeling 100%.

Thanks for asking..

And yourself, you 100% ?

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:31 am

DAP – We’re agreed on that. Conrad had one of the best years as a power hitting pinch hitter I’ve ever seen. Definitely won more for us than his glove cost. Though at this point, I don’t know if I keep Brooks or not. We really need defensive diversity and Brooks really does not provide that.

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:33 am

IVAN – Wish I hadn’t gained that 40 pounds back recovering from the broken leg – only lost about ten of it so far. Feeling tired, but can walk a mile a day with no real effort – just wish it were still 3 or more. – but still much better than before I began the weight loss program in January of 09.

Nova Scotia Steve

March 23rd, 2011
10:35 am

Only 8 more days folks – praise your higher power – whoever he/she may be.

IVAN ...

March 23rd, 2011
10:37 am

Later……………..

Moe Berg

March 23rd, 2011
10:38 am

Farm System Rankings
By Tim Dierkes [March 23, 2011 at 8:45am CST]

Baseball America’s annual farm system rankings are out, with a few changes from their 2011 Handbook due to the Matt Garza trade. The Rays’ haul pushed them to #2 over the Braves, while the Cubs’ losses knocked them from #8 to #16.

For more farm system rankings, check out ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein. Keep in mind that graduating prospects to the bigs is a bad thing for a team in these rankings, which as Law notes represent a snapshot. Also, Goldstein provides haikus.

If you look at rankings from all three side-by-side in this spreadsheet, you’ll see that there is a consensus that the Royals, Rays, and Braves should be ranked #1, 2, and 3. The Blue Jays, Yankees, and Reds have consensus top ten systems, with Toronto placing no worse than fifth. There is also agreement that the Astros, Marlins, and Brewers belong in the bottom five. Outliers: BA dislikes the A’s and Angels more than the others, Law isn’t as high on the Indians but likes the Cardinals and D’Backs, and BA likes the Dodgers more than the others.

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/03/farm-system-rankings.html

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
10:39 am

Only 8 more days folks – praise your higher power – whoever he/she may be.

You want me to praise my wife????

N8

March 23rd, 2011
10:39 am

Excellent post at 10:26 DAP. You nailed it. Adam Wainwright comes to mind and even the Rangers flirting with Feliz returning to being a starter even though he was the ROY as their closer.

If I’m remembering correctly, Venters was a starter in the minors as well. Along with Millwood pitching out of the pen a few times early in his career for us.

In fact, if that trio of pitchers appears ready to help the big club later this year and our bullpen has issues, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a couple (or all three) of them up in September or perhaps before in the bullpen as it is likely that the Braves won’t want to overload their innings totals (just like with Minor last year).

Johan Santana also relieved for the first few years of his career. From 2000 to 2003, he made 117 appearances and only 41 of those were starts. No more than 18 in any season (2002), before becoming a fulltime starter in 2004 and winning the Cy Young I might add at age 25.

space monkey

March 23rd, 2011
10:39 am

Amazingly good McMurtry song about Thanksgiving.

DAP

March 23rd, 2011
10:41 am

lew Why would they convert a guy who has always been a starter and figures to be a good one when he is not needed in relief?

only reason you would is if he is ready to pitch MLB, but you didnt want to trade him (or one of the other young studs).

i think the braves will end up trading some MLB pitching to make room for youg’uns, but i could also see them easing a couple of the young’uns in. tehran, delgado, and vizcaino are all probably going to be ready around the same time, but you dont want three rookies in your rotation at once. it will be interesting to see what choices wren makes.

N8

March 23rd, 2011
10:44 am

Lew, I think if Wren truly has no interest in trading pitching and those guys have nothing left to prove in the minors, it’s a reality or a possibility that might happen.

Can’t leave them down forever and if you don’t want to trade them (and can’t unload the big contracts), then what are you going to do? They can ALWASY be converted back to starting.

I’ve stated all along, I’m OK with trading anybody currently in the rotation to make room for younger cheaper talent. But if you’re going to replace innings eaters with raw talent that isn’t stretched out it’s a mistake.

I don’t think Wren/Fredi will be fully ready to rely on those young guys to anchor the rotation for a few more years until they are ready to go over 200 innings on a regular basis. Gotta be able to hit the finish line as strong as you came out of the gate.

N8

March 23rd, 2011
10:45 am

Looks like we’re on the same page DAP. Does that scare you? :-)

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
10:49 am

Mather is being touted not for what he has done in spring training but because of what he has the potential to provide. If spring training were the only yard stick, Dan Uggla would already be in the minor league camp. Still, I don’t like to hear a player say he will flip the switch on opening day. Sometimes the switch is broken. Nate McLough last year comes to mind in that regard.

haggard

March 23rd, 2011
10:49 am

So Elizabeth Taylor is gone. She’ll always be ‘Maggie The Cat’ to me.

