Archive for November, 2012

Braves’ 2013 spring training will start earlier

Braves pitchers and catchers will report to spring training earlier than usual Feb. 11 and open the Grapefruit League schedule Feb. 22 against the American League League champion Detroit Tigers in a home game at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

It’s the earliest spring-training game ever for the Braves. Across the majors, spring training is earlier this year to accommodate the World Baseball Classic in March, being played for the first time since 2009. The Braves open their Grapefruit League schedule with back-to-back home games against the Tigers and Yankees Feb. 22-23, then travel to Bradenton, Fla., to face the Pirates on Feb. 24.

The Braves play 18 home games at Champion Stadium including four night games against Washington (March 1 and March 21), Detroit (March 7), and the Yankees (March 16).

Braves pitchers and catchers have their first workout Feb. 12. Other position players are due to report Feb. 14, and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 15. There are …

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Ross exit adds to Braves’ expanding to-do list

PHOENIX – Chipper is retired, David Ross is gone, Michael Bourn is likely leaving, Brian McCann is hurt, and Josh Hamilton isn’t walking through that door.

So I can understand why some Braves fans are getting anxious or downright worried.

The Braves will miss the veteran Ross, on the field and in the clubhouse.

The Braves will miss the veteran Ross, on the field and in the clubhouse.

But folks, it’s mid-November. Still weeks away from the Winter Meetings, which is usually when things really start heating up on the trade and free-agent fronts.

So before convincing yourself that this will be another Garrett Anderson or Raul Mondesi sort of offseason for the Bravos, I’d advise to take a deep breath and understand the team has both the cash and/or  trade pieces (which they now seem willing to part with) to assure they won’t have to settle for picking up a scrap-heap player for left or center.

No significant deals were struck but the hot stove was stoked during last week’s GM meetings near Palm Springs, and already we’re seeing things move …

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Ready named Gwinnett Braves manager

The Braves named Randy Ready their new manager for Triple-A Gwinnett, the team announced Monday.

New Gwinnett manager Randy Ready

New Gwinnett manager Randy Ready

Ready will replace Dave Brundage, who left after six years as the Braves’ Triple-A manager (two in Richmond, four in Gwinnett) to take the Triple-A managing job in the Phillies organization in Lehigh Valley.

Ready, 52, comes to the Braves from the Texas Rangers where he served as their minor league hitting coordinator last season. But a majority of his experience comes from his time with the San Diego Padres, where he served as their major league hitting coach from July of 2009 through the 2011 season.

Prior to that, Ready spent six seasons as a minor league manager for the Padres, including 2008 and the first part of 2009 with Triple-A Portland. He is 489-466 as a minor league manager.

Ready is a former major leaguer – primarily playing second and third base – who spent 13 seasons with the Brewers, Padres, Phillies, Athletics and Expos.

“I’m …

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Braves lose catcher Ross to Red Sox

PHOENIX – The Braves have lost valuable backup catcher David Ross to the Boston Red Sox, who nearly doubled the free agent’s salary with a two-year, $6.2 million contract.

The deal won’t be announced until after Ross passes a physical exam, and neither Ross nor officials with the Braves or Red Sox was likely to comment until then. Ross and team officials confirmed the pending deal.

With starting catcher Brian McCann expected to miss the first 2-4 weeks of the 2013 season recovering from Oct. 16 shoulder surgery, the Braves will look for another veteran catcher to help handle the position until the six-time former All-Star is ready. The Braves recently picked up McCann’s $12 million option for 2013, but he’ll be eligible for free agency after that.

Ross is widely regarded as the best backup catcher in baseball, and the Braves valued him a great deal both on the field and in the clubhouse, where he was one of the team’s most respected members during his time in …

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No deals, but Braves say GM meetings productive

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Braves officials left the general managers meetings without crossing off any items on their offseason shopping list, but that didn’t mean their three days at a desert resort weren’t productive.

“Overall it was beneficial to sit down with clubs and discuss possibilities,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said before boarding a flight Friday afternoon out of nearby Palm Springs, “and we were able to advance some discussions.”

The Braves seek a center fielder/leadoff hitter and a power-hitting left fielder. At the GM meetings Wren and his top assistants, including Bruce Manno, John Coppolella and Jim Fregosi, got a better idea of what might be available and affordable on the trade and free-agent markets during discussions with various player agents and officials from other teams.

