Young, Hicks in; Proctor released; Mather waived

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A pair of long-time Braves minor leaguers came on strong to win bench jobs on the opening-day roster, while Joe Mather faltered and was placed on waivers and reliever Scott Proctor was released.

Those were among the flurry of personnel moves announced by the Braves on Sunday, when they presented an opening-day roster that included rookies Matt Young and Brandon Hicks on the bench and Cristhian Martinez in the last bullpen spot over Proctor.

Infielder Brooks Conrad will fill the other of three bench jobs that seemed undecided when spring training began, although manager Fredi Gonzalez said that, in his mind, Conrad was never competing for a job; he already had one.

“Brooks is a good bat off the bench,” Gonzalez said. “He hits from both sides. For me, he wasn’t in a position to be competing [for a job].”

The Braves announced their roster four days before their season opener at Washington and at least two days earlier than it was usually announced when Bobby Cox was manager.

Starting pitchers Kenshin Kawakami and Rodrigo Lopez were reassigned to minor-league camp along with catcher J.C. Boscan, infielder Ed Lucas and outfielder Wilkin  Ramirez.

Proctor was released, and because the Braves did it before a Monday deadline, they owe the injury-plagued veteran only 45 days’ termination pay – about one-fourth of the $750,000 salary that he would’ve made if he spent all season on the major league roster.

Although the roster was announced, one spot won’t be finalized until team officials are more certain about starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens’ status.

Jurrjens left his last Grapefruit League start Thursday with a sore right side. He had no problems when he tested it with light throwing Sunday, and will throw off the mound Monday.

The Braves hope to have Jurrjens on the opening-day roster. They would likely recall rookiel left-hander  Mike Minor from Triple-A to make one or two starts if Jurrjens  goes on the disabled list.

Conrad and the rookies — infielder Hicks and outfielder/second baseman Young — are joined on the bench by incumbent veterans Eric Hinske and catcher David Ross, whose jobs were assured.

Martinez is the “legit long reliever” that Gonzalez wanted in the bullpen, and joins six who already had jobs: lefties Eric O’Flaherty and George Sherrill, righties Peter Moylan and Scott Linebrink, and co-closers Craig Kimbrel and lefty Jonny Venters.

No one was happier to make the team than Young.

“I don’t have words to describe it,” he said late Sunday morning, two hours after Gonzalez told the 5-foot-7 Texan that he made it. “Fredi told me and I kind of blacked out, like in [the movie] Old School.”

Young hit .293 (12-for-41) with five RBIs, nine walks and two strikeouts in 24 games before Sunday. He can play center field, making him the likely backup to Nate McLouth.

“He did a nice job for himself making this club, and you’re going to win with guys like that,” Gonzalez said. “Because he’s not going to miss a sign, he’s going to put the ball in play. He’s going to do the little things – no put intended – to help you win a ballgame.”

Many thought Young wouldn’t make the team out of camp because he bats left-handed and the Braves needed a right-handed bat (Mather bats right-handed).

“I think it helped that the last week or so, I faced a lot of lefties and was hitting them,” said Young, who hit .300 with 33 doubles, 30 stolen bases and a .380 OBP at Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves took into account his minor-league numbers and strong performances in the Mexican Winter League the past two years.

“If you go back and look at his record in the Mexican League, he hit .360-something against lefties and .360-something against righties,” Wren said. “And scouts will tell you that from the sixth inning on, all he faced were lefties [in Mexico], because down there that’s how they use their bullpen. So [his left-handedness] really wasn’t a factor for us.”

One big factor was Mather. Claimed off waivers from St. Louis over the winter, he came to camp with a corner infield/outfield job to lose. He lost it, hitting .137 (7-for-51) with two extra-base hits and a .214 OBP.

“If he clears [waivers], we’ll have him at Triple-A,” Wren said. “He showed us in this camp that he was what we hoped he would be defensivly. He’s just got some things that he has to work on offensively, and he knows that. But defensively, he more than fills the bill. ”

The Braves have played Conrad some at first base this spring, giving them another option along with Hinske when rookie Freddie Freeman is out of the lineup.

Hicks hit .333 (11-for-33) with three doubles and a homer  in 24 spring games before Sunday, with a .389 OBP and .515 slugging percentage.  His strong spring moved him past Ed Lucas, who came in as a favorite to win a job before  hitting .244 with one extra-base hit, a .326 OBP and a .293 slugging percentage.

