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07-19-2007, 12:40 AM
If you guys find any interesting articles involving the Braves, that do not involve post game articles, feel free to post them in here.

07-19-2007, 12:44 AM
Here are examples:

Notes: Renteria enjoys being second
Shortstop batting .335 when placed in No. 2 spot in order
By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Edgar Renteria hasn't endured the offensive struggles that have affected every other Brave during some point of the season. The 31-year-old shortstop has shown that he can hit anywhere at any time.
The Braves seem to like Renteria best in the No. 2 spot in the batting order. That's good for Renteria, who feels like he's a prototypical No. 2 hitter and has proven that with a stellar performance this year.

When Chipper Jones spent 24 games on the disabled list, Renteria was forced to move to No. 3. Braves manager Bobby Cox kept him there briefly when Jones returned, but lack of production from the entire lineup prompted him to move Renteria back to the second slot and Jones to No. 3.

"I'm not a No. 3 hitter, I'm a No. 2," Renteria said. "I hit No. 3 because they needed me to. I don't feel like a No. 3 hitter."

With Renteria batting second, the Braves are 36-22. With him in the No. 3 slot, Atlanta is 12-18, a record which is skewed because Jones missed all but six of those games and the entire lineup was affected.

But Renteria has hit better, at least for average, while hitting second. He's batting .335 from the No. 2 slot and .316 while hitting third. His on-base percentage is higher from the No. 2 spot but he has six home runs while hitting third and just four hitting second.

Since Renteria was moved back permanently to the No. 2 spot, the Braves have won 12 of 17 games.

"I still played the same game [hitting third]," Renteria said. "I didn't change my approach because there was nothing I could do to change my approach. I keep doing what I always do and don't put pressure on myself."

When the Braves struggled even after Jones returned, Cox moved Jones back to his more comfortable No. 3 slot and Atlanta started to surge.

Cox hasn't stopped shuffling the lineup -- in fact -- the Braves' most commonly used batting order this season still includes Ryan Langerhans, who was traded on April 29. But Renteria, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones have settled into the permanent Nos. 2-4 slots.

"Edgar can hit anywhere, so can Chip," Cox said. "But I think Chipper likes the third spot. I don't think it makes any difference to Edgar where he hits, he always hits the same."

While Renteria has shown that he can amp up his power numbers while hitting third, he prefers to be the one setting the table.

"My job is to get on base for those guys," Renteria said. "Chipper and Andruw know what they have to do is drive in runs."

Notes: Davies moving to 'pen for awhile
Move isn't necessarily permanent; righty could start Sunday
By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- At least for now, Kyle Davies won't get to fix his recent difficulties as a member of the Braves' starting rotation. He won't be working out the kinks in the Minor Leagues, either.
Davies will instead be moved to the bullpen, a move that isn't necessarily permanent, but is being made because the Braves need a reliever who can pitch multiple innings in case any starter during the next few days is ineffective.

Davies was insurance for John Smoltz, who returned from the disabled list on Wednesday, but Smoltz went deep into the game and Davies wasn't needed.

Atlanta optioned Joey Devine to Triple-A Richmond to make room on the roster for Smoltz. The Braves will next need to use a No. 5 starter on Saturday, and it could be Davies -- if he doesn't work out of the bullpen before then -- or Jo-Jo Reyes.

"I come here and I come to pitch," Davies said. "When you tell me to pitch, I'll pitch. I didn't come here expecting anything. I got here early and went through my stuff, and that's what I have to do."

Braves general manager John Schuerholz entered the Braves' clubhouse at around 10:45 on Wednesday morning to inform Devine of his most recent assignment back to the Minors.

Devine has spent three stints in Atlanta this season but has only appeared in three games. He has spent most of the season with Double-A Mississippi and will now see his first stint with Richmond. He's ensured of regular work there, something the Braves couldn't guarantee.

"Anytime you're up here [in Atlanta], I get work just from watching other guys," Devine said. "Being around the older guys and watching them, I'm getting work whether I'm here not throwing a lot or whether I'm [in the Minors] throwing a lot.

"But, of course, for myself, getting the work and getting out there as much as possible is the best fit for me."

Davies was available to work in the bullpen Tuesday night, but Reyes, in his second Major League start, pitched into the seventh inning.

The fact that Reyes pitched effectively while Davies, in his start on Monday, was unable to record an out, seemed to seal Davies' fate.

Though Smoltz proved his health with a strong outing on Wednesday, there is a chance Davies could still be used out of the bullpen before Sunday.

"We needed a long [reliever]," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Davies hasn't pitched in relief since making seven appearances from the bullpen in 2005, his rookie season. He said he hadn't been informed on how long the stint in the bullpen will last.

"I haven't talked to [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] today," Davies said. "I suppose I'll probably throw a bullpen and talk with him and see what his plans are."

07-20-2007, 01:39 AM
Notes: Franco excited to be back
Veteran first baseman still has a lot to offer the Braves
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- When the Mets designated him for assignment last week, Julio Franco knew he was either destined to return to Atlanta or face the fact that he wouldn't realize his goal of playing until he's 50 years-old.
"If it wouldn't have been Atlanta, I would have gone home because I know this is one organization that I can trust to know what I'm capable of doing and how to use me," said Franco, who signed with the Braves on Wednesday and immediately found himself as their starting first baseman in Thursday night's series opener against the Cardinals at Turner Field.

While it remains to be seen where Franco will be when he celebrates his first half century on this Earth next year, there's a good chance he'll celebrate his 49th birthday next month while playing in a Major League game. That assumption couldn't have been made if he'd remained with the Mets, who gave him a total of just 50 at-bats -- 17 since the beginning of June -- this year.

"He may have still had something left in New York," Cox said. "Who knows? He never got to play."

In other words, Cox isn't concerned with the fact that Franco hit just .200 with the Mets this year or that he has just four extra-base hits in his past 114 at-bats (dating back to Aug. 1). Instead, his ever-confident approach has led him to believe the veteran first baseman can contribute like he did during his previous tour in Atlanta, where from 2001-2005, he hit .292 and proved to be a reliable defensive asset.

"It's nice to see his smiling face in that clubhouse," Cox said. "He looks good. He loves the game of baseball and he has fun with it. Plus he's a winner. He was a big cog in our wheel during the years that he was here."

With their pinch-hitters batting .216 and their first basemen hitting a Major League-worst .205, the Braves saw little risk in giving Franco the prorated portion of the Major League minimum salary ($380,00) this season. He'll be used as a primary pinch-hitter and also get plenty of starts at first base against left-handed starters. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will continue to play the position against right-handed starters.

"I don't expect anything," Franco said. "I expect that Bobby knows that I'm useful and whenever he needs me, I'll be ready."

When asked if the knowledge he's gained in New York's clubhouse could prove to be a benefit in games the Braves play against the Mets, who held a 2 1/2 game advantage over Atlanta entering Thursday, Franco smiled.

"We'll see," Franco said. "This is what I'll say, I watch games and I learn every day about all aspects of the game."

After seeing his career resurrected by the Braves, who plucked him out of the Mexican League late during the 2001 season, Franco helped the Braves win five of their unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles. Now he believes he can help them regain the magic of that streak that his Mets ended last year.

"I'm very happy to be here," Franco said. "It's like family. I think we've got a great opportunity." You got to love Franco.

07-20-2007, 05:18 PM
old Braves news

By gondeee Section: News talkingchop.com
Posted on Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 01:28:50 PM EDT

Our old friend Marcus Giles is getting benched by his new team the San Diego Padres. Giles is hitting .191 since May 7th and just .237 on the year - that's Thormian suckage. And it's not the batting leadoff thing, which he complained about so much last year, he's hitting .257 when he bats in the leadoff spot, but just .138 when he bats in the number two spot in the order. What has happened to poor Gilley?

His OPS is headed in a decidedly wrong direction:

2003 - .916
2004 - .821
2005 - .826
2006 - .728
2007 - .638

It still bugs me as to what it really was that caused him to get worse. Was it that his 2003 season was really a fluke? Was it the running into Mark Prior - something that did neither of their careers any good?

I think he's proving this year that he can no longer be a starter in the majors - at least not one who hits at or near the top of the order. Perhaps he'll find a home on some AL team batting in the ninth hole. He actually might be a pretty good ninth-hole AL hitter. His Zone Rating this year is actually the highest it's been since '03, and is second in the league behind Utley for second sackers. His error rate is still low - the second fewest errors for a second baseman in the league - so he still has good value as a defensive second baseman, but his value anywhere above the 7th spot in the order is an offensive hole in whatever team's lineup he can make next season (or in the Padres lineup this season).

I don't care what Schuerholz's explanation for releasing him this off-season was, it seems that perhaps old JS looks at the stat trends more than we thought. I didn't like the move at the time, but it's looking more and more like it was the right move (since we couldn't trade him - I guess the rest of the major league teams look at stat trends too). Perhaps that was a huge red flag - the fact that no other team wanted to trade for Giles.

07-20-2007, 05:20 PM
SAN DIEGO - That Julio Franco found work with the Atlanta Braves isn't surprising.

What was surprising, however, were the lack of references, especially when it came to the "clubhouse leadership" issue.

Manager Willie Randolph said Franco should get more playing time with the Braves, and the reason he didn't with the Mets was a .200 average.

"If you play, you have to produce. That clubhouse stuff is overrated," said Randolph, who volunteered the information unsolicited.

Jose Valentin offered up that Franco was a less than eager participant in the club's pregame stretching.

However, what irked some players was Franco wouldn't hesitate to get in the face of some of the younger players about doing their jobs when he was hitting .200 with one homer with the Mets.

"To be a leader for me, it's not enough to talk all the time," Valentin said. "You have to go out and do it yourself."

Franco, who will turn 49 in August, said he wants to play until he's 50. He also said before leaving the Mets that "I can still hit."--

found this on the website thejournalnews.com...i remember when Julio made a stink about not being asked to return with the Braves also. Seems like he might not be the leader that everyone is panning him out to be. Just because he is old and well traveled does not mean that he will be a well like leader in the clubhouse. I hope his presence doesnt have the same impact on the Braves hitting as it has on the Mets..

07-20-2007, 05:28 PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds is edging closer to the magic mark of 756, bringing the inevitable comparisons between him and Hank Aaron to their zenith. When and if Bonds surpasses him this season, the Hammer will have held Major League Baseball's most coveted record for more than 33 years.

Only a handful of players remain working in the Major Leagues who were active on April 8, 1974, when Aaron passed Babe Ruth into first place on the all-time home run list at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Only two were on the field that day when Aaron hit his homer against Dodgers left-hander Al Downing: Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes. And only two played on the Braves with Aaron and later managed the Giants with Bonds in the lineup: Baker and Felipe Alou.

Who better to seek for opinions on that comparison than some of the guys who played with or against Aaron and managed with or against Bonds? MLB.com tracked down and interviewed Baker, Alou, Lopes, Frank Robinson, Larry Bowa and Joe Torre.

"Hank and Barry were different guys from different generations," said Baker, now an analyst for ESPN after 14 years of managing the Giants and the Cubs. "They're just different people, period. Hank came from a generation where baseball wasn't so much of a show. You just played the game. One's from California and the other is from the South. Hank was more reserved and probably more humble. They're both very proud."

"Hitting-wise, they're about the same kind of hitters," said Alou, who is now an assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean after four years of managing the team. "Personality-wise, Hank Aaron was a guy who didn't say much. Not much was said about him until he woke up one day and somebody was telling him, 'You're going to break Babe Ruth's record.' That's when people realized what he was really doing."

Aaron came up in 1954 and played 21 of his 23 seasons for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. He retired after two seasons with the Brewers in 1976. Bonds came up in 1986 with the Pirates and played the first seven of his 22 seasons in Pittsburgh before signing with the Giants as a free agent in 1993, the same year Baker began his 10-year stint as the club's manager.

Baker came up in 1968 and played with Aaron until Hank's Braves departure and at 25, was in the on-deck circle on the fateful day when Aaron eclipsed the Bambino.

Alou's tenure playing with Aaron began in 1964 and ended in 1969, spanning the period when the Braves left Milwaukee after the 1965 season and relocated in Atlanta.

Lopes came up in 1972 and was playing second base for the Dodgers when Aaron hit the epic homer in the bottom of the fourth inning. He managed against Bonds with the Brewers from 2000 to early in the 2002 season, and has been a coach with a number of National League teams, including the Phillies this season.

Robinson and Aaron, titans of the same era, were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the same day in 1982. Robinson, who came up with the Reds in 1956, played against Aaron until he was traded to the Orioles after the 1965 season. Robinson retired in 1976 as player-manager of the Indians after spending most of his last 10 seasons in the American League. As skipper of the Expos/Nationals from 2002 to 2006, Robinson managed five seasons against Bonds.

Torre came up with the Braves in 1960 and played with Aaron until Joe was traded to the Cardinals after the 1968 season. He managed against Bonds in the NL during his six-year period heading the Cardinals from 1990 to 1995, and in a smattering of Interleague games during his 12-year tenure as manager of the Yankees.

Bowa played against Aaron for five years after being brought up by the Phillies to play shortstop in 1970. He managed against Bonds twice: the first time as manager of the Padres in 1987 and part of 1988, and again with the Phillies from 2001 to 2004. He also coached against Bonds during a long tenure as third-base coach of the Phillies. He's currently the Yankees' third-base coach.

We asked each man to compare Aaron to Bonds as a player.


07-20-2007, 05:30 PM
Baker: "Both made everything look easy. Very easy. They both had great vision. They could see things that nobody else could see. They both have total recall. Barry doesn't use much video. And for a modern player he doesn't even use many scouting reports. Back in the day, you didn't have any of that anyway. You'd just go watch a pitcher warm up in the bullpen or on the mound to determine if he was getting his breaking ball over or see the movement on his fastball. They were both outstanding outfielders, they both won Gold Gloves. Barry had more [8-3], but Hank had a whole lot of competition: Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Curt Flood and all them dudes out there. I'm not saying Barry didn't. They both had accurate arms. Hank probably had a stronger arm, but they were both accurate. Barry probably had more speed. But I didn't see Hank when he was young, either. Hank stole bases when you really needed them. I'm not saying Barry didn't, but it was a different time. They'd steal out of necessity rather than want. Barry's the only one with 500 homers and 500 stolen bases. That's speed and power, man."

Alou: "I played with Hank for six years. Every day, I was next to him. Hank never got hurt. Bonds missed so much time with surgeries, sore muscles, also so many at-bats because of the walks. Barry has always been exuberant, cocky, self-confident from the get-go. He was noticed everywhere he went. Hank was a second baseman early on. He was actually signed to play second base. Being with Hank and knowing the kind of hitter he was, a humble guy, I'm going to feel something -- I don't know what you call it -- when it happens. But records are made to be broken. Growing up in the Dominican, any time hitting was talked about, Babe Ruth was the guy whose name was mentioned. Sometimes it takes longer for people to appreciate you. It was that way with Hank Aaron. It might be that way with Barry."

Lopes: "Early in his career, I think Hank did a lot of things exceptionally well. He ran well. He played good defense. He hit for power, obviously, and he hit for average. He was a five-tool player at one time. He never really got the publicity he deserved like some of the other great hitters, simply because of the cities that he played in. Barry, arguably, may be the best player of all time. I mean, he's just put up unbelievable statistics. Home runs, walks, power, stolen bases. He's also won eight Gold Gloves. He's definitely the best player in the era when I came along, including when I played, managed and coached. What this man has done over the last eight-to-10 years has been unbelievable. If you take into consideration the fewer at-bats that he gets, the fewer pitches that he gets to hit, and what he does with them when he gets them, it's mind-boggling. I don't think anybody who's played the game has ever done that."

Robinson: "Hank wasn't a very exciting player, but he was a tremendous athlete and a tremendous all-around player. And he didn't get credit for his all-around play. He was a good defensive player. He was a good basestealer, a good baserunner and he hit for power and hit for average. He did that year in and year out, and it helped win ballgames. He was also a very fine home run hitter. He hit a lot of clutch home runs. And he hit a lot of home runs after he was 35 years old. That's what amazed me at the time, because players weren't playing as long as they are today. They're two different types of players. Bonds was a very fine outfielder when he was healthier and younger. Now, since his knee has been bothering him a little bit, he doesn't move around very well anymore. I don't believe in comparing players from different eras, but Barry is the best offensive player of this time and he's one of the most outstanding players to ever play the game. "

Torre: "Aaron was awesome. He could do everything. Willie [Mays] got more attention because he was colorful. Henry played right field with anybody, even though Clemente would get the rave reviews. He'd throw the ball on the fly to the plate or to third base because he had such a strong arm. Hank always hit the cutoff man, which wasn't as romantic, but he always did it right. He had a good arm. He'd hit a ground ball to shortstop between third and short, and basically he'd laugh. You couldn't throw him out. Bonds has been a great player for a long time. Henry was a teammate of mine, and personally I'm a big Hank Aaron fan. I know the turmoil surrounding Barry, and it's unfortunate. It's tough to come down on either side, based on the fact that a lot of it is whispering and curiosity. It's tough to condemn Barry because we don't know for sure. But Barry, even before all the questions came up about him, he was a guy you'd walk intentionally."

Bowa: "I thought Hank was a great player. He could field, throw, steal bases, hit for average, for power. I guess the thing that stands out about Aaron is, I don't think he ever hit 50 home runs [in a single season], did he? [Aaron's single-season high was 47, in 1971.] He was just consistent. He had that unique swing where he'd get out on that front leg. His wrists were unbelievable. He had that discipline at the plate. You'd very seldom see him swing at bad pitches. He was just very scary when he came up with runners in scoring position. He did everything, everything. You've got to rank Barry right up there with everybody. Forget all these [steroid] allegations until something is proven. He hits for power, hits for average, steals bases, and up until five or six years ago, was an outstanding, and I mean, an outstanding left fielder. He has a tremendous eye at the plate. I don't like to taint guys' records, but obviously the pitching when Aaron and those guys played was much deeper. When you went into a series you faced four studs. And now, top of the rotation, one and two, are pretty good. Three, four and five are average. To me, Bonds is right in there with all those guys: Aaron, Mays, Robinson. There's a handful of them, and he's one of them."

[B]Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


07-20-2007, 06:43 PM
Good finds randy but next time can you site your sources.

07-20-2007, 06:46 PM
Diaz is Braves’ hidden gem
By David O'Brien | Friday, July 20, 2007, 02:52 PM

If he’s not the most underrated player in the National League, Matt Diaz is certainly on the short list.

We don’t want to overstate his importance to the Braves, but without this Tampa Bay/Kansas City castoff, where would the Braves be this season?

The man is hitting .358, which would lead the NL batting race if he had enough plate appearances to qualify (he’s not even close, and won’t be as long as he’s playing in a platoon and pinch-hitting role. You gotta have 3.1 plate appearances per team game to qualify, and he’s got barely two-thirds that many).

Diaz went 3-for-4 with a single, double, homer and three RBIs last night in the series-opening rout against the Cardinals.

He leads the majors by a wide margin with his .399 average since April 24, but again almost nobody knows that because his name isn’t listed among league leaders in anything and because he plays in a left-field platoon and doesn’t hit homers on a team that’s got plenty of bigger-name players who do.

All of that should assure Diaz remains off the national radar and on the most-underrated list, as it were. Just the fact that he doesn’t put up big power numbers in an age when being a singles hitter is roughly akin to wearing a scarlet letter “S” on your jersey.

But the Braves know how valuable he’s been to them since they got him for an obscure minor league pitcher in a trade with Kansas City two winters ago, a trade that was relegated to one line in the “transactions” section in the agate (small type) results section of every major newspaper in the country, except maybe this one and the Kansas City Star. If it even made the transactions.

The Braves know his worth to them, which is far greater than his $395,000 salary, for sure.

Andruw Jones told me as much when I asked him after the game last night, told me how much Diaz busts his butt whenever he’s called upon, how much Diaz strives to get better all the time, offensively and defensively, etc.

“He’s one of the top ones,” Andruw said, when I asked if he was one of the most underrated players in the game.

After Ryan Langerhans floundered early and got traded, Diaz put his foot on the gas and hasn’t taken it off, not on the days he plays in the left-field platoon with Willie Harris, or when Diaz is merely pinch-hitting (he’s been the Braves’ only productive pinch-hitter, and one of the league’s best).

After hitting .217 in 46 at-bats through April 24, Diaz has hit .399 (63-for-158) with 10 doubles, four homers and 21 RBIs in his past 61 games, with only two errors (did I mention his defense isn’t anywhere near as bad as it was rumored to be when the Braves got him; in fact, it’s not bad at all).

How would he do playing every day? I honestly don’t know. I’m sure a lot better than I figured he would the day the Braves traded for him, when I was told how well he hit lefties and how he would compete for a roster spot in the outfield.

Diaz has hit .355 with four homers in 124 at-bats vs. lefties this season, but he’s also hit .363 with a homer in 80 at-bats against righties.

He’s been steady as they come since late April, and for the season he’s hit .358 at home and .357 on the road.

He’s hit .360 with none on base, .354 with runners on, and .333 with runners in scoring position. He’s hit .324 in the late innings of close games, and he’s hit in seven spots in the batting order - and has a plus-.300 average at every one of them.

“He’s always hit,” Bobby Cox said after Thursday’s game. “He guy has always hit. He had a beautiful night.”The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Diaz is sure something, I wonder at times what kind of numbers he would put up if he was a starter.

07-20-2007, 11:08 PM
Notes: Diaz on hot streak at plate
Left fielder uses unorthodox swing to his advantage
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As he continues to produce eye-popping statistics, Matt Diaz can't help but think about those hitting coaches with Tampa Bay and Kansas City who felt his unorthodox swing would prevent him from having success at the Major League level. Fortunately for the Braves, their hitting coach, Terry Pendleton, took a more open-minded approach.
"Everywhere he went, people said he couldn't hit in the big leagues going about it the way that he was doing it," Pendleton said. "He was expecting me to change him. But why should I try to change you when you're hitting? I don't care if you start backwards. As long as you hit, it doesn't matter to me."

Over the course of the 471 at-bats he's had since the beginning of May last year, Diaz has compiled a team-best .348 batting average. His .381 on-base percentage during that span ranks second on the team only to Chipper Jones and his .495 slugging percentage has been bettered only by Jones and Brian McCann.

"Obviously the success I've had since May of last year has exceeded my expectations," Diaz said. "But I thought I could succeed at the big-league level. I just wanted to see."

When Diaz made his Major League debut with the Devil Rays in 2003, manager Lou Piniella considered him a defensive liability and gave him just 30 at-bats over the course of two seasons. The .281 batting average he compiled in Kansas City in 2005 was interrupted multiple times with demotions back to the Minors.

Fortunately the Royals designated him for assignment in December 2005 and then traded him to the Braves in exchange for a 25-year-old Minor League pitcher, whose career would include just two more appearances. Obviously the Braves got the better of the deal and much more than they could've expected.

"In Tampa, I needed to pull the ball more," Diaz said. "In Kansas City, I needed to get deeper in counts, walk a lot more and pull the ball more. Here, [Pendleton] has been happy with me going the other way and [manager] Bobby [Cox] has been the same way. They've let me play and they've given me confidence that what I've done in the past would work at the big-league level."

With an approach and swing that Pendleton says he wouldn't teach to young kids, Diaz finished a triple short of the cycle in Thursday night's win and raised his season batting average to .358. The 220 plate appearances he's tallied -- a product of platooning for a second straight season in left field -- leave him far short of the total needed for that figure to stand as the NL's best.

Since snapping an 0-for-17 slump on April 25, Diaz has hit .399 over a span of 157 at-bats. It's the sort of production that would seemingly beg for more playing time. But for now, the 29-year-old left fielder is content with sharing left field with Willie Harris, whose hot start was cooled with the 8-for-47 skid he carried into Friday.

"As hard as I had to work to get here, the last thing I'm going to do is complain when I'm here," Diaz said. "I know Willie has worked his tail off to get back here. So sharing a platoon with a guy like that isn't a hard thing to do." Another Diaz article, pretty good read.

07-20-2007, 11:13 PM
JS Not Moving Top Chips for Tex
By Will Schaffer | July 20th, 2007
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Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Yunel Escobar are the 2007 version of the “Baby Braves”. The catcher/firstbaseman and utility infielder have become fan favorites with their performance on the field and bright futures wearing a tomahawk. One thing both have not been able to escape are the swirling trade winds. The Braves are in a position to be buyers at the deadline for a playoff run and let’s face it, there will always be interest in young major-league starter quality players. The rumors involving these two Braves youngsters always have been revolving around pitching help but Mark Teixeira has been the most mentioned name of late. The production out of first has been miserable and there is a Georgia Tech product on the block…. seems to work for me.

Reports were flying that Rangers GM Jon Daniels wanted Saltalamacchia in any trade for the superstar firstbaseman Teixeira. Ken Rosenthal’s latest articleputs a new twist on the story though. Rosenthal says Schuerholz will not include Saltalamacchia or even Yunel Escobar in a deal for Teixeira. The first thing this tells me is that the Braves may be getting ready to move Edgar Renteria this off-season. The second is that Schuerholz is going to have a mighty task on his hand. Could he manage to do that without including one of the two? Rosenthal mentions Brandon Jones, Elvis Andrus, and Jordan Schafer as possibilities. All of these I could see. They could be showcasing Jo-Jo Reyes to the Rangers, who are always short on pitching. Could a package of Brandon Jones, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Joey Devine get it done? That may be cutting it close but we will certainly see. I can feel it, something big is going to happen. Normally JS is very secretive and you don’t hear much. With the huge rumors surrounding the Braves, this better be a big deadline for us.


07-20-2007, 11:22 PM
WOW Chipper what a find:clap::clap: I have to give you props for that, a lot of valuable information in there.

07-20-2007, 11:29 PM
Carlyle a feel-good, fairy-tale story
Journeyman finds a home with Braves

Published on: 07/21/07

He has handled the carnie lifestyle of the minor leaguer with a sort of determined dignity. And clung to the goal of major league baseball even as it dragged him to Asia and back, with everything but the dream lost in translation.

Now, how will Buddy Carlyle swallow his long overdue tablespoon of fame?

The man who has dropped into the back end of the Braves' rotation like an answered prayer is a little shy about drawing attention. Even as his place on the team becomes more essential with every poor outing of the second-tier starters around him.

"I realize my role on this team. There are some guys who deserve attention and guys who just need to go out and do their jobs," he said. "That's where I feel I fit in.

"I know I could go out and have three terrible games and no one is going to care anymore."

Others will have to bang the drum for him. He's going to tiptoe his way through this patch of high clover.

When Bobby Cox classifies the 29-year-old Carlyle among all the pitchers the Braves have brought in to reinforce the rear flank, the manager calls him "the best one to come through here in a long time."

"It's absolutely huge what he has done for the Braves," said the team's Class AAA pitching coach, Guy Hansen, who had Carlyle at the beginning of this season but does not anticipate seeing him again.

It's not exactly the 1940s Braves refrain of "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain," but the current Braves starting pitching is beginning to look a little like Smoltz and Huddy, and pray for Buddy.

After going another strong eight innings Sunday afternoon against Pittsburgh, winning for the fourth time in just over a month after having gone seven years, 269 days between major league victories, Carlyle still didn't have the diva thing down. At least when it came to victory celebrations.

"I'll do the same as if I had gone out and given up 10 runs — go home and take my kid to the park and pitch some more baseballs — underhanded," he said.

'Buddy' a name that fits

Married nearly six years, Carlyle has a 4-year-old son and infant daughter, responsibilities that refuse to wait on him to get established. Winning a few games means just enough security to rent a place in Marietta, and to tuck the kids into beds that don't fold up and fit in the trunk.

His name is Earl. But call him Buddy. Everybody has since he can remember.

"I wouldn't even respond to [Earl]," he said.

Buddy fits. It is a good, solid name for someone growing up in suburban Omaha. His dad worked construction, and his mom dabbled in real estate. He was middle-class down to his socks.

Buddy is the kind of dependable name that should be attached to the story of an overnight sensation a decade in the making.

"We've had a lot of feel-good stories — reclamation projects, if you will — and Buddy certainly falls into that category," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "It's a long way from Korea to the big leagues."

Carlyle's first major league start came at the age of 21, back in 1999 with San Diego. He didn't allow a hit for 5 2/3 innings and ended up with a tough no-decision. Two starts later in September of that year, he had his first big league victory. This was going to be easy.

"A lot of guys, when you're 21 and get called up to the big leagues, you think, OK, that's it, I'm never going back down," Carlyle said.

"Then you realize how competitive it is and how hard it is to pitch here, what you have to do to stay here. At that age, you have no idea."

He couldn't have seen what was coming.

Running out of countries

That one victory would stand as a solitary beacon into the next century. Carlyle would bounce between the minor league affiliates of six organizations before the Braves signed him this season.

There would be only the occasional sip of espresso in the bigs (from 1999-06, 54 2/3 major league innings, a 7.41 ERA). Twice he would go overseas to keep his career breathing — to Japan in 2001 and '02 and then to Korea after the Florida Marlins expressed indifference to him last season.

Carlyle was starting to run out of countries. And, frankly, the charm of international travel was losing its appeal. His workouts in Korea were the stuff of sketch comedy. His strength coach was Japanese. The translation relay went: Japanese to Korean, then Korean to English, with the two middlemen barely knowing first base from third.

And some of those pregame meal spreads, well, he sometimes wondered if they came with an instruction manual.

Baseball had broken out its label-maker and pasted a big "journeyman" across Carlyle's forehead. To him, that's not exactly accurate, nor is it an insult.

"The problem is, people get so wrapped up in this level of baseball," he said. "I think if I had never gotten back and I had played 12 years and had a little time in the big leagues, I would never have considered my career a failure. You're doing something right to play that long."

A memorable 9-pitch inning

Carlyle had pitched well this spring, but was dispatched to Class AAA Richmond on the final day. Desperately searching for someone to fill that black hole at the end of the starting rotation, the Braves called him up in late May. So tenuous was his position that after he was lit up by Boston a month later (seven runs in 32/3 innings), he foresaw another banishment to Richmond.

"Being a guy with my track record and where I'd been, it seems like you're always expecting the worst." But there he was five days later, on the mound beating Washington.

The Braves have reaped rewards for their patience. Entering his scheduled start today against St. Louis, Carlyle is 4-2 with a 4.00 ERA. He is 3-0 since the Red Sox game, and was pitching well in his other start against Florida (three innings, one hit) when a prolonged rain delay knocked him out of the game.

Against San Diego earlier this month, he authored an amazing footnote to his baseball odyssey, becoming one of only 37 pitchers in major league history to strike out the side on nine pitches.

He laughs, "Whatever happens, I at least know that one can't be broken."

Compare all that to the combined statistics for everyone else who has started for the Braves other than the top three of Smoltz, Hudson and Chuck James: 29 starts, 4-17 record, 7.55 ERA. The dropoff is sheer and rocky.

'Very, very lucky to be here'

Why this success now for Carlyle?

A portion of it may have been some mechanical tinkering in Richmond that has helped with his velocity and location. The addition of a cut fastball to his repertoire hasn't hurt. And then there's his outlook, gaining the mental maturity to deal with the stress of a one-way ticket back to palookaville looming over every appearance.

He reinforced the upbeat view during the All-Star break. Back home in Nebraska, Carlyle visited a Little League game where a friend's son was playing. He reassessed baseball at ground level.

"You forget how fortunate you are to still play and how many people want to play baseball," Carlyle said. "You look at it from the big perspective like that, and go, 'You know what, I'm very, very lucky to be here. Why not enjoy it instead of being so worried about being out there?"

Right now, everybody loves Buddy. Players appreciate playing behind a pitcher who works fast and throws strikes. Braves fans will cheer for anybody who can go out there every fifth day without having to leave a short time later in a bucket.

How long can this last? How far can a team ride a player who so many deemed a "Quad-A guy" — falling in that murky abyss between Triple-A and the majors?

"He's not a fluke," Hansen insists.

"I think he's going to stay for awhile. He's becoming an athlete who believes in himself," the Richmond pitching coach said.

As Carlyle seeks some sense of permanence in his career, he says he'd just as soon proceed with the quest with little fanfare. Quiet, please, as he learns to handle one last aspect of baseball — major league success.The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

I will admit this is a super long article but if you guys want to know Buddy here you go.

07-20-2007, 11:57 PM
Schuerholz Speaks
JS was on BBTM on XM at 8:30 am and these are the highlights of the interview.

JS sulled a little over being swept by the lowly Reds.

He assessed Smoltz's return as "a remarkable start".

Elaborated on Chipper being a "remarkable player and guy" and said the he "would have to remain healthy for the team to compete".

He did say that he had negotiations with Boras on Andruw Jones earliar in the season, "but didn't get anywhere" and "the talks are tabled until the end of the season".

Buck Martinez lead into a conversation about the trade deadline, and reiterated that JS never shows his hand, but asked him this question. "What area would you like to improve on your team?" JS replied, "Pitching, but it will be a real challenge," due to lack of and asking prices.

Salty - liked by everyone, especially the Braves.

Yunel - and his boat trip from Cuba, his mother is now in the States.

Julio - His role: #1 bat off the bench and JS stated that "knowing Bobby, Julio will probably start tonight at first against Maroth"

JS is on BBTM occasionally and Mark and Buck never press him on rumors or moves, because over the years, they have learned that JS never reveals anything about potential moves, which we all know.

Bottom line, JS thinks we have a good opportunity to make the post season and he is looking for pitching, so, I guess we will wait and see.

Blabberin Braves, owned by yours truly!

07-21-2007, 12:23 AM
Good Stuff.

07-21-2007, 12:44 AM
Good Stuff.

Thank you.

07-21-2007, 10:35 AM
Good finds randy but next time can you site your sources.
they are there just not in bold but I did go back and edit them and placed them in bold

07-21-2007, 10:48 AM

Notes: Diaz on hot streak at plate
Left fielder uses unorthodox swing to his advantage

By Mark Bowman / MLB.com (http://http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070720&content_id=2098799&vkey=news_atl&fext=.jsp&c_id=atl)

ATLANTA -- As he continues to produce eye-popping statistics, Matt Diaz can't help but think about those hitting coaches with Tampa Bay and Kansas City who felt his unorthodox swing would prevent him from having success at the Major League level. Fortunately for the Braves, their hitting coach, Terry Pendleton, took a more open-minded approach.

"Everywhere he went, people said he couldn't hit in the big leagues going about it the way that he was doing it," Pendleton said. "He was expecting me to change him. But why should I try to change you when you're hitting? I don't care if you start backwards. As long as you hit, it doesn't matter to me."

Over the course of the 471 at-bats he's had since the beginning of May last year, Diaz has compiled a team-best .348 batting average. His .381 on-base percentage during that span ranks second on the team only to Chipper Jones and his .495 slugging percentage has been bettered only by Jones and Brian McCann.

"Obviously the success I've had since May of last year has exceeded my expectations," Diaz said. "But I thought I could succeed at the big-league level. I just wanted to see."

When Diaz made his Major League debut with the Devil Rays in 2003, manager Lou Piniella considered him a defensive liability and gave him just 30 at-bats over the course of two seasons. The .281 batting average he compiled in Kansas City in 2005 was interrupted multiple times with demotions back to the Minors.

Fortunately the Royals designated him for assignment in December 2005 and then traded him to the Braves in exchange for a 25-year-old Minor League pitcher, whose career would include just two more appearances. Obviously the Braves got the better of the deal and much more than they could've expected.

"In Tampa, I needed to pull the ball more," Diaz said. "In Kansas City, I needed to get deeper in counts, walk a lot more and pull the ball more. Here, [Pendleton] has been happy with me going the other way and [manager] Bobby [Cox] has been the same way. They've let me play and they've given me confidence that what I've done in the past would work at the big-league level."

With an approach and swing that Pendleton says he wouldn't teach to young kids, Diaz finished a triple short of the cycle in Thursday night's win and raised his season batting average to .358. The 220 plate appearances he's tallied -- a product of platooning for a second straight season in left field -- leave him far short of the total needed for that figure to stand as the NL's best.

Since snapping an 0-for-17 slump on April 25, Diaz has hit .399 over a span of 157 at-bats. It's the sort of production that would seemingly beg for more playing time. But for now, the 29-year-old left fielder is content with sharing left field with Willie Harris, whose hot start was cooled with the 8-for-47 skid he carried into Friday.

"As hard as I had to work to get here, the last thing I'm going to do is complain when I'm here," Diaz said. "I know Willie has worked his tail off to get back here. So sharing a platoon with a guy like that isn't a hard thing to do."

Franco gets second straight start: Cox is going to make sure Julio Franco makes up for all those at-bats that he didn't get this year with the Mets. With the Cardinals starting right-hander Adam Wainwright on Friday, the veteran manager had the 48-year-old veteran back at first base.

