Archive for December, 2012

Braves extend Fredi G through ‘14 (updated)

NASHVILLE – Fredi Gonzalez has managed the Braves for the first two seasons of the post-Bobby Cox era, and was assured of being paid to manage at least two more after the team picked up a 2014 option on his contract Wednesday.

“It’s great organization, people you want to work for and people you get along with,” Gonzalez said. “And the one goal is to keep putting a good team on the field. “

Gonzalez has a 183-141 record as Braves manager since being hired to replace his mentor, Bobby Cox, who retired after the 2010 season.

“We think he did a terrific job of leading us to the playoffs,” Wren said of Gonzalez, who managed the Braves to a 94-68 record and wild-card berth in 2012. “We feel like his leadership is very helpful for our ballclub going forward, to stay competitive.”

Gonzalez, who’ll turn 49 in January, has a 459-420 record as a major league manager with the Braves and Marlins. A former third-base coach on Cox’s Braves staff, he spent 3-1/2 seasons as Marlins manager …

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Braves sign catcher Pagnozzi for depth

NASHVILLE — The Braves signed catcher Matt Pagnozzi to a minor league deal and plan to have him serve as Gerald Laird’s backup until starter Brian McCann returns from shoulder surgery.

McCann is expected to miss at least the first two weeks of the season and possibly a month. Laird was signed last month after backup David Ross left the Braves for Boston and a two-year, $6.2 million free-agent contract too good to pass up.

Pagnozzi, 30, is the nephew of former St. Louis Cardinals Gold Glove catcher Tom Pagnozzi, and has spent a decade in minors with a few cups of coffee in the majors with St. Louis, Colorado and Pittsburgh.

He has a .310 average with one homer in 83 plate appearances in 33 major league games, and Pagnozzi is a .220 career hitter with a .300 OBP, 26 homers and 225 RBIs in more than 2100 at-bats in 703 minor league games.

“He’s always been a catch-and-throw guy,” said Braves assistant general manager Bruce Manno, who was with the Cardinals when they …

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Braves continue search for LF, bench help

NASHVILLE – Reed Johnson could be back, but the Braves career of Matt Diaz appears to be over.

The Braves want to add two bench players – a right-handed hitter and a lefty – and hope that outfielder Johnson is one of them. The right-handed hitter had a .290 average and .337 OBP in 269 at-bats last season with the Cubs and Braves, including .413 as a pinch-hitter with a majors-leading 18 pinch hits.

Johnson hit .311 with a .798 OPS against left-handers, and general manager Frank Wren said the Braves have had discussions with Johnson’s agent.

“I think he’d like to come back, but I think he’s also at a point where he wants to just explore and see what opportunities are out there,” Wren said of the veteran, who came from Chicago in a July deadline trade along with Paul Maholm. “We’ve expressed an interest in bringing him back. He’s expressed an interest in coming back. But we’re just not there yet.”

Meanwhile, the Braves don’t plan to bring back Diaz, a popular outfielder whose …

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Kimbrel plans to pitch for Team USA

NASHVILLE — Craig Kimbrel is planning to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in March, meaning the All-Star closer could miss a couple of weeks of Braves spring training if Team USA advances to the championship round.

Braves pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 11, and their Grapefruit League opener is Feb. 22. Team USA’s players will have a March 4-6 training camp before playing first-round games March 8-10 in Phoenix.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said he didn’t think it would be a problem, and that there would be plenty of communication with a Team USA staff that includes manager Joe Torre and three former Braves as coaches: Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux and Gerald Perry. Maddux will serve as pitching coach.

“I think we’re coming in early enough [for spring training] that by the time they have to actually perform [in the WBC], you feel pretty good about it,” Wren said. “And I probably feel better about a closer than a starter in this case. …

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While looking for bats, Braves fortify ‘pen

NASHVILLE — While the Braves still need to find a left fielder to round out their lineup, they’ve already made moves this winter to assure their bullpen remains one of baseball’s best. If they had gotten past the wild card game and into the meat of the postseason this past season, I think we would have seen how important that bullpen would’ve been in helping them advance.

In Walden, the Braves have added another to the collection of power arms in their strong bullpen.

In Walden, the Braves have added another to the collection of power arms in their strong bullpen.

Alas, the Braves kicked the ball around in a terrible inning and never recovered in a wild-card loss to the Cardinals. So the bullpen wasn’t a factor in the biggest game of the year.

But that shouldn’t make the ‘pen any less of a priority as they prepare for 2013, and it hasn’t.

The trade of Tommy Hanson for reliever Jordan Walden last week gave the Braves another power arm for back-end depth that should help manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell avoid overworking closer Craig Kimbrel and setup …

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Teheran, Delgado available if trade ’significant’

NASHVILLE – The free-agent field thinned some and Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t seem any closer to acquiring a left fielder after his first 24 hours at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. But he didn’t sound overly concerned.

Braves front-office officials spent Monday morning poring over (again) lists of all outfielders in every organization who could play left field and preferably bat leadoff, then narrowing it down to players realistically available.

The list was not extensive, and Wren said those remaining free agents who fit the description ranked below trade options for various reasons. That included price in some cases.

For example, the Braves have interest in free agent Shane Victorino, but not as long as the 31-year-old is asking for a contract as big as the four-year, $40 million deal that San Francisco re-signed Angel Pagan to on Monday. Pagan was another free-agent targeted by the Braves.

Wren didn’t name any specific trade possibilities remaining on the …

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Braves sign Janish to 1-year contract

NASHVILLE – The Braves quietly avoided arbitration with backup infielder Paul Janish, signing the veteran earlier in the offseason to a one-year contract believed to be worth a little less than $1 million.

The deal went unannounced and came about after Janish agreed to put off having shoulder surgery so he would potentially be available to play for the Braves if they advanced deep into the postseason.

He had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder soon after their loss to St. Louis in the NL wild card game. Braves general manager Frank Wren said Janish might be back by late April, but they won’t have a better idea of the timetable until spring training.

Janish hit just .186 with a .269 on-base percentage and career-worst .502 OPS in 55 games for the Braves, but was a valuable contributor with steady defense at shortstop while filling in for injured rookie Andrelton Simmons. The Braves got Janish from Cincinnati in a trade after Simmons broke his hand sliding in the last …

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Braves will look for LF at Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE – After the Braves signed free agent B.J. Upton last week, manager Fredi Gonzalez noted the range of the new center fielder and Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward and joked, ‘We may not even need a left fielder.”

Of course the Braves do need a left fielder, and they will continue to search for one during the major league Winter Meetings that begin Monday at the sprawling Opryland Resort.

With previously targeted Minnesota outfielder Denard Span off the board after being traded to Washington, the Braves don’t view leadoff-hitting ability as a requirement, since available and attractive options already are limited.

“I think there’s other options out there,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who arrived in Nashville with his top assistants on Sunday. “We’ll have a good chance to evaluate all of them because now we’re down to very few needs.”

Left field and a couple of bench spots are what the Braves need to fill, and indications are that have a total of about …

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