Lucas can play five or six positions, including all the infield spots. Hicks only plays shortstop and third base, but he’s superb defensively. In past years, Hicks’ offensive shortcomings were the only thing that kept him off the team. He’s made adjustments since last season.

“I feel 100 times beter than last year, just confidence-wise and just feeling athletic at the plate,” he said. “I’m working on staying through the ball and just getting ready a little bit earlier than I was last year.”

Said Wren: “His winter work on his offense really paid off for him. It’s a credit to those guys that they came in and competed and won jobs.”

Conrad didn’t have a good spring – five errors, .216 batting average with one homer and 18 strikeouts in 51 at-bats – but his many late-innings hits in 2010 outweighed his spring and infamous defensive struggles in the last week of the 2010 season and division series.

66 comments Add your comment

birdbrain

March 27th, 2011
6:34 pm

Dale_in_NC

March 27th, 2011
6:35 pm

Can someone tell me why Fredi let Kawakami hit for himself with bases loaded if he was just going to replace him at the top half of the next inning? I was watching gamecast and thought I may have missed something. Just seems too ludicrous to be what actually happened.

B

March 27th, 2011
6:35 pm

LAG

March 27th, 2011
6:42 pm

This is cool with me.

Get well, Jurrjens.

2L

March 27th, 2011
6:42 pm

seems to me like we have a decent bench, and if Mather clears waivers, I will be really happy. Being able to bring him up to the majors as soon as someone gets hurt would be huge.

bruce

March 27th, 2011
6:44 pm

sounds great… hope mather clears waivers and can get his bat going

Kat

March 27th, 2011
6:44 pm

Not very on-topic to this particular blog post, but it is about various teams’ rosters being announced today.

So how does it work (Rule 5 and all) now that Scott Diamond didn’t make the 25man roster for the Twins?

Brava

March 27th, 2011
6:45 pm

manager Fredi Gonzalez said that, in his mind, Conrad was never competing for a job; he already had one.

It’s kinda crappy of the Braves to let all those players compete for that roster spot when they’d planned to give it to Conrad all along.

Klaus

March 27th, 2011
6:47 pm

Nice roster and decisive moves. Finally!

Conrad was given a mulligan but with Lucas in the minors he better hit and cut down on the errors or he will be back in AAA.

Also if they find a RH bench bat with pop he may get move in any case.

I like what I saw from Wilkins and expect to see him back in ATL sooner versus later.

Wren goes in the season with a decent bench with an eye towards adding a RH bat.

Sherrill worries me but I will reserve judgement until mid to late April. If he still is struggling against lefties he will need the get the keys to the street. Too much talent in the minors for him to have a long leash.

JJ is a concern but not a big one.

All n all a good ST. Cannot complain.

K.Street

March 27th, 2011
6:49 pm

It is just spring training and it is obviously something that he wouldn’t do in the season. Also, why give the Phillies any insight into what you would do in that kind of situation. I wouldn’t want to give them any kind of upper hand in knowing what would be done in the regular season.

The Living Legend

March 27th, 2011
6:49 pm

Was really pulling for Lucas, he plays so many spots that I thought he would have made the roster. Glad they dropped Proctor!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Braves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dennis Reynolds

March 27th, 2011
6:51 pm

I wont ever forget the playoffs. Sorry.

Jim

March 27th, 2011
6:54 pm

Never understood the fascination with Mather anyway. He’s never been good.

BBraves

March 27th, 2011
6:55 pm

Soild all around bench. Hinske and Conrad are good pinch hitters and Young and Hicks are good defensive players. Having both Proctor and Sherrill made me nervous having both in the bullpen without a true long reliever and spot starter. If someone got knocked out earlier there wasn’t anyone in there to go multiple innings so really glad that Martinez made it. Hopefullly Sherrill will be used only against lefties.