"I think it's important that Julio gets some at-bats right away against righties and lefties to get him going," said Cox, indicating he likely won't use a strict platoon at first base over the course of the next week.

Franco, who rejoined the Braves on Wednesday and celebrated his season debut with them on Thursday with a two-run single, was given a total of 50 at-bats while spending the first half of this season with the Mets. Just 17 of those at-bats came after June 1.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will likely continue getting some playing time at first base. As for Scott Thorman, who is out of options, the Braves find themselves evaluating his future. Because they can't send him to the Minors before passing him through waivers, they'll listen to any potential trade offers.

Hudson cruising: After watching his team tally 12 hits and score 10 runs on Thursday, Cox was pleased with his team's offensive production and even more excited about the fact that Tim Hudson had limited the Cardinals to one run over seven innings.

"His ball is moving so much," Cox said. "He threw some sinkers at 93 and 94 [mph] that looked like split-fingers because they were breaking that much. They were going straight down."

Over the course of his past seven starts, Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA. While respectable, the ERA becomes even more impressive when it's remembered that this span includes his July 5 start, in which the Dodgers roughed him for six earned runs in just three innings.

Hudson has allowed one earned run or less and pitched at least seven innings in five of his past seven starts.

Coming up: The Braves will continue their four-game series against the Cardinals on Saturday night at 7:05 ET. They'll send Buddy Carlyle (4-2, 4.00) to the mound to face Braden Looper (7-7, 4.60).

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

07-21-2007, 10:50 AM

Team Report: Inside Pitch
Catcher Brian McCann is modest anyway, but he really seemed to be trying to fend off praise a few days ago when, after driving in four runs on two homers in a 9-1 win over the Pirates July 13, he instead began praising centerfielder Andruw Jones, who had contributed two runs and a homer in the same game.

"Andruw's going to carry us the second half," he said, deflecting talk on how well he was hitting.

Come again? Andruw? Struggling to raise his average to .200?

This, though, was McCann's reasoning:

"Numbers," he said, "don't lie."

Yes, a cliche. But looking at numbers as a hitter, he continued, "If you're hitting .270 every year with 40 homers and 120 RBI 12 years in a row or however many years he's done it, there's no reason why he won't."

Sure enough, in the 10 games from July 6 though July 19 before going 0-for-4 Friday, Jones hit six home runs and drove in 18 runs.

CARDINALS 4, BRAVES 2: Left-hander Chuck James allowed only one run in seven innings but right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano, who was automatic the first part of the season, once again gave up runs. Soriano gave up two runs in the eighth that took the score from a 1-1 deadlock to a 3-1 deficit.

07-21-2007, 01:31 PM
they are there just not in bold but I did go back and edit them and placed them in bold

07-21-2007, 02:43 PM
Jones Living up to the Hype
By Will Schaffer | July 21st, 2007

Baby Braves

The Braves have two very big Joneses that have become the face of the franchise. Chipper and Andruw are synonymous to the tomahawk they wear across their chest to any baseball fan. Another Jones may be making a name for himself though very soon. Brandon Jones has put himself right up at the front of the line for a major-league promotion after he has finally turned his tools into performance this year. Chop-n-Change is taking a look at the outfielder after his promotion to Triple-A Richmond today.

The 23-year old outfielder was selected by the Braves in the 24th round of the 2003 June Amateur Draft out of Tallahassee Community College. Jones was touted as being an extremely athletic and very toolsy player that had a long way to go to put it all together. That is the praise scouts give a lot of players who turn out as flops but Jones has finally put it all together. Through his first three years in the minors, Jones never really did much to blow people out of the water. Early on in his pro career, scouts said he had tools and we have to wait but after last year it almost seemed as though people were giving up on him to ever reach the ceiling he was thought to have. Maybe he took that as a challenge or maybe not but Jones has destroyed the Southern League, hitting a robust .291/.368/.507 with 15 homeruns, 12 stolen bases, and leads the league with 74 RBIs. Now he gets to try his hand against some more advanced competition.

What kind of player should we expect Jones to be? The opinion varies greatly between scouts. One report I have seen tabs him as a .300 hitting who will hit 15-20 HRs. Some think he will hit for a higher average, more power, etc. We could see Jones as early as September but most likely fighting for a starting job in spring training. His plate discipline (44 walks and 84 strikeouts in 365 at bats) leads me to believe a .300 average is a bit of a stretch. .275 to .290 seems reasonable though. Now for the power. Assuming he got around 650-700 at bats, Jones is on pace to just about double the homerun total and I think he could easily surpass 25 homeruns annually down the road and maybe even hit as many as 30 or 35. Not too shabby for a left-handed bat. Add onto this his speed, which could produce a decent amount of steals (maybe 15-20), good defense, and a pretty strong arm and you have got quite a prospect. He isn’t the superstar or an annual All-Star probably but he is a guy that will have a very good career with maybe a couple mid-Summer classic appearances here and there.chop-n-change
It is a good read on Brandon Jones and his promotion to Triple A.

07-21-2007, 03:03 PM
Wow, I feel he will be starting next year.

07-21-2007, 03:08 PM
Yea Brandon will be someone to watch for come next year. we might actually get a preview this season.

07-21-2007, 03:10 PM
I don't know, outfield seems more than covered.

07-21-2007, 03:14 PM
Yea Brandon will be someone to watch for come next year. we might actually get a preview this season.

No I don't think so. That will start his arbitration clock, but you may be right, he could be a september call up.

07-21-2007, 11:12 PM
Notes: Schuerholz at center of buzz
GM says with all the talks, trade deadline could be a busy one
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- With the July 31 trade deadline quickly approaching, some have gained a perception that a seemingly thin market will lead to a limited number of completed deals. Braves general manager John Schuerholz doesn't subscribe to this belief.
"There's a lot of interaction going on," said Schuerholz, who with catcher/first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia and infielder Yunel Escobar, holds two of the most desirable young prospects that could be available on this year's trade market.

While Schuerholz obviously wouldn't detail any of his conversations with his peers, it's obvious that his top objective is to strengthen his pitching staff with the addition of a veteran starter and quite possibly a veteran reliever. But if the right deal for a first baseman, say Texas' Mark Teixeira, were to come available, he certainly wouldn't shy away.

"We're talking about a variety of things," Schuerholz said. "I'm not going to narrow it down to one thing. We're just doing our due diligence. Something might come up that we weren't even focusing on. ... Pitching is always a priority. It always has been and always will be."

If the Braves are going to complete a marquee deal, one that would bring somebody like Teixeira, they'll likely have to part ways with either Saltalamacchia or Escobar. Over the past couple of weeks, many other general managers have asked Schuerholz about the availability both of these players.

Barring an unforeseen megadeal that would blow Schuerholz's socks off, there isn't a possibility of both of these prospects being included in the same deal. One National League scout says he's gained the impression the Braves are much more willing to include Saltalamacchia in a trade than Escobar.

With shortstop Edgar Renteria eligible for free agency at the end of the 2008 season and 18-year-old phenom Elvis Andrus seemingly at least a few years away from being Major League-ready, the Braves may see more of a need to keep Escobar than Saltalamacchia, whose greatest value on the trade market is as a catcher.

With All-Star catcher Brian McCann already in place, the only way Atlanta could give Saltalamacchia regular playing time is as a first baseman. By doing so, the team would be putting him at a position where he's currently limited defensively while lessening the tremendous interest he currently draws from other organizations.

Schuerholz says finances won't prove to be a hindrance when it comes time to make a deal. Although he hasn't learned if insurance will definitely cover a majority of Mike Hampton's $14.5 million salary this year, he's anticipating that it will.

"We're OK," Schuerholz said. "We're all right. We're in a maneuverable position." Interesting read.

07-22-2007, 09:03 AM

Chipper Jones went 3-for-4 with a homer off Troy Percival and four RBI against the Cardinals on Saturday.

Chipper is leading the NL with a .346 average and remains second in the league in OPS behind Barry Bonds. If only he had been able to avoid injury, he could be an MVP favorite right now. Maybe if he can stay in the lineup the rest of the year and lead the Braves to the playoffs, he'll still have a shot at the hardware. Such an award would go a long way towards boosting his Hall of Fame chances.

07-22-2007, 09:04 AM

Willie Harris went 6-for-6 with six RBI and four runs scored as the Braves walloped the Cardinals 14-6.

Harris is just the second Atlanta Brave to go 6-for-6, joining Felix Milan (1970). He entered the day with a .152 average and no RBI in 47 at-bats this month. In the grand scheme of things, the big game might have been a bad thing for the Braves, as it will cause Bobby Cox to keep sticking with him for at least a couple of more weeks. The Braves would probably be better off playing Matt Diaz against right-handers and should be seeking a left fielder in trade.

07-22-2007, 01:25 PM
Diaz credits Braves' philosophy

ATLANTA --Matt Diaz attributes his success with the Braves to an approach hitting coach Terry Pendleton uses that differs greatly with what he was taught in Kansas City.

After spending two seasons in the Royals' organization, Diaz has a .339 average in 502 at-bats since Atlanta traded for him in December 2005.

Diaz managed a .281 average in 34 games and 89 at-bats in 2005, but it wasn't easy.

"They wanted me to be a different hitter than I was," he said. "Go deep in the count to get into the bullpen. Here, they just want you to do what works for you."

In a platoon last year with former Braves left fielder Ryan Langerhans , Diaz hit .327 with seven homers and 32 RBIs. He's sharing the job this year with Willie Harris , and manager Bobby Cox likes what he's seen from Diaz, who helped Florida State reach the 1999 College World Series.

"The way he started in spring training this year, we thought he'd hit .500," Cox said. "It doesn't surprise me."

Cox knows he can count on Diaz in a pinch, too. In 28 at-bats as a pinch-hitter, Diaz leads the majors with 11 hits for a .429 average.

Overall, the 29-year-old has the best average in the majors (.391, 12-for-28) since April 30.

On the ball

When right fielder Jeff Francoeur walked in the sixth inning on Friday, it gave him 23 this season, the same number he had all of last year.

Francoeur heard the criticism that he wasn't selective enough in 2006, his first full season in the majors.

Not surprisingly, the increase in walks is a reflection of better patience and discipline at the plate. His average through the first 98 games was 31 points higher, at .291, than his 2006 mark.

Improving his pitch selection has only increased Francoeur's value to the Braves. His 65 RBIs were tied with Andruw Jones for the club lead entering Saturday, and his 12 outfield assists lead the majors since Atlanta called him up from Double-A Mississippi on July 7, 2005.

Quick hits

Reliever Rafael Soriano has allowed five earned runs with two blown saves in his last 3 1/3 innings, but Cox isn't worried about the right-hander. "Not really. He's throwing awfully hard," Cox said. "It's location. The same old thing. When the pitcher gets hit a little bit, it's generally location."... With an eight-run lead entering their half of the seventh inning on Saturday, the Braves were hoping to improve to 36-15 when scoring at least four runs... . Shortstop Edgar Renteria went 3-for-3 before leaving in the fourth, increasing his team lead in hits to 126. He entered the game ranked fourth in the NL.ledger-Enquirer.com

It talks about Diaz, franky, Soriano, and renty.

07-23-2007, 01:04 AM
Notes: Braves ready for Bonds fray
Hudson says how slugger's handled will depend on situation
By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- It's an atmosphere, according to starting pitcher Tim Hudson, that the Braves have been preparing for since the early part of the season. Still, it's difficult to know what to expect when entering the frenzy that is Barry Bonds' chase for the all-time home run record.
Bonds will begin the Giants' four-game series in San Francisco against the Braves on Monday night three home runs shy of breaking Hank Aaron's record of 755. The record would take on added significance if done against the Braves, the franchise Aaron played for 21 seasons and with whom he set the record in 1974.

When Bonds hit two home runs in a game against the Cubs on Thursday, many marked the series against the Braves as the likely landing spot for a new home run record. Atlanta players have been eyeing the series for even longer.

"We knew probably a month and a half ago that it would definitely come down to us when we get there," Hudson said. "That's how it works, the way things happen."

If history is any indication, one of Atlanta's starting pitchers in the first two games of the series could find himself on the wrong side of history. Bonds has two multi-home run games against both Monday starter John Smoltz and Hudson, who pitches Tuesday.

Bonds hit two home runs against Hudson on Aug. 29 of last season, matching a feat he accomplished against Hudson six years earlier. Bonds has eight career home runs against Smoltz, tied for Bonds' highest total against any of the 443 pitchers he's homered off of, but none against Smoltz since 1998.

If Hudson finds himself pitching to Bonds in a record-breaking situation, however, he won't treat the slugger any differently than he has in the past.

"The game is going to dictate how you pitch him," Hudson said. "Whatever home run he is on, it's not going to affect what pitch I throw him. The game is going to dictate what kind of pitches he's going to get to hit.

"I've never shied away from him. I've never purposely pitching around him to walk him. I've always tried to get him out."

For Atlanta's non-pitchers, the pressure won't be quite as intense. Left fielder Willie Harris played with Cal Ripken Jr., in Baltimore during Ripken's final season and remembers the horde of media following the ironman in his final playing days.

That experience probably won't prepare Harris for the attention that awaits the Braves in San Francisco, but he is eager to experience another one of baseball's magic moments.

"I would love to be part of that," Harris said. "I don't want him to break the record against us, but it will definitely be fun for me to be out there just to see him go up in the batter's box. I don't want him to go deep or anything, but it'll be fun because he's chasing history." atlanta braves official website.

07-23-2007, 07:38 PM
Advice: Keep Braves’ Soriano from Bonds
By David O'Brien | Monday, July 23, 2007, 01:15 PM

Here’s some unsolicited advice if the Braves want to win a series and avoid Barry Bonds breaking Hank’s homer record this week at their expense: Do not bring in Rafael Soriano to face him with a game on the line.

Actually, do not bring in Soriano to face anyone with a game on the line.

Not right now. Not until Soriano gets straightened out and gets back to being the devastating setup man he was for much of the season. Because right now, the only team he’s devastating is the Braves.

The numbers don’t lie, and what the numbers tell us is that Soriano’s five-week skid reached such depths during the just-completed homestand that he played the biggest role than in assuring results weren’t what the Braves needed:

Soriano pitched five times in nine days on the homestand, and results were awful in four of those five. He went 0-1 with three blown saves in as many opportunities, while posting a 12.46 ERA and .400 opponents average with eight hits, six runs and three critical homers allowed in 4-1/3 innings over five games.

On the July 14 vs. Pittsburgh, July 18 vs. Cincinnati and last night (July 22) vs. St. Louis, Soriano gave up a homer and blew a save. That’s three blown saves in nine days, for a team that only blew seven before the All-Star break.

It may seem long ago, but it was only June 14 when Soriano was finishing one of the best runs we’ve seen from a Braves reliever since John Smoltz was in the ‘pen. From April 22 to June 14, Soriano posted a 0.42 ERA and sensational .074 opponents’ average in 21 games, allowing just five hits and one run (on a homer) in 21-1/3 innings while recording four walks with 22 strikeouts.

And then, literally overnight, he went from surging to skidding. He gave up a homer June 15 at Cleveland, beginning a 16-appearance stretch in which he’s put up a 6.91 ERA and .339 opponents’ average while allowing 21 hits, 11 earned runs and six homers in just 14-1/3 innings.

The Braves were already without lefty Mike Gonzalez, lost to elbow surgery in May. Now the vaunted Big Three bullpen trio is down to closer Bob Wickman. The Braves don’t even have a lefty reliever, at least not one who gets lefties out with any consistency (lefty Wilfredo Ledezma is a lefty reliever in name only; he’s actually tougher on righties than lefties, and has been tough on neither this season).

The Braves’ biggest need going toward the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline isn’t offense, and I no longer even believe it’s starting pitching (though they could certainly use another reliable starter, and there is some merit to the rumors you’re heaing about Jon Garland, Livan Hernandez, etc).

No, the most critical need is relief help. It’s essential they pick up at least one reliever before the deadline, preferably a lefty who could succeed in a setup role, if necessary. I know that’s getting a bit specific and choosy, but they need it.

With Soriano and Tyler Yates appearing tired and lately ineffective, the Braves might need to move Aussie sidearmer Peter Moylan into the primary setup role unless and until they acquire another arm. He and Chad Paronto have been their most consistent relievers in recent weeks.

Yates wasn’t any better than Soriano on the homestand, at least not in three of his five appearances. Coincidentally, he struggled in the same three games in which Soriano blew saves.

Yates gave up three runs while recording two outs July 14 vs. Pittsburgh, gave up a run on two hits and a walk July 18 vs. Cincinnati, and gave up four runs while recording one out last night vs. St. Louis.

In 12 appearances May 28 to June 30, Yates had a 0.79 ERA and .154 opponents’ average, with only six hit and one earned run in 11-1/3 innings.

Since then he’s 0-2 with a 16.71 ERA and .444 opponents’ average, with 16 hits and 13 earned runs allowed in just seven innings over 10 appearances.

Frightening numbers from Soriano and Yates, who’ve had arguably the most prominent bullpen roles outside of Wickman.The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Basically bashing on Soriano and yates.

07-23-2007, 09:10 PM
Team Report: Inside Pitch

Inside Pitch | Notes and Quotes | Roster Report
The Braves were already hitting well on the road. Now, they have begun to hit at home, too. And the best news is that centerfielder Andruw Jones is picking up the pace, hitting in 17 of his last 21 games since June 26.

Third baseman Chipper Jones, meanwhile, leads the National League with a .346 batting average, which includes a .361 road average. His batting average against right-handers is .386, which ranks first in the league, as does his batting average in night games: .386. His on-base percentage -- .438 -- ranks second. His slugging percentage, .601, ranks fourth.
Chipper came off the 15-day disabled list June 13 and needed no warm-up to get hot, batting .407 from that point to this.

And now, manager Bobby Cox's left-field platoon of Matt Diaz and Willie Harris is hitting on all cylinders. Well, Diaz already was producing steadily; he's been hitting .388 since April 30, which leads the majors. On nights Diaz doesn't play, he is tops as a pinch-hitter. Literally. He has a major league-leading 12 pinch hits.

Harris had been scuffling until Saturday, when he hit four singles and two triples in six at-bats against the Cardinals, practically wearing out right-handed starter Buddy Carlyle, who was on the bases ahead of him when he hit the triples.

Then there is shortstop Edgar Renteria, hitting .452 since the All-Star break. He is batting .354 in the seventh inning or later.

So at least the hitting should hold up on the upcoming road trip.

Now all Cox has to worry about is his starting pitching. And his relief pitching.

But asked Sunday how he would pitch to Barry Bonds in the four games the Braves have in San Francisco beginning Monday night, Cox replied, "Same way."

Oh, by the way, right-hander John Smoltz, who goes Monday, has given up eight homers to Bonds.

CARDINALS 7, BRAVES 2 (10 innings): Left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes gave up a single earned run in 5 1/3 innings but the bullpen didn't let that stand. Manager Bobby Cox took a chance on right-hander Rafael Soriano in the eighth inning and right-hander Tyler Yates in the 10th. Both gave up home runs.


07-24-2007, 02:43 AM
Notes: Cox warns against distractions
Bonds homer fine if Braves win; coaches note tragedy

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Braves arrived at AT&T Park on Monday afternoon, they had the opportunity to see the stadium's front adorned with a sign that read: BONDS 753. Once they were greeted with a throng of national media members inside the stadium, they were reminded this won't be the run-of-the-mill four-day stay by the Bay.
During the team meeting that preceded Monday night's start of this four-game series against the Giants, Braves manager Bobby Cox felt it was important to tell his players not to get overwhelmed by the circus atmosphere that would surround Barry Bonds, whose 753 career homers put him within an eyelash of Hank Aaron's hallowed record.

While Bonds was just three homers from ending Aaron's reign as baseball's official home run king, Cox wanted to stress the primary focus should remain on 3 1/2 -- the number of games his team trailed behind the Mets in the National League East race.

"You've got to think of winning the ballgame," Cox said. "You can't think of giving up the home run to [Bonds] and that you don't want that on your record and all that stuff. If he hits a home run, he hits a home run. That we win the ballgame is the most important thing."

Entering Monday, since the beginning of his historic 73-homer 2001 season, Bonds had enjoyed plenty of success against the Braves, batting .395 (34-for-86) with 15 homers, 41 walks (15 intentional), a .589 on-base percentage and .965 slugging percentage. But still the Giants were just 16-14-1 in the 31 games that the legendary slugger appeared in against Atlanta during that span.

"I wouldn't mind our pitchers giving up a home run, if we win the game," Cox said. "He's hit them off the best. It's nothing to be ashamed of, that's for sure."

Over the years, Cox has proven to be cautiously aggressive in his approach to Bonds. With nobody on base since the beginning of 2001, Bonds has hit .421 (24-for-57) with 10 homers against the Braves. With at least one runner in scoring position, he's batted .200 (2-for-10) and drawn 18 walks (14 intentional).

"I think we have been [more aggressive]," Cox said. "Maybe we've been stupid, I don't know. We try not to let him beat us. But sometimes, you can't avoid it."

One thing Cox has going for him this week is that a majority of Bonds' damage against the Braves over the course of the past six seasons has come at Turner Field, where since the start of 2001, he's hit .489 (22-for-45) with 11 homers. In San Francisco during that span against Atlanta, he's hit .293 (12-for-41) with four homers.By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

07-24-2007, 02:48 AM
Bomb threat halts Richmond Braves game

A bomb threat in the sixth inning of the Richmond Braves' game against the Toledo Mud Hens Sunday forced team officials to evacuate The Diamond in Richmond, Va.

Richmond is the Class AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves and Martin Prado, Brayan Pena and Kevin Barry were among the players in the game.

The order came at 4:07 p.m. after a phone call was received by Aramark, the stadium's concession firm, at 3:30 p.m.

"Regardless of whether it's legitimate or not, our policy is to err on the side of caution. We take this very seriously," R-Braves general manager Bruce Baldwin said.

Team officials conferred with city police after the call and made the decision to evacuate immediately. "I'm proud of our front-office staff. They cleared out about 4,000 people in 10 minutes," Baldwin said.

Spectators were asked to immediately leave the stadium and walk across the Boulevard to the Greyhound bus station.

The game was suspended until 1 p.m. Monday. Toledo was leading 6-0. The scheduled game will follow the completion of the suspended game.

Baldwin said that in his experience — he has held his job for 19 years — The Diamond has not been evacuated for a bomb threat.RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH

07-24-2007, 09:46 AM
Man.. this is Odd news! not the Norm!

07-24-2007, 10:29 AM
I know but I thought it was pretty interesting for you guys to know.

07-24-2007, 11:28 AM
Franco: I'm trying to do too much

Cox have shown patience with first baseman Julio Franco, who was back in the lineup Monday for the fourth time in five games. He was 1-for-12 since signing with the Braves.

Patience is what the 48-year-old said he needed to demonstrate himself.

"I just need more patience at the plate," said Franco, who had only 50 at-bats with the New York Mets before being released July 14. "It's like spring training all over, and you want to do too much, too soon. It's natural to come to a team and want to contribute, to prove you belong, instead of going out and letting my abilities take over. I've been getting myself out."

He hit his only homer of the season May 4. Since then, Franco was 8-for-49 (.163) with five RBIs and 14 strikeouts. His only hit for the Braves was a two-run single in his first game with them.

Braves first basemen have been the least productive in the majors, with a collective .202 batting average that was 40 points lower than any other NL team's first basemen before Monday, and a league-low 37 RBIs.

Atlanta braves ajc

07-24-2007, 11:58 AM
Atlanta braves ajc

Well of course he's doing too much, his 82 year old body can't handle that stress! :)

07-24-2007, 08:16 PM
Kyle Davies - #26 - Pitcher - 6'2" - 205lbs
News: Davies struck out nine in five innings, giving up one run in his return to Triple-A on Monday.
Impact: He walked four, however, which won't get him a quick trip back to Atlanta. Like lots of young pitchers (Tyler Clippard, NY; Edinson Volquez, TX, for example), Davies had decent K:BB numbers until he hit the higher levels. At Double-A in 2004, it was 73:22 in 62 IP. At Triple-A the following year, it jumped to 62:34 and was 113:82 over 2005 and 2006 with Atlanta, culminating in a 59:44 this year with the big club. He's only 23, so the Braves might be well advised to have him iron out the control issues for good before bringing him up again.
(RotoWire - Tue. Jul 24, 2007 )

07-24-2007, 08:17 PM
Julio Franco - #14 - First Base - 6'1" - 210lbs
News: Franco went 2-for-4 and started at first base for the fourth time in five games in Monday's win over San Francisco.
Impact: Manager Bobby Cox said he was only trying to get Franco some playing time when he initially started playing him at first base, but it now looks like he could be taking over a part of the starting job. That's a bit hard to believe given how well Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been hitting since being called up from the minors, and there's been no formal announcement, so watch how each is used.
(RotoWire - Mon. Jul 23, 2007 )

07-24-2007, 08:18 PM
Jarrod Saltalamacchia - #18 - Catcher - 6'4" - 195lbs
News: Saltalamacchia did not start Monday and hasn't started at first base in five games. Julio Franco has started four of the last five games at first base.
Impact: Saltalamacchia appeared to have won the everyday first base job last week, but has only started two games at catcher in the last five games. Manager Bobby Cox said he was only playing Franco at first base to get him jump started initially, but it looks like the two could share playing time now at the position. However, there's been no formal announcement
(RotoWire - Mon. Jul 23, 2007 )

07-25-2007, 01:23 PM
Chipper: Braves need a lefty

If the Braves' front office makes any moves before the trade deadline, Chipper Jones hopes it will be in the pitching department.

"I think the onus of our moves needs to be [the pitching] staff," he said. "I'd like to see us get a lefty reliever. Because there comes a point where all the big left-handed bats in our division ... we're going to have to have someone in the seventh or eighth inning who can get those guys out.

"That's why the loss of Gonzo really hurt us."

Lefty Mike Gonzalez had season-ending elbow surgery in May. The Braves traded their lone lefty Macay McBride last month for Detroit lefty Wilfredo Ledezma, who isn't a situational lefty and isn't used as one for obvious reasons: Lefty hitters have a .323 average against him.

Jones reeled off the names of Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and Mets sluggers, including Carlos Delgado.

"We're going to play those teams three series apiece between now and the end of the season," he said, "so it's imperative that we be able to get those guys out."The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

07-25-2007, 01:25 PM
'Salty' focuses on game, not trade block
Published on: 07/24/07

San Francisco -- Being both a child of the Internet age and one of baseball's most sought-after prospects, Jarrod Saltalamacchia could drive himself crazy keeping up with all the trade rumors involving him that are flying through cyberspace.

"I try not to pay attention," the Braves rookie catcher said Tuesday afternoon at AT&T Park. "My biggest thing right now, like everybody in here, is just to try to help us win games and try not worry about it."

"It" being the possibility that he could be traded before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Saltalamacchia was the Braves' top-rated prospect before the season and has further elevated his stock with a strong performance in his first stint in the majors.

The 22-year-old switch-hitter batted .285 with six doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs in 137 at-bats before Tuesday's game, with 14 multihit games in 34 games in which he had at least two at-bats.

He has performed admirably in a difficult role -- backing up All-Star catcher Brian McCann, pinch hitting and learning on the fly in 11 starts at first base, a position he hadn't played since high school.

"Pretty good," is how Saltalamacchia rated his play since arriving from Class AA on May 2. The Braves rate it higher, as so do the teams calling with trade interest. "Salty" shows up early and works hard every day. He's been a model rookie. So why are the Braves listening to calls from teams trying to pry him loose?

Two reasons, really. McCann, who's only 23 and a two-time All-Star, signed a six-year contract extension in March. He seems destined to become a franchise pillar.

And, the Braves have needs, including pitching. If they could get an impact starter or a package of pitchers for Saltalamacchia, they might pull the trigger.

They've also talked to the Rangers about first baseman Mark Teixeira, a slugger and Gold Glover who could earn more than $10 million in arbitration next season and then become a free agent.

Saltalamacchia hasn't played much since the Braves signed first baseman Julio Franco, who made his fifth start in six games Tuesday. McCann has gotten healthy and needs few days off.

"You still want to play every day," Saltalamacchia said. "It's been tough. But I'd rather be up here than down in the minors playing every day. I can learn a lot more up here."The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

07-25-2007, 04:25 PM
Chipper Jones went 3-for-5 with a homer, a double and two walks as the Braves beat the Giants 7-5 in 13 innings on Tuesday.

Edgar Renteria had a two-run double to give the Braves the lead in the 13th before Chipper singled in an insurance run. It looked like Atlanta would need it when the Giants put four men on and scored a run in the bottom of the inning. However, Tyler Yates struck out Fred Lewis to end it. Chipper is batting .438 with two homers, 10 RBI and 10 walks in 12 games since the All-Star break. At 1046, he's on the verge of taking over the NL OPS lead. Barry Bonds is at 1055.Chip


07-25-2007, 06:20 PM
Platoon Gems: Righty Killers

There is already an open DataReader associated with this Connection which must be closed first.

PRINTER FRIENDLY Outside the Boxscore Archives

This week, I'll bring you part one in a series of articles on platooning. I'll start by discussing how platooning can give you a huge advantage, and then I will provide a long list of guys that kill right-handed pitching…both at the plate and on the base paths. In the weeks that follow, I'll cover guys that kill left-handed pitching and those that perform markedly better at home or on the road.

Unfortunately, this week's piece is so long, it doesn't leave room for a "Topic of the Week" or "Trash Dump," but I'll bring those back shortly. I received some great emails in response to last week's column "Fantasy or Woman?" that I definitely want to share.

Platoon Gems: Righty Killers

In fantasy baseball, there are few things more disheartening than having a weak spot in your lineup that you can't solidify no matter how many waiver-wire hopefuls you audition. If you could only find one serviceable guy to plug that hole, you might compete for your title. Problem is your league is deep, and that guy just isn't there for the taking.

Well, don't throw in the towel just yet. A platoon could be the answer to your problems. In fact, the right combination of guys could end up being more productive than that "serviceable" player you so coveted. Maybe you can't find one guy who will hit .290 with 10 HR and 5 SB over the remainder of the season. But I'm betting you can find a guy who will hit .320 with 5 HR against lefties and another who will hit .320 with 12 HR and 10 SB against righties and another who will hit .280 with 8 HR at home. Juggle those guys adroitly, and you might just end up getting something like .310 with 12 HR and 8 SB from that slot.

Of course, this approach is best suited for daily transaction leagues, where you can start your lefty killer on days he faces a southpaw starter and your righty killer on days he faces a righthanded starter, etc. However, it can also be employed in weekly transaction leagues. For example, in a weekly format, you might start your righty killer when he's slated to face five or more right-handed starters or your hometown hero when he plays all of his games at home, etc.

Granted, things won't always lineup perfectly for you. There will be days when your lefty killer is facing a righty, and your righty killer is facing a lefty, and your hometown hero is on the road. But you can cycle guys in and out of the trash to offset that. And just because a guy starts against a lefty doesn't mean he'll get four AB against lefties. Still, you should see good results if you manage the situation closely.

With that in mind, I'm going to spend the next few weeks talking about platoon-friendly players. Most will be guys that you might find on the waiver wire, but some will be established producers whom you might want to bench in certain situations. This week, I'll cover righty killers. Next week, I'll bring you some lefty killers. And after that, I'll talk about "hometown heroes" and "road warriors."

The Killers

Carlos Pena – His 19 HR against righties is 5th best in the majors. He also sports a .305 AVG and 1.044 OPS against righthanders.

Chris Duncan – 18 of his 19 HR have come off righties, whom he's batting .310 against.

Brad Hawpe – 17 of his 18 HR have come off righties, and he has a .339 AVG and 1.078 OPS against them. You definitely don't want to use Hawpe against lefties, as he hits .190 against them.

Curtis Granderson – With 189 total bases against righties, Granderson is second only to A-Rod in that category! His numbers versus righties: .333 AVG, .390 OBP, 1.026 OPS. His numbers versus lefties: .190 AVG, .229 OBP, .571 OPS. Not to mention all 11 of his steals came against righties.

Kenny Lofton – Left-handed-hitting speedsters make prime platoon targets, as they generally perform much better both at the dish and on the basepaths against righties. Lofton epitomizes this trend. He hits .324 against righties to just .222 against lefties, and all 21 of his steals have come off righties.

Dave Roberts – Another left-handed-batting base stealer, Roberts is batting .282 with 18 SB against righties contrasted to .164 with one steal against lefties.

Willie Harris – Yet another left-handed-batting burner, Harris is batting .343 with 14 SB against righties contrasted to .214 with two SB against lefties.

Ryan Freel – Another gazelle who excels against righties (though he bats from the right side of the plate), Freel has hit .318 with 12 SB off righties but .122 with three SB off lefties.

Josh Hamilton – He owns a .294 AVG and 1.009 OPS against righties, and 13 of his 14 HR have come off them.

Jack Cust – Despite a less-than-mediocre .257 AVG against righties, Cust has mashed right-handed pitchers to the tune of 12 HR in 140 AB. To put that in perspective, at that pace, if he faced a full season's worth of at-bats against righties, he'd leave the yard about 48 times. He also sports a .949 OPS against righties.

Jim Thome – We think of Thome as an everyday guy, but maybe he'd be most valuable in a platoon. Against righties, he boasts a .329 AVG to go along with a sick .510 OBP and 1.167 OPS. Off lefties, though? .189 AVG, .295 OBP and .606 OPS.

Scott Hatteberg - .Versus righties, he's hit .313 with seven HR. Versus lefties, he's hit .217 with one dinger.

Pat Burrell – Though he has similar power against lefties and righties, Burrell hits 50 points higher against righties (.252 to .202).

Josh Willingham: Versus righties, he owns a .291 AVG, .399 OBP, .957 OPS, 14 HR, and 4 SB in 251 AB. Versus lefties, he owns a .181 AVG, .294 OBP, .538 OPS, 1 HR, and 0 SB in 94 AB.

Casey Kotchman - .All nine of Kotchman's homers have come off righties, and he hits .297 against righties as opposed to .225 against lefties.

Brian Roberts – Roberts has a .337 AVG, .414 OBP, and .912 OPS versus righties but a .258 AVG, .373 OBP, and .698 OPS against lefties. Strangely, though, he's able to steal off lefties as well as he does off righties.

Willy Taveras – Though Taveras hits better against lefties, 22 of his 24 steals have come off righties.

Nick Markakis – Cakes has hit .304 with 11 SB off righties in contrast to .262 with one steal off lefties.

Bobby Abreu – Should you be sitting Abreu versus lefties? His numbers say yes: .287 with 11 SB and seven HR off righties; .235 with three SB and one HR off lefties.

Alex Gordon – Though he has more power against lefties (three HR in 83 AB versus three in 244 AB against righties), his power is inconsequential thus far, and he is better against righties in every other aspect. Against righties, he's hit .246 with 10 SB. Against lefties, he's gone .193 with no steals.

Luis Castillo - .Surprisingly, the powerless Castillo makes a decent start against righties, whom he is hitting .315 with nine SB against. You never want to play him against lefties, though, as he hits .271 with no steals against them.

Mark Teahen - .Versus righties, Teahen has hit .294 with seven steals and five long balls. Versus lefties, he's hit .278 with one steal and no homers.

Matt Stairs – Though he hits for better average against lefties (.300 to .272), all of Stairs' 14 HR have come against righties.

Chris B. Young – As evidenced by his .234 AVG, Young (a right-handed batter) will kill you in that category no matter who he's facing. However, if you're in a situation in which AVG is not so important but power is, you could find some use for the youngster, who's cranked 14 long balls against righties

Pedro Feliz – Like Young, Feliz (a right-handed batter) will hurt your average but help you in homers. He's hit 13 of his 15 against righties.

Alex Gonzalez – Another right-handed batter with power (12 HR) against righties. He hits .266 against righties versus .215 against lefties. He should come off the bereavement list soon.

John Buck – Here is a guy that can go either way depending on the league. If your league uses AVG, you should be playing Buck against righties, whom he hits .247 against (versus .217 against lefties). If your league uses OBP, it's the opposite: Buck's OBP vs. lefties is higher (.345 to .323).

Eric Byrnes – Interestingly, the right-handed Byrnes has comparable numbers when it comes to OBP, SLG, and OPS but hits for a much higher average against righties (.326 to .250). So, platooning Byrnes is clearly most effective in leagues that use AVG.


07-26-2007, 01:01 AM
Tex and Hoss on the corners? That’ll work
By David O'Brien | Wednesday, July 25, 2007, 04:49 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tex and Hoss on the infield corners for the rest of ’07 and all of 2008?

Yeah, that would work. It’s not a stretch to say the Braves, with Mark Teixeira at first base and a healthy Chipper Jones at third, would have the best lineup in the National League for at least the remainder of this season.