Felix Millan

March 23rd, 2011
10:50 am

who pitches today?

JeanE

March 23rd, 2011
10:50 am

Brooks is an awesome clutch pinch hitter, you can’t underestimate the value of that. Plus, great attitude and clubhouse guy. I say he definitely should be on the team. I’d go with Beachy or Minor right now just based on maturity.

Felix Millan

March 23rd, 2011
10:51 am

On a Hot Tin Roof, haggard.

haggard

March 23rd, 2011
10:51 am

David O’Brien

Thanks for the goods.

Darkhorse

March 23rd, 2011
10:52 am

I may have missed this if it has been mentioned this spring, but has anyone heard how Pete Van Wieren is progressing from his latest cancer treatments? I believe he began another round last fall and wanted to be ready to be at the park on opening day.

haggard

March 23rd, 2011
10:52 am

Felix Millan

And how. What a role!

DAP

March 23rd, 2011
10:53 am

N8 Looks like we’re on the same page DAP. Does that scare you?

your font has to be alot smaller to fit on the same page as me, i think. :- )

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
10:55 am

I’m OK with trading anybody currently in the rotation to make room for younger cheaper talent.

N8, do you own stock in Liberty Media? You err if you assume that the corporation is going to automatically channel the money saved by reducing payroll back into the organization.

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:56 am

Nathan – I have no problems with the need to trade some pitching – just doubt they’d move Vizcaino to the pen. I see (IF he returns to form) Jurrjens being the odd man out along with one of either Minor or Beachy.

Just don’t see the need to convert a pitcher like Viz when we already have Medlen, Venters and Kimbrel – all of whom are young and shgould be around a while. Maybe Medlen gets put on the trading block, too.

But Viz in the pen? Not seeing it. Just don’t feel that would be the best utilization of his talent. That nice easy motion tells me he’ll pitch lots of innings.

Felix Millan

March 23rd, 2011
10:58 am

haggard–
and in her day……

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
10:59 am

It’s still possible that the $40 million spent on Taylor’s Cleopatra in 1960, when extended to todays’ dollar, is still the most expensive movie ever made.

ncscoots

March 23rd, 2011
11:00 am

Still, I don’t like to hear a player say he will flip the switch on opening day.

Some players need competition to elevate their performance, and ST ain’t competition. Sure, some guys in camp have to see it differently, if they are fighting for a job or have something to prove, but, for most of the vets, it’s hard to get worked up about a game in Port St. Lucie. They’re already thinking about that grind ahead, saving what they can for when it counts.

David O'Brien

March 23rd, 2011
11:01 am

Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar in camp today for 1st time since lost left eye after hit by foul ball on March 9 (had surgery to remove eye March 15).

http://twitpic.com/4cgg8s

Fish Bisch

March 23rd, 2011
11:01 am

Forget grooming some of the young arms that are close to ready for a middle relief role, Vizcano should be our closer. His stuff is nasty. Kimbrel is too wild.

RHR

March 23rd, 2011
11:03 am

Great shot, DOB. Good to see him back.

poorbrave

March 23rd, 2011
11:04 am

I like James McMurtry’s 55 Ford . Thanks for info DOB. The more I hear from Fredi and esp. Tosca (remarks..hit a gnats etc) he is one cool guy and both business.
Would go with who I thought was the best players. That would be Lucas, Rameriz, Young. Mather may play more than one position but can’t hit crap another Norton. If they keep him its to prove Wren right for picking him up. Thats my opinion. Conrad has not earned the position in ST? Yes he had some big hits last year but that was last year. Thats the only two I don’t like making it..again my opinion. I really wish KK luck in getting another chance with a team that wants him and supports him. ( I don’t believe Braves did) I also like Martinez. Go Braves and kick some a@@ this year. The Fans are fired up!

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
11:04 am

Gil- And what makes you think Liberty Media won’t maintain the salary level? They’re making money and even though times have been tough, the payroll has remained relatively steady.

I just don’t see a major cut coming just because some of the larger salaries are no longer there – especially when Lowe’s, Hudson’s and Chipper’s have come during LM’s tenure.

Fish Bisch

March 23rd, 2011
11:04 am

Glad to see salzatzer back in camp.

Felix Millan

March 23rd, 2011
11:05 am

DOB– thanks for the Salazar update. Good to have him back in camp. Wish nothing but the best for he and his family.

poorbrave

March 23rd, 2011
11:07 am

Luis look good in picture. Lucky to be alive. Thank God for answering prayers.

