Archive for February, 2012

Braves slugger Gattis has a story. Man, does he ever

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It’s a rite of spring training: pitchers dominate hitters in early “live” batting practice, because pitchers have been throwing for weeks while hitters have been facing pedestrian 60-70 mph fastballs from coaches.

After taking a long and winding path to big-league camp, Evan Gattis said he was so happy he cried the first day of spring training. (Jason Getz photo/AJC).

After taking a long and winding path to big-league camp, Evan Gattis said he was so happy he cried the first day of spring training. (Jason Getz photo/AJC).

So imagine the surprise when Braves left-hander Eric O’Flaherty, who led major league relievers with a 0.98 ERA, began pitching to Evan Gattis last week and the minor league catcher jacked one after another to the far reaches of the ballpark and beyond.

“Normally guys are late on your heater this time of year, but he was turning on it, pulling it,” O’Flaherty said. “He hit a deep foul, took a couple deep to left field and I was like, who is this guy” A lot of guys come in taking pitches and feeling their way; he swung at everything I threw and just crushed …

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Minor starts Grapefruit opener; Hanson nearing return

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Mike Minor will start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against Detroit, but Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn’t ready to announce the rest of his pitching plans for the first week of spring training games.

That delay could stem from Tommy Hanson’s situation, as the Braves wait to get a better idea when Hanson will be ready to pitch in games after recovering from a concussion.

Gonzalez said starters for the second through fifth games would come from the group of five that includes, in an order to be determined later, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado.

Jurrjens and Beachy will start games, and the other starts would go to two from among Medlen, Teheran and Delgado, with one in that group “piggybacking” in a game with another starter. Starters will work a maximum of two innings the first time through.

Medlen is projected to begin the season in the bullpen, but the Braves are getting him …

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Freeman’s injured knee better a day later

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Freddie Freeman and the Braves breathed a little easier Wednesday after he woke   feeling better a day after partially dislocating his right kneecap.

The Braves didn’t think the big first baseman would be sidelined more than a week, and Freeman said he would try to get back to practice Friday and talk his way into the lineup for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against Detroit.

It was his second subluxation of the right patella in two years, and Freeman plans to wear a knee brace from now on.

He was hurt picking a throw during a defensive drill, the same injury  he had in May 2010 at Triple-A Gwinnett. After that injury he was back in the lineup one week later as a designated hitter and back at first base within two weeks.

“I feel a lot better today,” said Freeman, 22, who had been worried Tuesday after hearing his knee pop and seeing the patella (kneecap) slide to one side. “Yesterday I thought this one was a little bit worse, but when …

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If looking for versatile fill-in, Sutton could fit bill


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – If the Braves need Drew Sutton to play some first base in place of injured Freddie Freeman or some shortstop in place of injured backup Jack Wilson this spring, it won’t be a problem.

That’s what he does.

Drew Sutton is a solid defender at several positions, which could come in handy given recent Braves injuries. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Drew Sutton is a solid defender at several positions, which could come in handy given recent Braves injuries. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

And if third baseman Chipper Jones is a late scratch from any games and Sutton is around, he has experience in the last-minute fill-in thing at that position, having gone through it last season with the Boston Red Sox.

“Last year I played five positions, and it was kind of the same situation because [third baseman Kevin] Youkilis was banged up,” said Sutton, who hit .315 with a .362 on-base percentage and seven doubles in 60 plate appearances for the Red Sox.

He played in 31 games and made four starts at third base before breaking a finger in August.

“I’d show up some days on day games and he’d be in the …

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Braves 1B Freeman hurts knee during workout

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Even as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was in the dugout Tuesday praising first baseman Freddie Freeman’s defense, Freeman was headed to the the clubhouse with an injured knee.

Freddie Freeman during Tuesday's workout. He later injured his right knee while reaching for a throw. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Freddie Freeman during Tuesday's workout. He later injured his right knee while reaching for a throw. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Freeman has a sublux (partial dislocation) of the right kneecap after being injured during a fielding drill near the end of Tuesday’s workout. He’s scheduled to be reevaluated by a specialist on Wednesday.

The Braves said the knee was stable after the injury, which is similar to one that Freeman had in May 2010 at Triple-A Gwinnett. He was out nearly two weeks with that injury.

Freeman hadn’t had problems with the knee since 2010 until Tuesday, when he reached to field a low throw and felt the kneecap slip out of  place.