Yes, better than the New York Mets. Those switch-hitting sluggers on the corners would be the best 1-2 run-producing tandem in the league, long as they’re both healthy.

If the Braves could somehow pull off a trade for a top-notch reliever, perhaps in the same deal — Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson or rejuvenated closer Eric Gagne are attractive — then the Braves would, in the eyes of many observers, become the favorite to win the NL East and a strong contender for the NL pennant.

Now, will it happen? Will the Braves get Teixeira in a trade with the Rangers, who I’m told this afternoon are still talking to at least five other teams interested in their power-hitting, Gold Glove first baseman?

I don’t know. I’d say it’s at least a 50-50 proposition that the Braves will pull off the deal, maybe even better, say 65-35. But they’re almost certainly going to have to give up Salty to get Tex, and they might have to give up one of their top pitching prospects.

Would they do Salty and Jo-Jo Reyes for, say, Tex and Wilson? As much as the Braves would hate to give up both their top overall prospect and their top pitching prospect for a slugger they might not be able to afford beyond 2008 and a lefty reliever, they might have to do it.

Because if you look at this Braves team, their glaring weaknesses right now are first base and bullpen, particularly left-handed relief. They don’t have a lefty reliever (Wil Ledezma doesn’t count as a lefty reliever, nothing personal).

So if you could plug both your weaknesses while still only a few games out of first place with 40 percent of the season left to play, and knowing you’d at least be able to keep Tex for another playoff run in 2008, wouldn’t you have to strongly consider doing it?

Keeping in mind, as much as Salty could become a superstar, he’s not going to become that with the Braves, who don’t see moving him to first base a great option, when they can get so much back in a trade for him while he’s still a top prospect.

Sure, they could hold onto him, but what’s to say they’re going to get a better offer for him this winter? Who’s trading top young starting pitching these days? No team is. And if you can’t get a top young starter in return for him, then you fill your biggest weakness in a trade for him.

And from what I’m told, Teixeira, the former Georgia Tech star, would definitely be open to listening to long-term contract offers from the Braves. I know it’s a red flag to many (and probably to the Braves) that he’s repped by Boras, but hey, the Braves are either going to be able to afford to re-sign Andruw or they’re going to clear up an awful lot of payroll by not doing so.

And if they don’t re-sign Boras client Andruw, then they’re going to have to fill that offensive hold with a power hitter. Not many better ones available than Teixeira, who’ll also give you Gold Glove defense, something that’s important to the Braves at first base, if they can get it.

Teixeira is only 27, and he’s a career .286 hitter who averaged 35 homers in his first four seasons through 2006 and totaled a whopping 383 RBIs in the past three seasons with OBPs of .370 or higher in each of those seasons and slugging percentages of .560, .575 and .514.

Oh, he also played all 162 games in 2005 and again in 2006.

The man led the AL with 370 total bases and 148 RBIs in 2005, and his huge offensive totals aren’t merely a product of a hitters’ ballpark. He actually hit more homers on the road (21) last season than at home (12), after hitting 30 of his 43 at home in 2005.

This season? He’s hit .300 with 23 doubles, 13 homers, 48 RBIs and a .404 OBP and .537 slugging percentage in 74 games, and had a stint on the DL for a leg injury.

Before going on the DL in early June, he was tearing it up. Teixeira hit .347 with 16 doubles, 12 homers, 38 RBIs and a .439 OBP in 40 games from April 27 to June 8, playing in all 40 Texas games in that stretch (dude plays every day).

He’s hit .292 with only one homer and seven RBIs in 13 games since returning from the DL, but has a .404 OBP. It also took Chipper a while to get his power stroke back when he returned from the DL, remember.

Would I do this trade, with Salty and Tex as the principles? Given the Braves’ current situation, and the fact that Teixeira would be back for at least 2008, yes, I would. But I’d hold out until the very last moment possible trying to get either Wilson or Gagne thrown into the mix, even if I had to give up Matt Harrison (but not Reyes) to get it done.

Stay tuned. This could happen. Could happen soon. Just don’t know. But when I don’t get callbacks from certain people in timely fashion, it’s usually an indication the Braves are heavily involved in talks.

Gagne is back: I’ll admit until very recently I wasn’t sold on Gagne, since I’ve seen him break down so frequently in recent years. But after checking into his status with people I know, and after looking at his numbers, it’s changed my mind.

Then seeing him save both games in a doubleheader yesterday for the Rangers, convinced me further. But God, get him out of Texas before they pitch him into the ground.

I mean, using Gagne in both ends of a doubleheader, with his history of arm problems? Insanity.

Anyway, check his numbers: He’s 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA has converted 16 of 17 saves, most of those in the past four weeks since moving into the closer role full-time. He’s got 29 strikeouts and 12 walks in 33-1/3 innings, and opponents are hitting just .192, including a meager .155 (9-for-58) with no homers by left-handed batters.

(Hey, Braves need a lefty, but he’d be the next-best thing — kill two birds with one stone, too, by giving them another closer option.)

Since June 26, Gagne has pitched 12 times and converted nine of 10 saves while allowing 12 hits, five runs and one homer in 12-1/3 innings. That included two scoreless innings for two saves in Tuesday’s doubleheader vs. Seattle (again, I say, insanity).

And get this: Gagne has been untouchable in road games, the complete antithesis of Bob Wickman, who as you probably know, has been terrible on the road and not blown a save or even given up an earned run at home.

Yes, Wickman got a 0.00 ERA to go with a .150 opponents’ average and 8-for-8 saves converted at home, and an 8.20 ERA and .349 opponents’ average with five blown saves in 14 opportunities on the road, including last night’s blown save in the 13-inning win vs. San Francisco.

Gagne? He’s got a 3.72 ERA and .230 opponents’ average in 20 games at Texas (outstanding, in that park) and a 0.00 ERA, .130 opponents’ average, and 10-for-10 saves in 14 road appearances.

So between Gagne on the road, and Wickman at Turner Field, you’d have the ideal closer combination, right? OK, so it wouldn’t work that way, since Bobby Cox isn’t exactly avant-garde in his approach (which is probably a good thing, for the most part).

But it’s nice for Braves fans to dream, eh? Sort of like Hoss and Tex on the infield corners, although that might be a lot closer to reality.

07-27-2007, 03:02 PM
Jo-Jo Reyes and Matt Harrison have quite a bit in common. Both are lefties, both have a similar arsenal, and both are Braves prospects that figure to make a big impact in the majors soon. Coming into the season, it was not a question as to who was the better prospect, but during Reyes’ impressive ‘07 campaign between Mississippi and Richmond, he has made the gap a lot closer. Who is the better prospect though?

LHP Jo-Jo Reyes:

Reyes was selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2003 June Amateur Draft out of a high school in California. The intrigue surrounding him was that he had four good pitches and a fluid delivery. His drawbacks were mediocre command and possible weight problems in the future.

Reyes started showing his potential right away with his Gulf Coast League debut, where he 5-3 with a 2.56 ERA. Reyes moved up to Rome in 2004, where he was hit very hard. To add to his problems, Reyes required Tommy John surgery and was forced to miss the last half of ‘04 and the first half of ‘05. He came back well with the GCL Braves and Danville Braves, Atlanta’s rookie affiliates, before tearing his ACL at the end of the season. The Tommy John surgery had dropped him on prospect lists and this just complete knocked him off. Finally healthy in 2006, Reyes started off the year with Rome and put up great numbers. Unfortunately, after moving to Myrtle Beach for the second half, fatigue set in and Reyes faded quickly down the stretch. This year, Reyes posted good numbers for Mississippi with a 3.56 ERA and then dropped it down to 1.57 after his promotion to Richmond and then eventually got the call to the majors. This season however has been a step backwards in command. In his 111 combined innings this year, Reyes has issued 54 free passes.

Reyes has four usable pitches, all of which are at least average offerings. His fastball clocks in consistently at 91-93 and when Jo-Jo can get it down, he shows the movement you would expect from a left-hander. His changeup is probably his best offering. It only drops six or seven mph below the fastball but with good sink, command, and arm speed, it is a pitch that gets a lot of swings and misses or weakly hit balls. The curve was his best pitch in high school but at times it can flatten out and then becomes a loopy pitch. It can be dominant but is inconsistent. The slider is an average offering. It gives the hitter a different look coming in, in the mid-80’s and is certainly a pitch that he can use in the majors. He has good deception, groundball tendencies, and homerun prevention, but he isn’t very good at holding runners on and relies too much on his fastball when he is in a jam.

The stuff is there and if he can somehow turn a corner with his command, his potential is a number two starter. Unfortunately command and durability issues really are going to take their toll on his overall performance. The concern is that he won’t ever be able to pitch the amount of innings someone would want from their number three starter, which stems both from his control problems and weight at 6′2″ 230 lbs. He’s still a guy you want though. A very good number four or at least a decent number three is becoming increasingly valuable in today’s market, so while his control should drop him to the middle-back of the rotation, he is going to be a productive major leaguer.

LHP Matt Harrison:

Harrison was the Braves third round selection in the 2003 June Amateur Draft out of a high school in North Carolina. With an above average fastball, change, and curve as well as very good command and the perfect pitcher’s body, Harrison may not have had the pure stuff of Reyes but was a much more polished package at the time.

Harrison quickly set the tone for what the rest of his minor league career would be. He started in the GCL and while he allowed a good amount of hits and didn’t strike out a ton, he still found success because of great command. Harrison made his way up to Danville in 2004. They kept him in short-season despite being such a polished pitcher. In his first full season with Rome, Harrison started to turn heads. At only 19, Harrison went 12-7 with a 3.23 ERA over 167 innings. He allowed only about eight hits for every nine innings pitched and while he only struck out 118, he also walked a mere 30 batters. 2006 was more of the same for the 6′5″ southpaw between Myrtle Beach and Mississippi, and coming into 2007 he was considered the Braves top pitching prospect. The Braves have taken it slow with Harrison as he has spent the entire 2007 season with double-A Mississippi posting good numbers. His performance hasn’t been spectacular but he is keeping hits down, has a good amount of strikeouts, is limiting homeruns, and still has his control to go along with very good groundball tendencies.

Harrison has a very standard arsenal in that he uses a fastball, changeup, and curve. The fastball comes in right around 91-93 like Reyes’ and has a bit more sinking movement on it, which induces a lot of grounders. The changeup is his best pitch though. Like Reyes, his arm speed is good but Harrison has better command and there is a couple more of a difference in velocity between his fastball and change than Reyes has. The curve can be a dominating pitch but he is more inconsistent with it than his other two offerings. Still, he can locate it and it is at least an above-average pitch with the chance to improve.

Harrison is the perfect number three type starter. Groundballs and control is what Harrison lives off of, which allows him to quickly get through innings with low pitch counts. He’ll probably fill out a bit more and should be able to pitch plenty of innings in the future with a good ERA. He doesn’t have that one strikeout pitch, which will hold him to only a number three but he should be a very good option in the middle of the rotation. If he can fill out and add some muscle on at only 6′5″ 205 lb, then a bit more velocity isn’t out of the question.


I’d have to hand this pretty easily to Matt Harrison as the better prospect. Reyes has the better pure stuff and some people can’t seem to look past that. Sure, strikeouts are what we want to see but Harrison succeeds without the durability, injury, or control problems that plague Jo-Jo. Reyes will have more strikeouts because that is the kind of pitcher he is, but the amount of walks he gives up will likely mean a higher ERA and much fewer innings. I think Reyes could be a good number four or very good out of the pen as a setup man. Reyes was rushed to the majors and that is why he is struggling. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff and with his control, that is a recipe for disaster as he is getting adjusted to pitching in the majors. I believe Harrison would have been the better option because they type of pitcher he is would make an easier transition, but since he is a year younger, they may be holding off until next season.Chop-n-change

This is a long read but is a great breakdown between Jo-Jo and Harrison.

07-28-2007, 01:57 AM
Notes: Chipper sounds off on rumors
Third baseman says its too early to discuss Teixiera trade

PHOENIX -- Annually, the final week of July can produce plenty of premature excitement for baseball fans, who are anticipating that their favorite trade rumor will prove true.
While many Braves fans are eagerly hoping for the acquisition of Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira, Chipper Jones knows it's far too early for him and his teammates to assume that the power switch-hitter is going to be with them for the final two months of the season. .

"While it's nice to speculate, until it happens I don't think you're going to find too many guys around here getting excited," said Jones, before confirming his right groin was healthy enough to return to the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

One National League scout said some of his peers have developed a belief that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels will end up keeping Teixeira, who would still be affordable to Texas as an arbitration-eligible player next year. These scouts believe the 27-year-old Daniels is gun shy because of his shoddy track record on the trade market.

Daniels got little in return when he sent Alfonso Soriano to the Nationals and then got grilled by Rangers fans when Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez both excelled after being traded to the Padres for Akinori Otsuka and Adam Eaton.

Still if Daniels opts to deal Teixeira, who appears disgruntled with the Rangers, Jones certainly would like having the 27-year-old batting behind him in the cleanup spot. Teixeira is hitting .299 with a .402 on-base percentage and .536 slugging percentage in Texas this year.

"He's a versatile hitter who hits in the middle of the lineup and he's a switch-hitters," Jones said. "You know me, I love switch hitters. He's one of my favorites. It would be nice to have a couple of guys who can hit for average and power in the middle of your lineup."

Among those Major League players who have totaled at least 550 plate appearances dating back to June 24 of last year, Chipper Jones owns a Major League-best .360 batting average and Andruw Jones, who hits behind him, owns a Major League-worst .225 batting average.

While Andruw has at least totaled 42 homers during that span, Teixeira has totaled 39 and compiled a .292 batting average. Obviously with Teixeira hitting behind him, Chipper would find far fewer instances when pitchers feel comfortable to pitch around him.

"I think if you were to put [Texeira] in the four hole and move Andruw to the fifth hole, it would change things a little bit," Chipper Jones said. "But again, we are talking about something that hasn't even happenedBy Mark Bowman / MLB.com

07-28-2007, 07:23 PM
Notes: Escobar proving he belongs
Infielder stole an unguarded second base in Friday's game

PHOENIX -- When Braves manager Bobby Cox was heaping daily praise in Yunel Escobar's direction during the early days of Spring Training, there was reason to wonder if he was staging a marketing campaign that would only heighten Escobar's trade value.
But during his first two months in the Majors, Escobar has proven the hype was well-deserved and that he's a talent far too valuable to trade. Along with a potent bat that has produced a .313 batting average and a rocket arm, the Cuban infielder possesses an advanced awareness that certainly opened some eyes at Chase Field in Friday night's 11-inning loss to the Diamondbacks.

After drawing a two-out, pinch-hit walk off All-Star closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning, Escobar saw Valverde on the side of the mound, bending over, with his back to first base. Immediately, the Braves infielder raced toward an unguarded second base and completed a successful stolen base that put him in position to score the game's tying run on Willie Harris' RBI single.

"You'd be shocked how many times players could do that, that don't," said Cox, who says he was successful with this daring attempt during his Major League days with the Yankees.

When Cox was playing rookie-level ball for the Dodgers, his manager, Kenny Myers, told all of his players to race toward second as soon as they saw an inattentive pitcher drop their head. Braves shortstop Edgar Renteria says that he too was given this instruction during his early days at the professional level.

"It's something you see a lot in the Minors and not as much up here, because guys have had it happen to them in the Minors," Renteria said. "That's why when a guy gets to first base, I'm always paying attention."

Escobar, who says he converted similar stolen-base attempts in his native Cuba and during his Minor League days, has batted .327 with a .382 on-base percentage and a .397 slugging percentage in July. Among the National League rookies with at least 125 plate appearances, his .313 batting average ranks fifth and his .756 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) ranks eighth.

"I think he's going to be a pretty good ballplayer," Braves first baseman Julio Franco said. "He's got the ability."

Stingy Moylan: With the bases loaded and nobody out in Friday's seventh inning, Cox turned to Peter Moylan and the sidewinding Australian proved that it's no fluke that he statistically ranks with Rafael Soriano as the Braves' best relief options.

With two groundouts, including one that was snared by second baseman Kelly Johnson's quick glove, and a strikeout, Moylan escaped the unenviable situation unscathed.

"I wasn't even thinking about not giving up a run," Moylan said. "I was just thinking, 'Get ground balls and minimize the damage.'"

Of the Braves relievers who have completed at least 20 innings this year, Moylan's 2.08 ERA ranks as the best by more than a full run. His 1.12 WHIP (walks plus hits, divided by innings pitched) and .296 on-base percentage allowed rank second only to Soriano, who since last week's struggles has rebounded with three consecutive scoreless innings, including two on Friday. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

07-29-2007, 07:31 PM
Notes: Braves designate Ledezma
Club has 10 days to trade or release left-hander

PHOENIX -- When the Braves acquired Wil Ledezma on June 20, they were aware of the belief that he'd be best suited in a starting role. A little more than a month later, they're facing the reality that his potential success as a starter will likely prove to be a benefit for another organization.
Before Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field, the Braves announced they'd designated Ledezma for assignment and recalled Jose Ascanio from Double-A Mississippi.

"I think starting would be his forte," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Ledezma, who was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for left-handed specialist Macay McBride. "We just couldn't get him started."

Because Ledezma hadn't thrown at least three innings in the previous two months before being dealt to Atlanta, his arm wasn't prepared for a starter's role. And because he was out of options, the Braves couldn't send him to the Minors to make the necessary preparations.

The Braves now have 10 days to trade or release Ledezma, who despite posting a 7.71 ERA in 12 appearances with the Braves will likely draw interest from other organizations. They now have the opportunity to claim the 26 year-old left-hander off the waiver wire.

If Ledezma were to clear waivers, the Braves would be able to send him to Triple-A Richmond, where he would have the opportunity to stretch his arm and prepare for a future as a starter.

"Somebody will probably claim him," Cox said of Ledezma, who was 7-8 with a 5.26 ERA in the 25 starts he made for the Tigers from 2004-2006.

With Ledezma now out of the picture, the Braves once again find themselves without a left-handed reliever. Earlier this week, Chipper Jones said it would be important to find one before re-entering divisional play, during which they'll be challenged by the left-handed bats of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Carlos Delgado.

While allowing an earned run in six of his 12 appearances for the Braves, Ledezma continued the struggles he'd endured in Detroit. In 34 combined appearances with the Tigers and Braves this year, he's seen right-handed batters hit .257 against him and left-handers compile a .317 batting average.

Meanwhile McBride has shown decent control while issuing just three walks in the 10 innings he's completed in 14 appearances for the Tigers. During that span, left-handed batters have hit .278 against him and right-handers just .200. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

07-29-2007, 07:32 PM
Ascanio to stay? Obviously what the Braves do on the trade market over the next two days could have an effect on the amount of time Ascanio spends in the Majors. They're currently looking for bullpen help, with the hope of locating a left-handed reliever.

But while with the Braves from July 13 to July 19, Ascanio made a positive impression on Cox and displayed a changeup that can be effective against left-handed hitters. In three appearances with Atlanta, the 22 year-old right-hander totaled five innings, allowing one earned run and registering six strikeouts against just one walk.

"He's got good stuff," Cox said. "He challenges hitters and he has an excellent changeup for lefties."

While posting a 2.47 ERA in 36 appearances for Mississippi this year, Ascanio has limited opponents to a .231 batting average. Left-handers batted just .216 against him. Atlanta braves.com

07-30-2007, 11:00 AM
Matt Harrison has been removed from the Braves' Mark Teixeira proposal after being shut down with shoulder tendinits.

Says FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, the Braves are still offering Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Elvis Andrus for Teixeira, and they gave the Rangers a list of young pitchers to consider as Harrison's replacement. Jo-Jo Reyes isn't on said list, though he might yet be in play if Eric Gagne or C.J. Wilson is included along with Teixeira. The Braves and Angels have submitted the best proposals for Teixeira. Now it's up to the Rangers to pick one or decide they're better off keeping him.
Source: FOXSports.com

07-30-2007, 11:01 AM
Tim Hudson spun seven shutout innings against the Diamondbacks on Sunday to pick up his 11th win of the season.

Hudson gave up just three hits and a walk while striking out five. Jose Ascanio and Bob Wickman followed Hudson to complete the shutout. Hudson has six quality starts and five wins in his last seven outings while lowering his ERA to 3.09.


07-30-2007, 11:02 AM
Salty-for-Tex simply common sense
By Mark Bradley | Sunday, July 29, 2007, 05:15 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mark Bradley I like Salty. You like Salty. We all like Salty. But sometimes common sense trumps infatuation. If Jarrod Saltalamacchia can be packaged in such a way as to make Mark Teixeira a Brave, Salty needs to go.

This organization has been trying to subsist on kids and retreads. The result has been a clear decline: The team that won at least 90 games 13 times over 14 full seasons is 133-134 since Opening Day 2006.

Over the past fortnight we’ve seen the Braves’ cheapjack method carried to its silliest extreme. Julio Franco, who couldn’t get an at-bat for the first-place Mets, has become the starting first baseman here. It’s safe to say no other big-league team, not even a lousy one, would have been reduced to such a thing.

The Braves are not lousy. Neither are they very good. They have the 15th-highest payroll among 30 major-league teams; as of Sunday morning, they had the 14th-best record. They’re about where they should be. They need to aim higher.

Saltalamacchia should become a really good player at some position, but as a Brave he’ll be forced to learn a new position to be a regular. (Brian McCann is and will remain the No. 1 catcher.) And, as promising as he has looked, Salty hasn’t dazzled to the extent that he’s starting ahead of Franco, who’s at least 26 years older. That tells us something. That tells us the Braves have seen — or, more to the point, haven’t seen — something in Salty.

Say what you will about John Schuerholz, but he’s sagacious regarding young talent. How many prospects have the Braves jettisoned that they’d want back? Answer: Jason Schmidt (dealt for Denny Neagle in August 1996) and Adam Wainwright (included in the J.D. Drew deal of December 2003). Where’s Andy Marte? Whatever became of Luis Rivera? And, for all the outcry raised in this space and others over the loss of Wilson Betemit, has the absence of a .232 hitter proved debilitating?

Braves president Terry McGuirk admits the club has in recent years made the considered decision to err on the homegrown side. “Our payroll was going up like a rocket ship, and the fans stopped coming,” McGuirk said in May. “That seemed a major statement as to what this franchise should be about.”

So the Braves stopped pursuing the Gary Sheffields and A-Rods and banked instead on the Jeff Francoeurs and the B-Macs. That approach has merits, and also its limits. This has become a .500 team, give or take, and the emphasis on cuddly youth hasn’t triggered a run on the box office. (Home attendance ranks 14th in the majors.) While the Braves are proof you don’t need an All-Star at every position to be competitive, they’re likewise proving you can’t win big without big-time players.

Teixeira is one of those. He’s the first baseman the Braves have lacked since Andres Galarraga got cancer. Yes, Teixeira will file for arbitration this winter and for free agency in 2008, and yes, he’s represented by the demon Scott Boras, but at worst he’d give the Braves a middle-of-the-order thumper once Andruw Jones takes his Boras-negotiated leave. And without Andruw eating up one-sixth of the payroll the Braves might actually have a chance to keep Teixeira.

Another hitter won’t necessarily make the 2007 Braves a playoff team. This team needs a starting pitcher more. But Salty-for-Tex wouldn’t be so much a fix-it for this season as a signal that the Braves have conceded they’ve gone as far as they can with the status quo. If they honestly expect first-place results, they’ll have to find first-rate players. Their farm system has produced its share, but no system can be so bountiful as to generate a star at every position.

The Braves might well have gotten twice lucky at catcher. It’s time to use one of those to secure a first baseman, and not a Rico Brogna or a Robert Fick or a Scott Thorman this time. Something more along the lines of a Fred McGriff. Someone like Teixeira.


07-30-2007, 11:06 AM
Chipper Jones drove in five runs while recording just one hit against the Diamondbacks on Sunday.

Jones had sac flies in the first and fourth innings with a three-run double sandwiched in the second inning. The third basemen was later removed for Chris Woodward in a blowout win, so he wasn't given any opportunities to expand on the quick start to the game. Chipper is batting .341 with 17 homers and 56 RBI.

07-30-2007, 11:07 AM
Willie Harris scored four times in a 14-0 romp of the Diamondbacks on Sunday.

Harris doubled twice and walked twice in five trips to the plate. The outing raised his average to .325 in 212 at-bats this season. He'll continue to play regularly for now, but he's unlikely to remain so effective.

07-31-2007, 10:52 PM
Braves get Royals' Dotel for Davies
Veteran reliever shores up Atlanta's bullpen for stretch run
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- The Braves and Royals have completed a trade that brings right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel to Atlanta in exchange for right-handed starter Kyle Davies.
This deal was announced Tuesday afternoon, after the Braves officially completed their trade that brings Mark Teixeira and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay from Texas to Atlanta.

In 24 appearances with the Royals this year, Dotel has converted 11 of 14 save opportunities, posted a 3.91 ERA and seen opponents compile a .264 batting average. The 33-year-old right-hander, who had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2005, missed the first six weeks of the 2007 season with an oblique strain.

Davies, once considered a can't-miss prospect, has battled inconsistencies since tearing his right groin last year. The 23-year-old right-hander was 4-8 with a 5.76 ERA in 17 starts with the Braves this year. After not retiring any of the five Reds he faced in his July 16 start, he was optioned to Triple-A Richmond.Well I wish davies luck, cause that is a tougher league to pitch in.

07-31-2007, 10:59 PM
Braves make NL's biggest splash
Deals for Teixeira, Dotel make Atlanta a serious contender
By Jim Molony / MLB.com

Braves right fielder Jeff Francouer hit it right on the nose, and we're not talking about a hanging curveball.
"It makes us a real World Series contender," Francoeur said about the trade that brought first baseman Mark Teixeira and reliever Ron Mahay to Atlanta on Tuesday for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four Minor Leaguers. "I think especially in the National League, we now have the best lineup. One through eight [in the lineup], we have hitters that can jack it out of the park and rack up RBIs."

Teixeira was the biggest name on the market this July trading season, and his move to Georgia will likely have the biggest impact of any of the deadline deals on this season's pennant races.

Teixeira's arrival not only impacts the balance of power in the NL East Division, where the Braves are fighting with the defending champion New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies for supremacy, it stamps the Braves as serious pennant contenders.

The Phillies plugged injury-created gaps with the additions of second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and starting pitcher Kyle Lohse. The Mets went out and got a very good fielding second baseman in Luis Castillo to plug the hole created by Jose Valentin's injury.

But the Braves, who also picked up right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel from Kansas City for pitcher Kyle Davies, not only filled a void at first base and in the bullpen, they upgraded considerably. So much so it is easy to see this team reaching the playoffs and perhaps going on to the World Series.

Of all the leading NL playoff contenders -- and we're referring to the Braves, Mets, Phillies, Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies -- none made more immediate improvement than Atlanta.

The switch-hitting Teixeira, who is batting .297 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs through Monday, gives the club left-handed power and middle-of-the-order threat to complement the right-handed hitting Andruw Jones and switch-hitter Chipper Jones. Teixeira's presence could also soften the impact if Andruw Jones departs via free agency after the season.

Having Teixeira at cleanup means opposing pitchers will have a tougher time pitching around Chipper Jones. It also means Andruw Jones will likely see more pitches to hit than he has been getting this season. And if this is the center fielder's final season in Atlanta, Teixeira may be just the man to take his place as the principal power source in the lineup.

Since the beginning of the 2004 season -- his second at the big-league level -- Teixeira has hit .290 with 127 homers, 415 RBIs and a .923 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). During that span among all Major Leaguers, his .546 slugging percentage ranks eighth and his .377 on-base percentage ranks 14th.

And it's not like the Atlanta offense has been anemic up to now. Without Teixeira, the Braves have scored 506 runs, fourth most in the league and 11th most in the Majors. With him, look out.

Mahay's arrival gives the Braves the experienced lefty reliever they've lacked since Mike Gonzalez went on the disabled list. The 36-year-old southpaw has limited opponents to a .236 batting average in 28 appearances this year. Left-handers are batting .250 against him. His value is underscored when you consider some of the left-handed hitters the Braves routinely face in late-inning situations, like Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and Chase Utley or New York's Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green. Delgado and Green are a combined 1-for-19 against Mahay.

Braves executive vice president and general manager John Schuerholz gave up considerable young talent for Teixeira, but Schuerholz is clearly shooting for the Fall Classic this year and wasn't going to let this deal fall apart over a teenager (shortstop Elvis Andrus) who may not reach the Majors for three or four more years.

Andrus may eventually be a great Major Leaguer, but his time is down the road. For Braves manager Bobby Cox and Schuerholz, the time is now.

Atlanta's surprising splash comes at a time when the front-running Mets did little to strengthen their roster.

Castillo is a good glove, but you have to wonder whether the Mets aren't putting too much faith in Pedro Martinez's return from rotator cuff surgery. Many baseball people around the league thought the Mets would add at least one more starter for insurance. Others wondered whether Moises Alou's recurring health problems and Carlos Beltran's recent setback might convince the Mets to make a bigger push for another bat.

Instead New York stood pat. Now we'll have to wait and see whether the Braves and/or Phillies will take advantage and move past them.

At least there was some significant movement among the NL East contenders. NL West leaders Los Angeles and Arizona were busy on numerous fronts but those conversations didn't yield much in the way of trades. As the deadline passed, the only deal of note was the Dodgers getting reliever Scott Proctor from the Yankees for infielder Wilson Betemit.

San Diego, after adding Milton Bradley earlier and trading reliever Scott Linebrink to Milwaukee for prospects, were unable to come up with the another impact bat.

The Padres took a flyer on third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who was designated for assignment by Houston on Sunday, and Rob Mackowiak, acquired from the White Sox for a Minor League pitcher. But those additions are seen as nothing more than bench strengtheners and are minor compared to Atlanta's transactions.

NL Central-leading Milwaukee bolstered its bullpen with the addition of Scott Linebrink, and the Cubs had previously upgraded at catcher by bringing in Jason Kendall, but no blockbuster deals went down and the rest of the Central remained relatively quiet as deadline hour came and went.

Teams are holding on to their best prospects more tenaciously than ever before, and that strategy contributed to the lack of deals on several fronts. Time will tell whether it was the right course.

For now, however, the Braves appear to have hit the only home run in this year's game of deadline dealing

07-31-2007, 11:02 PM
Braves players salute trade deadline moves
Pitching deals highlight final day of acquisitions

The Braves boldly traded seven homegrown prospects or young players to fill a few big needs Tuesday, and in doing so sent a message that resonated in the clubhouse.

"We've got the team to win the World Series," catcher Brian McCann said. "We already had a good team before these moves. This is a statement -- John Schuerholz saying we can win a World Series now."

Schuerholz said the flurry before Tuesday's trade deadline signaled only this: Desire to win the NL East and get to the playoffs.

"We like our chances now," he said. "Got to be happy after a day like this. Real happy."

The New York Mets ended Atlanta's run of 14 division titles last season and are leading again. The Braves were 4-1/2 games behind them and 1 1/2 behind Philadelphia before Tuesday.

"We hope the end result is we win because of it," Schuerholz said. "There's no guarantees in baseball. My intent was to get the best players possible and make this team as strong as possible."

He and assistant GM Frank Wren did that, said Braves veterans.

"My hat's off to John and Frank," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "They did a good job setting us up for the last two months of the season. I'm real excited. I can't imagine they could have done more.

"I like our chances to get in the playoffs. And I think we'll be a formidable opponent [with a chance to] win it all if we get there."

Pitcher Tim Hudson said, "I think we're a much better ballclub [after the trades]. Now it's up to us to out and perform, and get this organization back on the right road."

The Braves traded five of their top 18 prospects, including their top three in Baseball America ratings: catcher Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, lefty Matt Harrison.

They traded two other pitchers who were in their top 20 prospects list: lefty Beau Jones and right-hander Neifi Feliz. They traded Davies and Will Startup, two young pitchers with strong local ties.

They traded a lot of guys who figured to be part of their future.

"We had to; that's what it took to make these deals," said Schuerholz, who's under contract through the 2008 season, same as manager Bobby Cox. Both are 66.

"The good news is, we have the depth of talent in our minor league system that's so valued by other teams, we're able to make these deals," Schuerholz added.

They traded for the best available hitter, Teixeira, and one of the best available relievers, Dotel.

"The lineup we have, to me it's the best lineup in the NL," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "We maybe didn't get the starting pitcher we wanted, but maybe we go out and just outslug people now."

Cox, himself a former GM, said it's hard to give up prospects, but "This guy [Teixeira] is an impact player. You've got to give up a lot to get a guy like that.

"He's a great middle-of-the-order hitter. All the teams in baseball would love to have him, and we were the lucky ones who got him."

Cox said he would bat Teixeira in the "middle" of the order, but wanted to talk to his hitters before announcing exactly where.

"You've got a guy like Kelly Johnson hitting eighth, Francoeur hitting seventh," Jones said. "A lot of people would like to have a lineup that deep. Fortunately, John Schuerholz is on our side, and he got it for us."

The Braves got Ring, 26, from the Padres in exchange for lefty Wilfredo Ledezma, who was designated for assignment Sunday, and lefty prospect Startup, a former University of Georgia standout who was 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 42 appearances at Class AAA Richmond.

Ring was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA for the Padres' Class AAA affiliate, with 44 strikeouts in 31-2/3 innings. In 15 games with San Diego, he had a 3.60 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 15 innings. He'll be assigned to Richmond, but should be up with the big club before the season is over.

Dotel had a 3.91 ERA in 24 appearances and converted 11 of 14 save opportunities for the Royals. He'll be in a setup role and provide a closer option if Bob Wickman struggles. The Braves might consider trading Wickman -- trades can still be made, provided a player first clears waivers.

Dotel's .264 opponents' average includes a .132 average with runners in scoring position. He's making $5 million, and has a $5.5 million player option for 2008 -- an option the team can void.

Teixeira and Mahay came in exchange for five prospects including Saltalamacchia, Andrus, and pitchers Harrison, Jones, and Feliz. The Braves and Rangers agreed to basics of that deal Monday. Jones was added after the Rangers expressed concerns about Harrison's recently sore shoulder.

Jones, 20, was 5-0 with a 2.96 ERA and three saves in 21 relief appearances for Class-A Rome this season, but had a 15.26 ERA in five games (one start) at high Class-A Myrtle Beach.

Davies, 23, was 4-8 with a 5.76 ERA in 17 starts this season before being demoted to Class AAA Richmond. The former top prospect from Stockbridge is 14-21 with a 6.15 ERA in the majors.

Most industry analysts say the Braves improved their roster more than any other team at the deadline, with the Teixeira trade their most significant July deal since getting Fred McGriff in 1993. Teixeira is under the Braves' control through the 2008 season, then can become a free agent.

"I'll worry about next year, next year," said Schuerholz, which seemed an apt summary.By DAVID O'BRIEN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

07-31-2007, 11:05 PM
Teixeira comes full circle in return to Atlanta
'I'd love to play for the Braves,' ex-Tech star says

Victor Menocal was there for perhaps the worst moment of Mark Teixeira's baseball life.

"He was playing third. I was playing short. Matthew Boggs was playing left," Menocal recalled. "The three of us were running for a fly ball in shallow left. I called for the ball, called them off, and Mark's spike got caught in the grass. His ankle just rolled over. It was loud, the way it cracked. It was gross, hearing it. I still remember that sound."

That was Feb. 23, 2001, six games into Teixeira's last season on the Georgia Tech baseball team, his last season -- until now -- playing baseball in Atlanta.

How, and when, Teixeira (pronounced tuh-SHARE-uh) came back from the broken right ankle said a lot about the player the Braves acquired Tuesday in a blockbuster trade with the Texas Rangers.

"The thing that sticks out in my mind is that he came back for the last couple of weeks of our [2001] season and played almost on one leg," said Danny Hall, Tech's baseball coach then and now. "He was no better than 50 percent of normal. He came back because of how much he valued trying to help our team win."

Six years removed from Tech, the 27-year-old Teixeira is the Braves' most substantial in-season acquisition since the 1993 trade for another slugging first baseman, Fred McGriff. That deal propelled the Braves to a division title. They hope for the same, or more, from this deal.

So who is this guy who prompted the Braves to relinquish five — five! -- of the top 18 prospects from their farm system (as ranked by Baseball America)?

'A leg up on everybody'

Teixeira grew up in Baltimore, as did Braves general manager John Schuerholz, "and that gives him a leg up on everybody," the happy GM joked. Idolized, as a kid, New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly. Is the son of a former U. S. Naval Academy baseball player who later was a manager for an aerospace firm.

Began switch-hitting at age 13. Was drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school. Went to Tech after Boston offered less money ($1.5 million) than he wanted. Had a .409 career batting average in college. Was the national player of the year in 2000.

