Archive for February, 2012

Braves pitchers open camp, most of lineup arrives early

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Phillies have a stable of All-Star starters and new big-ticket closer Jonathan Papelbon, and the Nationals have a bolstered rotation and hard-throwing bullpen.

But Braves pitchers think their own staff, if healthy, takes a backseat to none in the National League East.

“If we run our guys out there all year healthy, I think they’re as good if not better than anybody in the division,” reliever Jonny Venters said. “Obviously the Phillies are the Phillies, but from top to bottom I think they’re no better [pitching staff] than ours. I wouldn’t trade ours.”

The Braves had their first official workout for pitchers and catchers Monday. They will have four more before the first full-squad workout Saturday.

Much of the talk Monday was about all the  early arriving position players who’ve reported to camp. The only projected lineup regulars not in camp were Michael Bourn, who has been working out with the University of Houston …

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Medlen prefers starting; Prado shrugs off trade rumors

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kris Medlen prefers to start, but he has the versatility to pitch well in relief and he knows the Braves have top prospects competing for starting jobs.

And so the bullpen is where the Braves plan to use him in 2012. However, manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated Monday that Medlen would get “stretched out” like the projected starters this spring, just in case.

“He could jump in there as a starter if he needs to,” Gonzalez said. “So we’ll stretch him out, get to four or five innings there at the end [of spring training] like every other starter, and then if everybody is healthy – which is a good sign – then he’ll go to the bullpen and do whatever we want as far as those middle innings.”

Gonzalez said Medlen would probably “piggy back” with another starter in spring games, coming in to pitch multiple innings after the starter leaves the game. He could also start some split-squad or “B” games.

“The whole …

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Braves’ Hanson bangs head in one-car accident

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Tommy Hanson and the Braves got a scare Monday morning when the pitcher drove off the road in a one-car accident that left him with a possible concussion. The Braves were awaiting test results.

The incident occurred at about 7 a.m., three hours before the Braves’ first spring-training workout for pitchers and catchers at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports on the edge of Disney World outside Orlando.

Hanson told Braves officials that he blew a tire while rounding a curve near the team training site. He had his car towed and made it to camp in time for a 9:30 a.m. team meeting, before a 10 a.m. practice for pitchers and catchers. He didn’t work out.

“I heard at about 7:40,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He called and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to be running a little late, I blew a tire.’ I said all right, fine.”

There was no incident report or charges filed, and Hanson had no visible injuries, no cuts or bruises, general manager Frank …

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Moylan progressing in rehab, won’t rush return

After coming back from major elbow surgery three years ago and back surgery early last season, Braves reliever Peter Moylan is treating prudence as a virtue in his recovery from late-September shoulder surgery.

The Aussie sidearmer listening to the doctors and trainers and not rushing any step in his comeback, which he hopes will have him back in the bullpen “absolutely” before the All-Star break and perhaps as soon as late May.

“You don’t know how it’s going to respond at all of these levels [of increased throwing],” said Moylan, who had no problems when he did three sets of 25 throws from 90 feet on Saturday, at what he estimated to be 60-percent exertion.

“If it feels good all the way through, who knows when I’m going to be ready. But there is no real, ‘This is the day we want you back.’ Which is good, because there’s no pressure. There’s no rushing.”

If healthy and back at peak form, Moylan could be a strong, experienced complement to the Braves’ big three …

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Jurrjens, Hudson: worried to optimistic in 2-1/2 months

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – It was early December, and Jair Jurrjens wondered if his balky knee would hold up and whether he’d be traded. Fellow Braves pitcher Tim Hudson wondered which would feel normal again — his back or his stomach.

A surgeon went through Hudson’s abdomen to perform lumbar spine fusion Nov. 28.

Two and a half months later, Braves pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Sunday. Jurrjens and Hudson reported in good spirits and varying degrees of recovery.

After Jurrjens was diagnosed with a toe condition and fitted for orthotics for his shoes in December, he said his right knee improved steadily and he was encouraged and optimistic about the upcoming season.

“The first couple of months of rehab after the season, I was working out but wasn’t [progressing],” the right-hander said. “When I got that balance, I could see the improvement… If you would have asked me two months ago, I’d be nervous. But since I put [orthotics] …

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This time, Venters and Kimbrel will ease into spring

A year ago, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel were already game-sharp when spring training began. The Braves’ flame-throwing young relief duo had put in bullpen sessions even before the team’s early pitching camp last February, so eager were they to get to spring training and show their stuff to everyone including the new manager.