He was the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year runner-up — behind Braves closer Craig Kimbrel — after hitting .282 with 32 …

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Justice, Crime Dog are back with Braves this week

Chipper Jones (left) chats with his former Braves teammate David Justice, who is back in camp as a guest instructor. (Jason Getz/AJC photo)

Chipper Jones (left) chats with his former Braves teammate David Justice, who is back in camp as a guest instructor. (Jason Getz/AJC photo)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Former Braves standouts David Justice and Fred McGriff began stints as guest spring-training instructors Monday, and for a moment Justice’s competitive juices were stirred.

“I just told Freddy that we’ve got Terry Pendleton, me and Freddy — we’ve got 3, 4 and 5 hitters,” said Justice, smiling. “I’ll take on any coaching staff within a 20-mile radius. And we’ve got [Braves minor league instructor Doug] Dascenzo leading off.

“I said let’s go play somebody – for one inning.”

Justice, 45, and McGriff, 48, will be in camp all week as part of a program the Braves began a few years ago, bringing in team alumni to suit up, observe and offer tips and advice for current players.

Former catcher Javy Lopez was in camp last week for his third consecutive spring, and Justice and McGriff are making their …

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Hanson could be cleared for full workout

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Tommy Hanson’s early spring training has been all about dealing with and answering questions about a concussion, and it’s clear the Braves pitcher is getting tired of it.

Hanson threw for the second day in a row Monday and could be cleared for full workouts as soon as Tuesday. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Hanson threw for the second day in a row Monday and could be cleared for full workouts as soon as Tuesday. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Fortunately for Hanson, things could soon be back to normal.

After getting a good report when he took the ImPact concussion test for a second time since his Feb. 19 car accident, he ramped up his running and throwing Monday morning before going to a doctor in the afternoon for what he hoped would be a final clearance.

“Everything went well — ran, worked out and threw,” Hanson said after doing two sets of long-toss followed by a flat-ground throwing session. “Felt really good, really strong and no headaches. So I’m good.”

If Hanson is given the go-ahead by the doctor, he could join the Braves for his first full-on workout of spring training as …

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Freeman aims for Gold Glove and batting title, not HRs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As big a season as Freddie Freeman had in 2011, he probably deserves more than 25-26 inches of copy in the first story about him in 2012, right? Glad you agree.

And that is our easy ingress to this utilization of pertinent Freddie Freeman quotes that didn’t make it into the feature story posted Sunday night on this AJC.com Braves page. Paid professional working here. Stand back.

Freeman goes down to get a pitch during batting practice last week. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Freeman goes down to get a pitch during batting practice last week. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Freeman hit more home runs (21) last season than he hit in any minor league season, more homers than any Braves rookie since Chipper Jones hit 23 in 1995. It was more homers than any of us predicted from a guy who’d been known as more of a line-drive, high-average and high-OBP type of hitter in the minor leagues.

So I asked the 6-foot-5, 240-pounds first baseman, who added about five pounds this winter through an offseason strength-and-conditioning program, if he now considered …

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Freeman ready for challenge of sophomore season

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Only two major league rookies hit more home runs in 2011 than did Freddie Freeman, whose 21 matched his age and were more homers than he hit in any minor league season.

But players look at more than home-run totals to gauge power. Freeman, the first Braves rookie to hit 20 homers since Chipper Jones in 1995, did something that made teammates believe he’s only scratched the surface of his power potential.

“Going oppo” is the expression they use. Opposite-field power is seductive stuff.

“When you’re 21 years old and you can go left-center field 10 rows deep, you’re special,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “And he can do that. Like I’ve said, he’s going to have a great career. He’s going to have a big, huge career.”

He was the National League Rookie of the Year runner-up, like his teammate and pal Jason Heyward the year before. Like Heyward, who finished second to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, Freeman had a …

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Hanson could join team workouts by Tuesday

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Tommy Hanson did some running in the outfield and played catch for about five minutes Sunday, the first time the Braves pitcher suited up and got on the field since suffering a Grade 1 concussion in a one-car accident Monday.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Hanson will probably take the ImPact concussion test Monday or Tuesday, which would be his second time taking the test since the accident. If his reflexes are back to normal, he could be cleared for full workout Tuesday.

Hanson would probably not pitch off the mound for the first time until Thursday.

“It’s like holding a thoroughbred back, he’s ready to get going,” Gonzalez said. “Which is a good sign.”

Hanson has missed a week of workouts, but the big right-hander said this weekend he believes he’ll be ready to go by Opening Day.

“It’ll only be a week off,” he said. “I was throwing 50-pitch bullpens before I came down here [to spring training], so I don’t’ think a …

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