The groundwork for deals rather than deals themselves are generally what happens at the annual GM meetings, with the notable exception of the Braves’ trade for Dan …

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At GM meetings: Bourn to decline qualifying offer

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – To the surprise of no one, Braves free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn will decline the team’s one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer by Friday’s deadline.

“The market for him is going to be much greater than a one-year contract,” agent Scott Boras said of Bourn, who has or is expected to draw serious interest from multiple teams including NL East opponents Washington and Philadelphia.

While the Braves haven’t entirely given up the possibility of re-signing Bourn, they don’t seem at all inclined to approach the contract levels that Boras will seek for his client, which could be at least five years at more than $15 million annually.

The Braves are exploring other options via free agency – San Francisco’s Angel Pagan probably tops that short list — or through a trade. Minnesota center fielder Denard Span is likely high on the list of potential trade targets. He’s a leadoff hitter like Bourn, which is what the Braves prefer from a …

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Braves might trade pitching for lineup needs

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The Braves again have more major league-ready starting pitchers than can fit into a rotation, and some are no longer viewed as next-to-untouchable by general manager Frank Wren.

The Braves seek a couple of hitters to fill out their lineup – a left fielder and a center fielder/leadoff man — and could use part of their pitching surplus to fill at least one of those needs

“There are clubs that recognize we may have some pitching,” Wren said Wednesday after talking with other GMs on the opening day of the general managers meetings that run through Friday. “Whether we’ve got enough to fill [other needs] or not, I don’t know.

“But we like the depth that we have, and we might be able to use it to get something that we need. And there’s some teams that have pieces that would be helpful to us.”

One of those teams is Minnesota, which needs pitching and is open to trading center fielder Denard Span, who has a .284 career batting average and .357 …

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Voters dash Braves’ plan for Class-A team in N.C.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The Braves’ hopes of moving their high-Class A affiliate to Wilmington, N.C., were dealt a major blow Tuesday when voters issued a resounding “no” on a referendum to raise property taxes to pay for a proposed new ballpark.

Without $37 million in new taxes to build a ballpark on the Cape Fear River, the Wilmington plan is probably over and the Braves will remain in Lynchburg, Va., unless and until another option materializes. They had hoped to move to Wilmington in time for the 2015 season.

“As the mayor stated last night, they won’t pursue other [funding] options so most likely [it’s] dead,” said Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of business operations. “Fortunately all the good people in Lynchburg always understood this wasn’t about any dissatisfaction with them or our location.”

The Braves had hoped to move in order to have a state-of-the-art ballpark like those used by their other minor-league affiliates, and to have a …

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Hot stove could get stoked at GM meetings

Braves fans have craved action on the free-agent or trade fronts since Atlanta’s postseason ended abruptly with a Wild Card loss to St. Louis.

Well, there could at least be some rumblings from the desert during the annual general managers’ meetings Wednesday through Friday in Indian Wells, Calif.

Things are usually relatively sedate at the GM meetings compared to the annual Winter Meetings held in December, as teams do more laying of groundwork for trades rather than actual finalizing of deals. But two years ago the Braves pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade for Dan Uggla from the Marlins on the first day of the GM meetings in Orlando.

This year the Braves have not one but two holes to fill in their lineup – center fielder/leadoff man and either a left fielder or third baseman — and are believed to have about $25 million to spend on those two players’ salaries for next season.

Braves GM Frank Wren has been known to strike quickly when a possible deal …

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Rehabbing McCann upbeat after surgery

LAWRENCEVILLE – If one didn’t know better, Brian McCann looked as if he might step up to the plate and compete with Chipper Jones and others in the home-run contest Saturday at McCann’s Rally Foundation celebrity softball game at Coolray Field.

But under the softball jersey were scars from Oct. 16 right-shoulder surgery. McCann was left to smile, shake hands and thank all the participants and fans who came out for the annual event to raise funds for childhood cancer research.

“I should probably be wearing [a sling] out here, but I’m being careful, I’m not going to do anything dumb,” he said, then went to have his picture taken with Rally Foundation kids.

Five days after having his $12 million team option for 2013 picked up by the Braves, and less than three weeks since surgery, McCann was more upbeat than during the final months of his career-worst season, when his shoulder was throbbing and he tried to play through it.

He faces about six months of rehab and …

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