Archive for January, 2012

Chipper says 2012 might not be his last season

He’ll turn 40 in April, had surgery on each knee in the past two years, and has tired of speculation about when he’ll retire. But Chipper Jones is not tired of playing baseball.

Atlanta’s iconic third baseman is preparing for his 19th season with the Braves, and Tuesday he made it clear the 2012 season might not be his last.

“As long as I stay healthy and I’m having fun, I’m going to keep going,” he said before an informal hitting session at Turner Field. “I sit here with three weeks to go before spring training and I’m not ready to say this is it.”

Jones is entering the final guaranteed year of a contract that will pay $14 million in 2012. The deal includes a $7 million team option for 2013, which vests automatically at $9 million if he plays at least 123 games in 2012.

He played 126 games in 2011 despite a stint on the disabled list for arthroscopic knee surgery, which kept him out of the All-Star game.

The 2013 option has escalators that could add $1 million each …

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Braves open pitching camp, say collapse is behind them

The last time Braves pitchers were at Turner Field, they left with heads down, as did the rest of the team. That was after a 13-inning season-finale loss to Philadelphia on Sept. 28, which ended their 10-20 collapse and kept the Braves out of the playoffs.

When pitching coach Roger McDowell welcomed back some of his charges Monday for the first day of the Braves’ early pitching camp at Turner Field, questions about The Collapse and lessons learned from it elicited similar responses.

Not terse, but succinct.

“The calendar turned over to 2012, and so it is a new year,” McDowell said. “Like any other experience you go through, good, bad or indifferent, you learn from it and move on.”

To a follow-up question moments later, he answered: “We’re going to play 162 [games on the schedule], prepare in spring training and get ready for the season. What happened in the past is not going to dictate what happens in the future. So we’ll move on.”

Brandon Beachy, one of seven …

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Pastornicky, Simmons at forefront of ATL shortstop depth

The Braves have built so much minor league depth at shortstop that by last summer they were making decisions on how to better utilize that stable of  players, opting to move a couple of prospects to new positions.

Edward Salcedo, 20, a prized international free-agent signee two years ago, was moved from shortstop to third base at Class-A Rome, and 2010 first-round draft pick Matt Lipka switched from shortstop to center field last fall at the instructional league in Florida.

Lipka will play center field this year, likely at high-A Lynchburg. The Braves were pleased with how well he took to center field in the fall and believe his speed and athleticism are well suited for the position. He also worked extensively on his approach as a leadoff hitter during the instructional league.

Moving Salcedo and Lipka still left four shortstops whom the Braves consider promising in the minor league system: Tyler Pastornicky, who’s penciled in for the major league job in 2012, top …

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Braves shortstop Pastornicky: “I’m ready to do this.”

Tyler Pastornicky told reporters in September that he couldn’t afford to think about possibly being the Braves’ shortstop as soon as the 2012 season, that he just needed to keep working and be ready when he got his chance.

It looks like we’re about to find out if he’s ready.

Barring anything unexpected in the next two months, it looks as if the Braves will go into the upcoming season with the speedy rookie as their regular shortstop and veteran Jack Wilson as his backup. The Braves didn’t try to retain slick-fielding, weak-hitting veteran Alex Gonzalez, who signed a free-agent contract with Milwaukee.

Pastornicky had a career-best season in 2011, hitting .314 with a .359 on-base percentage, seven homers and 27 stolen bases in 117 games last season at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. He hit .365 in 27 games for Gwinnett before missing the final month with a sprained ankle.

He was added to Atlanta’s roster for the last game of the season but didn’t play in the loss to …

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Tickets available for first Braves vs. Prospects game

Braves and Gwinnett Braves season-ticket holders will get first dibs on tickets to the first Braves vs. prospects game April 3 at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.

Officially called the Braves All-Stars vs. Futures Stars, the game will pit the current Braves against top prospects in the Braves organization. The 7:05 p.m. game at Gwinnett replaces what has been a traditional pair of exhibition games Atlanta has played against an American League team at Turner Field between the end of the spring-training schedule in Florida and the regular-season opener.

The Braves aren’t played those games against an AL opponent this season.

Braves and G-Braves full-season ticket holders can purchase tickets beginning Wednesday at noon at a $5 discount off regular prices ($10-$45). Those with partial season ticket plans can purchase tickets beginning Feb. 6 at 10 a.m., also at a $5 discount.

