Archive for October, 2012

Braves extend GM Wren, promote assistants

Before the Braves begin to reshape their roster this offseason, they reaffirmed those who would be making the decisions. The Braves have extended general manager Frank Wren’s contract through 2014, the team announced Friday morning.

Wren has been in that role for the past five seasons and in the Braves front office for 13. He was first hired as an assistant general manager in October of 1999.

The Braves also promoted two of Wren’s top assistants. Bruce Manno was promoted from assistant general manager and director of player development to vice president and assistant general manager/player development. Manno has been in the assistant general manager’s role for five seasons and began overseeing the Braves minor league system last season.

John Coppolella, who was the Braves director of professional scouting, was promoted to assistant general manager. Coppolella has been in baseball operations for the Braves for six seasons.

“These changes are a reflection of the good work and …

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Braves have 2 big needs, and the means to fill them

Their postseason lasted just one day, and the Braves enter the offseason with some high priorities: fill the void of retired icon Chipper Jones, decide what to do about banged-up recent franchise cornerstone Brian McCann, and determine whether to replace or overspend to keep free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn.

An option to consider: Prado (left) could replace Chipper at third base and the Braves could get a left fielder via trade or free agency.

An option to consider: Prado (left) could replace Chipper at third base and the Braves could get a left fielder via trade or free agency.

If I were making the decisions, I’d move Martin Prado to third base for 2013; pick up the option on McCann and decide later whether to offer an extension; acquire a left fielder via trade (Josh Willingham tops my list for performance and affordability) or free agency (Nick Swisher or Cody Ross?); and try to sign free agent Angel Pagan to play center field for less than what Bourn would cost.

But before getting into details about those moves, it’s important to consider how much money that general manager Frank Wren has to spend. …

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Heyward is finalist for Hank Aaron Award

Jason Heyward, who caught the ceremonial first pitch from Hank Aaron on Opening Day in 2010, is now a finalist for the annual award named for the Braves legend.

The right fielder is Atlanta’s finalist for the 2012 Hank Aaron Award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive player in each league.

In his third major league season, Heyward hit .269 and led the Braves with 63 extra-base hits and 27 home runs while setting career-highs in RBIs (82) and stolen bases (21). He had a .335 on-base percentage and .479 slugging percentage, including .345 and .530 marks in road games.

“I think Jason probably matured as a player more than anyone I’ve seen in a long time,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren, adding that the team considered Heyward “probably the best right fielder out there.”

The Aaron award winner in each league will be chosen by a combination of fan voting and a panel of Hall of Famers including Aaron, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount. Fan …

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Wren discusses Braves’ future, offseason to-do list

Fifteen hours after the Braves lost 6-3 against St. Louis in the single-game Wild Card playoff game, Atlanta general manager Frank Wren discussed the abrupt end to the season, as well as plans for the offseason and what he believes is a bright future for the organization.

Wren (left) says goodbye to retiring Braves icon Chipper Jones on Saturday, the morning after the Wild Card game loss. (Phil Skinner photo/AJC)

Wren (left) says goodbye to retiring Braves icon Chipper Jones on Saturday, the morning after the Wild Card game loss. (Phil Skinner photo/AJC)

Can you describe the feeling the next day after losing like the Braves did in the Wild Card game?

Wren: “Probably a one-word description is emptiness. I think we’ve talked all season long that we had a real good team and had a chance to take it into the postseason and do well. How well? You never know. That you understand that’s kind of the laws of baseball. But we had a chance to do well. I probably went into [this] postseason game as relaxed and at ease as I’ve gone into any in a long time, because I felt like we were ready to …

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Braves priorities: CF and replacing Chipper

The Braves will have a couple of major needs to fill this winter and a good sum of money to throw at those needs with the cash they’ll free up from Chipper Jones retiring and the contract of Derek Lowe finally expiring (along another potential significant salary or two that could be dropped).

General manager Frank Wren said his offseason focus is narrower than it has been in some recent years: Re-sign or replace Michael Bourn in center field, and replace Chipper Jones with either a third baseman or with a left fielder if they move Martin Prado to third base.

“We’ve got to determine what we do it center field, and that kind of couples with leadoff,” he said. “And then how we replace Chipper. And beyond that, our club’s pretty solid.

