Archive for March, 2011

Young, Hicks, Conrad make Braves’ 25-man roster

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When Matt Young was told Sunday that he’d made the Braves’ opening-day roster, the undersized underdog was so surprised that he “kind of blacked out” and didn’t hear the rest of what manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

When infielder Brandon Hicks was told he’d made the roster, he was equally surprised and overjoyed.

When Gonzalez (left) told him he'd made the roster Sunday, Young (right) said he "kind of blacked out" from excitement and didn't hear the rest of what the Braves manager said.

When Gonzalez (left) told him he'd made the roster Sunday, Young (right) said he "kind of blacked out" from excitement and didn't hear the rest of what the Braves manager said. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Young and Hicks, two long-time Braves minors leaguers that few expected to make the opening-day roster a few weeks ago, came on strong late in camp and were rewarded with spots on the 25-man roster that will be officially announced after Sunday’s game against the Phillies.

Infielder Brooks Conrad was also brought back in the other of the three bench jobs that were undecided when spring training began.

That presumably means Joe Mather …

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Five-error day raises Braves’ total to 32 in 31 games

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The Braves’ defense Saturday was as clunky as the name of the New York Mets’ rebranded spring-training home, Digital Domain Park.

Five errors in an 8-2 road loss to the Mets raised the Braves’ spring total to 32 errors in 31 Grapefruit League games. Their 126 errors during the 2010 season was one shy of tying Washington and Pittsburgh for most in the National League.

“Hopefully it was just one of those games in spring training,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday. “We’ve been really good. This is only the second game in spring training that I can think of where we were sluggish, where we weren’t crisp.”

Five errors set a single-game high for the Braves this spring, topping the four miscues in a March 15 game against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

Rookie outfielder Wilkin Ramirez didn’t help his bid for an opening-day roster spot with two errors on consecutive plays in the three-run first inning. He made a bad throw, then a …

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Lowe: “Wasn’t the sharpest game, no doubt about it.”

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Derek Lowe planned for a nice tune-up start Saturday, but instead the Braves pitcher got knocked around by Mets hitters and undermined by his own defense.

The Braves made five errors and Lowe was charged with seven hits and six runs (four earned) in an 8-2 road loss against the New York Mets. It was Lowe’s final spring game before his opening-day start March 31 at Washington.

“It’s hard to gear up, but on the other hand you don’t want to go out there and be a human batting-practice machine, either, like I was at times [Saturday],” Lowe said. “I’m happy we’re done. It wasn’t the sharpest game, no doubt about it. It really wasn’t very good, that’s what it boils down to.

“But the second you’re done you’ve already forgotten about it and can’t wait to start [the regular season].”

Lowe gave up four hits and three runs in the first inning, one unearned after two errors by rookie right fielder/roster hopeful Wilkin Ramirez. The …

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Trade-bait pitcher Kawakami starts Sunday vs. Phillies

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The Braves are still trying to trade Kenshin Kawakami, who’ll have his highest-profile appearance of the spring when he starts Sunday against Philadelphia in a 1:05 p.m. game to be shown nationally on the MLB Network.

Kawakami had originally been scheduled to start Monday night in the Braves’ last spring-traniing game in Florida before they return to Atlanta for two exhibition games against Minnesota Tuesday and Wednesday.

He was switched to Sunday to replace Mike Minor, who was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday when Brandon Beachy was declared the winner of the No. 5 starter competition. In Monday’s game, the Braves will start a minor leaguer to be determined.

Kawakami, 35, was two weeks late to spring training because of visa issues in Japan. He has a 2.25 ERA in eight innings over four spring games (one start), charged with seven hits, four runs (two earned) and two walks with four strikeouts.

His late arrival to camp has made it even tougher for …

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Now that Hicks is hitting, could he get job over Lucas?

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – He has a degree from Dartmouth, student loans to pay down and some friends in high places, but Ed Lucas is still plugging away on a minor-league baseball salary, chasing a dream.

He’ll turn 29 in May, and might be back in Triple-A for his birthday, given how his performance this spring has tailed off as roster decisions loom. Still, Lucas isn’t thinking about shucking this life for a desk and a big salary.

Hicks' defense has always been stellar.

Hicks' defense has always been stellar.

“Oh, no,” he said. “This is what it’s all about. I’ve got the rest of my life to try to find a job somewhere else. It’s a limited window to play professional sports.”

