Archive for March, 2012

Braves trade pitcher Asencio, formerly known as Luis Valdez

VIERA, Fla. – The Braves’ bullpen picture became a little clearer Thursday when they traded Jairo Asencio, the pitcher formerly known as Luis Valdez, to the Cleveland Indians for cash.

Barring any trade acquisitions between now and opening Thursday’s season opener, Braves sidearmer Cory Gearrin and left-hander Yohan Flande are left as the likely choices for the final two spots in the bullpen — though Gearrin had his second consecutive rough outing Thursday against the Nationals.

Asencio, 28, was out of minor-league options and would have had to clear waivers before he could be sent to the minor leagues if he wasn’t on the Braves’ opening day roster. Rather than keep him on the roster or lose him on a waiver claim and get nothing in return, the Braves traded the Dominican right-hander.

“He’s always been a one-inning pitcher,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said, “and the [bullpen] role we envision needing to make a decision on is a multi-inning guy who can give you two or …

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One week before Opening Day, who’ll be Braves shortstop?

DARK STAR, Fla. – Opening Day is now just a week away, and we don’t know who’ll be the Braves’ Opening Day pitcher. Or more importantly, who’ll be their starting shortstop.

Can’t say that I’ve ever covered a team where those were still question marks a week before the season opener. Although it should be pointed out that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell know who the OD starter will be and just haven’t told us yet. Nor told the pitcher, as of Wednesday.

Gonzalez said they would tell the pitchers by the end of this week and then make the announcement. We could find out as soon as today, but I’m not holding my breath.

As for the shortstop battle between rookies Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons, that’s come down to the last days of camp and still there is no consensus among people I’ve asked around camp.

It was Pastornicky's job to lose entering spring training, but shortstop soon became a two-rookie competition.

It was Pastornicky's job to lose entering spring training, but shortstop soon became a two-rookie competition.

When I asked Gonzalez on …

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Beachy “flips the switch,” retires last 10 batters

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – After Roger McDowell went out for a word with Brandon Beachy in the third inning of Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees, the Braves pitcher realized it was time to get serious and pitch like the regular season was about to begin.

Beachy allowed a run on three consecutive two-out singles in the first inning  and gave up two runs and three hits in the third. But after Jason Heyward’s homer-robbing catch in right field was followed by Eric Chavez’s two-out RBI single in the third, Beachy retired the last 10 batters he faced.

Just like that, he became all but unhittable for the last half of his six-inning stint in the Braves’ 5-5, 1o-inning tie with the Yankees.

He lowered his ERA by a run, from 6.43 to 5.40. Still not good, but progress.

“Those last three innings I think I really figured something out that I’ve been missing all spring and it really showed,” Beach said. “And I felt great. [It was] just a little edge. Just a little …

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Heyward’s big day: Brave hits a homer and takes one away

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Jason Heyward began Wednesday batting .190 with a .250 on-base percentage for the spring, but by the end of the day there was plenty of reason for the Braves and their right fielder to feel good about the direction he seemed headed.

He’s had games recently that didn’t look as good in the boxscore as on the field, but Wednesday he got results.

Heyward had two hits including a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning, and prevented three runs with a home run-saving catch in the third inning and a running catch in shallow center for the last out of the Braves’ 5-5, 10-inning tie with the New York Yankees.

““He did everything,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He showed us what he can do, he really did. He gave us a little appetizer hopefully for the season … because he’s a big part of our offense.”

Someone asked if Heyward wished Wednesday’s game had come in the regular season, which begins next week.

“At this point for me it kind of feels like the …

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Venters set to return after recovering from sore arm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Ten days without pitching had reliever Jonny Venters eagerly anticipating some action. He’ll get it Thursday when he returns for an inning against the Nationals.

Sidelined by soreness in his upper left arm near the shoulder, Venters pronounced himself fit after a 25-pitch bullpen session Tuesday.

“I wasn’t throwing 100 percent, but I was getting on it,” he said Wednesday morning. “Felt really good. Hopefully get in there today or tomorrow. I’m gonna try to talk myself into the game today, but they probably won’t let me.”

He was right – the Braves didn’t let him pitch Wednesday against the New York Yankees, but have him slotted for an inning Thursday at Viera, Fla. It’ll be his first appearance since March 18, when he was charged with two hits and two runs (one earned) in one inning against Baltimore.

That was the second game in a row that Venters allowed two hits and third time in five games that he was scored upon.