“I think the exciting part for all of us is we’ve got a dynamic young core. We had three young guys that were in that lineup [Friday] that have a chance to be All-Star players and have a chance to be leaders of this team for a long time. Our …

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McCann: Could miss 4-5 months for shoulder surgery

Braves catcher Brian McCann struggled mightily with an injured shoulder for the last two months of his career-worst season, and the former six-time All-Star said Saturday that he’ll probably need surgery that could require up to four or five months of recovery.

That could affect his availability for spring training and the start of the 2013 season.

The midseason diagnosis by a Braves specialist was a frayed labrum and cyst in his throwing shoulder, but McCann will have a dye-contrast MRI within a week to determine the full extent of the damage before doctors determine a course of treatment.

“We already basically know what is going to happen, what needs to happen,” McCann said. “I think it’s going to be [a matter of] how long I’m out for. Could be a couple of months, it could be a little more than that. Could be four or five months. We’ll see what happens. We’ll find out. I can’t really say right now, but I’m pretty sure surgery.”

McCann made $11.5 million in the final year of …

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Freeman to consider Lasik; Hinske says good-byes

Freddie Freeman plans to use the offseason to rest his sore finger and to weigh the option of having Lasik surgery on his eyes.

Freeman just turned 23 and is two or three years away from an age where doctors typically recommend Lasik. Freeman also watched Brian McCann struggle with his own outcome from Lasik surgery in recent years. But Freeman, who started having vision problems in the dry air of Colorado during a series against the Rockies in May, said he continued to have problems right up until Friday’s game against the Cardinals.

“It’s just so frustrating,” Freeman said. “Even (Friday) I went in after my first at-bat; I put three new contacts in my left eye. It’s just really frustrating because I can’t get it to where it’s comfortable every single day.”

Freeman said he plans to have two more cortisone shots in his index finger, which he injured in June in Miami after getting hit by a Jose Reyes throw sliding into second base. He said with rest it should be OK by the time …

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Braves ‘emptiness’ after Wild Card loss; infield fly debated

The morning after their crushing 6-3 loss to St. Louis in the Wild Card game, Braves players and team officials were back at Turner Field on Saturday morning, the players cleaning out lockers and saying goodbyes while discussing a range of topics including the controversial infield-fly call in Friday’s game.

It was the topic du jour in baseball, the ruling by left-field umpire Sam Holbrook in the eighth inning Friday, on Andrelton Simmons’ pop-up that landed 60 feet into left field.

With the Braves trailing 6-3 and runners at first and second, Simmons’ fly ball drifted back and fell between Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday and shortstop Pete Kozma. Each had backed off at the last moment so the other could take it, but  neither did.

When the ball landed, a crowd of more than 52,000 roared. The Braves and their fans figured they’d now have the bases loaded with pinch-hitter Brian McCann coming up. Finally, something had gone the way of the Braves, whose three errors had led to …

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Chipper heads into retirement at peace

Chipper Jones packs up his locker at Turner Field.

Chipper Jones packs up his locker at Turner Field.

Reporters know a good time to catch Chipper Jones is when he’s putting on his socks. One pair of the “old man” sanitary socks, as he calls them, and two pairs of the blues take a while to put on. He’s a kept audience, and always a good one.

So it was strange to see Jones grabbing handfuls of socks and tossing them into a box Saturday afternoon as he stood at his locker in jeans, a T-shirt and a Braves cap backwards, as a retired man.

“I’m glad I don’t have to wear these anymore,” he said, as he tossed a package of soft knee braces into a box. “Geez.”

End-of-the-year packing took on new meaning for the 19-year Braves veteran who normally leaves a few things behind, knowing he’ll be back to start hitting again in the cages in January. But Jones had to clean out the locker completely; the Braves are planning to cut it out and give it to him.

Locker-cleaning is normally a time when Jones offers his final thoughts on the season and …

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Braves quotes after Wild Card loss to Cardinals

**CHIPPER JONES

Of all the ways you imagined your career would end….

“This is not one of them. I can assure you that. It’s just one of those things that happens from time to time. You have a game defensively where you don’t make plays that you should. You give good teams extra outs, and it ends up biting you.

On the errors

“On my play, I made a good play on the pick got a two seam grip, and it just sailed on me, no other way to explain it. Looking back I realized later on that Beltran had to stop on the line drive, and if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have double clutched and made sure I got a four seam grip and give Uggla a little more time to get to second base, and give myself a better opportunity to make a truer throw. We gave up six runs on six hits, and I don’t know how many of them were unearned. But as far as I’m concerned the only one they should have scored was the homer.

On having a good season end by one sloppy playoff game and an umpiring …

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