The Braves signed the long-time Royals farmhand as a six-year minor league free agent during the winter. He has no big-league experience, but the versatile infielder/outfielder posted career-best numbers last season at Triple-A Omaha, batting .307 with 13 homers, a .398 OBP and an .878 OPS in 99 games.

He came to camp as a …

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Video: Discussing Braves’ Beachy, Jurrjens

The AJC’s David O’Brien talks with CineSport’s Noah Coslov about Jair Jurrjens’ health, Brandon Beachy’s spot in the rotation, and who may join him there.

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Chipper hits mammoth homer; McLouth finshing strong

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Chipper Jones’ fourth home run of spring training was  one of the longest he’s hit in recent memory, a three-run blast in the first inning Friday that cleared a 60-foot wall holding the scoreboard in left-center field at Champion Stadium.

It traveled an estimated 450 feet and staked rookie starter Brandon Beachy to a 3-0 lead in a 5-3 split-squad win against Detroit. The veteran switch-hitter unloaded on a fastball from Tigers left-hander Adam Wilk.

“That was impressive,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who smiled and added, “He’s had a terrific spring; I ought to put him in deep freeze until we start the season.”

Jones was 1-for-2 with a walk and ranks among NL leaders in multiple offensive categories including batting average (.411), on-base percentage (.459), slugging percentage (.768), doubles (eight), home runs (four) and RBIs (15).

He has three homers and four doubles in his past eight games.

McLouth is finishing strong

Martin …

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Beachy not satisfied with just winning a job

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — He went from undrafted free-agent signee to Braves opening-day rotation in under three years, but Beachy said it was too soon to say all his work paid off.

“I haven’t even won a game in the big leagues,” the rookie said a few hours before pitching six scoreless innings of two-hit ball against Detroit on Friday night. “I mean, it’s definitely an accomplishment to be on the roster, but it’s nothing compared to what I want to accomplish.”

He’s scheduled to start the exhibition finale Wednesday against Minnesota at Turner Field.

Beachy, 24, is a formerly obscure right-hander from Indiana Wesleyan. His stock soared in 2010 when he led all minor league pitchers with a 1.73 ERA while recording 148 strikeouts in 119 1/3 innings.

Brought to the majors to replace the injured Jurrjens on Sept. 20, he posted a 3.00 ERA in three starts for the Braves and had 15 strikeouts in 15 innings.

Beachy has limited opponents to seven hits and two runs …

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A day later, Jurrjens’ injury believed to be minor

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A day after Jair Jurrjens left a game with discomfort in his right side, the Braves pitcher was still “a little sore” Friday but not believed to be injured seriously.

That was the report from Braves general manager Frank Wren, who said Jurrjens’ status was day-to-day. He’ll be reevaluated before a decision is made about the opening-day roster.

Jurrjens received treatment for several hours at the Braves’ spring-training headquarters Friday and left before the clubhouse was open to reporters. He was not sent out to have an MRI exam.

The right-hander was removed from Thursday’s game against Toronto after one inning, after feeling a twinge in his right side in the rib-cage area. Jurrjens thought it was only a cramp, but the Braves took him him out as a precaution in case it was a more serious matter, such as an oblique strain.

Wren had said Thursday that they wanted to see how Jurrjens felt when he woke the next day.

“He felt fine,” the …

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Refreshed Venters is something to see

DARK STAR, Fla. – Jonny Venters says he didn’t realize it, but maybe he just convinced himself he wasn’t tired last fall, because he didn’t want to let anyone down during the stretch drive of his outstanding 2010 rookie season.

Whatever the reason, it’s only now, as he puts the finishing touches on an overwhelming spring performance in which he’s rarely allowed a batter to reach base, that Venters concedes he was tired last fall.

Venters (left) and Kimbrel will enter the season as co-closers for manager Fredi Gonzalez. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Venters (left) and Kimbrel will enter the season as co-closers for manager Fredi Gonzalez. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

“Everyday Jonny” said Wednesday that an offseason of rest had served him well, and I asked if he even realized how tired he was late last season.

“I didn’t,” he said, then smiled. “My body was sore for two weeks.”

And now?

“Everything feels great,” said Venters, who has

There’s a side of baseball that most of us, even those who cover the sport, aren’t fully aware of. We know it’s a helluva grind, …

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