Venters, who had a 1.89 ERA in a …

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Carlyle shines in cameo, hopes for callback during season

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Buddy Carlyle wanted to show Braves officials he’s there if they need him this season, and the genial journeyman accomplished that with four crisp innings Tuesday’s 7-5 win against the Mets.

Carlyle was brought over from minor league camp to start a game because the Braves didn’t want to use a pitcher who’ll face the Mets in their season-opening series next week in New York.

“It’s nice to see Buddy come up and give us four innings,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Four strong innings, too.”

He was charged with three hits, two run and one walk, and the second of those run scored after Carlyle was replaced by Cory Gearrin following a leadoff single in the fifth inning.

Carlyle, 34, is a former big-league Brave whose career was stalled by illness in 2009, when he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes and lost more than 20 pounds.

He pitched in Japan in 2010 and was in the New York Yankees organization last season. Only now has Carlyle regained his full strength …

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Signs point to Hanson as opening day starter

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — While the Braves still haven’t announced their opening day starter, signs now point to Tommy Hanson as the man who could get the assignment.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez rearranged the rotation order after the Braves’ day off Monday, and Hanson will make his last spring-training start Saturday against Detroit. That would put him on pace –on  regular four days’ rest — to start the April 5 season opener against the Mets in New York.

Brandon Beachy will start Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game against the Yankees, followed by Mike Minor on Thursday, and Randall Delgado and Jair Jurrjens in split-squad games Friday against Houston.

Indications are Delgado has won the fifth-starter battle with fellow prospect Julio Teheran, who missed a start with a sore shoulder and is scheduled to make his last exhibition start Sunday.

The way that the rotation is laid out, it seems likely Jurrjens will start the second game of the season April 7 at New York. If Minor starts game …

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Freeman homers twice (again) in Braves’ win over Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Tuesday morning behind the batting cage, first-year Braves hitting coach Greg Walker was asked what he thought about the opposite-field power of young first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose two homers Sunday  included one to center field and one to left.

“Oh, he’s good,” Walker said. “He hasn’t learned to pull the ball yet, but when he does, he’s got it there too, believe me. The mechanics of his swing should allow him to pull the ball, he just hasn’t figured out that he can do it yet. But right now we’ll take an oppo [opposite field] home run anytime. Center field, oppo … He’s a monster. He really is. He’s a mechanically correct big guy.”

Then Freeman went out and did it again. He hit two more  homers Tuesday — one to left field and the other to left-center — and also had two walks and a sacrifice fly in five plate appearances for a perfect day in the Braves’ 7-5 Grapefruit League road win against the Mets.

The back-to-back two-homer games – the Braves …

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On ATL-flavored HOF stretch, bullpen options, 3rd in East?

DARK STAR, Fla. – Before we discuss the challenges facing the Braves in the season that starts next week and how their proposed trade for Carlos Lee – wait, he was kidding? – could help a lot in that regard, let me first mention something I was thinking about regarding the end of the Bobby Cox/Chipper Jones era and what it will mean to a series of upcoming weekends in Cooperstown, N.Y.

If you’re a Braves fan and haven’t been to the little village that is baseball heaven in the Catskill mountain foothills of central New York, start thinking about making a trip or two because you’re going to have a few opportunities to see a Brave (or Braves inducted).

Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux are all Cooperstown-bound, seems just a matter of when for Smoltz.

Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux are all Cooperstown-bound, seems just a matter of when for Smoltz.

In a five-year span beginning in 2014, five or six former Braves (including four players) figure to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, 300-game winners who will surely be …

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Chipper has knee ’scoped; Hanson handles Triple-A lineup

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Chipper Jones and Dr. Marvin Royster convened Monday for another knee surgery on the Braves third baseman, who had a successful arthroscopic procedure for torn meniscus and hopes to be back for the April 13 home opener against Milwaukee.

“So far, so good,” Jones said in a text message to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A little groggy.”

It was the sixth knee surgery for Jones, who announced last week he would retire after the 2012 season, his 19th in the majors. The future Hall of Famer, who’ll be 40 next month, has played his entire career with the Braves and is the only switch-hitter in major league history with at least a .300 average and 450 home runs.

Jones injured his left knee during a stretching drill on Thursday, only about an hour before a previously scheduled press conference in which he announced this would be his final season as a player. He returned to Atlanta for the surgery.

“Brutal,” Braves backup catcher David Ross said of the …

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