Archive for March, 2012

Rain-shortened loss for Braves vs. Verlander’s Tigers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Braves got four hits in six innings against Detroit ace Justin Verlander during a 2-1 loss Saturday that was rained out in the top of the seventh.

Craig Kimbrel threw two pitches to the first Detroit batter of the seventh inning when a deluge stopped the game.

The Braves got a run in the fourth when Freddie Freeman hit a two-out single and scored on Dan Uggla’s double. Uggla was out trying to stretch the hit to a triple.

Verlander had no walks and five strikeouts. He struck out Eric Hinske on a slider to end the second inning after Hinske fouled off four consecutive 96-97 mph fastballs.

“I tell you what,”  Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “today’s game is 2-1 and we lose, but I saw some great at-bats. Jack Wilson had a 10- or 12-pitch at-bats. Hinske had some great at-bats against the best right-hander in the American League and maybe in baseball.

“Freeman hit that ball in the gap that kept hanging, and nice to see Danny drive in that run. …

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Shortstop prospect Simmons has sore side

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Shortstop prospect Andrelton Simmons has missed three games with a sore left side, which the Braves are treating with caution to prevent a lingering injury.

“It’s nothing big, that’s why he hasn’t played in a couple of days,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’re trying to not let something small become big, which can happen with those obliques. He doesn’t need to show us anymore what he can do defensively. He’s pretty solid.”

Simmons has been in a spring-training competition with fellow rookie Tyler Pastornicky for the starting shortstop job, which was thought to be Pastornicky’s to lose entering camp. Pastornicky struggled for the first two weeks of Grapefruit League games but has improved recently at the plate and in the field.

Simmons has no experience above Class A, but is a superb fielder who possesses what many believe would be the best arm of any National League position player.

Gonzalez plans to announce his starting shortstop Sunday or Monday. …

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Braves name Hanson opening day starter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Tommy Hanson’s spring training was a wreck (literally) at the beginning, but impressive in the middle and satisfying at the end. On Saturday the right-hander was named the Braves’ opening day starter.

“I’m real excited — it’s a huge honor,” said Hanson, who was told by manager Fredi Gonzalez on Saturday morning, a few hours before his final Grapefruit League start against Detroit. “I wasn’t really expecting it, so when I found out I was really excited and I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s a pretty big deal.”

He allowed five hits and two runs in six innings of a rain-shortened 2-1 loss to the Tigers, and was pleased with the progress of the sinker he’s worked on and threw extensively for the first time in a game. Hanson had no walks and one strikeout, threw 52 strikes in 80 pitches, and will finish the spring with a 2.77 ERA in three official starts.

“All through camp I felt good,” he said. “Today I was working a lot on two-seamers [sinkers] …

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Jurrjens has another crisp start; Delgado falters in 4th inn.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Jair Jurrjens knows what it looked like when he compiled a 10.13 ERA in his first four spring starts, and the Braves pitcher is pleased to have alleviated the concerns of many with his work in his last two.

He pitched seven crisp innings in a 3-1 split-squad win against the Houston Astros on Friday, the second strong outing in a row for the right-hander who suddenly look as if he’s ready for the regular season. Good thing, since the season starts next week.

“Mentally it’s a big boost,” said Jurrjens, who threw 62 strikes in 94 pitches and allowed five hits, one run and one walk with four strikeouts. “And I think it makes a lot of people relax, for sure. [Laughter.] You need to get over the hump sometimes. You need to search real deep and just go out there and go all-out. I’m happy everything went well.”

In Friday’s other split-squad game between the same teams in Kissimmee, the Astros scored four runs in the fourth inning against Braves rookie Randall …

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Goodbye old school: McCann switches to hockey-style mask

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Some fans of Brian McCann’s old-school look behind the plate have been in a dither since the Braves catcher’s recent switch to the hockey goalie-style mask that so many catchers wear today. Gone is the metal mask and backward batting helmet he wore before.

McCann said the change was made strictly for function and not aesthetics

“I tried [the hockey-style mask] the other day and liked the vision out of it,” said the six-time All-Star. “The bars are closer to your face and you can see better.”

He said it’s lighter and “you get more breeze to your face. So it’s better all the way around. In the front it’s all open.”

McCann tried the goalie mask a few years ago when he had vision problems and briefly wore glasses while playing.

“But I didn’t really give it a chance,” he said.