Venters and Kimbrel blew threw last spring training with fastballs blazing. They plan to pace themselves a little better this spring. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

Venters and Kimbrel blew threw last spring training with fastballs blazing. They plan to pace themselves a little better this spring. (Jason Getz photo/AJC)

They did, too. At 2011 spring training, no major league reliever had more appearances (13) or strikeouts (15) than Kimbrel. As for Venters, the lefty with the 95-mph sinkers appeared in midseason form from the outset of camp, then reeled off whopping 51 appearances (in 92 team games) before the All-Star break

Venters and Kimbrel went on to be the most durable and overpowering relief duo in the majors for almost the entire season.

Almost.

Like most of the Braves hitters and plenty of their …

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Getting a taste of baseball Cuba style

Staff writer Carroll Rogers traveled to Cuba recently and filed this essay on her baseball experience there.

Those who are lucky enough to travel to Cuba say it’s like going back in time. Curvy old Chevys run the roads like they did in the U.S. in the 1950s. People cruise Havana in motorcycles with sidecars.

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Carroll Rogers and the newest Braves fans in Matanzas, Cuba

From furniture to fixtures, our neighboring communist island nation can seem a little frozen in time, especially in rural areas where horse-drawn plows aren’t out of the question.

For this writer, who was lucky enough to travel to Cuba last week with a group from Trinity Presbyterian Church, it felt like going back in time in another way too: baseball.

Americans call it their pastime. Cubans live it. From the boys walking proudly down city streets with bats propped on their shoulders, to the haphazard fields along country roads, one after the other, dotted with boys playing baseball.

There’s even a square in …

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5 other things to do on Braves spring-training trip

So you’re making a fan pilgrimage to Florida to see the Braves at their spring training home adjacent to Disney World. Champion Stadium is a great home ballpark, but since you’re going to drive down or rent a car while you’re there, don’t spend the entire vacation in the often-congested area around Lake Buena Vista.

Here are five cool things to do during your spring baseball trip to Central Florida, all but one within a 90-minute drive of Braves camp:

1. Tigers game in Lakeland: With Dodgertown dormant since the Dodgers went to Arizona, Tiger Town is the best vintage spring training camp going, and it’s only 45 minutes down I-4. At renovated Joker Marchant Stadium, get a grilled brat and go back for the famous strawberry shortcake in the late innings. While in Lakeland, see the Florida Southern College campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

2. Phillies game in Clearwater: Enjoy a beautiful late-morning drive across the bay on the causeway from Tampa, then …

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Braves say they’re glad big changes weren’t made

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training one week from Sunday, the Braves’ roster looks about the same as it did during the September swoon that kept them from the playoffs.

This disappoints those fans who wanted general manager Frank Wren to shake things up. But players who endured one of the worst late-season collapses in history seem pleased to have the same cast as they crank things up again.

“I’m happy,” said closer Craig Kimbrel, National League Rookie of the Year after leading major league relievers with 127 strikeouts and tying for the NL lead with 46 saves.

“We have a good team. All the pieces are here. It’s not like we had to go out and get anybody. The team’s talented. We’re going to be fine. We’ve got a really good clubhouse; that’s a big part of having a good team. I’m glad we didn’t break that up.”

The Braves’ pitching staff, one of baseball’s best in 2011, could be even better if the Braves can stay …

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Before 20th big-league camp, Chipper recalls first

As he prepared  for his 20th major league spring training, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones paused during a recent workout to share with me some memories of his first two years in big-league camp, 1993 and ’94. The first pick of the ‘90 draft, he was two months from his 21st birthday when he reported to manager Bobby Cox’s Braves spring training in West Palm Beach, Fla. Here’s how he remembers it:

I was number 64. I was a first cut and I was thankful, because I wasn’t getting to play. That’s one thing about the Braves; they’re very conscientious about getting their young guys at-bats, and unfortunately I came into camp and was third or fourth on the depth chart. When starters came out, other guys were getting those reps. I think I may have gotten seven [at-bats] the first two weeks of spring training, and that’s not good for a 21-year-old. So I really wanted to get sent down so I could start getting reps.

Chipper, the fresh-faced rook.

Chipper, the fresh-faced rook.

I just …

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