Billy

March 27th, 2011
6:59 pm

I think Billy Wagner is trying to get the Braves to drop him off the roster so they have to pay him. At this point could it be anything else? They are in a waiting game and nobody wants to show there cards.

spike

March 27th, 2011
7:02 pm

Diamond has to be offered back to the Braves for 1/2 of the claiming fee. They can either take him, trade him to Minn, or let Minn keep him. In re the bench, outside of Ross and Hinske, there really isn’t anyone who figures to hit the ball, Conrad’s anomalous 2010 campaign notwithstanding, there isn’t much in his resume that suggests a repeat is on the way. Still, it’s better than some of the benches of recent memory, I suppose, and I suspect Conrad has a pretty short runway.

Brian from Villa Rica

March 27th, 2011
7:12 pm

Look for the Twins to trade for Diamond. I would like to keep him for depth as K.K. and Lopez will probably be moved.

Kat

March 27th, 2011
7:14 pm

Spike — thanks for the clarification on Diamond.

JM

March 27th, 2011
7:15 pm

Outside of Hinske and Ross, the bench is a minor league bench..woeful.

bigmistakebraves

March 27th, 2011
7:19 pm

Big mistake letting Proctor go, Hope the phillies pick him up and Proctor shuts them down in the race to the end. Martinez showed his true ability against the Phillies today. Good Luck Scott, Whatever team is smart enough to sign you is going to get a real steal. Hopefully will be seeing you on the mound in the 7th inning where you belong.

Geezer

March 27th, 2011
7:26 pm

Good Riddance Kawasucki…..hope you enjoy A Ball….maybe it would embarass him and he would just quit…..

Rupert

March 27th, 2011
7:36 pm

While I don’t like the Conrad decision, it seems as if it was made a long time ago and there’s to do now but root for the guy and hope he’s not called on to play the field. Got to feel good for Young, love the little guy. Also have to be impressed by Hicks to have made such improvement with the stick in such a short time. All in all, team looks to be in very good position to come out of the gates strong, especially with Philly’s situation.

Quicherbichin

March 27th, 2011
7:48 pm

Dennis.. if you ever make a mistake, I hope that someone does you the same way one day. You belong with the Red Sox Fans that have never forgiven Bill Buckner for his error in ‘86 even though they have titles after that,

JM .. Inside of the blog, you’re a minor league poster. Woeful.

gotigers72

March 27th, 2011
8:07 pm

Good decisions Fredi! Thank goodness you kept some young guys and got rid of some has beens, as has not always been the case in the past. It may not work out, but IMO it is important to give some organizational young guys chances so that the minor leaguers see that they will be rewarded for their hard work. I think you’re better off that way.

My only real worry is Sherrill. Has a 9.00 ERA in ST. Had an ERA over 6 last year, plus RH batters hit over .400 against him. As DOB likes to say, Yikes!

Ben

March 27th, 2011
8:10 pm

Welcome ALL 2011 Braves!

NORRIS

March 27th, 2011
8:15 pm

we rolled the dice playing kawakami today. we all hoped he would do well in order to get a better trade. But oh well. it is odd though whey we would send him to double A. Does anyone know why he went there instead of AAA?

Kat

March 27th, 2011
8:19 pm

Speaking of Diamond…

Twins Trying To Work Out Deal To Keep Diamond
http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/03/twins-working-on-deal-to-keep-scott-diamond.html

moboman

March 27th, 2011
8:20 pm

Wait and see what happens after all the other teams waivers are reviewed. Bet we claim someone.

John Leonard

March 27th, 2011
9:02 pm

Would not have kept Linebrink or Sherrill.

DaveinNEPA

March 27th, 2011
9:04 pm

If anyone had any doubts about there being a new sheriff in town, Fredi dispelled that idea today.

In years past guys like Mather and Proctor would have made the team simply because of their prior experience and poor ST performances would have been overlooked.

I’s kind of refreshing to see some young guys come out of nowhere and make the club.

I don’t have a problem with Conrad making the team simply because he will seldom have to play defense. He was forced into that situation last season because of injuries, and unfortunately there wasn’t anyone else ready to fill the void.

I also don’t think that what we see of today’s roster will be what we see later in the season. There’s always tweaking to be done.

This is a pretty good team and at least now we have somebody in the dugout that has a few functioning brain cells.

E-6

March 27th, 2011
9:26 pm

Dave – Well said. Conrad was forced into a bad situation last year because of a flurry of injuries. This year, we have two good gloves on the bench we did not have last year.

As to Martinez over Proctor – the best call on a pair of bad choices. He needs to learn from today’s experience that walking the lead-off guy is not the stairway to success.