Wondered, after the ankle injury, if he ever again would be the same player. Went 3-for-4 on May 11, 2001, his first game back in the Yellow Jackets' lineup after the ankle injury and surgery.

Met Leigh Williams, an industrial-design major from Habersham County in northeast Georgia, at Tech. Married her.

Was drafted by Texas after his injury-ravaged junior season, the fifth overall pick. Didn't graduate from Tech, although his wife did, "and she kind of kids him a lot about it," Hall said.

Arrived in the major leagues in 2003. Moved from third base, his collegiate position, to first base. Hit 140 home runs in his first four big-league seasons -- a number topped by only three other players in their first four major-league seasons. Played all 162 games each of the past two seasons. Won two Gold Gloves. Good at golf, too.

Wore his idol Mattingly's uniform number (23) at Tech and with Texas but is slated to switch to 24 with the Braves (because outfielder Matt Diaz wears 23).

Teixeira has remained supportive of Tech's baseball program, sending a "good-sized" donation each year, according to Hall, who added: "As trivial as that might seem, I don't think there are a lot of pro athletes who donate a lot of money back to their schools."

Menocal, Teixeira's roommate as well as teammate for three years at Tech, fondly remembers the piles of mail that came after the ankle injury. Fans were wishing Teixeira a speedy recovery -- and seeking, by the way, an autograph.

"He would go through every piece of that mail, and he would sign every piece and send it back," Menocal said. "He signed about 500 things that [semester]. For a kid dealing with a broken ankle, that said a lot about how he was raised and his character."

Menocal, now an agent (not Teixeira's) with Atlanta-based Career Sports and Entertainment, said big-league success hasn't changed his college buddy.

"He's the same Mark to me," Menocal said. "We discuss baseball a lot. Sometimes our wives get on to us and ask if we can talk about anything but baseball."

Teixeira often had said that he and his wife -- they have a 1-year-old son -- would like to move back to their college town someday.

Always liked Atlanta

"He has always told me that when his baseball career is over, he's going to live in Atlanta," said Hall, the Tech coach. "So I guess it's just happening a little sooner than he thought it would.

"I talked to him probably a month ago, when the trade rumors started swirling," Hall said. "He said, 'Coach, you know I'd love to play for the Braves. I want to go somewhere we have a chance to win.' "

As to how long he'll stay, Teixeira is the Braves' property through next season, after which he can become a free agent. He is represented by the hard-driving agent Scott Boras.

Asked if the trade is a good one for the Braves even if Teixeira is here only through next season, Schuerholz said: "If we win two pennants, it is. Or one pennant."

"No way in the world," Schuerholz added later, "you think [you'll be able to get] a player like that at the trade deadline.

"One of the most dynamic offensive players in baseball."

Upon hearing that the trade was done, Hall sent a text message to his former player. "Nice to have you back home," it read.By TIM TUCKER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08-01-2007, 11:30 PM
Notes: Mahay sneaks into bullpen
Reliever included in Teixeira trade could provide big boost

ATLANTA -- Ron Mahay seems to be the forgotten player among those acquired by the Braves in trade deadline deals on Tuesday.
With much attention given to headliners Mark Teixeira and Octavio Dotel, Mahay snuck quietly into Atlanta's clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon. Mahay came from Texas along with Teixeira for five Braves prospects.

"I'm a reliever," Mahay said. "Guys like me who don't close out games or start games, you're not going to hear much about us."

While not a marquee name such as his former Rangers teammate, Mahay will fill almost as big of a gap as Teixeira will in taking over first base.

The Braves haven't had a reliable left-handed setup reliever all season. Macay McBride was hit-and-miss before being traded in June to the Tigers. The player Atlanta got in the trade, Wil Ledezma, was supposed to take the role but struggled before being designated for assignment and traded on Tuesday to the Padres.

Mahay has had an ERA higher than 3.95 just once during the past four-plus seasons with the Rangers, and his effectiveness against left-handers is part of the reason Braves general manager John Schuerholz pushed hard for Texas to include Mahay in the deal.

"It's kind of a shock that we actually came here," Mahay said. "I kind of heard that we may come here, but I wasn't sure if it was going to happen. Then it finally did happen, and we were excited."

Mahay will likely be used to retire the tough left-handed hitters that populate the National League East, such as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Carlos Delgado. But during his career, Mahay has established that he can fill many relief roles.

This season alone, Mahay has pitched at least an inning 17 times in 28 appearances, with three outings of three innings or more.

He's historically proven most effective against left-handers, who have a .235 career average against him, but this season lefties are batting .250, compared to a .224 clip for right-handers.

"I wasn't really a specialist where I was at," Mahay said. "I've always done both. I'll pitch maybe two innings or three innings, and I'll get everybody out. So here, it will be a little bit different."

Also different for Mahay will be the opportunity to possibly pitch in the playoffs. Mahay has never appeared in a postseason game and he has played for just one team since 2001 -- the 2004 Rangers -- who had a better record through 107 games than the Braves' current 56-51 mark.

"[The chance to reach the postseason] makes this that much more important," Mahay said. By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

08-01-2007, 11:33 PM
Dotel gets to play for his dream team
Reliever was motivated by thought of being with Braves

ATLANTA -- Two winters ago, while doing his post-Tommy John surgery rehab in Atlanta, Octavio Dotel would regularly tell his trainer that his dream to play for the Braves provided daily motivation during this grueling process.
When this dream wasn't realized this past offseason, Dotel wondered if it would ever come true. All of that wondering ceased on Tuesday, when the Braves showed definite interest by obtaining him from the Royals in exchange for 23-year-old right-hander Kyle Davies.

"I talked to them in the offseason, but nothing came through," Dotel said. "Now I can say my dream comes true. I've always wanted to play for this club. I like all the good players they have here and all their years of winning."

When Dotel arrived at Turner Field on Wednesday, he found himself in an energized clubhouse. Tuesday's trade deadline acquisitions, which also included first baseman Mark Teixeira and left-handed relievers Ron Mahay and Royce Ring, had significantly increased optimism and given the Braves a belief they can make a run at the World Series.

"I'm here just to win," Dotel said. "That's the reason they brought me over here and that's the reason I'm here."

Although he comes from Kansas City with respectable credentials, which include the fact that he converted 11 of 14 save opportunities, Dotel arrives without thoughts of unseating Bob Wickman as the closer.

"I understand they have the closer already on this team," Dotel said. "Even though I was the closer in KC doesn't mean I need to come over here and be the closer. Wickman is the guy here. If one day, he's not available to pitch, it can be [Rafael] Soriano or myself."

For now, Braves manager Bobby Cox says he'll use Dotel, Wickman and Soriano in interchangeable late-inning roles. But there's always a chance of injury or even that Wickman could be moved via a waiver-wire trade in August.

If this were to occur, Dotel and Soriano both would be capable of handling the closer's role.

While pitching for the Astros and A's during the 2004 season, Dotel registered a career-high 36 saves, limited opponents to a .217 batting average, and registered 122 strikeouts in just 85 1/3 innings.

"He's great," said Tim Hudson, who played with Dotel in Oakland during that 2004 sesaon. "He's got unbelievable stuff. He's an awesome guy with a great personality. He's always smiling. He's going to be a good guy to have around."

Dotel's status as one of the game's top closers was erased when he needed Tommy John surgery on June 7, 2005. In his mind, it took nearly two full years to regain the same dominant stuff that he had before undergoing this elbow ligament transplant procedure.

While posting a 10.80 ERA and seeing opponents hit .383 against him during 14 appearances with the Yankees last year, Dotel knew he was limited. But while posting a 3.94 ERA and limiting opponents to .264 batting average in 24 appearances with the Royals this year, the 33-year-old reliever gained a sense of familiarity.

"I was trying to pitch and see [with the Yankees]," Dotel said. "But I knew in my mind that I didn't have my best. Even though I was throwing hard, I didn't have my consistency. Now, it's a big difference."

Although he thought it would be in his best interest to not divulge any of his best pranks, Dotel confirmed Hudson's assessment, which was that he was a fun-loving character, who would provide benefits on and off the field.

"I do a lot of crazy stuff because I want people to know you have to enjoy the game," Dotel said. "You can't put too much pressure on yourself when you play this game. The only time you need to feel pressure is when you are on the field playing."

When Teixeira talked about Dotel on Tuesday night, he described him as being a pitcher he didn't like to face. Likewise, the right-handed reliever described his new first base teammate as a hitter he never liked to face.

The Braves are hoping their National League rivals develop these same thoughts during the final two months of the season.

"This team was good already and now I think it's better, a lot better," Dotel said. "I have like eight years in the big leagues. I'm looking for a ring now."By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-01-2007, 11:40 PM
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

Good stuff.

08-03-2007, 01:29 AM
Notes: New ownership allows freedom
Braves pull off deadline deals that might not have happened
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Since purchasing the Braves in May, Liberty Media has assumed the silent ownership role that was envisioned. In the process, it has given team president Terry McGuirk and general manager John Schuerholz an enhanced sense of freedom that wasn't present during Time Warner's ownership reign.
"This organizational structure is a little different and it's a little more positive I think in the way you make it happen," McGuirk said. "Time Warner is a great company. But it's very, very disciplined in what it does. That's not to say Liberty is not a very disciplined company. But Liberty's goal is to see a winner and my goal is to build a winner. Value comes of that."

As he celebrates the significant trades Schuerholz made before Tuesday's deadline, McGuirk knows their completion, especially the one that brought Mark Teixeira to Atlanta, may not have been realized under the reign of Time Warner, a company which treated the Braves more like a business than a competitive professional sports franchise.

"We're trying to build a winner as opposed to build a business," McGuirk said.

With Liberty Media's purchasing interest in the Braves primarily coming from a tax-benefit standpoint, Commissioner Bud Selig provided his blessing to their purchase with the understanding that the club's long-standing top management team would be kept in place.

Now instead of needing financial approval from an executive, who lacked their baseball knowledge and daily understanding of the team, McGuirk and Schuerholz can make on-field personnel decisions based on their trained instincts, which were previously hamstrung by a financial bottom line.

"You don't derive value from setting a budget and then just building whatever you have to build inside of it," McGuirk said. "You start and you say, 'What does it take to get there and can I get there with my resources?' If you have to stretch, maybe you do it because it makes business sense."

While the Braves might not be able to stretch their payroll significantly heading into next season, McGuirk hints there could be a noticeable increase. In addition, he indicated the financial benefits of an extended postseason run could allow for more flexibility when it comes time to restructure the roster in the offeason.

"It's different," McGuirk said. "The group that you talk to every day is the group that is making decisions here about this franchise."

This week's decisions to acquire Teixeira and three relievers, including Octavio Dotel, have created a sense of excitement that brings a smile to McGuirk's face.

"It's been a good week for the franchise," McGuirk said. "When the general manager is excited, the players are excited and the fans are excited, that's sort of a triple high."

Tex's future? With the ever-present smile he's displayed since first donning a Braves uniform on Tuesday night, Teixeira has at least given reason to believe he'd like to stay in Atlanta past the 2008 season. His wife's family is from the Atlanta area and he enjoyed his time here during his successful collegiate career at Georgia Tech.

But for now, the 27-year-old switch-hitting first baseman says he won't be discussing contractual issues. Before being dealt to the Braves on Tuesday, he rejected an eight-year, $140 million offer to stay with the Rangers.

"I don't want any contract talk or any long-term talk getting in the way of anything that we're doing here," Teixeira said. "I saw it in Texas -- how contract talk gets in the way of things. People start talking and then the focus is off the field. I want the focus to be on the 25 guys in here and trying to win the division and trying to win the World Series."

Baseball America's best: The Braves have a heavy presence in Baseball America's 2007 Best Tools survey. Those listed were Bobby Cox (National League's best manager), Andruw Jones (NL's best defensive outfielder), Jeff Francoeur (NL's best outfield arm), John Smoltz (NL's best slider) and Teixeira (American League's best defensive first baseman). By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-03-2007, 09:36 PM
Renteria departs with right ankle injury
Shortstop left after twisting it in eighth inning on Thursday
By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Braves shortstop Edgar Renteria left Thursday's game against Houston with an ankle injury, and had to be helped from the field.
Renteria leaned back to field a hard ground ball off the bat of Ty Wigginton. In the process, his ankle bent back and twisted. Renteria limped off the field under the aid of trainer Jeff Porter. Renteria has never been on the disabled list.

"He's going to miss some games," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Hopefully not two weeks -- maybe three or four games, I don't know."

With Renteria's injury and a depleted bench because of pinch-hitting appearances, Chipper Jones moved to shortstop, a position he hasn't played since he spent six games there in 2000. Willie Harris, a second baseman with the White Sox during their World Series-winning season of 2005, moved from left field to third base.

"His ankle is not good, and he hurt his back also," Cox said. "The ball kind of took him back and he rolled over his ankle."

Renteria, who went 1-for-5 in the game, is batting .336. Rookie Yunel Escobar would likely become the everyday shortstop in Renteria's absence. Escobar is currently in a platoon role at second base with Kelly Johnson. If Renteria is forced to miss extended time, Johnson would probably play full-time at second base.
By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

08-03-2007, 09:40 PM
Atlanta Braves

Closer: Bob Wickman (Shaky)

Key setup men: Octavio Dotel, Rafael Soriano, Peter Moylan, Tyler Yates, Oscar Villareal

Dotel owners certainly weren't happy when the right-hander was traded into a setup role this past week, but it's something that's been expected ever since he signed with the Royals this winter. Wickman will remain the closer in Atlanta, but Dotel gives them more depth to play with. Since Wickman is best utilized when entering games with nobody on base, he makes more sense closing than being used in any other manner. While that means the club may knowingly be going with an inferior option in the ninth, it also means they won't hesitate to use Dotel in some of the more tricky save opportunities. As a result I'd expect Wickman to keep the job through September but also expect Dotel to pick up a handful of saves along the way.

Both Dotel and Wickman are free agents at season's end, so Soriano remains the favorite to close in 2008. Bringing back one of the veterans can't be ruled out, with Dotel the likely favorite given that he's outpiched Wickman so far this season. Another free agent veteran is also possible, but it's much more likely that someone currently on the roster is closing next season.


08-03-2007, 09:41 PM
The Braves are expected to recall Lance Cormier from Triple-A Richmond on Friday to provide depth in the bullpen.

"[Cormier will] be in relief tomorrow," said manager Bobby Cox, who used all seven relievers Thursday, including Ron Mahay for three innings. "We've got to have a starter, too, and he would be it. But we've got to have somebody to pitch the next couple days."
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08-03-2007, 09:42 PM
Braves placed SS Edgar Renteria on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle.

Renteria left Thursday's game in the eighth inning, with Chipper Jones sliding over to shortstop, but the Braves will go with Yunel Escobar as his full-time replacement. Losing Renteria now is a huge blow to the Braves' playoff chances, as he was hitting .336 with an 879 OPS in 105 games.Rotoworld

08-03-2007, 09:48 PM
The words "World Series" have been thrown around a lot in the Braves clubhouse over the last two days. And there's a new, excited edge to go with it.

But not so fast: There's that little matter of pitching.
Swept under the carpet by the mammoth deal for Gold Glove first baseman Mark Teixeira was the fact that the Braves still have the same rotation. It isn't a horrible group, but after right-hander John Smoltz and right-hander Tim Hudson, the assemblage is untested.

And lest we forget -- because he certainly can't -- Smoltz is fighting his right shoulder with every pitch.

And now right-hander Buddy Carlyle, this season's feel-good story, is day-to-day with a hyperextended right elbow, thanks to taking a huge swing on a curveball during an at-bat Wednesday. That's the down side of scoring so many runs; the pitcher bats far more than he's used to.

Left-hander Chuck James continues a pattern of hitting a wall at about the 80-pitch mark, which can come in the fifth to seventh inning. And left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes is not ready for prime time; he has been optioned to Class AAA Richmond.

When the Braves were struggling after interleague play, third baseman Chipper Jones pointed out that they had faced every team's No. 1 and 2 pitchers. Isn't that who will be pitching in the playoffs?

ASTROS 12, BRAVES 11 (14 innings): Shortstop Edgar Renteria was forced to leave the game after turning his right ankle fielding a groundball, and the makeshift infield -- manager Bobby Cox had already used his infield bench players -- couldn't prevent Houston from loading the bases in the eighth inning. Then right-hander Rafael Soriano gave up a grand slam that tied the game and sent it to extra innings. Oscar Villarreal, pitching his second inning, gave up a game-winning, pinch single to Astros pitcher Jason Jennings in the 14th inning.


08-03-2007, 09:49 PM
1B Julio Franco does not appear to be expecting to be claimed by another team on waivers; all of his stuff is still in his locker.

08-04-2007, 01:01 AM
Notes: Cormier wants to prove self
Righty feels he has regained tempo from Spring Training
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Now that he's regained the tempo and success he had during Spring Training, Lance Cormier is determined to prove he can be an asset to the Braves starting rotation. But over the next few days, he's going to be asked to provide relief to a fatigued group of relievers.
Having used each of his seven relievers, including three for multiple innings on Thursday night, Braves manager Bobby Cox entered Friday's series opener against the Rockies knowing there was a chance he was going to need Cormier to make his first relief appearance of the season.

"I want to get in the game because I'm up here and I want to pitch," said Cormier, who was recalled from Triple-A Richmond to assume the roster spot of Jo-Jo Reyes, who earned a return trip to Richmond after lasting just three innings on Thursday.

Because there is a scheduled off-day on Monday, the Braves won't need to put Cormier in their rotation until their Aug. 11 game in Philadelphia. Until Tuesday, the 26-year-old right-hander will be available out of the bullpen.

When Cormier posted a 1.15 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances this year, it looked like he might be an asset at the back end of the starting rotation. But he suffered a strained right triceps muscle during his final exhibition season start and wasn't able to join the Atlanta rotation until early June.

While going 0-2 with a 15.26 ERA in two starts with Atlanta, Cormier lacked his normal arm strength and consequently altered his mechanics, to the point where he struggled with control. Consequently, he was sent back to Richmond, where he battled frustration until the All-Star break, during which he was able to put his mind at ease.

"It was weighing a lot on my mind how the mechanics weren't there anymore," Cormier said. "I was just trying to battle through things. The days off at home helped. The last four starts have gone real well."

In his past four starts with Richmond, Cormier went 3-1 with a 0.93 ERA. If he can continue this success, he'll prove to be much more of an asset than Reyes, who was 0-1 with an 8.72 ERA in his five Major League starts.

Reyes, a 22 year-old southpaw, completely understood the Braves' decision to send him back to the Minors for further development. Before making his Major League debut on July 7, he'd made just 17 starts above the Class A level and each of them came this year.

"I didn't do my job up here," Reyes said. "It's a long road ahead. I've just got to keep my head up and keep on working."

Walking wounded: During the extra innings of Thursday's loss, Chipper Jones aggravated a left thumb injury and Jeff Francoeur suffered a bruised left wrist, courtesy of a Trever Miller pitch. But they weren't the only injured members of the Braves lineup on Friday.

Over the past few days, Andruw Jones has been battling discomfort in his left elbow. He had it wrapped for Friday night's game. The ailment is hindering his ability to reach pitches on the outside portion of the plate.

Devine promoted: Instead of promoting a Minor League infielder when they placed Edgar Renteria on the disabled list Friday, the Braves instead chose to fortify their bullpen with Joey Devine, who has appeared in just three games despite being called to the Major Leagues on three previous occasions this year.

Devine was expected to get to Turner Field around 8:30 p.m. ET. That gave Cox the confidence that he'd be available to pitch any time after the fifth inning.

Well-earned rest: Two relievers who definitely weren't going to pitch on Friday were Oscar Villarreal and Ron Mahay. Villarreal threw two innings on Wednesday and then was forced to throw the final two innings on Thursday.

As for Mahay, who was acquired from Texas on Tuesday, he allowed just one earned run in three innings on Thursday. That effort combined with the scoreless inning he provided in his Atlanta debut on Wednesday instantly allowed him to gain favor with Cox.

"He looked better than any [left-handed reliever] we've had all year," Cox said of the 36-year-old southpaw.
From what I saw from Cormier today, he got hit when he was just relieving he is going get killed in his start against the Mets.

08-04-2007, 01:02 AM
Drese signed: The Braves have signed Ryan Drese to a Minor League contract and assigned him to Class A Myrtle Beach, where he'll start Saturday night. The 31-year-old right-hander, who has made 96 career Major League starts, underwent elbow ligament transplant surgery in April of last year.Atlanta braves.com

Okay you know what this means right we are desperate.

08-04-2007, 02:12 PM
Chipper Jones-3B- Braves Aug. 4 - 8:28 am et

Chipper Jones jammed his right thumb during an at-bat Thursday night and is in pain, according to manager Bobby Cox.

Jones, who missed 19 games earlier this season due to a thumb injury, was in the lineup on Friday. He may need to miss a game or two if the thumb continues to bother him. rotoworld

This may explain things, I thought CJ looked off.

08-04-2007, 11:15 PM
Notes: Andruw to miss two games
Center fielder should return for series vs. Mets in New York
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- When the Braves begin a key three-game series against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Tuesday night, Andruw Jones will return to their lineup. They can only hope that he'll do so with a left elbow that feels much better than it has the past two months.
With the pain increasing in his hyperextended elbow, Jones decided after Friday night's loss to the Rockies that it was time to get a cortisone shot. This will keep him out of the lineup for the rest of this weekend and quite possibly provide him the relief he desires by the time the three-game series against the Mets begins.

With a three-game series scheduled in both Philadelphia and New York, next week will be a very important one for the Braves. They entered Saturday sitting in third place in the National League East race, 5 1/2 games behind the front-running Mets and a half-game behind the Phillies.

"I will be back in there on Tuesday," Jones said. "That's why I went to get it, so that I can be ready to play against the Mets and Phillies."

Jones first began feeling discomfort on May 27, after he successfully reached over the outfield wall to rob Philadelphia's Greg Dobbs of a home run. While there were some periods of relief, the Gold Glove center fielder has played most of the past two months with discomfort.

While going hitless in four at-bats on Friday night, he wore a white sleeve in hopes of bracing the elbow. But he still felt pain while extending to reach pitches on the outside portion of the plate.

Jones' ailment obviously isn't as severe as the high right ankle sprain that will sideline Edgar Renteria for the next two or three weeks. But it stands among the many medical concerns for the Braves, who have told Chipper Jones not to take batting practice the next two days in hopes that he'll experience some relief with the left thumb injury that he aggravated on Thursday.

"We play the game every day so you're going to get your share of injuries," said Andruw Jones, who had missed just two games so far this season. "Most of the guys know how to play through injuries. But there are some that just aren't going to let you play." hope AJ is set to go against the mets.

08-05-2007, 01:09 PM
Braves loosen limits on payroll
McGuirk gets more room to maneuver

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 08/05/07

The Atlanta Braves' much-criticized payroll limit of the past four years is going, going, gone.

Last week's trading binge that brought slugger Mark Teixeira and two relief pitchers to the team signals a new economic philosophy under Liberty Media ownership, Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In the final four years of Time Warner ownership, the Braves operated with a strict $80 million payroll — a self-imposed cap that frustrated fans and forced the team to unload a series of star players.

But since Liberty Media bought the team in May, the Braves are operating without a pre-determined limit on player payroll, McGuirk said.

"I can honestly tell you we don't have payroll numbers in mind right now for this year or next year," McGuirk said. "It's really about creating an organization that has the ability to win a pennant, win a World Series.

"Whatever we do has to make business sense," he added.

Liberty Media officials did not return a call seeking comment Friday, but have repeatedly said in the past that McGuirk speaks for the company on baseball matters.

The new spending philosophy stems from a fundamental difference between the two corporate owners.

Time Warner is an earnings-driven company that saw the Braves as a potential drag on its stock price because of Wall Street's obsession with quarterly results.

Liberty, a Colorado corporation, is more of an asset-play company that is focused on building the team's long-term value for its eventual resale.

The players added to the Braves this week — Teixeira and relievers Octavio Dotel and Ron Mahay — have 2007 salaries totaling about $15 million. The Braves are responsible for one-third of that total, since they acquired the players with two months left in a six-month season. The players traded away were making about $1 million combined this season.

McGuirk said the same trades could not have been made under the previous budgetary setup.

"In the past, we would set a payroll number well in advance and then build within it," he said. "What's different now ... is that as we look at our organization and the universe of baseball, we make judgments as to what it takes to create a winning organization. And we figure out what that costs and work backwards from there to see if we can make business sense out of it."

This week's moves made business sense, McGuirk said, because they increased the chances of the Braves reaching the playoffs and generating additional revenue — which would raise the selling price.

He said the same philosophy will be used in putting together next year's team. The decision on how high to go in trying to re-sign free agent center fielder Andruw Jones, for example, will be based on what makes business and baseball sense.

Although McGuirk said he has no particular payroll level in mind for 2008, he did say: "I can tell you we will not be where the Yankees and Red Sox are, to be facetious about it." Those teams have baseball's highest payrolls by far, $190 million and $145 million, respectively.

Through most of the 1990s, the Braves' payroll was among baseball's five largest. After the 2003 season, Time Warner cut the payroll from about $105 million to $80 million, near the middle among major league teams.

Liberty acquired the Braves as a vehicle for a tax-free redemption of a huge block of Time Warner stock. As a condition for Major League Baseball approval of the unique transaction, Liberty committed to hold the team through at least 2011. Another condition was to let McGuirk, who had been involved with the Braves since 1976, run the team.

"When and if they ever sell the team, they'd like it to be worth more than when they bought it," McGuirk said. "Those are my goals, to make this worth more. And that is a very wide canvas to paint on."

The moves were greeted enthusiastically by Braves fans.

"It's very encouraging to me, because it appears we're heading back in the direction we used to have," said 16-year season-ticket holder John Shafer. "After hitting a financial wall the last few years, this is a great signal that the new ownership is going to say, 'Use some business judgment, but do whatever it's going to take to get the job done.' "

McGuirk said he gave top Liberty executives advance notice of this week's trades by e-mail, but said no one at Liberty had to approve them.

In an earlier interview, Liberty CEO Greg Maffei said the company would be a hands-off owner and let management run the team. Maffei said Liberty expected the payroll to rise, "but I'm going to leave that to [McGuirk]."


08-05-2007, 01:12 PM
Andruw Jones will not be in the starting lineup Saturday because of a sore left elbow.

Jones, who has been dealing with elbow soreness for a couple of days, played with the elbow wrapped on Friday and then had a cortisone shot after the game. This problem may sideline Jones Sunday as well, as the Braves want him healthy for two big series next week against the Mets and then the Phillies. Willie Harris will get the start in center field Saturday in place of Jones, leaving Matt Diaz to occupy left field.

08-05-2007, 01:12 PM
Moore vows to take his time and conduct his managerial search in private
The Kansas City Star

Royals surrender A-Rod’s 500th homer and lots more in 16-8 loss to Yankees
NEW YORK | There is no timetable. No rush to establish one. And no promise of news as the process unfolds.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore is vowing to conduct a confidential — and virtually clandestine — search in the weeks ahead as he sifts through candidates to become the club’s next manager once Buddy Bell steps away at season’s end.

“We’ll do a thorough search in a way that’s very private,” Moore said. “That will allow us to do a thorough search. Then once we’re comfortable, we’ll make a decision.”

Moore was appalled at the leaks and public discussion that preceded his hiring some 14 months ago as the Royals sought a replacement for Allard Baird — even as Baird remained on the job.

That won’t happen again, if Moore can help it. Moore is even threatening to downgrade, and perhaps eliminate, candidates who acknowledge being contacted in connection with the position.

Even so, speculation already points to Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who concluded his 15-year career by playing in 1998 for the Royals, as a leading contender. Pendleton has long been viewed as a prime managerial candidate and has spent six years in training as a member of Bobby Cox’s staff.

“That’s the obvious starting point,” one high-ranking rival club official said. “Look at Dayton’s track record since he got there, and all the people he’s brought in. Everything always seems to lead back to Atlanta. That’s his comfort zone, and that’s natural.

“The other thing is this: TP is a great candidate. Everybody thinks that. He’s going to be a manager somewhere, and soon. It certainly makes sense that it would be in Kansas City. It could be a great fit.”

There is already building public sentiment for the Royals to grant a serious interview to Frank White, who paid his dues by managing the last three seasons at Class AA Wichita after quick dismissals as a candidate when the club hired Tony Peña in 2002 and Bell in 2005.

George Brett would be hard to ignore if he expresses interest. Brett agreed in principle to become the Rockies’ manager in 2000 before Colorado general manager Dan O’Dowd pushed instead, ironically, to hire Bell.

Bench coach Billy Doran is likely to merit discussion. He served as the interim manager for the final 10 games last season when Bell left the club to undergo treatment for a cancerous growth in his throat.

Other names already popping up include former Florida manager Joe Girardi, who was the National League Manager of the Year in 2006; former Oakland manager Ken Macha, who took the A’s to two division titles in four years; and even Buck Showalter, a two-time selection as Manager of the Year.

Girardi lasted just one year in Florida before conflicts with front-office personnel prompted his firing. He rejected overtures earlier this year from Baltimore but is believed to like the Royals’ potential.

Showalter nearly became the Royals’ manager in 2002 before the job went to Peña. He serves as a front-office official in Cleveland.

“I can tell you this much,” another rival club official said, “there shouldn’t be any shortage of candidates. Dayton is pulling things together over there. That much is clear to everybody.

“Kansas City has some good young players, and ownership seems committed now to trying to do at least some of the things necessary to build a winner. That could be a good situation.”

The need to find a new manager didn’t sneak up on Moore.

Conversations with Bell revealed the possibility as early as April.

But Bell’s public announcement Wednesday pushed the matter into the open and switched on the spotlight that Moore despises in his handling of personnel issues.

“There’s no reason to rush,” Moore said. “We want to take our time and do a thorough search. This is what happens. Things tend to evolve, and when they do evolve, we’ll get to a point where we make a decision.

“We won’t make a decision until we’re comfortable, I can promise you that.”

That seems unlikely, at this point, until the offseason.

“I don’t see it happening before then,” Moore agreed. “But I don’t know what could take place. I just don’t know. I can’t predict it. I don’t want to paint ourselves into a corner.

“We’ll do a thorough search, and, once we’re comfortable, we’ll move forward.”

The Kansas City Star
well this might open the door for Franco to be our hitting coach?

08-05-2007, 01:33 PM
Matt Diaz, getting a chance to start with Andruw Jones hurting, hit a solo homer and scored three runs on Saturday.

Diaz is up to .345, including a .337 mark against righties. The Braves need to figure out how to get him into the lineup more often.

08-05-2007, 01:33 PM
Tim Hudson again delivered a big pitching performance when the Braves needed it the most, tossing seven shutout innings as Atlanta beat Colorada 6-4 on Saturday.

Hudson has made a habit of ending Braves' losing skids. This was his 12th start following a Braves loss (they had lost their past two heading into tonight) and Atlanta has gone 10-2 in those games. Hudson helped the cause offensively as well tonight, delivering a two-run single. The Braves are within 4.5 games of the Mets now. Hudson moves to 12-5 with the win, lowering his ERA to 2.95. He gave up five hits and two walks, fanning seven. His last loss -- and last homer allowed -- came back on June 19. Hudson could be the hottest NL pitcher not named Carlos Zambrano right now.

08-05-2007, 01:34 PM
Willy Aybar has completed his rehab program for substance abuse.

He's currently working out in Florida in preparation for a minor league assignment. The team hopes to have Aybar back when rosters expand in September.

hmm in Sept. could this be the end of woodward?

08-05-2007, 01:34 PM
Buddy Carlyle (elbow) plans to throw a bullpen session Sunday in preparation for his start Tuesday against the Mets.

After hyperextending his elbow swinging at a pitch Wednesday night, he has maintained the elbow is not a problem. He's scheduled to get two starts in week 19.
another Arm hurt... lets hope not

08-05-2007, 02:32 PM
hmm in Sept. could this be the end of woodward?
Rotoworldoh yea if Willy can get his act together, and stay determined woodward is gone, cause Willy is much better than Woodward.

08-05-2007, 05:17 PM
Notes: Escobar puts rituals on display
Infielder's quirks don't overshadow his strong play on field

ATLANTA -- With Yunel Escobar filling in for the injured Edgar Renteria at shortstop, Braves fans now can get a daily view of some of Escobar's baseball rituals.
As Escobar waits near the on-deck circle, he shows off his vertical leap, bounding into the air.

Then as he approaches the plate, Escobar scratches out something with the handle of his bat in the opposite batter's box.

Is he leaving a message? Escobar says no. He is just too superstitious to stop it.

"Four or five hits," Escobar said of the result the first game he left his mark with Triple-A Richmond this season.

There is more of a rational reason for the calisthenics. "[To] release tension," Escobar said.

But even then, superstition plays a part.

"Always two," Escobar said when asked about how many times he jumps in the air.

Asked about Escobar's rituals, manager Bobby Cox said that he hadn't noticed either.

Escobar's play, however, has certainly made an impression on the Braves manager.

"He can play anywhere in the infield, but he's great at shortstop," said Cox, who was platooning Escobar at second base with Kelly Johnson. "[He has] a great arm."

Escobar, who went into Sunday's game against Colorado batting .327, prefers shortstop over second or third base. "It's my position," he said.

Renteria, batting .336, suffered a high right ankle sprain on Thursday against Houston and may not be ready to return when his 15 days on the disabled list come to an end.

Carlyle ready to go: Buddy Carlyle threw a bullpen session on Sunday without problems and will start on Tuesday against the Mets in New York, as scheduled.

"He did fine," Cox said.

The right-hander left Atlanta's victory over Houston on Wednesday after hyperextending his pitching elbow on a swing.

Carlyle, who started the season with Triple-A Richmond, is 6-3 with a 4.20 ERA. He has won five of his past six decisions and is 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA since the All-Star break.

McCann gets a rest: Corky Miller got his first start for the Braves behind the plate on Sunday, giving Brian McCann a day off. McCann had started 11 consecutive games.

"With the off-day on Monday, he gets a two-day break," Cox said of McCann. "That's why we planned it."

Miller, 33, who spent part of four seasons with Cincinnati, was with Minnesota briefly in 2005 and played in one game with Boston last season. He was signed as a Minor League free agent by the Braves during the winter.

Miller was hitting just .210 when called up from Triple-A Richmond after the trade of Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Texas, but he is a solid receiver with a good arm.

Roster move coming: After carrying 13 pitchers through the Colorado series, the Braves plan to go down to 12 for the road trip to New York and Philadelphia.

Joey Devine was recalled from Richmond when Renteria went on the disabled list, because the Braves were thin in the bullpen.

"Now we could use another player for the bench," Cox said.

Cox was especially thin for the final two games of the Rockies series, with center fielder Andruw Jones not starting after getting a cortisone shot in his sore left elbow.

Candidates to be recalled from Richmond include utilityman Pete Orr and second baseman Martin Prado. Orr spent all of the past two seasons with the Braves and Prado is among the International League leaders with a .321 average.

By Guy Curtright / Special to MLB.com

08-05-2007, 05:28 PM
Andruw laments Bonds' plight
Braves slugger says "a lot" of players take steroids

For Andruw Jones, all the talk about Barry Bonds and drug use isn't an issue.

"It doesn't matter," the Atlanta Braves star said Sunday. "There's a lot of people that take steroids, and they don't hit 755 home runs."

A day after Bonds tied Hank Aaron's record of 755, the feat was much discussed in big league clubhouses.

"It's kind of sad, because something like this you would hope would be a total celebration for the game of baseball. And obviously, it's not with a lot of people. And I can understand some of that," said the Detroit Tigers' Jim Leyland, Bonds' first big league manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Washington's John Lannan is scheduled to start against Bonds and the Giants on Monday night in San Francisco. Lannan, a 22-year-old left-hander born in Long Beach, N.Y., will be making his third major league appearance. In his major league debut July 26, he was ejected after hitting Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in consecutive at-bats in the fifth inning — breaking Utley's hand.

"Right now, I'm just focusing on facing San Francisco and how their order lines up and how I'm facing each batter. He hit it last night, right, 755?" Lannan said Sunday. "I'm really not focusing that much on it. When I do have to face him, if the situation arises and I have to pitch around him, I will. If I have the opportunity to pitch against him, I will have a game plan. I will make smart pitches and just pitch my game."

Left-handed hitters were 5-for-10 with one homer (Ryan Howard) against Lannan in his first two starts. He isn't worried about giving up the record-breaker.

"If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't," Lannan said. "I'd go down in history for giving up that home run."

Bonds is 1-for-16 with one homer against Ray King, a left-hander in the Nationals' bullpen.