David O'Brien

March 23rd, 2011
11:08 am

Luis Salazar: “I’m very fortunate to be alive…. I saw the line drive, the ball [approaching] my eye, and that’s the only thing I remember. The next thing, I woke up in the hospital… God gave me a second chance in this world, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

N8

March 23rd, 2011
11:08 am

“N8, do you own stock in Liberty Media? You err if you assume that the corporation is going to automatically channel the money saved by reducing payroll back into the organization.” Gil

No I don’t. As for your point? Maybe. Maybe not. You’re possibly correct. If they save money, they might stick it in their pocket and be along their merry way.

But at least the possibility is there to use the money elsewhere.

Example. Say payroll is at 90 million and Derek Lowe and Chipper are taking up 30 million or so of that.

Chipper then retires, leaving the payroll at 75 million. If for example, Liberty Media decides their trimming payroll to 80 million due to low ticket sales (or whatever), wouldn’t you rather have them trade Jurrjens and what he might make in arbitration making room for a league minimum guy and allowing Wren an extra 5-8 million to work with?

Especially if Lowe isn’t traded. It’s really just common sense and simple math (if all you’re crunching is salary numbers – obviously the talent and performance come into play if a team is to contend).

With the restraints Liberty Media has given Wren (no matter what the number is 90 million, 75 million or even 50 million), if you can have a solid rotation that costs around 10-15 million dollars all together (assuming Hudson stays), vs. one that costs over 30 million (assuming Lowe isn’t traded), then you do it. Provided there isn’t a huge dropoff in the results. If any. Sometimes the young guys IMPROVE the team and cost less.

BravePack

March 23rd, 2011
11:12 am

Gil In Mechanicsville

March 23rd, 2011
10:49 am
Mather is being touted not for what he has done in spring training but because of what he has the potential to provide. If spring training were the only yard stick, Dan Uggla would already be in the minor league camp. Still, I don’t like to hear a player say he will flip the switch on opening day. Sometimes the switch is broken

In the case with Uggla he never hits well in spring and this year he is actually hitting decent by his spring standards minus the power. He is hitting the ball to right field which is a good sign. I wouldn’t worry about him not being able to flip a switch as his last 4 30 home run seasons will prove he can flip the switch.

Soph

March 23rd, 2011
11:14 am

Luis has a great attitude. Best wishes to him!

Very lifting to see him out and about at the park.

Lew

March 23rd, 2011
11:14 am

Uggla never has hit well in ST and still has put up the best power numbers of any second baseman in MLB history through his first five seasons in the bigs.

I’m not concerned he’s lost it over the winter or is allergic to the material in a Braves’ uni.

N8

March 23rd, 2011
11:17 am

“But Viz in the pen? Not seeing it. Just don’t feel that would be the best utilization of his talent. That nice easy motion tells me he’ll pitch lots of innings” Lew

Let me clarify in case you’re not catching my point. I’m not suggesting that Vizcaino be a permanent fixture in the bulllpen for his career. I’m saying that it’s very possible that with all the talent we have, IF Wren isn’t looking to immediately trade guys to “make room” for them, the quickest path to the majors might be a temporary stop in our big league bullpen. Add to that, it might make the team better for the strettch drive.

Without Wainwright, the Cards don’t win that world series. Not saying it’s a formula etched in stone. But if a guy like Vizcaino can make our bullpen better in August of this year for the stretch run AND he can get some big league experience? Why on earth would the Braves pass that opportunity up if he has nothing left to prove in the minors?

If a kid like Vizcaino is available to “help” in the bullpen, and we’re stuck with guys like Scott Proctor blowing leads late in the year? I’m gonna be pissed.

Only reason not to do it, is if they don’t want to start the “clock”. Again…. if he’s ready. Obviously not being ready is a pretty good reason to not do it. :-)

But yeah. I agree with you on Minor, Beachy and Medlen also being trade bait. Like I said. I think Hudson with his 10/5 status and his roots in the community is the only guy you can scratch off as being traded in the next couple of years. Unless the Braves get a great offer and he waives his no-trade veto power.

Everybody else? All tradeable for the right price. Teheran is probably untouchable. But I suppose you could say EVERYBODY is available for the right price. I suspect that Wren will be fielding many, many phone calls from now until the start of next season with various offers for pitching. My guess is that he’s now already turning down many offers that are rolling in.

Robert

March 23rd, 2011
11:19 am

“Without Lopez they have six quality starters, plus Kenshin Kawakami”

What are you trying to say?

That’s just hilarious

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