GarynpOH

March 27th, 2011
9:30 pm

glad to see a bench spot is not wasted on Mather, i really thought they were going to keep him. first sign of the newe Braves i think. Go Young, rooting for the short guy. Nope no complex here at 5′7″. none at all

TeheranTime

March 27th, 2011
9:32 pm

Glad to hear some of the younguns made the team. Brandon Hicks really deserves a shot as does Matt Young. Good luck to them both. Go Braves!

MOBravesfan

March 27th, 2011
9:35 pm

All around good choices. I think Fredi and Wren made some good choices. I think we have a very good team with a good chance to go back to the playoffs. Go Braves!

[...] • Another former Yankees reliever has been released. The Braves let Scott Proctor go today. [...]

JamesH17

March 27th, 2011
10:28 pm

love the over all choices would have liked to see Welkin Ramriez make the team but I think Young and Hicks were two of the most deserving to earn a spot, and @bigmistakebraves your obiviously a Phillies fan and didnt watch Proctor pitch. He was awful in pretty much every single outing he had and the braves arent going to keep a guy who sucked it up with the rest of the younger talent that he has.Also I hope the phillies do sign Proctor he would fit in with the rest of the injury proned guys on the like Utley and Rollins

admiral

March 27th, 2011
10:44 pm

good for them. it’s great to have hungry young ball players with something to prove. builds character, something that anytime always needs more of.

admiral

March 27th, 2011
10:44 pm

any team – not anytime. whoops.

stew

March 27th, 2011
11:29 pm

Now get rid of Sherill also. He can only pitch to one batter in a game. I understand the importance of a LOOGY, but he has to get some righties out. How about Oberholtzer for LOOGY?

big o

March 27th, 2011
11:48 pm

I like this team but our bench is suspect but we will see. I just hope the reasoning for not resigning Matt Diaz was Mather. If so we let a good righthanded bat go

Him Tudson

March 28th, 2011
1:22 am

Love our bench. Loathe our defense. Here’s hoping Brooksy is used for pinch-hitting duties instead of late-inning D.

sheeesh

March 28th, 2011
2:53 am

At least the Braves saw the light with Lucas. Can’t for the life of me understand why they signed him in the first place. Six years in the minors with the Royals and never even getting as much as a sniff of the AAAA air in KC should have been all they needed to know. Even more perplexing when the Braves have one of their own in charge in KC in Dayton Moore.

JuneBaby

March 28th, 2011
3:28 am

Your new Atlanta Braves…, the pride of ‘jawja’, Atlanta’s finest, perennial playoff losers, soon to lead the major leagues in errors, and the whitest team in baseball!!!!

MeSo

March 28th, 2011
6:35 am

I think a big factor in Hicks making the team, other than his vast ST improvement at the plate, was that he is now also a viable long-term replacement at 3B when Chipper is out. He is the best defensive IF on the roster and if he can maintain his success at the plate will actually be used more as he is a valuable upgrade defensively at 3B over Chipper or Prado. This will also help the OF depth as it keeps Prado back out there in LF. So if Chipper goes down for any length of time I think we could be seeing a lot of Hicks there, especially against lefties. I like it.

vermont 39

March 28th, 2011
7:15 am

Conrad does not belong on the field. His bat is his forte!!!
He can win games!!!
Leave the guy alone…gloves fall off trees…bats not so.
He is an asset, albeit a one dimensional one, but an asset just the same.
GO BRAVES!!!

ramblingman

March 28th, 2011
7:25 am

I was thinking Lucas would make it, but don’t have a problem with Hicks. I think the team has shaped up very well.

Oh, and JuneBaby, you are a racist jerk.

Say Hey Heyward

March 28th, 2011
7:58 am

Conrad will be a “designated” pinch hitter. The only time you will ever see him in the field is if the Braves have a big lead or are getting blown out. It’s invaluable to have a pinch hitter who is experienced getting clutch hits in late game situations. I wouldn’t worry too much about Sherrill either. 95% of time or more he’ll only be facing left handed batters so his numbers against righties are irrelevant, and only be brought in to face 1 or 2 batters at a time.