"If I give up a home run to Bonds, my career average against lefties is still under .220. I've given up 32 home runs in my career. It's not going to change me," King said. "I was joking with guys in the clubhouse — if I give it up, I'll shake his hand before he gets to first base. It's not going to make me a different person. I'm not going to be upset because I gave up a home run to Barry Bonds. I look forward to the challenge. If it comes off me, it comes off me."

King discounts the steroids allegations.

"I think it's a legitimate record. I don't care what people say. Until you show me something that's positive, put that asterisk aside," he said. "In my eyes, he's the greatest home run hitter — once he hits another one."

Livan Hernandez, a former Bonds teammate now with Arizona, said at Dodger Stadium that he felt the same way.

"I know people here think he's done something wrong, but the only thing he did wrong to L.A. was hit a lot of home runs," he said.

Brian Johnson, another former teammate, was among the few players who didn't give Bonds the benefit of the doubt.

"You can make a fair argument that he may have been cheating," Johnson said during Sunday's edition of ESPN's "Outside the Lines." "Based on what has been documented, it's hard to dispute that argument."AJC

08-06-2007, 04:21 PM
Justice elated to join Braves Hall
Former Atlanta outfielder to be inducted on Aug. 17
By Chris Boone / Special to MLB.com

ATLANTA -- On the surface, things came pretty easy to David Justice: Good looks, high IQ and a textbook swing. No doubt Justice led a charmed baseball life, playing only one full season (1990 Braves) when his team did not make the playoffs in a career that spanned 14 years.
But think back to that rookie season. The former fourth-round Draft pick (selected by then-GM Bobby Cox in 1985) had put up decent Minor League numbers, but nothing to portend the accomplished career that followed. When he finally got the chance to play everyday at his natural position (right field), he did so at the expense of an Atlanta icon.

"The heir apparent to a God-like figure, a great person and a great ballplayer," Justice said of his predecessor, Dale Murphy, who was traded to Philadelphia in August 1990. "No one could measure up to him."

Or so he thought. On Aug. 17, Justice will join Murphy as a member of the Braves Hall of Fame. And while Justice may not be the iconic figure No. 3 is, no other Atlanta Brave has figured in more iconic moments. Justice, who finished his career with 305 home runs, 1,017 RBIs and a .279 batting average, said former Braves batting coach Clarence Jones deserves considerable credit for his rise to stardom.

"My rookie year, Clarence Jones told me to move closer to the plate and think about pulling everything," he said. "I couldn't hit the ball the other way, wasn't really driving it before. I had to commit to what he said, and once I did, everything took off."

Justice, now 41, went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1990 (.282, 28 homers, 78 RBIs). He may not have made fans forget Murphy -- an impossible task -- but he did give them hope for the future. Never lacking for confidence, Justice, who lives in San Diego with his wife, Rebecca, and three children, David Jr., 7, Dionisio, 5, and Raquel, 3, said he wasn't surprised when the team shocked the baseball world by going "Worst to First" in 1991.

"I totally saw it coming," said Justice, now a broadcaster with the New York Yankees. "We had some good teams in the Minors. You think about it: [Steve] Avery, [Jeff] Blauser, [Mark] Lemke, [Ron] Gant. We all came up together. And not only were we good, but we believed we could win. None of us were scared of the big game."

Especially Justice, who can boast of two October moments Braves fans will never forget.

The first came on Oct. 1, 1991, Braves vs. Reds. Atlanta entered the night one game behind the Dodgers with five to play. Things didn't look good after the Reds erupted for six runs in the first off Charlie Leibrandt. But the Braves chipped back, closing the gap to one in the ninth. With Reds closer Rob Dibble on the mound and one out, Justice, a Cincinnati native, strode to the plate. He remembers the moment vividly.

"[Terry Pendleton] had just flied out, and I remember so well him telling me to pick him up," he said. "I'm thinking to myself, 'Dibble always throws a first-pitch fastball, away.' I'm thinking, 'Just hit it up the middle.'"

Instead, he hit a mammoth home run to right-center. Without that homer, the Braves might have ended the night two games out of first, their playoff dreams dashed.

On Aug. 17, David Justice, a former fourth-round Draft pick, will become the 19th person inducted into the Braves' Hall of Fame.
Hank Aaron, OF (1954-74)
Eddie Mathews, 3B (1952-66)
Phil Niekro, RHP (1964-83, '87)
Warren Spahn, LHP (1942, '46-64)
Dale Murphy, OF (1976-90)
Ted Turner, Owner (1976-2000)
Lou Burdette, RHP (1951-63)
Ernie Johnson, Broadcaster (1962-99)
Bill Bartholomay, Executive (1962-Present)
Johnny Sain, RHP (1942, '46-51)
Del Crandall, C (1949-50, '53-63)
Tommy Holmes, OF (1942-51)
Kid Nichols, RHP (1890-1901)
Skip Caray, Broadcaster (1976-Present)
Pete Van Wieren, Broadcaster (1976-Present)
Herman Long, SS (1890-1902)
Paul Snyder, Scout/Executive (1966-Present)
Ralph Garr, OF (1968-75)
Bill Lucas, Executive (1966-79)
David Justice, OF (1989-96)
In 1995, they were still looking for their first World Series title. Once again, Justice -- who drove in 67 runs in 112 postseason games -- took center stage, though his heroics didn't come without controversy.

"Orel Hershiser had made a comment saying the Indians had no pressure, that all the pressure was on us," said Justice, referring to the World Series between the Braves and the Indians.

Hershiser's comments came before Game 6, with the Braves leading the series, 3-2.

"Then you've got Omar Vizquel saying the same thing, that we can't win it," Justice said. "That got my blood boiling. So I'm calling out Hershiser, and in the moment, I call out our fans. If we don't win, they'll probably burn our houses down."

Fans were not happy.

"I'm getting booed in my home stadium," he recalled.

The boos persisted until the sixth inning, when Justice led off against lefty Jim Poole, whom he had never before faced.

"I'm on my knees in the on-deck circle, and I could hear a few people clapping," he said. "I told myself I was going to play for those people."

As Jones had advised him years earlier, Justice sat on a fastball.

"I wasn't going to swing at a curveball unless I had two strikes on me," he said.

After working the count to 1-1, Justice got what he was looking for, and so did the fans who moments earlier were booing him. His home run was the lone run in the 1-0 victory that gave Atlanta its first and only world championship in a major pro sport.

"The weight of the world was off my shoulders," he said. "Looking back, I wish I would've said things differently, but I wouldn't trade the result."

Justice's Braves career came to an end after the 1996 season, when he was traded, along with Marquis Grissom, to the Indians for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree.

"My world came crumbling down," he said. "I loved being a Brave. I loved Atlanta. There's no other team I wanted to play with. I was upset for a long time."

The hard feelings have since eroded.

"I don't take it personal anymore," Justice said. "He [general manager John Schuerholz] did what he thought was best for the team."

In fact, it was Schuerholz who called Justice to tell him that he was entering the Braves Hall of Fame as the first player from that 1991 team to be inducted.

"It means a lot," said the former Indian, Yankee and Athletic. "I'm a Brave, first and foremost."

Still, Justice is a little anxious to see how he'll be received upon his return to Atlanta. As part of the induction ceremonies, he will be honored on the field before to the game that night against Arizona.

"I don't know how the people of Atlanta feel about me," he said. "Good, I hope."By Chris Boone / Special to MLB.com

08-06-2007, 04:36 PM
Pendleton to Manage KC?
By Will Schaffer | August 6th, 2007

The news a couple days ago that Royals manager Buddy Bell would be resigning at the end of the season, immediately brought speculation with it. With Dayton Moore, the former Braves assistant GM heading up the search, that speculation turned immediately to Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton. After trading for both Tony Pena Jr. and Kyle Davies in his first year at the helm of the Royals, it has become obvious that his knowledge of the Braves organization is a big factor to him. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star wrote about much the same thing.

Even so, speculation already points to Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who concluded his 15-year career by playing in 1998 for the Royals, as a leading contender. Pendleton has long been viewed as a prime managerial candidate and has spent six years in training as a member of Bobby Cox’s staff.

“That’s the obvious starting point,” one high-ranking rival club official said. “Look at Dayton’s track record since he got there, and all the people he’s brought in. Everything always seems to lead back to Atlanta. That’s his comfort zone, and that’s natural.

“The other thing is this: TP is a great candidate. Everybody thinks that. He’s going to be a manager somewhere, and soon. It certainly makes sense that it would be in Kansas City. It could be a great fit.”

The Braves have two members of their coaching staff in Pendleton and bullpen coach Eddie Perez, who are considered by many to be future managers in the major leagues, and lost third base coach Fredi Gonzalez to the Florida Marlins as the replacement to manager Joe Girardi this past season. Pendleton has had success with the Braves in his time serving as the hitting coach and a player. He won the 1991 NL MVP as a member of the worst to first Braves and is recognized as the reason for Andruw Jones’ power breakthrough a couple seasons ago.chop-n-change

08-06-2007, 05:51 PM
New stance suiting Francoeur just fine
Braves right fielder hitting for better average in second full year
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Had Jeff Francoeur entered this past offseason satisfied with the fact that he'd done something only previously accomplished by Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews in the long history of the Braves' franchise, he might be heading toward a second straight 100-RBI season fighting the same sort of frustration that filled him last year.
With 103 RBIs in his first full Major League season last year, Francoeur joined Aaron and Mathews as the only players in franchise history to enjoy a 100-RBI season before their 23rd birthday. While a lofty accomplishment that certainly signaled greatness, the Braves' 23-year-old right fielder viewed it as one that was reached in a manner that signaled further inconsistencies.

"Being able to hit between .290 to .300 with 100 RBIs is way more satisfying than hitting .260 with 100 RBIs, because that way you're giving other guys more opportunities and it makes you more of a complete player," said Francoeur, whose three-hit performance in Sunday's win over the Rockies improved his batting average to .304 and kept him on pace to finish this season with 104 RBIs.

Engaged to his high school sweetheart Catie McCoy, Francoeur has given reason to believe there really isn't further reason for him to care if "chicks dig the long ball." Coming off his career-best 29-homer season last year, he's hit 12 this year, putting him on pace for just 17.

"There's no doubt in my mind that I could have 20 to 21 homers right now, and I'd probably be hitting .260," Francoeur said.

When Francoeur burst on the Major League scene midway through the 2005 season and produced a .300 batting average, critics were correct with their assumption that the success was a product of opponents being unfamiliar with the free-swinging outfielder's tendencies. This was proven last year, when he managed to tally 103 RBIs, despite a .260 batting average that was somewhat masked with the 29 homers.

"My first year, nobody knew how to pitch me and last year, I think they did," Francoeur said. "I had a great year power-wise, but I know I'm not a .260 hitter and I wanted to show that I'm a different type of player."

During the offseason, Francoeur worked with Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton in an attempt to improve his offensive approach from both a mental and physical perspective. With Pendleton providing a constant reminder that right field wasn't in foul territory, the right-handed-hitting outfielder began to feel comfortable with a slightly crouched stance that's intended to allow him to see pitches longer and consequently give him the ability to drive pitches to the opposite field.

About two weeks before the All-Star break, Francoeur truly began finding comfort with this new stance. Without coincidence, he's hit .371 with a .414 on-base percentage in his past 34 games.

Even with his homer total down, Francoeur's .450 slugging percentage is slightly higher than the .449 mark he produced last year. To truly show he's a more disciplined player, one only has to look at his .349 on-base percentage, which is significantly better than the .293 mark he had last year.

In 484 plate appearances this year, Francoeur has already drawn 30 walks. In the 960 career plate appearances he had entering this season, he'd been issued a total of 34 walks.

"He's more of a threat," Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann said. "Pitchers don't want to face him. I think last year, pitchers thought they could get him out early in the count with one or two pitches. They can't do that anymore."

With his aggressive approach last year, Francoeur didn't always get in trouble swinging at the first pitch of an at-bat. Of the balls put in play in that situation, he managed to produce a .366 batting average -- better than the .323 mark he's compiled this year. But the biggest difference is that he's now showing improved patience when he misses that first pitch and falls behind in the count.

Francoeur is hitting .244 (48-for-197) with two strikes this year. Last year, he hit just .140 (38-for-272). Although he's on pace to strike out 120 times this season, the trend has steadily improved since last year, when he struck out 132 times in 651 at-bats (20 percent). In the 350 at-bats he compiled before this year's All-Star break, Francoeur went down on strikes 67 times in 350 (19 percent). In the 94 at-bats he's had since the break, pitchers have retired him at the plate just 16 times (17 percent).

"I feel that I'm more of a complete player now, and that I'm able to help the team with something more than just home runs," Francoeur said. "I haven't been trying to do too much. I think last year, I tried to hit a homer every at-bat."

Last season, Francoeur collected an eye-opening 48 percent (49 of 103) of his RBIs via home runs. This year, while putting himself on pace to better that career-best RBI mark, he's seen just 26 percent (19 of 72) of the runs he's driven in come courtesy of the long ball.

"He doesn't have the home run numbers he had last year yet," Pendleton said. "But he's driving the runs in. That's the biggest thing for me and he's doing that. He's just giving himself a chance to see the ball with two strikes and attacking it. "

Francoeur has realized the fruits of his labor through his improved consistency, something that hasn't gone unnoticed among his peers. Last week, Astros catcher Brad Ausmus told the young Braves outfielder, "I like what you've done with your new approach."

Obviously, so too do the Braves.

"I'm a completely different hitter," Francoeur said. "I'd like to think I'm a lot more dangerous."Well I will be darned franky has figured it out, and this is his second full season. AJ who has been in the league since forever still hasn't got a clue.

08-06-2007, 11:22 PM
Braves know it's a big week
Road trip at New York, Philly vital to post-season aims

The Braves face the National League East-leading Mets in a three-game series starting Tuesday night in New York, and Atlanta players don't mind revealing their excitement.

"We've been able to take two out of three from them three times so far," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said of the Braves, who are 6-3 against the Mets this season. "Hopefully, we'll keep that going."

The last time the Braves took a hot streak into a make-or-break midsummer series with the Mets, things did not turn out well for the Atlantans.

The Mets outscored them 27-13 in a sweep at Turner Field July 28-30, 2006. It shut up a couple of vocal Braves and drove a nail in the figurative coffin into which the team's 14-season division title streak would go after the Mets snapped the unprecedented run.

There are significant differences in scenarios then and now.

• First, the obvious: The Mets' lead over the Braves. They held a commanding 12-game advantage before the July 2006 series. They have a 4-1/2-game edge this time, diminishing the "make-or-break" notion.

The Braves play them two more series: Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Atlanta and Sept. 10-12 in New York.

"I'm not going to say we need to go up there and sweep," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "But we need to go up there and win the series. Every time we face them, we need to cut into their lead."

• The 2006 Mets were a more potent offensive team than the Braves, and Carlos Beltran had four homers and 12 RBIs in that July series. This year's Braves rank among the National League leaders in every major hitting category, and lead the Mets in most.

The Braves added switch-hitting slugger Mark

Teixeira to their lineup last week, and he has three homers and seven RBIs in five games since being traded from Texas. Meanwhile, the Mets will play the series without Beltran, on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle.

While the Braves are without injured shortstop Edgar Renteria, rookie Yunel Escobar is a dynamic replacement, moving from second-base platoon duties to shortstop, his natural and best position.

Saturday, the seventh and eighth spots in the Braves' lineup were occupied by players hitting .347 (Matt Diaz) and .341 (Escobar). With a lineup like that, the Braves are never out of a game.

"It's fun to play teams in our division," said Diaz, looking forward to the week's six-game trip vs. the Mets and the resurgent third-place Philadelphia Phillies (58-53), who are only a half-game behind the Braves (59-53). "We control our destiny."

• Lastly, the Braves go into the series at Shea with their co-aces, John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, carrying a combined 22-11 record and 2.99 ERA, and scheduled to pitch the last two games. Surprising Buddy Carlyle goes in the opener, and he's 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA in his past seven starts.

A year ago, Horacio Ramirez was 5-3 with a 4.04 ERA before he faced Pedro Martinez on July 28. Hudson was 8-8 with a 4.87 before he faced Orlando Hernandez on July 29. And Chuck James was making just his sixth start when he faced Tom Glavine on July 30. Quite a difference a year has made.

The Mets are going with three starters in this series who rank among the league's top nine ERAs — Oliver Perez (10-7, 3.00), Hernandez (7-4, 3.00) and John Maine (12-6, 3.27), who was moved up Monday. Still, the matchups look a lot more promising for the Braves than a year ago, and again, their lineup is more formidable.

It's a big series, a big week, and the Braves know it. That's why center fielder Andruw Jones got a cortisone shot in his aching left elbow late last Friday, rather than wait to see if the pain would subside. He wanted to be sure he was ready to play the Mets and Phillies.

Chipper Jones had advice for Braves newcomers.

"Better come ready to play in what's going to be a hostile environment," said Jones, who has thrived in Shea Stadium (.304, 18

homers in 80 games). "We're looking forward to measuring ourselves against a team that's considered to be the best in the National League."By DAVID O'BRIEN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08-09-2007, 07:26 PM
Wickman to Have Forearm Checked
By Will Schaffer | August 9th, 2007
E-mail | Print | Share

Bobby Cox hasn’t used Bob Wickman in spots we would normally see the Braves closer coming in and now we know why. Dave O’Brien is reporting that Wickman will fly back to Atlanta to have his forearm checked either tonight or tomorrow. Wickman will have an MRI to check for any structural damage in the forearm or elbow but he has said that it didn’t feel like the pain he had before his Tommy John surgery so that is good news. If there is no problem he will rejoin the team this next series but I am sure they are bringing Chad Paronto or Joey Devine up from Richmond just in case he has to be disabled. O’Brien says that Wickman has been feeling soreness off and on for about two weeks now.


08-09-2007, 07:32 PM
Notes: Leadoff hitters frustrating Smoltz
Veteran forced to work harder after poor start to innings

NEW YORK -- While attempting to downplay the ongoing discomfort he was feeling in his right shoulder two weeks ago, John Smoltz playfully said, "I'm just getting old." Unfortunately, now that his shoulder appears healthy, the 40-year-old hurler finds himself battling a cranky back.
Smoltz tweaked the back while stretching to grab Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar's errant double-play relay in the sixth inning of Wednesday night's loss to the Mets. While the ailment won't force him to miss his next start, it's still one that could hinder the veteran hurler's attempt to regain the dominance he displayed during the first two months of the season.

"It doesn't feel like a truck hit me," Smoltz said Thursday morning. "Just a small car."

In hindsight, Braves manager Bobby Cox admits he maybe shouldn't have sent Smoltz out to pitch Wednesday's seventh inning, during which the Mets scored two runs to tie the game. Those two runs -- which were plated against left-handed reliever Ron Mahay -- came after Smoltz surrendered singles to two of the first three hitters he faced.

"I've got to get more leadoff hitters out," said Smoltz, who has seen opponents compile a .250 batting average against him with nobody on and nobody out this season.

During the 11 starts he made before right shoulder discomfort forced him to miss his May 29 start, Smoltz was 7-2 with a 2.58 ERA. Opponents were hitting .248 against him, and he'd surrendered a .208 (15-for-71) batting average against those hitters beginning an inning.

In the 11 starts that have followed, he's 3-4 with a 3.53 ERA. Opponents have hit .281 during this span, and the most glaring trend has been the fact that he's seen opposing hitters beginning an inning compile a .294 (20-for-68) batting average.

With clean innings being sparse, Smoltz has been forced to physically test himself with more pitches and realize the mental drain of having to pitch around trouble on a consistent basis.

"Constantly giving up leadoff hits makes for a tougher game," said Smoltz, whose next start will come Tuesday, when the Braves begin a three-game series against Barry Bonds and the Giants at Turner Field.

AJ not clutch: When Jeff Francoeur grounded into a forceout at the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth inning of Wednesday night's 4-3 loss, there was reason to be surprised. But when Mets closer Billy Wagner escaped the jam unscathed by inducing an Andruw Jones double-play groundout, there wasn't much reason for surprise.

From the beginning of the 2000 season through the end of 2003, Jones batted .273 with runners in scoring position. Since the beginning of the 2004 season, he's hit just .234. This year, he's hitting just .224 -- a mark at least better than his overall .215 batting average.

During his young career, which began midway through the 2005 season, Francoeur has hit .334 with runners in scoring position. This year, he's hit a team-best .351 in that situation.

Sticking with Soriano: If he felt he had a more viable option, Cox would likely remove Rafael Soriano from his duties as the primary setup man. But for now, he says he'll keep Peter Moylan in a middle-relief role and hope that Soriano returns to the dominant form he displayed during the season's first 10 weeks.

During his first 29 appearances this year, Soriano completed 28 2/3 innings, posted 2.20 ERA and surrendered two homers. In the 24 appearances that have followed, he's completed 23 innings, posted a 5.87 ERA and surrendered eight homers.

In the 13 appearances he's made since the All-Star break, Soriano has been charged with two losses and incurred each of the three blown saves he's experienced this season.

Although he battled some arm problems with the Mariners, it doesn't look like Soriano's struggles are a product of health. The game-winning homer he surrendered to Moises Alou in Wednesday's eighth inning came on a 96 mph, 0-2 fastball.

"It's all location," Cox said. "It's not how hard you throw it. It's where you put it."

Congratulating Glavine: Although he'd anxiously awaited the opportunity, as of about an hour before Thursday afternoon's game, Cox still hadn't had the chance to exchange pleasantries with his longtime favorite Tom Glavine, who recorded his 300th career victory for the Mets on Sunday night.

As Glavine was going to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday afternoon, he had the opportunity to see Smoltz, who played with him in Atlanta from 1988-2002. The Braves 40-year-old hurler playfully questioned the need for further preparatory work now that the milestone has been reached.

"I said, 'Why you got to go throw on the side?'" Smoltz said. "He said, 'Yeah, I know, I just realized I've got to go back to work.'" By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-09-2007, 07:34 PM
08/08/2007 8:56 PM ET
Notes: Chipper knows era faces heat
With homer record now Bonds', tough questions remain

NEW YORK -- As soon as Barry Bonds belted his record-breaking 756th homer late Tuesday night, Chipper Jones felt goose bumps and thought about how he'll one day tell his kids and grandchildren about the emotions he felt while watching this historic moment in the confines of his Manhattan hotel room.
Unfortunately, Jones also quickly came to the conclusion that these conversations won't be as innocent as the ones he and his father shared while talking about the night Hank Aaron became baseball's home run king. These kids are likely going to what to know about the steroid era and why Bonds was considered its central figure.

"It's unfortunate for the game that there is such a cloud hanging over [Bonds]," Jones said. "Hopefully, everything will come out in the open and Barry will be cleared. Then we can all say Barry is the true home run champ and that there's no asterisk and nothing tainting it.

"There's nothing any of ballplayers would want more than him to be cleared. I'm playing in the steroid era. Everything that I do is going to be judged. It's the same with a lot of good ballplayers."

Even if Bonds defies common belief and somehow escapes proof that he ever used steroids or any similar illegal performance-enhancing substances, Jones knows simply playing with an era that encompasses the past 20 years creates the likelihood that his statistics will be among the many that are scrutinized.

While Bonds is the poster boy of the era, he's not among the group of players at both the Minor League and Major League levels who have tested positive. With this in mind, Jones is among the many who have given more credence to the rampant performance-enhancing allegations that Jose Canseco made in his 2005 book entitled "Juiced."

"There have been a lot of validations to what Jose Canseco has said over the years," Jones said. "At first when he came out, people didn't want to give him a lot of credit for it. But a lot of it has been proven true. Now when he opens his mouth, people listen."

Both Jones and Braves teammate Andruw Jones believe simply playing in this era will force Alex Rodriguez to encounter some finger-pointing if and when he makes his expected march toward Bonds' homer record.

"People want to see records broke -- and on the other hand, they don't -- because nobody thinks anything is legit anymore," Andruw Jones said.

Both Jones boys said they have no reason to believe A-Rod has used performance-enhancing substances. As for Bonds, Chipper says he's going to allow everything to play out before declaring a definitive belief.

"I'm going to reserve judgment," Jones said. "I will say that Barry Bonds is the best player I've ever seen put on a baseball uniform. Do I think he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Yes, cloud or no cloud."

A.J. dropped to seventh: With right-hander Orlando Hernandez starting for the Mets on Wednesday night, Braves manager Bobby Cox loaded the top of his lineup with left-handed bats and put Jeff Francoeur's hot bat ahead of Andruw Jones' inconsistent one.

Francoeur, who entered Wednesday hitting .386 in his previous 35 games, batted sixth, and Jones, who is hitting .239 since the All-Star break and .217 on the season, was put in the seventh position -- marking just the second time this season that he's hit this low in the batting order.

Although he managed to collect a hit in four at-bats in Tuesday night's series-opening win over the Mets, Jones says his left elbow still was bothering him and that he expects it to be a problem throughout the rest of the season. The Gold Glove outfielder received a cortisone shot in the elbow late Friday night and has since realized minimal relief.

Frenchy's on fire: With his third four-hit game of the season on Tuesday night, Francoeur raised his batting average to .310, which is 50 points higher than the mark he posted last year. The 23-year-old right fielder entered Wednesday with 17 multi-hit games in his past 35 games. He totaled just 23 in his first 78 games this year.

Hampton throwing: Mike Hampton, who is missing a second consecutive season while recovering from left elbow surgery, accompanied the Braves to New York to continue a throwing program that began Monday. For the rest of the month, the 34-year-old hurler will throw on flat ground on an every-other-day basis and then possibly begin throwing bullpen sessions in September.

Hampton hopes to be able to pitch in the instructional league and then possibly prepare for next season with work in winter beague. Despite all of his recent injury woes, the veteran southpaw plans to continue playing after his current contract expires following the 2008 season. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-10-2007, 06:53 PM
Bob Wickman-R- Braves Aug. 10 - 6:51 pm et

An MRI showed no damage in Bob Wickman's forearm. He showed up at the park Friday and told manager Bobby Cox he was ready to close.

Cox said he'd be willing to use him in a save situation. Keep him active for now. rotoworld

08-10-2007, 07:12 PM
I don't have the article, but Dotel is on the DL.

08-10-2007, 07:16 PM
I don't have the article, but Dotel is on the DL.

Wickman cleared to pitch vs. Phillies
Closer rejoins team after good news on MRI tests

Philadelphia — Braves closer Bob Wickman was ready to pitch Friday night after tests on his sore forearm revealed no structural damage and only mild inflammation.

Although they avoided putting Wickman on the disabled list, the Braves still activated rookie right-hander Manny Acosta and put newly acquired reliever Octavio Dotel on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

Wickman had an MRI exam in New York on Thursday and a CT scan on Friday in Philadelphia, and both tests came back negative — which was actually quite positive, in layman's terms.

"It's good, it clears my mind up," said Wickman, who wanted to have the tests to make sure there was nothing wrong with his forearm or elbow that might worsen if he continued to pitch. "I'm 38 — you never know."

The right-hander had ligament-transplant elbow surgery in December 2002 with Cleveland, which kept him on the disabled list nearly 1 1/2 seasons.

After getting the good medical report, Wickman told manager Bobby Cox he was ready to pitch in Friday night's series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"No sense sitting out another game," he said. "I feel bad about missing one [Thursday]."

Wickman wasn't available to pitch in Thursday's 7-6 win against the Mets in the series finale at New York, but the Braves didn't say anything about his forearm or his being unavailable until after the game. That's when Cox announced that Wickman would return to Atlanta for an examination.

The team never said Wickman actually had the MRI exam in New York on Thursday. He had been scheduled to fly from Philadelphia to Atlanta on Thursday night to be further examined by a Braves doctor, but that flight was canceled because of storms in the Northeast.

Cox said all flights to Atlanta were sold out Friday morning, so the Braves scrambled to set up the CT scan at a Philadelphia hospital.

Wickman arrived at the ballpark at around 5 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. game, met with Braves trainer Jeff Porter, and then told Cox he was ready to pitch.

Wickman said the stiffness or soreness in his forearm is something he can continue to pitch with, and that it should be manageable through additional massage and other maintenance, including light throwing on days he doesn't pitch.

Wickman came to Atlanta in a trade with Cleveland on July 20, 2006, and posted a 2.76 ERA while converting 36 of 42 save opportunities in 72 games over two seasons for the Braves before Friday.

He is 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA and 18-for-23 in saves this season, including an 0.96 ERA in his past 10 appearances before Friday.

Cox said if Wickman wasn't able to close, the Braves were prepared to use any of three relievers in the role — Rafael Soriano and Australian sidearmer Peter Moylan.By DAVID O'BRIEN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08-10-2007, 07:26 PM
Ready for another key series? Better be

I would say it’s out of the frying pan and into the fryer for the Braves, but that would be a hackneyed cliché and we don’t use those here.

So let’s just say, they go from one very tense and important series at Shea Stadium to another big series here in Philly at the bandbox of a new park where the Phillies flat-out rake.

This is a series of the hottest-hitting teams in the NL, the Braves leading the league with a .307 average since the All-Star break, the Phillies second at .303.

They are also the top two in the league since the break in OBP (.391 Phils, .371 Braves), in doubles (65 for each team), and runs (169 for the Phils, 163 for the Braves).

But the Braves have taken it to another level lately, batting .344 with 18 homers and 80 runs during their current 7-3 run. This surge came on the heels of a 4-9 skid in which they hit .277 with just seven homers.

With Mark Teixeira added to an already-strong lineup, I can’t see the Braves having many more 13-game offensive slumbers like that. And it’s a good thing, because this bullpen can’t seem to get in synch, can’t seem to get more than a couple of guys going well at once.

And with Bob Wickman having an MRI today in Atlanta (we should know the results by late this afternoon), there exists the potential for more disruptions. To me, it’s time to make Moylan one of the two key guys at the back, in a setup and even a closer capacity. But I still doubt we’ll see him closing, when they’ve got Octavio Dotel with closer experience and all.

But Moylan’s been their most effective reliever, and how’d you like to have a guy with these stats closing for you: In his past 50 games, he has a 1.44 ERA and .183 opponents’ average, with 39 hits, four homers, 21 walks and 43 strikeouts in 62-1/3 innings. Not a ton of strikeouts, but that’s not what he relies on most of the time. He gets loads of groundouts.

While I’m thinking about it, let me offer what has to be one of the most shocking and impressive stats of this season: Philly’s Ryan Howard has 65 RBIs in road games. SIXTY-FIVE!

Magglio Ordonez leads the Al with 53, and no one else in the majors has more than 46 road RBIs. And Phillies stud Howard has 65. That’s astounding, to me.

So those who’d try to minimize his accomplishments by saying his ballpark’s a big reason he’s put up huge numbers, give it a rest. Howard leads the majors with 19 road homers, and no one else has more than 16.

Fact is, he’s hitting .228 with 13 homers and just 28 RBIs in 44 games at Citizens Bank Park, with 63 strikeouts in 158 at-bats.

In 52 road games, Howard is hitting .306 with 19 homers, 65 RBIs and 71 strikeouts in 193 at-bats.

OK, enough about Ryan Howard.

Besides, the real Philly shocker is Pat Burrell, who I’ve made fun of in the past. Pat “The Bat” is finally living up to his nickname, and he’s probably the hottest hitter in the majors right now.

He’s only at .265 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs for the season. But in July and August, he’s an otherworldly 39-for-98 (.398) with nine homers, 26 RBIs and more walks (27) than strikeouts (24) in 32 games.

He hit .435 with a .564 OBP and .768 slugging percentage in July, and already has 81 walks (and a .419 OBP) for the season. Where in the world has this been for the past couple of seasons?

Is there anything more boring and inconsequential in our lives than the Beckham-entered-in-the-72nd minute updates from ESPN? I don’t care. Do. Not. Care. How many are with me on that?

I’ll take the 1080s on skateboards and double-back flips on motorcycles over Beckham news, any day of the week.

Couple more hitting stats: Braves lead the NL with a .292 average with runners in scoring position, and it’s not even close. Dodgers are next at .277, Cubs at .276. Atlanta also has league-bests .377 OBP and .462 slugging with runners in scoring position.

Braves have a .287 road average, second in the majors to Detroit’s .290.

Braves are middle-of-the-pack in pitching, their bullpen ranked seventh in the NL with a 3.80 ERA and now up to 13 blown saves in 43 opps, after totaling only seven blown saves before the break.

The starters are seventh in the NL with a 4.34 ERA.

However, Braves are third in the NL in overall ERA since the break, at 3.75, just ahead of the Cubs (3.86), Mets (3.88) and D-backs (3.88).

If Lance Cormier must start again, then couldn’t ask for a much easier matchup in Saturday’s game. He’ll face Adam Eaton, who’s 2-3 with a 7.35 ERA and .335 opponents’ average in his past nine starts. Eaton has one win and a 6.54 ERA in his past six home starts, with 24 hits and four homers in 16-1/3 innings over his past three.

He’s 3-2 in seven starts vs. the Braves, and 1-1 with a 9.28 ERA in two this season.

Of course, this will only be Cormier’s third start, and first since getting shelled for 13 runs and seven homers in 7-2/3 innings of two in June against the Cubs. Oy.The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08-10-2007, 07:38 PM
Thank you Brave Kid. Just didn't think about getting it.

08-11-2007, 05:00 PM
This was before the first game of the phiilies series

Before the game, Jones was asked about his sore left elbow. "Not good," he said. Does it hurt when he swings? "Every time," he said. "I can't swing."ajc

If AJ is suffering so much pain, then why the hell are we leaving him out there?? DL him, or sit him, HE IS DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD!!, can't you see that Cox??? When you hear "I can't swing" b/c of pain that is an automatic trip to the DL. Can somebody help me out here?

08-11-2007, 05:01 PM
Octavio Dotel says his shoulder injury isn't serious and he hopes to return from the disabled list the first day he is eligible.

"It's not like my rotator cuff or anything, nothing serious like a shoulder or elbow," said Dotel. "This injury isn't to be worried about, not anything dangerous." Dotel will rest his shoulder by not throwing for a few days.


08-11-2007, 05:01 PM
Andruw Jones went 0-for-4 on Friday and is 2-for-16 since returning from a sore left elbow.

Each time it looks like Andruw has finally it around, he seems to fall back into bad habits again. It might be injury related this time, but that doesn't make it any less annoying for his fantasy owners.


08-11-2007, 10:32 PM
Notes: Andruw playing through pain
Center fielder dealing wth sore left elbow, but stays in lineup
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Braves return to Atlanta, Andruw Jones may request to have his ailing left elbow evaluated via an MRI exam. But because of the importance of the final two games of the current series against the Phillies, he has no immediate plans to take himself out of the lineup.
"It still hurts," Jones said of the elbow that he hyperextended while reaching over the outfield wall to rob a homer on May 27. "It's not going to go away until I get about two months of rest [in the offseason]."

Despite the fact that Jones had hit just .181 (13-for-72) in his previous 19 games entering Saturday, Braves manager Bobby Cox has provided no indication that he plans to rest the Gold Glove outfielder for even a brief period.

In fairness, Jones' struggles began long before he suffered the elbow ailment. Since the beginning of May, he's hit just .201. The only other Major Leaguer who has compiled at least 300 plate appearances during that span and collected a lower average is the Padres' Marcus Giles, with a .189 mark.

This week, Cox has attempted to hide Jones' offensive deficiencies, which extend beyond his .213 batting average. Over the course of the past four games, including Saturday night's, Jones has batted sixth against left-handed starters and seventh against right-handed starters.

With Jones moved toward the bottom of the lineup, the Braves might be able to capitalize on more run-scoring opportunities. Entering Saturday, he'd hit a team-worst .221 in the team-high 136 at-bats he'd had with runners in scoring position.

"It's been hurting me now for a while, but it's been affecting me more over the past month," said Jones, who served as the Braves primary cleanup hitter until Mark Teixeira's arrival. "It's one of those things you try to deal with."

When Jones received a cortisone shot on Aug. 3 and then missed the final two games of last weekend's series against the Rockies, there was hope that he'd find some relief and be able to produce during this current road trip against the Mets and Phillies.

Instead, he experienced only some initial numbness in the elbow and further frustration at the plate. Through his first 20 at-bats on this trip, he'd recorded just two hits and continued to leave runners stranded in clutch situations.

Jones grounded into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded on Wednesday night against Mets closer Billy Wagner, and on Friday, he left Jeff Francoeur stranded at second base with a weak grounder back to Phillies reliever Antonio Alfonseca.

"When you reach, that's when it hurts," Jones said. "You can't get much extension."

When Jones hit .385 with five homers during a 10-game stretch from July 6-19, he struck out just three times. In the miserable 19-game stretch that has followed, the .181 batting average he's produced has included 18 strikeouts.

"When I swing and miss, [my elbow] hurts," Jones said. "I just was making good contact [during the hot streak]."