Beginning Feb. 18, fans without season-ticket plans can purchase two-game packages that include tickets to …

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On the new uni(?), attendance, and top 20 movies

Been a slow winter for Braves news, but we’ve had enough lately  to bang out another blog with something about the new Braves alternative uniform, along with a few left-over notes about a few of the recent arb-eligible signings (Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn) and a belated best-of-2011 top 20 movie list.

But first up, the food-and-drink discount and whether it might help improve attendance.

In the wake of today’s announcement that the Braves are slashing concession prices (except for booze) by one-third for all those who buy season-ticket plans of at least 20 games, I thought this would be a good time to re-run a recent mini-history that I did about Braves attendance as it related to payroll, which many of you probably missed as it ran in the form of a reply in the comments section of a recent blog.

It’s no secret that Braves attendance has declined significantly in the past decade, with total home attendance in 2009 and 2011 representing two of the three lowest …

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Braves slash concession prices for season ticket holders

The Braves will offer season-ticket holders a 33-percent discount on food and beverages (excluding alcohol) beginning with the 2012 season, team announced Monday.

In a press release that referred to the discount as both “unparalleled” and “unprecedented,” the Braves said anyone with a season-ticket plan of 20 games or more can get the discount on food and beverages — non-booze category — at all fixed concession stands or through the in-seat food service (in those primo seats behind home plate).

The discount will not apply at the 755 Club, Chop House, Georgia’s Own Credit Union Club or through the vendors who roam through the stands.

Each season-ticket holder will have a bar code on his ticket or seat locater that can be scanned at the concession stand or by the in-seat server to activate the discount. The discount will trim $1.50 from the price of a 22-ounce soft drink and more than $2.50 off a brisket sandwich or large order of fries.

The Braves are trying to boost attendance …

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Braves sign all their arb-eligibles and bring back Moylan

After signing reliever Eric O’Flaherty late Monday, then center fielder Michael Bourn and pitcher Jair Jurrjens on Tuesday, the Braves successfully avoided any arbitration hearings and tidied up the roster and payroll a month before spring training.

The Braves also agreed to terms later Tuesday with popular veteran reliever Peter Moylan, who’s coming off shoulder surgery and hopes to be ready by the early season.  He got a minor-league deal with an  invitation to spring training and $1 million on a prorated basis for time in the majors, plus incentives.

Braves general manager Frank Wren indicated there was a good chance no bigger moves would be made before pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 19 at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Braves haven’t made any big acquisitions since losing 20 of their final 30 games and missing a playoff berth on the final day of the season, but Wren believes the team will be improved if some players bounce back after …

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Braves avoid arbitration with the “O” in bullpen trio

O'Flaherty led the majors with a 0.98 ERA, the first pitcher in history with a sub-1.00 ERA in 70 or more relief appearances.

O'Flaherty led the majors with a 0.98 ERA, the first pitcher in history with a sub-1.00 ERA in 70 or more relief appearances.

He led major league relievers with an 0.98 ERA, yet drew only the third-most notoriety in a Braves bullpen that was represented by Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters on the National League All-Star team.

Eric O’Flaherty wasn’t an All-Star, but the veteran lefty was arguably the team’s most consistent reliever from start to finish, and Monday the O in “O’Ventbrel” got paid.

O’Flaherty and the Braves agreed to terms on a one-year, $2.49 million contract, a 178-percent raise for the Washington state native who was eligible for arbitration for the second time.

He closed the season with 20 consecutive scoreless appearances and became the first reliever in major league history to post a sub-1.00 ERA in 70 or more appearances. O’Flaherty had 78 appearances, tied for fifth-most in the majors.

He signed three days after left fielder Martin Prado agreed to a …

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Braves sign Prado to one-year deal, avoid arbitration

The Braves agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Martin Prado on Friday, avoiding arbitration.

The deal, which will pay Prado $4.75 million, has no real bearing on the whether the Braves end up trading him because any conversations have come with the understanding that Prado would draw this kind of salary for 2012.

But the closer the Braves get to spring training, the more apparent it seems neither he or Jair Jurrjens is going anywhere, despite their mention in multiple trade scenarios.

“We had a number of discussions today and will continue to explore other opportunities,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said Friday, speaking in general terms after signing shortstop Jack Wilson. “But as we’ve said all along, if we could add a backup shortstop, we would feel our team is ready to go to spring training. If we can improve it, we’ll look to do that, but this was the last thing that we had to do.”

The Braves have three remaining arbitration-eligible players: Jurrjens, …

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