Filling the last roster spots and the bullpen spots are not just about keeping the best all around players but about filling roles that are needed: clutch pinch hitter (Conrad), pinch runner (Hicks), late inning defensive help (Hicks and Young), long reliever (Martinez), and Loogy (Sherrill). Fredi just has to remain committed to using certain players, namely Conrad and Sherrill, only in the roles they were kept to fill. If Conrad costs us a game b/c of errors or Sherrill gets bombed by right handed hitters, I would put the blame much more on Fredi for using them in the wrong situation than I would on either Conrad or Sherrill.

bvillebaron

March 28th, 2011
8:04 am

bigmistakebraves:

Are you serious with your comments about Proctor? Gimme a break!

Don

March 28th, 2011
8:55 am

These moves make it obvious that Bobby Cox is no longer managing. Strange it see guys who are actually producing being rewarded.

Lemke's Knuckler

March 28th, 2011
9:18 am

Excellent moves. And as much as I hate saying this, I actually agree with Don. I think if Bobby were still managing, Proctor and Mather would both have made the roster.

Now I’m going to go saw my fingers off for typing that I agree with Don.

Nova Scotia Steve

March 28th, 2011
9:48 am

Mather should not have made this team.

I’m happy to see that move – it flies in the face of handing a person a roster spot because of their contract situation or “options”.

Roster decisions should be based on performance and in this case they certainly were…

Extremely impressed with these moves.

JeanE

March 28th, 2011
10:00 am

Congrats to Brandon Hicks and Matt Young! So glad they made the team over Mather, we like the local guys to do well! And Brooksie, too. I know all those errors are still in his head, just needs to shake that off and go back to being Dirt and he’ll be fine.

Mike

March 28th, 2011
10:10 am

Can you say spellcheck…

GT Alum

March 28th, 2011
11:04 am

bvillebaron -

Wonder if bigmistakebraves is Proctor’s mom.

Robert

March 28th, 2011
11:07 am

“Can someone tell me why Fredi let Kawakami hit for himself with bases loaded if he was just going to replace him at the top half of the next inning?”

Cuz it was their last chance for one stray fastball to make KK’s $7 million salary Lloyds of London’s problem?

bfred

March 28th, 2011
11:29 am

Fine, so we have a couple of rookies coming off the bench. Rookies with speed who hit for average and get on base, plus play quality defense. I’d say the Braves have done very well recently cultivating young talent and Hicks and Young look far better than their more experienced competition. Give me the scrappy rookie over the career .240 vet any day.

john

March 28th, 2011
12:15 pm

Glad to see Matt Young make the team. Played well in Gwinnett last year with surprising power for such a little guy. Gotta say I’m surprised about Brandon Hicks. We saw a lot of him in Gwinnett. An average minor league shortstop at best and his hitting was awful. Low 200’s with lots of strikeouts, popouts, and weak grounders. Am hopeful his Spring stats mean he has grown up but can’t toss out a whole year based on a couple of onths against many pitchers who wont make a Major League roster

iopbrave

March 28th, 2011
1:37 pm

Fredi is instilling confidence in Brooks by saying that there was no doubt – if enough people would have on fire in ST he might not have made it – he’s a good switch-hitting bat and we have plenty of infield depth so probably not too many fielding opps for brooks -

GO BRAVES!!!!!

Ted M

March 28th, 2011
1:37 pm

Let the games begin!

[...] This won’t increase Mather’s spirit. [...]

[...] Atlanta Braves [...]

Kyle

March 28th, 2011
3:09 pm

DOB – does this mean Wren will begin to look for a RH bat off the bench now?

Kyle

March 28th, 2011
3:09 pm

check that a power rh bat to go with Hinske

Tariq Shakoor

March 28th, 2011
5:27 pm

Good for the Braves decision to keep Matt Young. I was impressed with his hustle and his speed. He can develop into a badly needed catalyst at the top of the lineup. I see him eventually taking over for the inept Nate McClouth in centerfield. I think he brings more to the table than McClouth.

[...] • Another former Yankees reliever has been released. The Braves let Scott Proctor go today. [...]

rfgh

March 29th, 2011
7:31 am

Dont agree with keeping Conrad. Great guy but he can NOT be used defensively in any critical situation. 5 errors with no pressure? Couldnt perform in playoffs last year and it will only get worse. Just dont believe mentally he can ever be counted on to not make an error when it can hurt the most.

Add your comment