Soriano remains confident: Over the past few weeks, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell has instructed Rafael Soriano to compare the mechanics he displayed during the first 10 weeks of the season to those that he's shown over the past two months.

"It's just something small," Soriano said of the mechanical differences he's seen. "It's not a big deal."

In the 28 2/3 innings he compiled during his first 29 appearances of this season, Soriano posted a 2.20 ERA, surrendered two homers and converted each of his five save opportunities. Opponents hit .115 against him with a .229 slugging percentage and .167 on-base percentage.

In the 23 innings that he's completed in the 24 appearances that have followed, Soriano has posted a 5.87 ERA, surrendered eight homers, suffered three losses and blown each of his three save opportunities. Opponents have hit .290 against him with a .581 slugging percentage and .333 on-base percentage.

Moyer oddities: When Sunday's scheduled starter, Jamie Moyer, beat the Braves on May 25, it marked the 44-year-old southpaw's first win against them since May 23, 1987. It was determined the nearly exactly 20-year span between wins against a specific organization was the longest in Major League history.

Moyer has made eight career starts against the Braves and just four of those have come since 1988. Still, when Chipper Jones steps to the plate in Sunday's first inning, it will mark the first time that he's faced the veteran hurler.

As for Braves utility infielder Martin Prado, he's already 4-for-9 against Moyer in a big league career that includes just 17 hits and 73 at-bats. His lone homer and three of the nine career RBIs he's totaled have come against the crafty lefty.MLB.com

08-13-2007, 09:12 PM
Mailbag: What's wrong with Soriano?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

What is happening with Rafael Soriano? Every time he pitches they're hitting him hard, and he has already allowed 11 home runs this season. If it's fatigue, why does manager Bobby Cox keep using him?
-- Tomas M., Cartegena, Colo.
Let's get this part out of the way: If I really knew why Soriano was serving up homers as frequently as he used to record perfect innings, I'd be doing something other than answering this question. But seeing how Cox still hasn't offered me a spot on his coaching staff, I'll gladly try to explain why I believe many of you have recently had Dan Kolb flashbacks every time Soriano enters the game.

First of all, let's remove fatigue as a potential culprit. With Soriano having already made a career-high 54 appearances, it's logical to wonder if he's feeling tired. But his fastball has still been consistently clocked around 96 mph, and the worst of his two-month struggles have come since he had the opportunity to gain five days' rest with the help of the All-Star break.

In the 4 1/3 innings he completed in his first five appearances after the break, Soriano surrendered six earned runs and eight hits, including three homers. He worked back-to-back days just once in that nine-day span.

With the reason he provides regarding about most every struggling pitcher, Cox says Soriano's problems are a matter of bad location. As for pitching coach Roger McDowell, he says the mechanical issues the right-hander was struggling with about a month ago have been fixed, and he's recently seen improvement with pitch quality.

Unfortunately, this still hasn't prevented Soriano from surrendering homers in both of his past two outings. Nine of the 19 homers the right-hander has surrendered in 181 2/3 innings as a reliever have come in the 24 innings that he's completed in his past 25 appearances.

McDowell brings up the reminder that power pitchers like Soriano can be doomed by the power that their live arms can generate. With this in mind, there was a 25-game stretch last year (May 3-July 4) during which Soriano also proved susceptible to the long ball. But the five homers and .237 batting average he surrendered during that span are Cy Young-like statistics compared to the ones he's currently compiling.

Along with the nine homers he's surrendered in his past 25 appearances, Soriano has also seen opponents hit .289 with a .598 slugging percentage. How can this happen to a reliever, who in his first 29 appearances this year, limited opponents to a .115 batting average and two homers?

Oh yeah, I forgot I'm the one answering the question. Thus, I propose that some of his early season dominance could have stemmed from the fact that he was facing National League opponents who weren't familiar with his live fastball and nasty slider. Unfamiliarity might have been the reason he managed to limit opponents to a .162 batting average and two homers in the 53 innings he completed in 2003 -- his first full one as a reliever in the Majors.


08-13-2007, 09:14 PM
Franco to join Rome on Thursday
Veteran could celebrate 49th birthday while with Class A team
Rome Braves

Rome, GA -- The Rome Braves announce that Atlanta Braves star Julio Franco will join the team beginning Thursday, August 16th. The 48-year-old first baseman cleared waivers and accepted a Minor League assignment with Rome, with an agreement the Braves would bring him back to the Majors by Sept. 1. That's when rosters can be expanded for the season's final month. The veteran first baseman will celebrate his 49th birthday Aug. 23rd.
"It's an honor to have someone with his experience and tenure joining our team," says Rome General Manager Michael Dunn. Franco is expected to be with Rome through Saturday and possibly longer.

Rome continues their road trip in Greensboro tonight. The Braves return home on Thursday August 16 to play the Greenville Drive. atlanta braves.com

08-14-2007, 10:58 PM
Notes: Hudson having Cy-worthy season
X-ray shows no damage in Andruw's elbow; Aybar shut down

ATLANTA -- It's been nine years since a Braves pitcher has won a National League Cy Young Award. But if Tim Hudson continues to pitch like he has the past six weeks, he'll be in position to potentially end this drought.
While it might be too early to project postseason awards, Hudson has certainly already given the Braves reason to be happy about the fact that he'll be in Atlanta for at least another two seasons. Last year, they were just wondering how long it would take for him to once again resemble the dominant pitcher they envisioned when they acquired him from Oakland before the 2005 season.

"He's been on [a roll] all year," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who will watch Hudson bid to win an eighth consecutive decision in Wednesday night's game against the Giants.

With his victorious effort against the Mets on Thursday, Hudson won a seventh consecutive decision for the sixth time in his career and first since 2003. Over the course of his past nine starts, the veteran right-hander has gone 7-0 with a 2.26 ERA and seen opponents hit just .259 against him.

While impressive, this current roll isn't the best one he's ever experienced. During his final seven starts of the 2000 season, he went 7-0 with a 1.63 ERA and limited opponents to a .116 batting average.

"Yeah, but that was back when I was good," said Hudson, while wearing the confident smile that he's deservedly displayed on a consistent basis this year.

While going 13-12 with a career-worst 4.86 ERA last year, Hudson was everything but good. Opponents hit .273 against him and compiled a .340 on-base percentage that was aided by the 79 walks that he issued. In addition, he surrendered a career-high 25 homers.

During the offseason, Hudson proclaimed things would be different this year, and he's certainly lived up to the hype. Opponents have hit just .248 against him and reached base at a .296 clip, a number that has been improved by the fact that he's issued just 38 walks. In addition, he joins Brad Penny and Chris Young as the only Major Leaguers who have completed at least 100 innings and surrendered just four home runs.

"He's throwing a lot of strikes with a lot of movement," Cox said.

Not too concerned: This past weekend, Andruw Jones said he might get an MRI to determine why his left elbow has bothered him for more than two months. But Tuesday afternoon, the Gold Glove outfielder indicated he likely won't be getting the MRI.

Instead, the Braves opted to X-ray the elbow before Tuesday's game, and it showed no structural damage. He's been feeling the discomfort since reaching over the outfield wall to rob a homer on May 27.

Jones, who entered Tuesday hitting just .214, played in a charity golf tournament hosted by Hudson, John Smoltz and Jeff Francoeur on Monday.

Aybar's season complete: Willy Aybar's forgettable year got worse Tuesday, when he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right hand. Aybar injured the hand while playing in the Dominican Winter League and was still battling discomfort when he arrived late for Spring Training.

But the visa problems that delayed his arrival to Braves camp were the least of the many problems Aybar has experienced this year. While he was on the disabled list in early April, the Braves learned he had a substance abuse problem. This forced him to be suspended and spend most of the past three months undergoing rehab.

Just last weekend, the Braves had cleared Aybar to begin working out again at their Spring Training facilities at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. But with the hand still being a problem, he wasn't able to do too much.

Mixed reception: When Barry Bonds came to the plate during Tuesday night's series opener against the Giants, he heard a number of expected boos from Braves fans. But at least during his first plate appearance, there were also a number of fans who chose to applaud Bonds, who just last week broke Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, which had been set 33 years ago across the street from where this week's series is being played.By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-14-2007, 10:59 PM
08/14/2007 9:38 PM ET
Cox breaks all-time ejections record
Braves skipper tossed after fifth inning for arguing strikeout

ATLANTA -- This was one record Braves manager Bobby Cox didn't want. But it's one that he now owns courtesy of the thumb plate umpire Ted Barrett waved in his direction at Turner Field on Tuesday night.
Barrett tossed Cox for arguing a called third strike against Chipper Jones that ended the fifth inning. This was the 132nd career ejection for the Braves skipper, moving him past John McGraw to the top of Major League Baseball's all-time list.

McGraw received 14 of his ejections during his playing career. All of Cox's ejections have come while he's been a manager.By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-15-2007, 11:34 PM
Notes: Renteria likely to make road trip
Shortstop could be available to Braves on Monday vs. Reds

ATLANTA -- If Edgar Renteria's right ankle continues to heal like it has over the course of the past week, there's a chance the Braves could have him back in their lineup by the time they begin next week's road trip.
Renteria, who has been on the disabled list since suffering a high ankle sprain Aug. 2, is once again walking without much discomfort. During Tuesday night's win over the Giants, the veteran shortstop bounced up from the bench to the top of the dugout steps to dispute a close call at first base.

"He's coming along real good, better than expected," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I don't know if he can play by his [activation-eligible] date [Saturday], but shortly after that."

While Renteria likely won't be ready to play when he's eligible for activation Saturday, there's a good chance he'll return to the lineup during their four-game series that starts in Cincinnati on Monday.

When Renteria suffered the injury, he was in the middle of a hot streak that had improved his batting average to .336 -- a mark that ranks fifth in the National League. In the 20 games he's played since the All-Star break, the 32-year-old shortstop has hit .398 with a .511 slugging percentage and a .424 on-base percentage.

Entering Wednesday night's game against the Giants, the Braves had managed to win six of the 10 games that they'd played in Renteria's absence. Some of the offensive slack has been picked up by Yunel Escobar, who has hit .333 during his 10-game span as the everyday shortstop.

While he's occasionally shown some inexperience defensively, the 24-year-old Escobar has also shown flashes of great athleticism. During the ninth inning of Tuesday's win, while playing on the infield grass, he dove to his left to remarkably snare a Dave Roberts sharp grounder that had seemed destined to be an RBI single.

The defensive gem simply put a cap on a grand evening for the Cuban shortstop, who also enjoyed his third four-hit game of the season. Escobar, who made his Major League debut June 2, is just one of four Major League rookies to have had at least three four-hit games this year.

When Renteria returns, Escobar and Kelly Johnson will once again platoon at second base.

Julio ready for Rome: When the Braves designated him for assignment Aug. 1, Julio Franco didn't contemplate retirement. Instead, the veteran first baseman, who will celebrate his 49th birthday Aug. 23, says he remained confident that he'd have another opportunity to prove he can still prove to be a benefit at the Major League level.

"I've always said that when I can't perform [in the Majors], it will be time to leave," Franco said after working out at Turner Field on Wednesday afternoon. "I think that I can still perform up here."

Before being added to the Atlanta roster in September, Franco will spend the next two weeks playing for Class A Rome and Triple-A Richmond. He's planning to begin playing for Rome on Thursday night and will remain with the club through Sunday.

After taking a few days off, Franco plans to play for Richmond during a six-game homestand that begins Aug. 25.

"I can do this," Franco said. "I can wait. I can play in the Minor Leagues for about 15 days and then come back up in September. ... I'm going there to play ball. I'm going to go there, stay fresh and try to help them win."

When the Braves claimed Franco off waivers in July after he'd been released by the Mets, they believed he could still prove beneficial while playing on a regular basis. This theory was strengthened when he hit .333 during the seven games he played before being designated by Atlanta.

With Mark Teixeira in place, Franco won't have the chance to play on an everyday basis. But Cox believes the ageless wonder can still be a weapon if used on a regular basis as a pinch-hitter.

Braves bits: Right-handed reliever Tanyon Sturtze, who is attempting to come back from shoulder surgery, allowed a hit and issued a walk in a scoreless inning for Richmond on Tuesday night. Cox said he hadn't received a report indicating whether Sturtze had made any progress. ... Richmond manager Dave Brundage told The Richmond Times-Dispatch that he's informed the Braves he's no longer interested in become the University of Oregon's head baseball coach.
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-15-2007, 11:38 PM
Escobar relishes his chance to play

For a rookie who has been in the majors less than three months, Yunel Escobar is one cool customer under pressure.

Plenty of 10-year veterans lack the poise displayed by the Braves infielder, whose 4-for-4 game Tuesday included a tying two-run double in a 5-4 win against San Francisco. It was Escobar's third four-hit game in 56 in the majors.

"He shows up to play, and he knows he can play," hitting coach Terry Pendleton said of the Cuban, whose .330 average entering Wednesday included .436 (17-for-39) with runners in scoring position — best among Braves in 10 or more at-bats.

Escobar was 7-for-16 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

"I just get really focused in those situations," Escobar said through an interpreter, pitcher Octavio Dotel. "When runners in scoring position, the team really needs hits. I know I've got to bring those guys in.

"The fact that I came from Cuba, and played a kind of professional baseball over there, made me a little more relaxed [than some rookies]. I'm used to it."

Escobar, 24, played in a second-base platoon with Kelly Johnson before moving to shortstop to fill in for Edgar Renteria when the veteran sprained an ankle Aug. 2 and went on the 15-day disabled list.

Renteria has had a reputation for clutch hits since his Game 7-winning hit for the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series. Escobar is developing one.

"He's got confidence in his ability to get the job done, and it shows on the field," Pendleton said when asked about Escobar's penchant for big hits. "He can do that. Kid like that lives for that. He's got that cocky confidence."

Pendleton said there's a difference between saying you want to be up with the game on the line and meaning it.

"Some will say they do, but [Escobar] does," he said. "That's what he shows up for, every day, to be the guy on the spot. He's a gamer."By DAVID O'BRIEN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08-16-2007, 09:50 PM
Notes: Chipper thinking of Wild Card
Cox praises Wickman; Renteria close to returning

ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones still has aspirations to celebrate a division title with his teammates this year. But while taking things one step at a time, the Braves veteran third baseman currently has his eyes on the Wild Card race.
Entering Thursday night's series finale against the Giants, the Braves trailed the first-place Mets by 3 1/2 games in the National League East race. But they were just a half-game behind the front-running San Diego Padres for the NL Wild Card.

"We've got our eye on San Diego right now," Jones said. "We'll worry about the Mets a little later. We just need to keep going out and playing solid."

While winning 26 of their past 44 games, the Braves have encountered a streak that matches the one they experienced at the beginning of the year. At 26-18 at the close of play on May 20, they trailed the Mets by 2 1/2 games and owned a two-game lead in the Wild Card race.

Their low point of the season came over the course of their next 32 games, during which a 12-20 mark dropped them 4 1/2 games behind the Mets and 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the NL East race. They also had fallen five games back in the Wild Card race.

Over the course of the 44 games that have followed, the Braves have spent 14 days, including seven of the past 14, in third place in the division standings. In addition, the closest they've gotten to the Mets during this span was 1 1/2 games, and they haven't been that close since July 16.

"We've been back and forth with Philly quite a bit over the last week or two," Jones said. "We just need to keep throwing up wins, keep the pressure on them and get some separation on them. We've got to keep our eye on San Diego and keep forcing them to win. Eventually, we'll get there if we keep winning ballgames."

Wick impressing Cox: Although he blew a save opportunity for the second time in his past six opportunities Tuesday night, closer Bob Wickman has garnered plenty of recent praise from Braves manager Bobby Cox.

"He's pitched great," Cox said. "His stuff is good."

As the numbers prove, the stuff Wickman has utilized since joining the Braves has provided results very similar to the ones he experienced during his career-best 45-save season with the Indians in 2005.

In the 75 appearances Wickman has made for the Braves, he's seen opponents compile a .250 batting average and .308 on-base percentage. In the 64 appearances he made in 2005, opponents batted .247 and reached base at a .310 clip.

Actually there's ability to argue that Wickman has had even better stuff in Atlanta than he did during his career-best season. In the 68 1/3 innings he's completed for the Braves, he's registered 59 strikeouts, issued 21 walks and surrendered just four homers.

In the 62 innings he completed in 2005, the big right-hander registered 41 strikeouts, issued 21 walks and allowed nine homers.

Until Tuesday night, Wickman still hadn't allowed an earned run at Turner Field this year. In 23 home appearances, he's worked 21 2/3 innings and posted a 0.42 ERA. Opponents have hit .167 against him and produced a .253 on-base percentage.

"I don't know how much better you can get," Cox said. "That's pretty amazing."

What makes this more amazing is the fact that Wickman has posted a 7.53 ERA in the 20 2/3 innings he's completed on the road this year. In the process, opponents have hit .340 and reached base at a .415 clip.

Renteria nearing return: Edgar Renteria did some light jogging in the outfield Thursday morning and could be back in the Braves lineup early next week. Over the next few days, he'll further test his sprained right ankle with some baseball-specific activities.

Heyward's impressive debut: It didn't take Jason Heyward long to prove why some believe he'll become one of the game's premier power hitters. Making his professional debut for the Gulf Coast League Braves on Thursday afternoon, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound, 18-year-old outfielder drilled an opposite-field homer that traveled an estimated 400 feet. It came during his third plate appearance.

Heyward, the 14th overall selection in this year's Draft, agreed to a $1.7 million signing bonus Sunday.

Hudson OK: After winning his eighth straight decision with an eight-inning effort Wednesday, Tim Hudson indicated that the Russ Ortiz second-inning comebacker he took off his shin didn't do any damage. In fact, he joked that his 2-year-old son Kade has hit him harder.

When Hudson returned to the stadium Thursday, he admitted that he was a little sore. With his regular array of sinkers, the right-hander is susceptible to such comebackers. This led one of his teammates to playfully leave some small shin guards in his locker.

"He's as tough as they come," Cox said of Hudson. "He and [Greg] Maddux probably have gotten hit more than any other pitcher I've ever had because they sink the ball and get ground balls."By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-16-2007, 09:54 PM
Final Justice

The Braves are holding a luncheon tommorow to honor David Justice. He'll be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame. It'll be at the 755 club at Turner Field. Tickets are $100. The time of the luncheon is at 11:30 after the silent auction at 10:45.

David Justice was drafted in 1985 by then GM Bobby Cox. He was a fourth round pick who played with the Braves from 1989 to 1996. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1990. He hit the game winning homer (in the 6th) in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. That was the clincher for the Braves, as they beat the Indians in that game 1-0. Glavine also pitched wonderfully in that game. He also played with the New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Cleveland Indians, and the New York Mets. "I've played with many teams before, but I'm a Brave, first and foremost," Justice said.

The Cincinnati Native will be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall Of Fame next year. He is now a broadcaster for the New York Yankees on the YES network and also the host of Kids on Deck. He used to call games for ESPN. He played his last season with the Oakland Athletics in 2002. Congrats David! Hope you enjoy your moment!

Posted by: Corey Bishop

---- My Blog, Blabberin Braves

08-17-2007, 10:52 PM
Notes: Diaz patiently awaiting chance
Part-time left fielder sits due to club facing glut of right-handers

ATLANTA -- It's been five days since the Braves last faced a left-handed starter, but for part-time left fielder Matt Diaz, it feels like an eternity.
Diaz, who starts against left-handed pitchers, didn't start a game during the recently completed three-game series with the Giants. With Arizona sending three right-handed starters to the mound in the weekend series at Turner Field, there's a good chance that Diaz won't get significant playing time until next week.

In the first two games of a three-game set with Cincinnati, the Reds are scheduled to start lefties Phil Dumatrait and Bobby Livingston. The Braves used the same lineup, which doesn't include Diaz, for the fourth straight game on Friday against the Diamondbacks.

"This was a common occurrence last year," Diaz said. "This year, I've been fortunate that we've been playing a lot of lefties and I've been getting to play a lot. It seems like it's been a while, but you can't really complain."

Diaz had 297 at-bats with the Braves last season in 124 games. This year, he's collected 254 at-bats in 100 games, thanks in part to the dependence manager Bobby Cox has on Diaz to be the first hitter off the bench.

Willie Harris, who starts against right-handers, will be in left field for the fourth consecutive game, a mark that Harris has reached four times this season. Diaz has started more than three games in a row twice.

The stretch as a reserve comes at an inopportune time for Diaz, who has been a hot hitter all season but was enjoying a particularly good stretch. He's had a hit in each of the last eight games in which he's had at least three at-bats and he recently hit four home runs in a 22 at-bat stretch.

Earlier this month, Diaz started two games against right-handed starters when Andruw Jones was nursing a sore elbow.

"I had gotten to play a lot before, with [Jones] getting some days off with his elbow," Diaz said. "That was great -- that's what got me on the hot streak, was getting to play every day for a while."

Adding to Diaz's value is that he's proven his ability as a pinch-hitter. That's important, because Atlanta's bench isn't as potent with shortstop Edgar Renteria on the disabled list, which has forced rookie Yunel Escobar into an everyday role.

Diaz has shown his ability to hit right-handers, boasting a .333 average against them in 108 at-bats. He has 13 pinch-hits in 38 at-bats this season.

"I pride myself on the fact that I've made the adjustment to not being an everyday player," Diaz said. "Mentally, I'm ready to pinch-hit every day and against lefties I'm ready to play every day. Hopefully it won't be a downturn when I do get to start again."

Renteria closer: Renteria, who sprained his ankle while bending back to field a line drive on Aug. 2, is eligible to return from the disabled list on Saturday. That won't happen, but Renteria could and probably will return early next week.

Renteria did some light jogging on Friday and took batting practice indoors, but Cox said there are still hurdles that Renteria has to clear before returning to the lineup.

"Run the bases, batting practice, going in the hole at short," Cox said when discussing Renteria's current limitations. "He's getting close, though, he's right on target. [Initially] we thought it was going to take six weeks, maybe four. Now, three would be probably long."

A part of history: Former Atlanta catcher Eddie Perez, now the Braves' bullpen catcher, found himself with a major piece of baseball memorabilia on Wednesday.

When Barry Bonds hit his 759th career homer at Turner Field, a security official retrieved the ball when it landed between the fence and the first row of seats. He quickly tossed it to an unsuspecting Perez, who was hounded by fans to give up the ball.

"Everybody started offering money for that ball," Perez said. "'I'll give you $5,000, I'll give you this, I'll give you that.' So I just put it in my pocket."

The security guard, possibly seeing dollar signs, decided he wanted the ball back. Perez would have obliged, but he found out Bonds wanted the ball back, so he gave it to a bat boy, who sent it to the Giants' clubhouse.

"If he didn't want it, I probably would have given it back to security," Perez said. "But [Bonds] wanted it, so I wanted to make sure he got it."

Franc-Who?-r: Right fielder Jeff Francoeur got in a hurry when heading to the field before Thursday's game, and he hastily grabbed one of the jerseys hanging in his locker.

But he grabbed the wrong one and played the first few innings of the game with a jersey that read F-R-A-N-C-O-U-E-R.

"They had an extra one back there, and I guess that's why it was back there, because it was misspelled," Francoeur said. "I guess after my second time up they came down and told me to change it."

With such a difficult name to spell, Francoeur said many people believed they had been misspelling it, and that the version of his name on Friday night's jersey was the correct one.

"I think that's what a lot of people thought," Francoeur said. "I finally had to tell them that it was my fault." By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

08-18-2007, 10:58 PM
Notes: Renteria's return uncertain
Shortstop feels discomfort when testing injured ankle

ATLANTA -- Braves manager Bobby Cox doesn't know exactly when Edgar Renteria will return to his lineup. But it seems any hopes of the veteran shortstop returning within the next couple of days have been dashed.
While testing his sprained right ankle on Friday afternoon with lateral movements, Renteria experienced some discomfort. Though he was eligible for activation on Saturday, the Braves were pegging Monday as the best-case scenario for his return.

"He's definitely not going to be ready in the next couple of days," Cox said before Saturday night's game against the Diamondbacks at Turner Field.

When Renteria sprained the ankle while fielding a bad hop on Aug. 2, the Braves initially feared that he could miss a month. Rapid progress enhanced their hopes last week. But while doing figure-eight drills in the outfield on Friday morning, the shortstop realized he hadn't returned to full health.

"[He] felt OK, nothing good," Cox said in reference to Renteria, who is hitting .336 on the season and .398 (35-for-88) since the All-Star break.

As long as Renteria remains sidelined, Yunel Escobar will continue to serve as the Braves starting shortstop. While he has proven to be an asset both offensively and defensively, Escobar can't bring the same intimidating factors that Renteria adds to the Braves lineup.

In the first 13 games he's played in place of Renteria, Escobar has hit .271 with a .294 on-base percentage. The 24 year-old rookie, who debuted on June 2, made two costly errors -- one that was mental and the other caused by aggression -- that led to the two losses in last weekend's series in Philadelphia.

But when asked to grade how Escobar has performed in Renteria's absence, Chipper Jones gave his rookie teammate an "A-plus."

"He's been outstanding," Jones said. "He's swung the bat great and played really good defense."

Chipper says don't discount NL: Before this season began, Jones thought that the Braves would need to win 90 games to at least gain postseason entry via the Wild Card. As the current pace, the National League's Wild Card entrant would only need to record 87 wins.

Entering Saturday's action, the Braves trailed the first-place Mets by 4 1/2 games in the NL East race. But they were just 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies and Padres, who are tied for the lead in a crowded Wild Card race.

There are currently six teams within 3 1/2 games of the NL Wild Card lead and the Diamondbacks are the only NL team on pace to record more than 92 wins this season.

"There are some teams that are mediocre," Jones said. "But the [National] League isn't mediocre. The league has got a lot of parity. There are a lot of teams that are pretty evenly matched."

In the American League, where there are just three teams within three games of the Wild Card lead, there's more disparity between the top-level and bottom level teams. But because there isn't currently one clear-cut favorite to win the pennant, it can be argued that the Junior Circuit also contains good parity.

The Red Sox and Angels are the only AL teams on pace to record at least 95 wins. The Mariners, who lead the Wild Card race, are on pace for 91 wins.

"The American League gets a lot of the [publicity] because they have the massive offenses and the guys who throw 100 mph," Jones said. "But [the National League] can be just as good."

Cody's rebound: With his two-homer performance for Rookie Level Danville on Friday, Cody Johnson continued to show the power the Braves envisioned when they took him with their first pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Johnson, who celebrated his 19th birthday on Saturday, is hitting .288 with 14 homers and a .611 slugging percentage. He's struck out 57 times and drawn 20 walks in 218 plate appearances.

While playing in the Gulf Coast League last year, Johnson hit .184 with one homer and a .281 slugging percentage. He struck out 49 times and drew just 12 walks in 127 plate appearances.

Beating the heat: With Saturday's late-afternoon temperatures in the upper 90's, Braves manager Bobby Cox decided to have his players take their batting practice in the clubhouse's batting cages. This has been the hottest that Atlanta has been during any of the Braves' homestands this year.

"We probably should do this three or four days a week," Cox said. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

I love the kid but we need veteran leadership, we need renty. COME BACK SOON RENTY!!!:pray::pray::pray:

08-18-2007, 11:02 PM
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

I love the kid but we need veteran leadership, we need renty. COME BACK SOON RENTY!!!:pray::pray::pray:

Yeah Edgar might be that spark that we need! keep Yunel in there at 2nd a few games a week...

08-18-2007, 11:03 PM
Good finds BK!

08-18-2007, 11:10 PM
Thanks it is just for you guys.

08-18-2007, 11:16 PM
Thanks it is just for you guys.

it's for you too!

08-18-2007, 11:17 PM
you too!

We appreciate it!

08-19-2007, 04:41 PM
Smoltz sets new Braves strikeout record
Veteran righty passes Phil Niekro during Sunday's game

ATLANTA -- It might have come a pitch too late, but John Smoltz broke the Braves' all-time strikeout record in the third inning against Arizona on Sunday.
Smoltz got Mark Reynolds on a swinging strikeout for the second time for career strikeout No. 2,913, all with Atlanta. Phil Niekro struck out 2,912 with the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta in 20-plus seasons.

On the pitch before the record-breaking strikeout, the Diamondbacks executed a double steal, with Chris Young scoring from third when Atlanta catcher Brian McCann threw to second with Orlando Hudson running. Second baseman Kelly Johnson cut off the throw but was unable to nab Young at the plate.

Smoltz, who debuted with Atlanta in 1988, has 130 strikeouts this season, entering Sunday's game. With approximately seven more starts left, he could reach 200 for the sixth time in his career and first since 2005, when he fanned 211. He set a career high with 276 strikeouts in 1996, when he finished 24-8 and won the National League Cy Young Award. By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

08-19-2007, 04:43 PM
Notes: Teixeira making adjustments
First baseman learning about National League on the fly

ATLANTA -- Mark Teixeira got off to a rousing start with the Braves, but now comes the adjustment period.
As National League pitchers start to learn more about Teixeira, he has begun to struggle slightly. One hit in 13 at-bats is nothing to panic over, but it's enough to make Teixeira realize that now he has to make the adjustment back.

"Three games is three games, and we've faced some good pitchers," Teixeira said. "The whole offense could probably score a few more runs and I could definitely help."

Teixeira hit a home run in each of his first three games after being traded to Atlanta on July 31, as well as four homers in his first eight games. In the eight games since, he has just one home run and two extra-base hits, a stretch in which he has only five hits in 26 at-bats.

The switch-hitting cleanup hitter is still doing his part, though. Since coming to the Braves from the Rangers, Teixeira is hitting .246, but he has a .338 on-base percentage and a .557 slugging percentage. His presence in the lineup has improved its overall prowess, since he hits behind Chipper Jones and forces pitchers to offer Jones hittable pitches.

"That's one of my biggest jobs, is to protect [Jones] and try to get him pitches to hit," Teixeira said. "Then when he gets on base, if he doesn't drive a runner in, then hopefully I will. Our lineup does such a good job scoring runs that there's no reason to put any extra pressure on yourself."

Any slump that Teixeira endures can hardly be exploited by an opposing manager. Since Teixeira is a switch-hitter, teams can't match up pitchers in the late innings. His current stretch can hardly be called a slump, anyway -- since joining the Braves, he has reached base or driven in a run in all but one game.

With Interleague Play and players changing teams often, unfamiliarity hardly exists in baseball anymore. But Teixeira has found plenty of occasions in which he was new to a particular pitcher, and in that case, the pitcher usually has the advantage.

"When I was in the American League, I used my knowledge of the pitchers to my advantage," Teixeira said. "It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment period here, just from having not seen guys. But at the same time, if you get a pitch to hit, it's still baseball."

In a possible sign of breaking out, Teixeira hit a two-run homer in the first inning of Sunday's game.

The great outdoors: Braves shortstop Edgar Renteria took batting practice outside on Sunday for the first time since going on the disabled list with a sprained ankle on Aug. 3.

Renteria took about 40 swings while participating in two different hitting groups. He didn't hold back, looking like the typical game version of himself when he was spraying line drives across the outfield.

The biggest test for Renteria on Sunday, however, came while jogging. He has struggled with lateral movement, but ran in the outfield in a zig-zag pattern, which he also did on Friday.

"I did the same thing today and felt fine," Renteria said.

Renteria was eligible to return from the disabled list on Saturday and the Braves had targeted a return early this week, but he may be held out until Wednesday, Atlanta continues to look for improved flexibility when Renteria moves laterally in the infield.

Power pitchers: Injured Braves pitcher Mike Hampton jokingly scoffed at Arizona pitcher Micah Owings' two-homer game on Saturday, pointing out that he once had a similar game.

On June 5, 2001, Hampton hit two home runs at Coors Field as a member of the Rockies against his former team, the Houston Astros. Those were his only two hits of the game, though -- Owings also had a double, single and six RBIs.

"That was great," Hampton said. "That was really impressive."

Hampton was regarded as the best-hitting pitcher during his seasons of good health. He has 15 career home runs, including 10 in two seasons with the Rockies while playing in the ultimate hitter's park.

"I think [hitting] is something more pitchers should take seriously," Hampton said.

Sense of urgency: The Braves have had just one winning month since April and are 8-8 in August. They're 33-31 at home and have fallen behind the Mets by 5 1/2 games entering play on Sunday.

Atlanta is 2-3 on the current homestand and hasn't done better than 4-2 during a stretch of games at home since a 7-3 homestand in early May.

"We can't just keep trading wins and losses and periods of two weeks where we're 7-7 or 6-6," Jones said. "We need to start making a move, having homestands where we're going 5-1, 6-0, not 3-3 and 2-4 and 4-2." By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

08-19-2007, 04:44 PM
McCann brothers close, but a distance apart

Real good article to big to copy and paste here is the link


08-19-2007, 04:49 PM
Good find RR.

08-19-2007, 04:57 PM
Well check that out, that is what happens when you are greedy I guess..

08-19-2007, 05:28 PM
i saw that story in ESPN the magazine

08-21-2007, 02:26 AM
Notes: James scratched from start
Manager Cox gives lefty a rest; Reyes to go on Tuesday

CINCINNATI -- Over the past few months, Chuck James has searched for ways to regain his normal arm strength. While the Braves allow him to rest his inflamed left shoulder over the next week, he's hoping to find it.
While watching James surrender four homers in just three innings against the Giants on Thursday, Braves manager Bobby Cox could tell something was wrong with his 25-year-old southpaw. Thus, Cox has opted to scratch James from his scheduled start against the Reds on Tuesday and instead go with Jo-Jo Reyes.

"I just think it's in the best interest of Chuckie to miss a turn," Cox said. "Maybe skipping him, just for one start, will get him back to form. I don't think it's any serious arm problem or anything."

The Braves medical staff says James has an impingement in his left shoulder. In other words, they believe inflammation around his rotator cuff is what has caused him to often feel like he can't put any strength behind his pitches.

James, who is 9-9 with a 4.22 ERA, says he's battled this feeling at the end of some of his other professional seasons. One concern is the fact that he made reference to this feeling after his final start before the All-Star break. Although the break afforded him nine days of rest, he still hasn't regained normal comfort on a regular basis.

"I definitely think it's what needs to happen, especially since we're in this [postseason] race and all," said James, who is 1-2 with a 4.89 ERA in the seven starts he's made since the All-Star break. "Me tying to battle through it obviously isn't helping us out much."

While not picking up a baseball since Thursday's forgettable outing, James says he's felt some relief. He plans to throw a bullpen session on Thursday with the hope that he'll be able to start against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Sunday.

"Just missing one turn, I think he'll be fine," Cox said. "I don't want to disable him."

In order to make room Reyes, Cox may choose to take a position player off his active roster. The likely option would be Martin Prado, who started at second base during Monday night's series opener against the Reds to give Kelly Johnson a rest.

Reyes didn't exactly impress while posting an 8.72 ERA in the five starts he made for Atlanta this year. But in the two starts he's made since going back to Triple-A Richmond, the 22-year-old southpaw has totaled 13 innings and allowed just one unearned run. In the process, he's surrendered four hits, registered 12 strikeouts and issued two walks.

"He's getting them out easy," said Cox of Reyes, who allowed seven homers in the 21 2/3 innings he completed for Atlanta this year.

Renteria getting antsy: Before going out to field grounders during Monday's batting practice, Edgar Renteria said he felt he was healthy enough to come off the disabled list. But it seems like Cox wants to wait at least a few move days before activating his veteran shortstop.

When asked if there was a chance Renteria could return on Tuesday, Cox said, "I think that's pushing it."

Renteria, who has been out since suffering a high right ankle sprain on Aug. 2, has taken batting practice two straight days. But this was the first time he tested his lateral mobility while fielding ground balls.

Dotel realizes improvement: When Octavio Dotel wasn't able to simply play catch before the Aug. 10 game in Philadelphia, the Braves decided to put him on the disabled list. Because he was able to perform this function before Monday's game, the right-handed reliever at least gained a sense that his right shoulder is improving.

"I wasn't throwing 100 percent," said Dotel, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder. "But the fact that I was able to do it tells me that I'm feeling better."

Although he is eligible for activation on Thursday, Dotel likely won't return to the Braves bullpen mix until next week. He'll play catch again on Tuesday and then possibly test the shoulder with a bullpen session on Thursday.

Tex gives it a go: Mark Teixeira didn't exactly have a chance to celebrate Sunday afternoon's two-homer performance against the Diamondbacks. Instead, the Braves first baseman spent much of Sunday's evening hours battling a 24-hour flu.