This time, he’s got no plans to revert back to the traditional mask.

Next up: Verlander and Tigers

Tommy Hanson makes his last spring start Saturday when the Braves faces Detroit and …

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DOB video: Who’s Braves shortstop? Who’s poised for breakout?

Who’ll play shortstop for the Braves on Opening Day? Are Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman ready for big seasons? CineSport’s Brian Clark asks David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Braves sign 37-year-old Livan Hernandez as reliever/spot starter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Fifteen years after Livan Hernandez’s 15-strikeout game against the Braves in the NL Championship Series, the 37-year-0ld pitcher has joined the Braves.

The Braves signed him to a one-year, $750,00 major league contract Friday and plan to use the stocky right-hander as a long reliever and spot starter. Braves general manager Frank Wren said he called Hernandez’s agent five minutes after the pitcher was released Friday morning by the Houston Astros.

“Very nice to come to a good team with a chance to make the playoffs, go to the World Series and win the World Series,” said Hernandez, who has pitched more than 3,100 innings, made 474 starts and compiled a 174-176 record and 4.39 ERA in 17 seasons. “The Braves have got a lot of history. I know a lot of people here from playing against them.”

Among current major leaguers, only Jamie Moyer has more starts and innings than Hernandez, on his eighth team.

Wren said Hernandez will not affect the No. 5 starter …

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Bethancourt, Terdo, Gilmartin on Bobby Cox’s “Futures Team”

VIERA, Fla. – Bobby Cox will have plenty of top prospects to choose from (and new nicknames to create in a hurry) when the former Braves skipper manages the “Futures Team” against the current Braves Tuesday night at Triple-A Gwinnett’s Coolray Field.

Cox’s team will feature several prospects who made strong impressions this year in major league camp, including catcher Christian Bethancourt, third baseman Joey Terdoslavich and left-handed starter Sean Gilmartin. Terdoslavich will begin the season at Gwinnett, while Bethancourt and Gilmartin will be at Double-A Mississippi.

Other notable prospects include outfielders Matt Lipka (high-A Lynchburg) and Todd Cunningham (Double-A Missisippi), catcher Evan Gattis (Lynchburg), third basemen Edward Salcedo (Lynchburg) and Brandon Drury (Class-A Rome), and Gwinnett right-handers J.J. Hoover and Jaye Chapman.

Others on the 25-man Futures roster include lefties Luis Avilan (MIS), Ryan Buchter (MIS), Matt Chaffee (LYN) and Ronan Pacheco …

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Heyward goes waaay deep; Venters strong in return

VIERA, Fla. – Space Coast Stadium has been open for 18 years and, near as anyone can tell, only one homer’s been hit where Jason Heyward put one Thursday.

In the fifth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Washington Nationals, the Braves outfielder hit a monster home run to straightaway center that sailed over the 35-foot green wall that serves as the “batter’s eye” backdrop. It’s 404 feet to the base of the wall.

“I think he just missed it,” cracked Nationals pitcher Edwin Jackson, who threw the fastball that Heyward demolished.

“I got that one pretty good,” said Heyward, who homered for the second consecutive game and fourth time this spring. “I knew I got it great. He throws pretty hard. I put a good swing on a pitch, stayed through the middle, didn’t come off it.”

Former Marlin Cliff Floyd hit the only other home run that longtime Space Coast Stadium denizens and reporters could recall clearing the center-field wall during a game.

“That’s a bomb,” said Braves manager Fredi …

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Minor and Gearrin run into trouble in walk-plagued inning

VIERA, Fla. — In Mike Minor’s last start against big-leaguers before next week’s opening series, the Braves left-hander got a reminder that patient hitters make you throw strikes and gladly accept walks.

He  issued five walks and was charged with four runs and four hits in 5-1/3 innings of a 6-3 loss Thursday against the Washington Nationals. All the runs against Minor came in the sixth inning when he faced five hitters, walked two, and gave up two hits including a Ryan Zimmerman homer.

“I think they’re just good hitters,” said Minor, who had six strikeouts and said he felt strong. “A lot of those guys were taking a lot of the pitches I thought were quality pitches on 0-2, 1-2, 2-2, working the count. Seemed like they were aggressive early and working the count late. That’s where I walked I think five guys today.”

After walking only five batters in 14 scoreless innings in his first four Grapefruit League starts, Minor has nine walks in 10 innings over his past two starts, with …

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