Knowing that Teixeira had lost lots of fluids on Sunday night, Cox was planning to use Chris Woodward as his first baseman on Monday. But after consuming some Gatorade, Teixeira arrived at the stadium and said he was ready to play. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-21-2007, 10:42 PM
Notes: James placed on disabled list
Left-hander given time to rest; Renteria back on Wednesday

CINCINNATI -- While stressing that the move doesn't signal any long-term problems, manager Bobby Cox announced on Tuesday that the club has decided to place Chuck James on the 15-day disabled list. Originally, the Braves were planning to have the southpaw miss just one start, with the hope that it would give his tired left shoulder enough time to heal.
But as with many other things in baseball, plans can change on a daily basis. In regard to Edgar Renteria, this is a good thing. After watching Renteria successfully maneuver himself through the same figure-8 drills that had caused his right ankle discomfort on Friday, Cox gladly announced that he plans to have the veteran shortstop back in the lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

"He's come on fast, really, in the past few days," said Cox of Renteria, who has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain on Aug. 2.

It's not as though James' status changed much since Monday, when the Braves announced that they'd likely have him skip just one start. But realizing that it might be beneficial to provide him an extra week to rest his inflamed left rotator cuff, they opted to disable the 25-year-old, who will be eligible for activation on Sept. 1. By doing so they opened a roster spot for Tuesday's starting pitcher, Jo-Jo Reyes.

"It stinks to be going on the DL and all," said James, who is 1-2 with a 7.01 ERA in his past five starts. "But the rundown they gave me, just in terms of rehabbing, was that I'd have to play catch one day, then throw a side [session] one day, then play long-toss one day."

Renteria has become all too familiar with the frustrations caused by being sidelined and relegated to daily rehab.

"I'd prefer to play every day, rather than run the figure-8s," said Renteria, whose return means that Yunel Escobar will return to his platoon role at second base with Kelly Johnson.

Renteria admits that his right ankle and his back, which has bothered him for a few years, still aren't 100 percent. But still the Braves are confident that he'll be able to provide the same type of consistent production that he has throughout this season.

"He's a hitting machine," Cox said of Renteria, whose .336 batting average was aided by the fact that he hit .398 in the 20 games he played prior to going on the disabled list.

Entering Tuesday's game, the Braves had only lost a half-game in the National League East in Renteria's absence. But they also had gained a half-game in the Wild Card chase.

"If we'd have lost [more ground], I would have felt real bad," Renteria said. "But now I know that I can help the team out, and we'll go from there."

Sturtze released: Throughout Tanyon Sturtze's long rehab process, the Braves never exactly seemed too excited about the prospect of having him in their bullpen. And late Tuesday afternoon, they announced that they've given the right-handed reliever his unconditional release.

Sturtze, who was attempting to return from the major shoulder surgery he underwent in May of last year, surrendered at least one earned run in seven of the final 10 rehab appearances he made. His final appearance came with Triple-A Richmond on Sunday, when he issued two walks, allowed a hit and gave up an earned run in one inning.

The Braves must pay Sturtze's entire $750,000 salary, but because they never placed him on the 25-man roster, they saved the $350,000 bonus he would have earned.

Hudson's Cy Young credentials: With his victory over the Reds on Monday night, Tim Hudson won a ninth consecutive decision -- the longest streak in the Majors this season -- for the first time since 2000, and took over the National League lead in wins, with 15.

Among Major League pitchers who have completed at least 70 innings since June 20, Hudson has the most wins, with nine. His 2.57 ERA during that span ranks fourth among big league hurlers and second among NL hurlers, trailing only Arizona's Brandon Webb, who has thrown 42 consecutive scoreless innings.

Impressive Ring: When the Braves acquired Royce Ring from the Padres at the trade deadline, many players confirmed it wasn't a fluke that the left-handed reliever had such good numbers against left-handed hitters.

Ring has allowed a run in just one of the 10 appearances he's made for Richmond, and limited left-handed hitters to a .143 batting average. The 27-year-old will likely be with Atlanta when the rosters expand in September.
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-22-2007, 10:53 PM
Notes: Francoeur good as gold
Andruw Jones off Rawlings' list; Cox sticking with Reyes

CINCINNATI -- With Rawlings announcing its All-Time Gold Glove team on Wednesday afternoon, veteran broadcaster Pete Van Wieren began thinking about whom he'd place on his all-time Braves defensive team.
With little surprise, he proposed Clete Boyer for his third baseman and Glenn Hubbard for his second baseman. As for his list of outfielders, it obviously includes Andruw Jones and Hank Aaron. If there was some surprise in his selections, it was that he already considers Jeff Francoeur to be one of the three best outfielders the Braves have ever had.

But just a little more than two full years into his Major League career, Francoeur has certainly gathered credentials to support this belief. Since making his debut on July 7, 2005, the 23-year-old right fielder has collected more assists (44) than any other big league outfielder. Alfonso Soriano is the only other player to have registered 33 outfield assists during this period.

"[Francoeur] is a great right fielder," manager Bobby Cox said. "He's about as good as it gets in right field because he goes and gets the ball, too. People forget about that. They talk about his arm all the time. But he makes all the catches out there."

Obviously, Francoeur's athleticism allows him to show greater range than many other right fielders. But it's his strong and accurate arm that makes him superior to his peers. With the strong throw that retired fellow Parkview High School alumnus Jeff Keppinger at the plate in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game against the Reds, he notched his Major League-leading 18th outfield assist of the season.

Remarkably, 14 of these assists have come since June 1. Philadelphia's Aaron Rowand and Pittsburgh's Jason Bay are the only other Major League outfielders who have recorded as many as seven during this span.

"When I was playing with [Francoeur] in the World Baseball Classic, I knew he had a strong arm," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "But I didn't know it was this accurate.

"I compare him to Ichiro [Suzuki] in the American League. He's got a strong arm and is very accurate. ... He's just a great right fielder."

Jones set the Atlanta record, with 20 outfield assists in 1998. Roberto Clemente's 27 in 1961 stand as the most recorded in the Majors over the past 50 years.

Speaking of Clemente: For Braves fans, the obvious omission from Rawlings' list is Jones, who has captured nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards.

Based on the votes cast by more than 1 million fans, the top three all-time outfielders are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Clemente.

"It makes sense to me," said Cox, who just this past winter, when polled by Rawlings, selected Jones as the best defensive outfielder to have played since Gold Gloves were first presented 50 years ago.

Cox believes that some fans may have been swayed by the fact that Jones was labeled as the game's most overrated center fielder in Jayson Stark's "The Stark Truth," which was released earlier this year.

"[Stark] hurt Andruw, I think, with that book," Cox said.

Reyes gets another shot: Before Wednesday night's game, Cox said multiple times that Jo-Jo Reyes will still make his scheduled start on Sunday against the Cardinals. Considering that Reyes has issued 19 walks in the 24 2/3 innings he's pitched at the Major League level this year, there was obviously reason to wonder if the veteran skipper's patience had worn thin.

"I like Jo-Jo," Cox said. "I really like him. He's got a great makeup. He's not scared on the mound. He's not trying to not go after hitters. He's not wild. He's just missing."

During Tuesday night's game against the Reds, Reyes allowed five earned runs and issued four walks in just 2 2/3 innings. Three of those walks came during the five-run third inning, which sparked the Reds during their 8-7 victory.

Reyes, who is 0-1 with a 9.62 ERA through the first six starts of his big league career, felt that he was battling a tight strike zone in Tuesday's game. During the 109 1/3 innings he completed in the Minors this year, the 22-year-old southpaw issued 47 walks. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-23-2007, 11:21 PM
Notes: Renteria returns to 15-day DL
Starting shortstop out again after tweaking right ankle injury

CINCINNATI -- How Edgar Renteria could successfully pass a variety of tests and then aggravate his sprained right ankle before even taking as much as a swing during his first game back in the lineup will remain a mystery.
Also seemingly unexplainable is the fact that Renteria's right ankle hasn't provided him much discomfort at all since he was forced to exit Wednesday night's game against the Reds after seeing just one pitch.

But what is certain is the fact that the Braves are going to have to survive another two weeks without their standout shortstop. For those who saw him hobble off the field after checking his swing against Bronson Arroyo on Wednesday, it comes without much surprise that Renteria has been placed back on the 15-day disabled list.

"It's just unfortunate," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I don't know. I don't know how to explain it."

After spending most of the previous five days taking batting practice, fielding grounders and testing the ankle with various running motions, Renteria was fully confident that the ankle injury that had sidelined him since Aug. 3 wouldn't be a problem.

Renteria's optimism was crushed when he left most of his weight on the right ankle while checking his swing and slightly moving back from Arroyo's first-pitch fastball. This was one motion he didn't simulate during the variety of tests that were performed.

"It's weird," Cox said. "He's been hitting for a week. Then he makes one crazy move that wasn't even startling to anyone and it grabbed him big time."

With the treatment he's received since exiting the game, Renteria has realized immediate relief. He isn't walking with much of a limp and isn't feeling any discomfort when Braves head athletic trainer Jeff Porter twists and turns the ankle in many directions.

"[Porter] can't do one thing to make it hurt one bit, even after he came out of the game last night," Cox said. "He can put him in every position he can put him in and it doesn't hurt one bit. ... But there's something wrong, obviously."

The Braves have instructed Renteria to not do any baseball activities over the next week. He's permitted to ride a stationary bike to keep his legs in shape.

Without any sense of troublesome discomfort present, Renteria doesn't believe Wednesday's setback put him back where he was when he originally sprained the ankle on Aug. 2. With this in mind, he's hopeful that he'll be ready when he's eligible for activation on Sept. 7.

"It's difficult [since] we are right there in the race," Renteria said. "That's why I tried to play. Hopefully we can keep it close, so that when I come back, I can help."

Dotel's test comes Friday: There was no reason to believe Octavio Dotel was going to come off the disabled list when he became eligible for activation on Thursday. But when he throws a bullpen session in St. Louis on Friday, the Braves will gain a better sense of when the right-hander might rejoin their bullpen on Friday.

Dotel, who was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 10, was encouraged Wednesday after feeling no discomfort while playing catch at a distance of about 120 feet.

Rotation worries: With Philadelphia placing Cole Hamels on the 15-day disabled list and San Diego wondering how long Chris Young's ailing back will keep him sidelined, there's definitely reason for Atlanta to feel better about its chances of winning the National League Wild Card.

Entering Thursday's series finale against the Reds, the Braves trailed the front-running Padres by two games and the Phillies by 1 1/2 games.

But sticking with the belief that you can only worry about your own team, there's obviously reason for the Braves to worry about the damaging effects the back end of their rotation might create.

Over the course of the past 14 games, Braves starting pitchers have gone 4-5 with a 5.63 ERA. Tim Hudson has accounted for three of those wins and John Smoltz the other. In the games these two haven't started during that span, the other Atlanta starters have posted a 7.34 ERA.

Prado stays: To make room for Renteria on the 25-man roster on Wednesday, the Braves optioned Martin Prado back to Triple-A Richmond. But truth be told, Prado never even exited Great American Ball Park.

When Renteria proved healthy during batting practice, Prado began packing his belongings. When Renteria aggravated the ankle injury, the infielder began unpacking.

With Renteria now back on the disabled list, Prado was recalled from Richmond and will now be with Atlanta through the end of the regular season. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-25-2007, 02:23 AM
Notes: Life after Wickman
Braves to go with a closer-by-committee situation for now

ST. LOUIS -- With Bob Wickman out of the picture, Braves manager Bobby Cox isn't sure who he's going to utilize as his closer. But he believes he has a couple of good options.
After announcing Wickman had been designated for assignment on Friday, Cox said that he plans to use a closer-by-committee approach for the next couple of weeks in hopes that somebody proves that they deserve to own the role on a regular basis.

Unfortunately Octavio Dotel, who has the most experience as a closer among the cast of candidates, might not fit into that mix any time soon. While throwing a bullpen session on Friday afternoon, the veteran right-handed reliever still felt some discomfort in his right shoulder, which has kept him sidelined since Aug. 7.

While Peter Moylan might prove to be the man for the closer's role, Rafael Soriano seemingly is the early favorite. While he's not pitching like he did when he limited opponents to a 2.20 ERA and a .115 batting average in his first 29 appearances of the season, the right-handed reliever has at least shown some recent promise.

"He's pitched real good," Cox said. "He has for the most part. He had that one streak with long balls where he was throwing the ball as hard as ever, just not locating."

During that 25-game streak, which began on June 15 and extended through Aug. 11, Soriano surrendered nine homers, posted a 6.00 ERA, saw opponents hit .289 and blew each of his three save opportunities.

With that streak not being in the so-far-distant past, it's seemingly too early for Cox to hand the closer's role to Soriano, whose two-inning appearance in Thursday's loss to the Reds marked the fourth straight outing in which he didn't allow a run.

"The last three outings he's had, he's been pitching good," Andruw Jones said. "He's throwing that fastball into lefties, who were hitting homers off him. I think he's starting to look like what we were looking for him to do."

Moylan's credentials were somewhat tainted when he suffered a loss on Tuesday, and then he blew a save opportunity by allowing his first homer in 31 2/3 innings on Thursday. But the side-winding Australian has arguably been the Braves' most consistent reliever this season.

In the 25 appearances he made before Tuesday, Moylan posted a 0.99 ERA and limited opponents to a .191 batting average.

Same ol' suitcase: A few hours before the start of Friday night's rain-delayed series opener against the Cardinals, Joey Devine tugged his familiar suitcase into the Braves' clubhouse. This marks the fifth time he's been granted a Major League promotion this year, and he's hoping he won't be making any return trips to the Minors any time soon.

"I feel like I'm back to being the old Joey Devine," said the right-handed reliever, who registered three strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning for Triple-A Richmond on Thursday night.

Since being the Braves' first selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Devine has encountered multiple struggles. But in 46 Minor League appearances this season, he's posted a 2.04 ERA and limited opponents to a .202 batting average.

Devine's promotion was just one of the moves the Braves made on Friday while restructuring their bullpen. They also recalled hard-throwing right-hander Jose Ascanio from Double-A Mississippi. In 44 appearances this year, Ascanio has posted a .254 ERA and limited opponents to a .234 batting average.

Both Ascanio and Devine will be attempting to match the recent success of Manny Acosta, who has definitely impressed Cox since making his big league debut on Aug. 12. In the five appearances he's made with Atlanta, the lanky Acosta has worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings and surrendered just three hits.

While working two scoreless innings against the Reds on Wednesday, Acosta displayed an impressive array of sliders. Because the downward movement was so sharp from his vantage point in right field, Jeff Francoeur thought they were split-finger fastballs.

"You're talking about guys who can run it up there in the mid-90s,"Chipper Jones said of this trio of young relievers. "They've proven themselves down in the Minors. Maybe they can provide a spark. If they can't, they'll get some valuable experience going into next year. But hopefully, they will be able to help us get over the hump this year."

Coming or going? When the Braves activated Edgar Renteria from the disabled list on Wednesday, Martin Prado began packing his bags. When Renteria was hurt during his first at-bat that evening, Prado began unpacking, knowing he would be placed back on the 25-man roster on Thursday.

Because they utilized six relievers in Thursday's 12-inning loss, the Braves opted to have an extra pitcher available on Friday. Consequently, Prado was forced to pack his bags again. When the rosters expand in September, he'll likely enjoy an elongated stay in the Majors. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-25-2007, 11:01 PM
Notes: No timetable for Dotel's return
Right-handed reliever still experiencing discomfort in shoulder

ST. LOUIS -- When Octavio Dotel took the mound at Shea Stadium on Aug. 7, he was still feeling some of the right shoulder discomfort that had suddenly appeared just two days earlier. Still, the veteran right-handed reliever said he had no reason to think the ailment was one that would put the remainder of his season in jeopardy.
"I pitched because I didn't think it was a big deal," Dotel said. "But I guess it was a big deal."

Whether or not the prolonged discomfort Dotel is continuing to experience becomes a damaging deal will be determined over the next few weeks. While he's confident that he'll pitch again this season, he certainly didn't enhance any sense of optimism on Friday afternoon, when he was definitely limited during a 25-pitch side session.

"I was expecting it was going to be ready, but it's not," said Dotel, who hadn't previously thrown a side session since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 10, retroactive to Aug. 8.

Dotel still believes he'll pitch again this season. At the same time, he realizes the significant effect of his current unavailability. If he were healthy, he'd serve as the most experienced candidate to fill the closer's role, which was vacated Friday, when Bob Wickman was designated for assignment.

"I'm going to be back, but I don't know when," said Dotel, who learned via an MRI exam performed Aug. 13 in Atlanta that he's not battling any structural damage in his shoulder.
Unfortunately for the Braves, Dotel says his discomfort is primarily located in his right triceps muscle. His description is similar to the one Lance Cormier was providing when he was sidelined at the end of Spring Training. It took nearly two full months for Cormier to begin pitching again and even then, he hadn't regained all of his strength.

If Dotel isn't able to return within the next month, his acquisition will be one that is discussed for many years to come. While there were no signs of him being unhealthy before being acquired from the Royals on July 31, there will still be critics who will question the Braves' decision to trade Kyle Davies for a right-handed reliever whose career in Atlanta might possibly consist of just four appearances.

Because he will be eligible for free agency at the end of this year, the 33-year-old Dotel knows the importance of at least returning to the mound this season to prove he's healthy.

"I want to play for the team and myself," said Dotel, who refers to September as "The Money Month."

Cox, La Russa unite: They both love dogs and both rank among the top four winningest managers in Major League history. But it's safe to say that Braves manager Bobby Cox and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa don't exchange Christmas cards.

Still, the two were united before Saturday's game when they stood behind the plate to watch longtime Cardinals beat writer Rick Hummel deliver the ceremonial first pitch. As the 2006 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, Hummel was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last month.

Hummel, known by many as "The Commish," has had a good relationship with Cox for more than 25 years, and asked the Braves manager to participate in the ceremony.

"He's a great guy," Cox said. "He's always smiling and fun to be around. He gets your respect real quick."

Red-hot Teixeira: Since being acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline, Mark Teixeira has been one of the game's most productive players. Entering Saturday, the 10 homers and 29 RBIs he'd tallied in his first 22 games with the Braves both stood as Major League-best totals for the month of August.

When Teixeira was acquired, many Braves fans compared his acquisition to the one that brought Fred McGriff to Atlanta in 1993. While McGriff played a large part in that team's turnaround, he wasn't nearly as productive as Big Tex has been so far.

Through his first 22 games with the Braves that year, McGriff hit seven homers and tallied 15 RBIs. In fairness, he did hit .341 -- a little better than the .296 mark that Teixeira has thus far compiled.

James scheduled for test: Chuck James believes his current stint on the disabled list will provide plenty of time for his inflamed left shoulder to heal. The 25-year-old southpaw, who will be eligible for activation on Sept. 1, plans to throw a bullpen session on Monday. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-26-2007, 05:25 PM
Notes: Both Joneses get a breather
Andruw, Chipper both resting bothersome injuries in finale

ST. LOUIS -- Andruw Jones will likely return to the lineup on Monday, when the Braves open a three-game series in Florida. Chipper Jones is hoping that his ailing right groin will allow him to do the same.
Although the Braves are in the midst of a slide that has damaged their position in the National League Wild Card race, manager Bobby Cox opted to keep both Jones boys out of the lineup for Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

"I'm just hopefully trying to miss one day, so that I don't miss seven," said Chipper Jones, who aggravated his troublesome right groin during the sixth inning of Saturday night's 5-4 loss to the Cardinals and continued to feel discomfort when he took a few swings in the batting cage early Sunday morning.

As for Andruw, who made a superb catch with his back to the plate against the center-field wall in Saturday's eighth inning, he's resting his left knee, which has bothered him in the last couple of months and provided him with increased discomfort over the course of this past week.

"It's just a day off," the Braves Gold Glove outfielder said.

While winning just two of the first six games they've played on this current 10-game road trip, the Braves have fallen four games behind the front-running Padres in the NL Wild Card race heading into Sunday. Their deficit was just 1 1/2 games when the trip began.

"It's essential that we get wins," said Chipper, who was replaced at third base by Chris Woodward in the finale. "It's plain and simple."

While it might seem essential for the Braves to win every game the rest of the season, it's certainly necessary for them to have Chipper available throughout the stretch run. Entering Sunday, the Braves have gone 56-48 with him in the lineup, and they've won just 11 of the 26 games that he was absent.

Chipper first felt discomfort in his right groin during a June 20 game against the Red Sox. After missing the next two games, he returned and didn't feel any more significant discomfort until July 26, when he was held out of the lineup in a series finale in San Francisco. Chipper returned to the lineup the next day and didn't have another significant setback until Saturday night.

"It was sore the next couple of days and eventually went away," said Chipper Jones, whose .332 batting average ranks sixth in the NL. "Hopefully, this will be the same."

McCann going strong: Dating back a month to July 26, Brian McCann has had a total of four days of rest, and two of those occasions came on days when the Braves didn't play. Since getting consecutive days off on Aug. 5 and 6, the All-Star catcher has been out of the lineup just once and benefited from one of his team's scheduled off-days.

Knowing this, Cox had planned to rest McCann on Sunday. But when the Jones boys are unable to play, Cox had to delay his 23-year-old catcher's scheduled rest another day. Corky Miller will start behind the plate during Monday's series opener against the Marlins.

Other than the 0-for-5 performance he provided on Saturday night, McCann hasn't shown any signs of fatigue. In the 36 games he's played since the All-Star break, McCann's hit .292 and raised his batting average from .262 to .272.

Saturday marked just the fourth time in the past 39 games McCann's started that he went hitless.

"Mac has been solid all year," Cox said of his catcher, who hit .333 last season. "He's had a lot of line-drive outs this year. His average dipped down and all that. But that's not because he wasn't hitting the ball good."

Multi-threat standout: When Tim Hudson joined the Braves before the start of the 2005 season, his offensive skills were what you would expect from a pitcher who'd spent the previous six seasons with an American League organization.

But while hitting .250 this season and .345 (10-for-29) in his past 10 starts, Hudson's regained the form that made him a top Golden Spikes Award candidate at Auburn University.

"It's fun to get up there and help yourself out," Hudson said. "You hardly ever get to do it."

Hudson has hit safely in eight of his past 10 starts. His two-hit performance on Saturday was the third he's compiled in 26 starts this year. In comparison, first baseman Craig Wilson had just two multi-hit games in 17 starts with the Braves this year.By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-26-2007, 09:12 PM
Jo-Jo Reyes-S- Braves Aug. 26 - 5:27 pm et

Jo-Jo Reyes surrendered four runs -- two earned -- in six innings against the Cardinals on Sunday to fall to 0-2 on the season.

Reyes struck out six and walked none, but the Cardinals scored one run before and two runs after a pivotal Chris Woodward error in the fifth. Reyes then gave up a solo homer to Juan Encarnacion in the sixth inning for the Cardinals' final run. Today's outing ensures that Reyes will remain in the rotation for at least one more turn. He'll head to the bullpen once Chuck James is ready in early September. rotoworld

08-27-2007, 12:13 AM
Willie Harris-OF- Braves Aug. 26 - 9:47 pm et

Willie Harris went 0-for-4 on Sunday, dropping his average under .300 for the first time since May 2.

Harris is hitting just .227 this month, though that does come with five triples and 11 walks in 75 at-bats, giving him a respectable OPS. He's still not a major league left fielder or leadoff hitter. rotoworld

Chris Woodward-3B- Braves Aug. 26 - 9:44 pm et

Filling in for Chipper Jones, Chris Woodward went 0-for-4 and committed an error that led to two runs in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals.

Woodward is arguably the NL's worst player right now:laugh::laugh::laugh:. We'll give the Braves the benefit of the doubt and assume they wouldn't have kept him over Martin Prado last week if we weren't so close to the September roster expansion. They should be regretting it anyway. Not only does Woodward have a 523 OPS in 123 at-bats, but he's committed six errors in the equivalent of about 25 full games on defense. That's simply brutal. rotoworld

08-27-2007, 12:11 PM
woodward is def the worst player in the league right now

08-27-2007, 12:17 PM
Yea the guy is completely worthless, I mean you could be at least good defensively but he sucks at that too, horrible signing.

08-27-2007, 10:53 PM
Mailbag: Can Braves make the playoffs?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

Even with all of their problems at the back end of their rotation, will the Braves make the playoffs?
-- Ryan H., Columbus, Ohio

While evaluating the events of a 162-game season, you really can't accurately utilize that old adage, "You're only as good as your last game." Nor can we simply predict the future based solely on the events of the past week. Of course if I were to do that now, perched above Busch Stadium hours after Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Cardinals, I'd obviously be prepping to do something other than cover Braves games again in October.

Knowing that we've just watched the Braves manage to win two of the first seven games of this road trip against a pair of sub-.500 teams (Reds and Cardinals), it's almost ridiculous to think they can manage to put together one of those streaks they'll need to win the National League Wild Card. Forget about the NL East race. The Mets have gained a 15-mile lead in that marathon and the Braves have only about an hour to catch them.

Yet for some reason, I still think it's a little too early to close the coffin on the postseason hopes. I'm well aware of the fact that they've gone 43-52 over their past 95 games and managed to win more than three consecutive games just twice during that span. They matched a season-best five-game winning streak to end June and have won as many as four straight games just once since then.

Pegged to be the solution, Mark Teixeira has really only provided the reminder that offense takes a back seat to pitching in the market of importance. Teixeira has been a bona-fide wrecking crew. Unfortunately for the Braves, so too have each of their starters not named Smoltz or Hudson.

Evaluating the current trend, the Padres who currently lead the Braves by four games in the NL Wild Card race, are on pace to win 88 games this season. In order to reach that total, the Braves will have to win 21 of their final 31 games. That would be seven more wins than they've totaled in their past 31 games.

Reaching for the optimistic outlook here, I'll say Jo-Jo Reyes was solid on Sunday and provide the reminder that it was just three weeks ago that people were singing Buddy Carlyle's praise. A few weeks of rest will likely help Chuck James down the stretch and Lance Cormier definitely has the stuff to be a benefit in September.

Now with that being said, is there reason to believe any group of these pitchers can team with Smoltz and Hudson to give the Braves the consistency they'll need from their rotation? Right now, it's tough to provide an optimistic response.

Even if the Braves miraculously find a solid rotation, will they still be able to win this Wild Card race that also includes the Phillies, Rockies, Dodgers and Brewers? In their favor they'll play the Phillies six times in September and get three meetings against the Brewers.

As for the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies, these NL West rivals might just beat each other up down the stretch.

For now, it's seemingly a stretch to think the Braves will make the postseason. But then again, I also didn't think their one-game deficit in this race could actually balloon to its current position of four games in a matter of five days.

Why didn't the Braves try to sign David Wells?
-- Brandon T., New York

Once the Padres released the 44-year-old Wells, this became a popular question. From what I understand, some members of the Braves organization wanted to sign him and others didn't. If anyone truly cared, I didn't think they should sign him and that was before I knew he spent much of the past two weeks, surfing, golfing and easing into a life retirement.

Having just played catch with his kids a few times over the past couple of weeks, Wells, never a model of physical health, hadn't actually thought much about this postseason race that he now finds himself in with the Dodgers.

During his final four starts with the Padres, Wells was 0-3 with a 14.04 ERA. More telling is the fact that opponents hit .345 against him while he went 2-5 with a 6.57 ERA in his final 10 starts with San Diego.

Those who are saying, yeah, but he would've cost just somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000 have to remember he's going to get an approximate $175,000 bonus for every remaining start this year. Plus, he still is in the process of serving the seven-game suspension he received courtesy of the display he made after being ejected from a July 7 game against the Braves. atlanta braves .com

08-27-2007, 10:54 PM
What is the likelihood that the Braves could sign Jake Peavy to head Atlanta's rotation for years to come?
-- Scott C., San Antonio, Texas

Considering he's likely going to be pitching for the Padres through at least the 2009 season, it's far too early to hold this discussion. But considering he is the finest young pitcher in the game today and the fact that he grew up a Braves fan in Mobile, Ala., it's not too early for Braves fans to at least dream about him heading their rotation heading into the next decade.

Hudson has a $12 million mutual option for the 2010 season and Brian McCann will earn $5.5 million that year. They are the only current Braves to have contractual language that pertains to anything after 2009.

Obviously, Mark Teixeira might have already been locked up by then and Jeff Francoeur will be making a rather respectable salary via a contract or as an arbitration-eligible player. But there's certainly a chance there will be some maneuverability to accommodate Peavy.atlanta braves mail bag

08-27-2007, 10:58 PM
Notes: Braves get double dose of Jones
Andruw and Chipper back in lineup for Monday's opener

MIAMI -- The Braves got two scoops of Jones back in their lineup Monday.
After sitting out Sunday's matinee in St. Louis, Andruw and Chipper Jones both returned for the series opener with the Marlins, with the former hitting sixth and the latter hitting third.

There wasn't much doubt that Andruw would be back in center field after taking what he called a routine day off on Sunday to rest his left knee. But Chipper's status was uncertain enough that manager Bobby Cox had two lineups written out at the time he spoke with reporters -- one with the third baseman and one without him. Cox even called the prospect of the third baseman playing "kind of doubtful."

But shortly thereafter, Chipper informed the coaching staff that his ailing right groin, which he said was sore even when he was just sitting around Sunday, had improved enough to keep him in the mix. He said he would take a light batting practice session to be on the safe side.

"I feel like I can go out there and play," he said. "I've got to be careful. I'm not going to do anything drastic to exert it in BP."

The injury affects Jones more when he swings right-handed, so the presence of southpaw Scott Olsen on the mound for Florida on Monday added to the uncertainty.

But Jones said he can't afford to take too many days off at this point of the season, and Cox said it's likely an injury that will hamper Jones until he can rest it in the offseason.

And Orr: The injury-ravaged Atlanta bench got a welcome reinforcement Monday as infielder Pete Orr was recalled from Triple-A Richmond. The 28-year-old went 10-for-56 in 43 games with the Braves earlier this season, appearing primarily as a late-inning substitute. Orr hit .240 with one home run in 42 games with Richmond, where he's been since July 5.

"We needed more than two on that bench," Cox said. "And our bullpen has caught up a little bit."

The casualty of the move was Joey Devine, whom Cox said was tough to send back to Richmond after having tossed a scoreless inning on Sunday. It was the right-hander's only appearance in his fifth different stint with the Braves this season.

"I apologized to him," Cox said, "They understand it, but it's still hard for me to do it."

Road sweet road: Despite a 2-5 record so far on their 10-game roadtrip, the Braves entered Monday's game with a 33-33 record away from Turner Field, making them one of 10 teams with a road record of .500 or better.

The Braves are hitting .286 collectively on the road, which is the highest mark in the National League and is almost 20 points higher than their batting average at home. Chipper Jones (1st, .353), Edgar Renteria (4th, .338), Jeff Francouer (7th, .319) and Kelly Johnson (8th, .317) are all among the league leaders in batting average on the road.

Season extended: Eight players in the Braves farm system will play for the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League, it was announced Monday.

The participants are: catcher Clint Simmons, outfielder Brandon Jones, infielders J.C. Holt and Brent Lillibridge and pitchers Ryan Basner, Charlie Morton, Michael Nix and Zack Schreiber.

Derek Botelho, the pitching coach at Double-A Mississippi, will also serve in the same capacity for the Javelinas.

The Phoenix-area league, which is owned and operated by the Major League Baseball clubs, runs from Oct. 9 to Nov. 17.

Down on the farm: Jeff Bennett allowed three hits in five scoreless innings but was outdueled in Richmond's 1-0 loss to visiting Charlotte on Sunday. Richmond managed just a pair of singles in eight innings against Charlotte starter Lance Broadway. ... Second baseman J.C. Holt went 2-for-4, stole a base and had the decisive RBI single in the seventh inning as Double-A Mississippi held off visiting Birmingham, 6-5, on Sunday. ... Left-hander Jeffrey Locke, a second-round Draft pick in 2006, allowed two hits and struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings to lead Rookie League affiliate Danville past Johnson City, 6-1, on Sunday. By Tom Keller / MLB.com

08-28-2007, 01:41 PM
Notes: Cox moves Smoltz up in rotation
Skipper decides to make move to seperate righty and Hudson

MIAMI -- It might not be a wise move at the blackjack table, but Bobby Cox is splitting his aces.
Looking to separate John Smoltz and Tim Hudson in the rotation, the Atlanta manager moved up Smoltz's next start from Wednesday to Tuesday, meaning the veteran right-hander will go on three days' rest against Florida. Smoltz trades spots with Buddy Carlyle, who will now start Wednesday's finale.

"It breaks it up, and maybe it'll save our bullpen," Cox said.

Smoltz and Hudson have been pitching back-to-back for much of the season, providing one of the most potent and durable one-two punches in the league. The Braves are 35-18 when one of those two takes the mound, and the duo has lasted at least six innings in 45 of its 53 combined starts.

But inconsistency from the rest of the rotation has often taxed the bullpen when those two aren't pitching, so Cox is using Thursday's off-day to help reshuffle things.

Smoltz hasn't started on three days' rest this season -- the last time he did so was June 7, 2006, when he allowed three runs in seven innings and took the loss against the Nationals. Smoltz is 7-8 with a 4.91 ERA in 19 career starts on short rest.

Double dose of Jones: The Braves got two scoops of Jones back in their lineup Monday.

After sitting out Sunday's matinee in St. Louis, Andruw and Chipper Jones both returned for the series opener with the Marlins, with the former hitting sixth and the latter hitting third.

There wasn't much doubt that Andruw would be back in center field after taking what he called a routine day off on Sunday to rest his left knee. But Chipper's status was uncertain enough that Cox had two lineups written out at the time he spoke with reporters -- one with the third baseman and one without him. Cox even called the prospect of the third baseman playing "kind of doubtful."

But shortly thereafter, Chipper informed the coaching staff that his ailing right groin, which he said was sore even when he was just sitting around Sunday, had improved enough to keep him in the mix. He said he would take a light batting practice session to be on the safe side.

"I feel like I can go out there and play," he said. "I've got to be careful. I'm not going to do anything drastic to exert it in BP."

The injury affects Jones more when he swings right-handed, so the presence of southpaw Scott Olsen on the mound for Florida on Monday added to the uncertainty.

But Jones said he can't afford to take too many days off at this point of the season, and Cox said it's likely an injury that will hamper Jones until he can rest it in the offseason.By Tom Keller / MLB.com

08-28-2007, 11:21 PM
Notes: McCann surging in second half
Braves catcher has been hot at the plate since All-Star break

MIAMI -- The summer heat usually wears down ballplayers, especially catchers. Brian McCann apparently never got that memo.
The Braves backstop has hit safely in 20 of his last 22 starts to raise his batting average since the All-Star break to .289 -- 27 points higher than it was in the season's first half.

McCann posted similar late-season success last season, when he hit .324 with 18 of his 24 homers after the Midsummer Classic.

It's hard to explain such a trend, but Braves manager Bobby Cox said good conditioning habits play a factor.

"He gets a lot of rest," Cox said. "Brian doesn't do a lot except play."

McCann had only one hit Monday but made the most of it, turning a fastball from Scott Olsen in the fourth into a grand slam.

"He got it up a little bit," McCann said, "and I didn't miss."

Of course, being a naturally good hitter also helps keep McCann in a groove. Cox pointed to the fact that McCann had a ball caught at the warning track Monday for what seems like the umpteenth time this season.

"He's hard to defend because he hits the ball everywhere," Cox said.

Pleading his case: The decision to move John Smoltz up a day in the rotation and start Tuesday originated with the pitcher, Cox said. The right-hander had "been after me for two weeks" about the move, Cox said, a maneuver that was designed to separate Smoltz from Tim Hudson in the rotation.

The fact that Smoltz volunteered to pitch on three days' rest for the first time this season is testament to his recovery from the shoulder problems that bothered him earlier in the season.

"He feels great," Cox said. "He wants to go [on three days' rest] the rest of the way out, but we're not going to."

Yard work: The Braves scored four unearned runs Monday, thanks to three booted balls in the infield by the Marlins. While that's hardly a rare occurrence for the Fish, who have committed a league-high 109 errors this season, Cox said there could have been an ulterior reason for all the miscues Monday.

The field was the site of a preseason football game between the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, the effects of which could still be seen all throughout the turf.

"It's hard to play on," Cox said. "I'm not blaming the field, but it's hard to play so quick. You can't time balls; they get on you in a hurry."

Hello out there: Monday's paid attendance at Dolphin Stadium was 11,716, but the actual number of bodies in the seats was likely half that. It's been a familiar sight this season for the Marlins, who have the second lowest average attendance in the Majors behind only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"I know you guys don't believe this," Matt Diaz said, "but it's amazing how little you notice the crowd. When you go to Shea [Stadium] and there's 45,000 strong screaming, 'You stink!', you might laugh at it a little bit, but once the ball is pitched, you don't hear it."

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was in Miami on Tuesday to meet with local officials about a new stadium. Selig, who has steadfastly supported South Florida as a baseball market, called the meetings "very constructive."

Hanging in there: Cox said he had a chance to talk with first-year Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez after Monday's game. Gonzalez, a former Braves coach and longtime friend of Cox's, has been hard-pressed for answers lately as his team has dropped 12 of its past 13 games, but Cox said Gonzalez has shown resiliency through the slide.

"He's doing alright," Cox said. "About like I was when I started."

Distributed power: Diaz's solo homer Monday gave him 10 for the season, making Atlanta the first team in the Majors to have nine players reach double-digit home runs. The Braves had never accomplished that before.
By Tom Keller / MLB.com

08-29-2007, 10:34 PM
Notes: Mahay thriving with new team
James on target to return; Francoeur getting frustrated

MIAMI -- There's no argument that Mark Teixeira has been carrying his weight since the Braves acquired him from the Rangers last month. But the other piece that Atlanta received in that deal -- left-handed reliever Ron Mahay -- has provided just as solid a return on his investment thus far.
The 36-year-old has held opposing hitters to a .154 batting average since joining the Braves and has been scored upon in just two of his 14 appearances. He's posted a 1.80 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 15 innings.

"He's done a great job," manager Bobby Cox said.

And Mahay has established himself as a versatile option out of the bullpen. Mahay is holding left-handers (.212) and right-handers (.215) to near-identical batting averages this season, a trend that has been relatively stable over his career.

"He's not just a situational guy," Cox said. "He's got a nice little split-finger he throws to right-handers."

Mahay had been with the Rangers since the 2003 season, so this is his first taste of the National League since 2002, when he was with the Cubs. But Cox said that transitioning from one league to another midseason can often be to a pitcher's benefit.

"Pitching is location," he said. "Hitting, you've got to understand what the pitchers are throwing, what pitchers may throw in certain situations. But for pitchers, it's basically location. The strike zone is the same."

James ready to return: Cox said that Chuck James is on target to come off the disabled list in time to start on Saturday against the Mets. The left-hander, who went to the disabled list on Aug. 21 with a tired arm, threw a "great" bullpen session on Tuesday, according to the skipper.

"I think he's fine," Cox said. "We'll just make sure he's fine the next couple days.

"He's been one of those kids that never misses a start all through the Minors, up here, nowhere. We knew that his arm always gets tired this time of year, so we just gave him a two-week break. And now, he should be fine."

Tim Hudson will start the opener of the three-game set with New York, and John Smoltz is scheduled to pitch Sunday's finale on his normal four days' rest. Cox is not yet sure if he'll take Smoltz up on his offer to pitch on short rest for the remainder of the season.

"I know he wants to," he said. "He loves it."

Dubious honor: As milestones go, this one is about as forgettable as they come.

When Jeff Francoeur struck out against Byung-Hyun Kim in the 11th inning on Tuesday, it capped an 0-for-5 night in which all five outs came via strikes. That was a first for Francoeur and just the fourth time in franchise history that a player fanned five times in a game.

Adding insult to injury, Francoeur was ejected by home-plate umpire Doug Eddings after briefly arguing that he had checked his swing on the final punchout.

"I was frustrated with myself and the game," Francoeur said.

It was an all-too-familiar feeling for the right fielder, who is now 5-for-38 (.132) over his last eight games.

"It's been a tough road trip personally, because I feel like I've had some opportunities to help the team win and I haven't come through," he said.

News and notes: Atlanta is 25-18 in series openers this season but 19-23 in finales. The Braves have won the first game of their last three series. ... Teixeira has hit safely in 10 straight games, including seven multi-hit contests. He's 14-for-42 (.429) during that span. ... Three of the Braves' losses on their current road trip have come by one run, dropping their record to 15-21 in such contests. ... Andruw Jones leads the Braves with 24 multi-RBI games this season. ... Willie Harris is hitless in his last 15 at-bats. By Tom Keller / MLB.com

08-30-2007, 12:40 AM
Chipper playing through pain
Third baseman says there's discomfort in shoulder, losing

Miami -- Chipper Jones' right shoulder has gone from sore to throbbing in the past week, but the third baseman was back in the lineup Wednesday and intended to continue playing for a team running out of time.

"I hope so," said Jones, who knows the struggling Braves will probably need 20 or so wins in September to have any chance of making the playoffs.

"We've put ourselves in a position where we're going to have to do in the last month what we haven't been able to do all season."

They haven't had a winning month since April (16-9), which is also the only time the Braves have won more than 14 games in a month.

"It's imperative that we start not just winning series, but sweeping series," said Jones, who hit a tying two-run homer in the eighth inning Tuesday in a game the Braves lost 4-3 in 11 innings.

That dropped them to 3-6 on a 10-game trip that ended Wednesday, including 0-5 in games decided by one or two runs.

Jones winced after several swings Tuesday, when he had three strikeouts and a walk in his other four plate appearances. He said the shoulder worsened in the past week and hurts when he swings and throws.

"It hurts worse swinging left-handed," the switch-hitter said, "because I extend and let go of the top hand when I swing and miss. Unfortunately I swung and missed a lot [Tuesday] night."

It hasn't slowed him yet. Jones had a .356 average with 18 extra-base hits (five homers) and 23 RBIs in his past 21 games before Wednesday.By DAVID O'BRIEN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

That is bad news, CJ hurt again but he is a fighter he knows what is at stakes for us. He is going to give it all he's got and I hope the rest of the Braves do the same. But I know something that will help with that injury.........winning:D

08-30-2007, 03:42 PM
Braves' hiccup no fault of Teixeira's
Trade deadline pickup had amazing August with bat, glove

ATLANTA -- After encountering Mark Teixeira's potent bat during the 2000 NCAA Regional Tournament, Larry Jones, who was then an assistant coach at Stetson University, called his son, Chipper, to discuss this switch-hitting phenom from Georgia Tech.
Six years later, while serving as one of Teixeira's Team USA teammates in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Chipper gained a better understanding of his father's assessment and the belief that this fellow switch-hitting corner infielder would be a difference maker if given the chance to return to Atlanta to display the power he'd introduced to the city during his collegiate days.

Thus Jones, like multitudes of others, was ecstatic when he learned the Braves had completed last month's non-waiver trade deadline deal that allowed Teixeira to return to Atlanta. The move seemingly ensured postseason entry and countless nights of offensive outbursts.

Unfortunately for the Braves, the only thing Teixeira's addition has truly proven is the age-old adage that championship teams are built around pitching and supported, capable offenses. While their new switch-hitting first baseman has abused National League pitchers, their standing has fallen in both the NL East and Wild Card races.

"It's not his fault," Jones said. "Mark has done everything asked of him. He has hit homers. He's driven in a ton of runs. There's been no shortage of offense from the middle of the lineup."

When the Braves acquired Teixeira from the Rangers for a bundle of attractive prospects, they were 3 1/2 games out of first place the NL East race and 1 1/2 games behind the Wild Card leaders.

Entering this weekend's key three-game series against the first-place Mets, the Braves are five games back in both the division and Wild Card races. About the only reward they'll receive from this forgettable August is the NL Player of the Month Award that seems destined to land in Teixeira's hands.

While Milwaukee's Prince Fielder and New York's Carlos Beltran have had impressive months, it will be hard for voters to choose them over Teixeira, who, during his first month in Atlanta, has hit .327 with 10 homers, 32 RBIs, a .416 on-base percentage and a .664 slugging percentage entering play Friday.

"That's Barry Bondsesque," Braves co-ace Tim Hudson said. "He's been unbelievable for us. It's sad to say, but I wonder what we would have done without him? He's been a shot in the arm for us. But for some reason, we've managed to drop a few games [in the standings]."

Despite Teixeira leading all Major Leaguers in homers and RBIs and ranking fourth among NL players (minimum 75 plate appearances) in slugging percentage during the month of August, the Braves have managed to win just 13 of 27 games.

As a team, they haven't enjoyed a more productive offensive month this season. Their 159 runs scored and .498 slugging percentage in August both match the Reds for the NL's best marks. Only the Yankees and Pirates have hit more homers and collected more RBIs than the Braves during the same time frame.

Still, the Braves will enter September seeking to complete their first winning month since April.

"I came here to help this team win," Teixeira said. "I don't just want to help score runs. I want to help the entire team play better. I just wish we were getting a few more wins."

Despite not playing his first game with the Braves until Aug. 1, Teixeira leads the club in homers (10) since the All-Star break. His 32 RBIs rank third on the team since the break, trailing only Brian McCann (33) and Jones (38), who have both had at least 11 more games to compile those totals.

"That's the lineup," Teixeira said. "I feel like I'm getting up with guys on base two or three times a game. That's a hitter's dream."

Defensively, Teixeira has shown those Gold Gloves he won the past two seasons weren't a fluke. Regardless, all of his contributions haven't been able to compensate for a pitching staff that has endured its worst month of the season

"He's a special player. He gives you everything he's got every time he goes out there." -- Bobby Cox, on Mark Teixeira

While Teixeira has been sending balls over outfield walls at an eye-popping rate, opponents have been feasting on Braves pitchers, whose 4.50 ERA in August is the highest mark they've set this season. Opposing lineups have produced a .442 slugging percentage and hit 36 homers this month. Both of those marks also stand as season highs.

But Teixeira says he has enjoyed his brief experience with the Braves and remains hopeful that a torrid September will allow them to be where they envisioned when they made the seemingly decisive move to bring him back to Atlanta.

"It's a great clubhouse," Teixeira said. "I love the coaching staff and I love my teammates. I've just been very excited about the whole experience. Just knowing this organization puts itself in position to win every year is a great feeling."

Teixeira has proven to be a good fit in a clubhouse that prides itself on having respectable citizens. Assuming a leadership role, the 27-year-old first baseman has discussed offseason conditioning habits with Jeff Francoeur. At the same time, his work ethic has provided a visual example that can only benefit the team's younger players.

"I love that our young players are still humble," Teixeira said. "They're great players already. But they want to get better. I haven't been around forever. But I've had experiences that can hopefully help the younger guys."

Being a fellow switch-hitter batting in front of Teixeira, Jones has realized many direct benefits. Instead of pitchers opting to pitch around him in the manner that they did when Andruw Jones was in the cleanup role, the veteran third baseman has seen a regular array of fastballs. Consequently, he's totaled 23 RBIs, which stands as his best month of the season.

When Teixeira badly bruised his right middle finger on Aug. 18, there was reason for concern. But all he did the next afternoon was enjoy the first of back-to-back two-homer performances. His second two-homer outing came after he spent a majority of the previous evening vomiting.

"He's a special player," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He gives you everything he's got every time he goes out there."

During his past 11 games, Teixeira has hit .435 (20-for-46) with a .519 on-base percentage and an .804 slugging percentage. Still, the Braves have won just five of those games.

"He gives you a good professional at-bat 90 percent of the time," Chipper said. "That's rare for a power hitter. He gives you a good quality at-bat. He goes deep into counts, takes his walks. He's a good offspeed hitter. He's the total package."

If Teixeira could provide much-needed stability at the back end of the starting rotation, the Braves truly could call him the total package.By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-30-2007, 09:20 PM
Francoeur battles against weariness

Jeff Francoeur was 3-for-5 with two RBIs on the first game of the trip and 2-for-5 with one RBI in the last game. In the eight games in between, the right fielder was 5-for-38 (.132) with one RBI and 11 strikeouts.

After striking out five times Tuesday, he went to Dolphin Stadium early Wednesday and had a long discussion with Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who wants Francoeur to continue the progress he has made in his second full season.

"More than anything, I think he's getting a little tired," Pendleton said of Francoeur, who has started 298 consecutive games, and played all but six innings this season. "I think he needs to relax a little bit and regroup."

When asked if he was tired, Francoeur smiled and said, "I might be. Obviously it might be good to get home and get a day off [Thursday]. I felt a little off [Tuesday], but you've still got to get it done."

Pendleton indicated that Francoeur's competitive nature and the Braves' struggles have conspired to cause him to get into some bad habits at times.

"He tries to do too much," Pendleton said. "He wants to shoulder this whole deal. He wants to win so bad, he's trying to get it all done with one swing every at-bat. And it's not possible. So we had a little talk down in the cage."

Renteria pleased by ankle's progress

Edgar Renteria said his sprained right ankle feels "much better" now than it did before he came off the disabled list last week and reinjured it on the first and only pitch he saw at Cincinnati.

The shortstop returned to the DL on Aug. 23, but Renteria was upbeat during this week's series at Florida and encouraged by his progress. He's eligible to come off the DL before the Sept. 7 home series against Washington.

He spent his off-hours in Florida playing with his 4-year-old daughter at his condo in Miami Beach.By DAVID O'BRIEN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

08-31-2007, 01:40 PM
NL East playoff fever to invade FOX
Mets, Braves set to tango on Saturday's Game of the Week

September is supposed to be the month in which teams make or break their bids for the playoffs. The Mets and Braves, though, will have to turn the page quickly on their recent troubles to reach the postseason.
The two rivals will meet on Saturday in the FOX Game of the Week at Turner Field as part of a crucial three-game series. The Braves are expected to activate left-hander Chuck James to start on the mound, while the Mets will go with a rookie right-hander -- either Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber.

Both teams will limp into the season's final month, but both remain in contention. The Mets, despite getting swept by the Phillies in a four-game series that ended on Thursday, lead the National League East by two games, with the Braves in third place, sitting 4 1/2 games out. Atlanta is also 4 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card race.

"Every out, every inning, every man on base becomes more important," Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "We've just got to start winning games. We have to win a lot in a row to get to [the playoffs]."

Atlanta went 13-14 in August, and it hasn't had a winning month since April, when it was 16-9. But the Braves stuck around because the Mets have squandered their chances to pull away in the NL East, the most recent being the series against the Phillies that could have all but locked up the division title for New York.

Atlanta started its now-concluded 10-game road trip down five games to the Mets in the division, with a chance to do some damage against three teams -- Reds, Cardinals and Marlins -- who were below .500 when the series started.

But the Braves didn't have the successful trip they envisioned, going just 4-6; however, they return home having trimmed a half game off the Mets' lead with a chance to pull even closer against a team that they've dominated this season.

"I don't like our position as much as theirs," starting pitcher John Smoltz said of the Mets. "But if we get hot, we still have a chance."

New York, meanwhile, appeared to have its second consecutive playoff appearance wrapped up when it took a seven-game lead in the NL East on Aug. 25. But the Phillies had other ideas, however, and now the three-team race is close again.

"We need to move on past this, regroup and move on to Atlanta," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

The Mets probably wanted a more comfortable lead going into Atlanta. Against the Braves this season, the Mets are 4-8, and they've won just six of 27 September games at Turner Field since the park opened in 1997.

"Turn the page," Randolph said of his team's outlook on the Philadelphia series. "We'll deal with Atlanta now. We've just got to keep playing."By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

08-31-2007, 07:13 PM
some good finds BK- thanks... I hope Chipper isnt hurt that bad... though only a month left in season...I glad he has played this many games so far... compared to the last 2 seasons

08-31-2007, 11:04 PM
Notes: Diaz leaving platoon behind him
Productive bat has given left fielder edge over slumping Harris

ATLANTA -- Braves manager Bobby Cox isn't saying Matt Diaz will serve as his everyday left fielder for the remainder of this season. But if Diaz continues to hit like he has over the past four months, the veteran skipper seemingly has no other choice.
With a move that has been anticipated for a couple of weeks, Cox ditched his left-field platoon for Friday night's series opener against the Mets. Instead of starting the struggling Willie Harris against right-hander John Maine, the veteran skipper opted to utilize Diaz's hot bat.

"[Diaz is] swinging so good, and Willie is in a little bit of a funk here," Cox said. "We might as well put Matty in there. He's been hot all season, and so has Willie. Matty had such a great game the other night, I think it's worth sticking him in there."

With his three-hit, two-homer game against the Marlins on Wednesday, Diaz may have forced Cox's hand. But the 29-year-old outfielder, who has primarily platooned in left field during the past two seasons, has been one of the Braves' most consistent offensive threats since the end of April.

In the previous 94 games he'd played entering Friday, Diaz had hit .380 with a .408 on-base percentage and a .591 slugging percentage. He's batted .331 (41-for-124) against right-handed pitchers this year and .372 (61-for-164) against left-handers.

"Any competitor wants to play every chance that they can get," Diaz said. "I'm thrilled with the opportunity. ... Hopefully, I can continue what I'm doing and help this team pull out a very important series."

When the Braves promoted Harris from Triple-A Richmond on April 30, the indication was that they'd give him a look and then likely give Diaz the everyday role. But while hitting .383 (49-for-128) in his first 45 games, Harris earned more than a simple look.

Unfortunately for Harris, his magical season has been skidding for more than two months. In his past 45 games, he's hit .226 with a .325 on-base percentage. Take away his six-hit performance on July 21 and that batting average drops to .198.

With Harris, who has also been unsuccessful in six of his past seven attempted steals, out of the lineup, Cox moved Kelly Johnson back into the leadoff role for the first time since June 22. While hitting leadoff for the first 2 1/2 months this season, Johnson hit .284 with a .386 on-base percentage.

September additions: After Friday night's game, the Braves will announce three of the Minor Leaguers who will be added to the expanded roster that they'll be able to begin utilizing on Saturday. During September, all big league teams can utilize any member of their 40-man roster on their Major League roster.

Expected to join the Atlanta roster on Saturday are Julio Franco, Royce Ring and Brayan Pena. Pena and Franco, who has hit .292 in the seven Minor League games he's played this month, should fortify the bench. Ring, a left-handed reliever who has struggled recently with Richmond, could prove to be an asset in the bullpen.

In the 15 appearances he's made for Richmond, Ring has seen right-handed hitters bat .438 against him. But he has limited left-handed hitters to a .158 average. His role as a left-handed specialist could be vital during divisional play when the Braves face a number of potent left-handed hitters.

Once the Minor League season concludes, the Braves will likely add another four players to their roster. Top candidates include right-handed reliever Chad Paronto, outfielder Gregor Blanco, right-handed reliever Joey Devine and infielder Martin Prado.

James set for return: If this recent stint on the disabled list allows Chuck James to regain the successful form he displayed last year, he may prove to be one of the most important factors for the Braves down the stretch. He'll be activated from the disabled list to make Saturday afternoon's start against the Mets.

When James was put on the DL, he was complaining of a fatigued shoulder that the Braves believe was a product of an inflamed rotator cuff. The 25-year-old southpaw completed side sessions on both Tuesday and Wednesday. During the latter one, he could feel some of the arm strength he thought he'd lacked much of this season.

"I feel like I can go out, give us a good chance to win and be competitive," said James, who is 9-9 with a 4.22 ERA in 25 starts this year.

Glavine honored: Before Friday's game, the Braves recognized Tom Glavine with a tribute on their large video board. Highlights showed clips of his career with the Braves and included footage of him winning his 300th game earlier this month.

Glavine, who captured 242 of his wins with the Braves, visibly appreciated the applause he received from a crowd that has generally not treated him kindly since he became a Met in 2003.

Renteria update: Edgar Renteria has been running over the past few days and is hopeful that his sprained right ankle will be sound when he's eligible to come off the disabled list on Sept. 7. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

08-31-2007, 11:32 PM
Q: It doesn't seem like the adjustment to National League pitching has been that difficult for you. How do your explain your individual success thus far?

A: I think two things. When I got traded, I said it almost felt like my career had just started. I was like a little kid again. I was so excited to play, to be out there and perform. Second of all, when you're in a lineup as talented as this and as potent as this, you're going to get good pitches to hit. I compare this lineup to the lineup I was in with Texas my first three years there. Every time up, it seems like you're hitting with men on base.

Q: How difficult was it in that final month or so knowing you might be traded, whether it was to the Braves, Angels or Dodgers?

A: It was a little tough. The great thing about the time leading up to the trade deadline was that every team that was floated out there were all great teams to consider getting traded to. Any time you get a chance to move to an organization that is in a pennant race and has a chance to win, it beats being in last place.

Q: You attended Georgia Tech. Your wife, Leigh, is from north of Atlanta. How excited were you to end up with the Braves?

A: Out of all the teams that were thrown out there, I was most happy about the Braves. First of all, they were winning and had a chance to make the playoffs. But second of all, to go back home, to see Leigh's family, to see friends from college and be in a place I was familiar with — that was great.

Q: What has it been like playing for Bobby Cox?

A: I love him, man. I can't say enough great things about Bobby Cox. The Braves winning 14 consecutive division titles, a huge reason for that is Bobby Cox — what he brings to the team, the stability, the respect that he has gained. Every player I've ever talked to loves Bobby Cox.

Q: What stands out to you playing for him that maybe you didn't know before?

A: He's sincere. He's genuine. When he's ticked off, he's genuinely ticked off. When he's happy, he's genuinely happy. When he talks to you, you know there's nothing behind it, no hidden meanings. Whatever he says, he believes. And it's coming from his heart.

Q: Which of the big-name Braves — Chipper, Andruw, John Smoltz, Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur — is the most different from what you expected?

A: McCann and Francoeur are so great. They have no egos. They're young and talented and they have every reason to be cocky, to think they're the greatest thing they're walking. But they don't. They're just kids playing baseball.

Q: How frustrating is it to you that the team hasn't surged?

A: The toughest thing is that we haven't won the close games. It seems that every time we have a one-run game, we're coming up on the short end of the stick. For whatever reason, we can't seem to break through in those close games.

Q: After the trade, Rangers owner Tom Hicks disclosed that you had rejected an eight-year contract offer for about $140 million. How upset were you that he went public?

A: I wasn't upset. Anything that happened with the Rangers is all in the past. Honestly, I was so excited to be an Atlanta Brave, everything that came out afterward, I really didn't even pay attention to. That sounds politically correct. But that's the honest truth. I was so happy to be a Brave, so happy to be in Atlanta.

Q: It's difficult for many people to understand how a player could turn down such an offer. What was your thinking?

A: For me, it wasn't about the contract. It was about the plan for my career. I felt like it was unfair for me to be given a take-it-or-leave-it offer and be told, if you don't take it, you're going to be traded. Whatever happens in my career, I can accept. But I'm not going to make a decision based on someone pressuring me to do something.

Q: You made some critical comments about the Rangers' commitment to winning about two weeks before you were traded. How frustrated were you at the time?

A: I was very frustrated. Every player in Texas was frustrated to some degree. It was the kind of article that everybody in Texas wanted to write and they needed me for quotes. I'm going to be honest when people ask me questions. I'm going to be honest about wanting to win. I'm going to be honest about the direction of my career. I just answered the questions that were given to me. I didn't hold a press conference and say, "Listen to me. I have all these things to say."

Q: How tough was it leaving two of your best friends with the Rangers, shortstop Michael Young and third baseman Hank Blalock?

A: Very tough. I have a lot of good friends in Texas that I continue to root for. I check the boxscores periodically to see what guys are doing. I always said I wanted to be in a dogpile with Michael Young and Hank Blalock. I hope someday they get a chance to do that. Unfortunately, it won't be with me. But I still root for those guys.

Q: You're a free agent after next season. What will go into your decision?

A: No. 1, I want a chance where I can win consistently. That is my No. 1 goal in my career. I've been very lucky, very blessed early in my career to have personal success. But I have not had any team success. That's No. 1. No. 2, wherever my family is going to be happy. My wife and my kids are so important to me. Wherever they feel comfortable is a place where I'm going to be.

Q: You're represented by Scott Boras. There's a perception that Boras clients always go for the most money. Is that fair?

A: I think it's very unfair. I've always said that people that say that are the teams that make the lowest offer to their own players and (see them) end up leaving for free agency. The players that go to teams and perform, everyone says how great it is to have 'em. No one talks about the money anymore.

Q: Last question, and this one is a biggie. If you had stayed with the Rangers, what would the score have been in the game they beat the Orioles, 30-3?

A: They scored 30 runs without me. I'd have to say at least 34 or 35 (laughing). But really, I don't know that I would have made that big of a difference.

Very long yes, it was on Ken Rosenthal's site, then I put it on mine.

09-01-2007, 11:27 AM
Q: It doesn't seem like the adjustment to National League pitching has been that difficult for you. How do your explain your individual success thus far?

A: I think two things. When I got traded, I said it almost felt like my career had just started. I was like a little kid again. I was so excited to play, to be out there and perform. Second of all, when you're in a lineup as talented as this and as potent as this, you're going to get good pitches to hit. I compare this lineup to the lineup I was in with Texas my first three years there. Every time up, it seems like you're hitting with men on base.

Q: How difficult was it in that final month or so knowing you might be traded, whether it was to the Braves, Angels or Dodgers?

A: It was a little tough. The great thing about the time leading up to the trade deadline was that every team that was floated out there were all great teams to consider getting traded to. Any time you get a chance to move to an organization that is in a pennant race and has a chance to win, it beats being in last place.

Q: You attended Georgia Tech. Your wife, Leigh, is from north of Atlanta. How excited were you to end up with the Braves?

A: Out of all the teams that were thrown out there, I was most happy about the Braves. First of all, they were winning and had a chance to make the playoffs. But second of all, to go back home, to see Leigh's family, to see friends from college and be in a place I was familiar with — that was great.

Q: What has it been like playing for Bobby Cox?

A: I love him, man. I can't say enough great things about Bobby Cox. The Braves winning 14 consecutive division titles, a huge reason for that is Bobby Cox — what he brings to the team, the stability, the respect that he has gained. Every player I've ever talked to loves Bobby Cox.

Q: What stands out to you playing for him that maybe you didn't know before?

A: He's sincere. He's genuine. When he's ticked off, he's genuinely ticked off. When he's happy, he's genuinely happy. When he talks to you, you know there's nothing behind it, no hidden meanings. Whatever he says, he believes. And it's coming from his heart.

Q: Which of the big-name Braves — Chipper, Andruw, John Smoltz, Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur — is the most different from what you expected?

A: McCann and Francoeur are so great. They have no egos. They're young and talented and they have every reason to be cocky, to think they're the greatest thing they're walking. But they don't. They're just kids playing baseball.

Q: How frustrating is it to you that the team hasn't surged?

A: The toughest thing is that we haven't won the close games. It seems that every time we have a one-run game, we're coming up on the short end of the stick. For whatever reason, we can't seem to break through in those close games.

Q: After the trade, Rangers owner Tom Hicks disclosed that you had rejected an eight-year contract offer for about $140 million. How upset were you that he went public?

A: I wasn't upset. Anything that happened with the Rangers is all in the past. Honestly, I was so excited to be an Atlanta Brave, everything that came out afterward, I really didn't even pay attention to. That sounds politically correct. But that's the honest truth. I was so happy to be a Brave, so happy to be in Atlanta.

Q: It's difficult for many people to understand how a player could turn down such an offer. What was your thinking?

A: For me, it wasn't about the contract. It was about the plan for my career. I felt like it was unfair for me to be given a take-it-or-leave-it offer and be told, if you don't take it, you're going to be traded. Whatever happens in my career, I can accept. But I'm not going to make a decision based on someone pressuring me to do something.

Q: You made some critical comments about the Rangers' commitment to winning about two weeks before you were traded. How frustrated were you at the time?

A: I was very frustrated. Every player in Texas was frustrated to some degree. It was the kind of article that everybody in Texas wanted to write and they needed me for quotes. I'm going to be honest when people ask me questions. I'm going to be honest about wanting to win. I'm going to be honest about the direction of my career. I just answered the questions that were given to me. I didn't hold a press conference and say, "Listen to me. I have all these things to say."

Q: How tough was it leaving two of your best friends with the Rangers, shortstop Michael Young and third baseman Hank Blalock?

A: Very tough. I have a lot of good friends in Texas that I continue to root for. I check the boxscores periodically to see what guys are doing. I always said I wanted to be in a dogpile with Michael Young and Hank Blalock. I hope someday they get a chance to do that. Unfortunately, it won't be with me. But I still root for those guys.

Q: You're a free agent after next season. What will go into your decision?

A: No. 1, I want a chance where I can win consistently. That is my No. 1 goal in my career. I've been very lucky, very blessed early in my career to have personal success. But I have not had any team success. That's No. 1. No. 2, wherever my family is going to be happy. My wife and my kids are so important to me. Wherever they feel comfortable is a place where I'm going to be.

Q: You're represented by Scott Boras. There's a perception that Boras clients always go for the most money. Is that fair?

A: I think it's very unfair. I've always said that people that say that are the teams that make the lowest offer to their own players and (see them) end up leaving for free agency. The players that go to teams and perform, everyone says how great it is to have 'em. No one talks about the money anymore.

Q: Last question, and this one is a biggie. If you had stayed with the Rangers, what would the score have been in the game they beat the Orioles, 30-3?

A: They scored 30 runs without me. I'd have to say at least 34 or 35 (laughing). But really, I don't know that I would have made that big of a difference.
__________________________________________________ ____________________________________
Very long yes, it was on Ken Rosenthal's site, then I put it on mine.

use quotes bud but looks good

09-01-2007, 11:33 AM
use quotes bud but looks good

My bad. I'll fix it. I thought you might be able to read it better. Oh, I guess you said that so it's not so long in the quotes

09-02-2007, 04:19 PM
Notes: Andruw not thinking about future
Longtime hitting coach Roberts passes; Escobar back in lineup

ATLANTA -- Now that he and his teammates have put themselves in an unenviable position, Andruw Jones has to face the reality that he could be spending his final month in Atlanta. But the Gold Glove outfielder says this isn't a current concern.
"I'm not thinking about that," said Jones, who will make an interesting visit to the free-agent market at the end of this season. "I'm just thinking about getting our team going and into the [National League] Wild Card."

The Braves have lost 11 of their previous 16 games entering Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Mets, so this isn't a time for them to get picky about how they might enter the postseason.

The Braves rank third in the National League East, standing 6 1/2 games behind the front-running Mets. In the much more crowded Wild Card race, they also face a 6 1/2-game deficit. But there are five teams ahead of them in that chase.

"Anything can change. We can win today and then win the rest of the homestand," said Jones, who fully understands the reality that the Braves have to be thinking about sweeping the pair of three-game series that they'll play against the Phillies and Nationals at Turner Field this week.

Throughout this primarily frustrating season, the Braves had hoped they'd get going when Jones got over his hitting woes. But even though he's hit .286 with three homers over the past 20 games, Atlanta has gone just 8-12.

Despite hitting .224, Jones still is on pace to end this season with 28 homers and 100 RBIs. This, combined with his past accomplishments -- both offensively and defensively -- and age (30), leads his agent, Scott Boras, to believe he'll still be able to get his client a highly lucrative contract on the free-agent market.

Whether or not the Braves will show interest in retaining Jones' services remains to be seen. But without much surprise, the veteran outfielder confirmed that there haven't been any negotiations.

"We haven't talked," he said. "Hopefully, when the season is over, we'll get the situation done and see what happens. ... Hopefully, when everything is said and done, I'll get a contract and be here."

Condolences: The Braves were saddened to learn on Saturday of the sudden passing of longtime hitting coach Mel Roberts, who spent this season with their rookie-level team in Danville, Va.

Danville was eliminated from the Appalachian League playoffs on Friday, and Roberts was supposed to go golfing with some of his fellow coaches on Saturday. When he didn't arrive, they went to his apartment, where they found him unresponsive.

Roberts, 64, served as Philadelphia's first-base coach from 1992-95. He spent the past 11 seasons as a hitting coach in the Braves' Minor League system.

Escobar returns: Yunel Escobar returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing Saturday's game with a bruised left elbow, an injury caused by being hit with two pitches this week.

Escobar's return was a welcome sight for the Braves, who are still hopeful that Edgar Renteria's right ankle will allow him to be a contributing factor down the stretch.

In Escobar's absence on Saturday, the Braves were forced to use Chris Woodward as their starting shortstop. Woodward, who has just two hits in his last 29 at-bats dating back to July 16, could not convert a bunt attempt that killed a potentially damaging situation in the fifth inning.

The Braves have won just seven of the 21 games that Woodward has started this year.

Durable Frenchy: Jeff Francoeur started his 301st consecutive game on Sunday afternoon. The right fielder has started every game the Braves have played dating back to the final two games of the 2005 season.

The only Major League player who has played more consecutive games than Francoeur is Cleveland's Grady Sizemore, who played in his 331st straight game on Sunday. But unlike Francoeur, Sizemore hasn't started each of those games.

Tex matches Horner: Mark Teixeira's first month with the Braves was obviously a memorable one. But though he hit .315 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs in August, he didn't have the best month in Atlanta history by a corner infielder.

Teixeira's 32 RBIs matched the monthly record, set by Bob Horner in July 1980. During that month, Horner hit .327 with 14 homers. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-03-2007, 06:31 PM
Notes: Smoltz down on his luck
Right-hander has pitched better than record indicates

ATLANTA -- Those frustrations John Smoltz expressed after Sunday's loss obviously were fueled by the fact the Braves had just been swept by the Mets. But also playing a contributing factor was the fact that he'd lost yet another game in which he provided a quality start.
Entering Monday's series opener against the Phillies at Turner Field, Smoltz ranked third in the National League with 22 quality starts -- a start in which a pitcher completes six innings and allows three earned runs or less. Yet he has just 12 wins this season and none of those victories have come in games where he's allowed more than two earned runs.

"It's hard to think that could happen in a whole season," Smoltz said. "It's just the way it's gone."

After surrendering David Wright's decisive two-out, two-run homer in Sunday's 3-2 loss, Smoltz shook his head with the disbelief caused by the realization that he still hasn't won any of the seven starts he's made and allowed exactly three earned runs. In fact, just two of his seven losses have come in games where he's allowed more than three runs.

"You get tired at nitpicking over one pitch," Smoltz said. "That's the way it's been. I can only control one thing, and that's when I'm throwing a baseball. I feel like I've done a good job of damage control."

Despite being bothered by his right shoulder for nearly two months, Smoltz can argue that he's actually pitched better than he did during his 16-win season last year. Through his first 27 starts this year, the 40 year-old veteran has posted a 3.09 ERA and allowed opponents a .261 batting average.

In his 35 starts last year, he posted a 3.49 ERA and allowed opponents a .251 batting average.

One prime difference this year is the Braves have given Smoltz an average of 4.39 runs per start. Last year, he received 5.07 runs.

In comparison, Smoltz's teammate Tim Hudson, who has 15 wins and 21 quality starts, has received 6.09 runs of support per start.

With Hudson having already lost to the Mets on Friday night, Smoltz obviously felt an increased sense of pressure that has developed with the growing realization the Braves have no stability at the back end of their rotation.

Combined Smoltz and Hudson have gone 27-14 with a 3.21 ERA. The rest of the Braves starters have gone 22-35 with a 5.68 ERA.

"The amount of pressure on John Smoltz and Tim Hudson to win every time they go out there is tremendous," Chipper Jones said. "We just haven't gotten enough wins late in our rotation to hold our heads above water."

Holding on for hope: Entering Monday, the Braves ranked third in the National League East and trailed the first-place Mets by a season-high 7 1/2 games. In the Wild Card race, they stood 6 1/2 games back with six other teams either even or ahead of them.

"There are no guarantees whatsoever," Jones said. "There are so many teams in front of us in the Wild Card and two teams playing pretty well in the division. We're going to have to play a percentage of baseball that we haven't played in two years."

While it's purely guesswork, many of the Braves believe they need to win at least 19 of the final 25 games to even have a shot at the postseason. Their best 25-game stretch this year came when they began the season with a 16-9 record.

Their second-best stretch came June 25-July 16, when they won 12 of 16 games.

Richmond qualifies: Triple-A Richmond has earned the Wild Card entry into the International League playoffs. They'll open a five-game series against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees on Wednesday.

As the first-half winners of the South Division of the Southern League, Double-A Mississippi will also begin postseason play this week. Rookie level Danville was eliminated from the Appalachian League playoffs on Friday night. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-03-2007, 09:50 PM
Discarded closer Bob Wickman's troubles with the Braves began weeks before he was dumped, when he lashed out at RF Jeff Francoeur. Bobby Cox is the game's most patient manager when it comes to players, but Wickman learned what happens when Cox has had enough. . . .


09-04-2007, 10:37 PM
Notes: Renteria nearing return
Shortstop cautious about rushing back into lineup

ATLANTA -- Edgar Renteria began fielding grounders and taking swings again during Tuesday afternoon's batting practice at Turner Field. Like when he was at this same rehab stage two weeks ago, the Braves shortstop experienced no limitations or discomfort in his right ankle.
But having learned from the freak setback that he experienced two weeks ago, Renteria isn't making any guarantees about returning to the lineup when he becomes eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Friday.

"I don't know," said Renteria, whose game action has been limited to one pitch since he suffered a high right ankle sprain on Aug. 2. "I can't tell you for sure because I'm not sure."

Renteria's uncertainty stems from the fact he felt no discomfort in the three days leading up to his abbreviated Aug. 22 return from the disabled list. While shifting back and checking his swing on the first pitch he saw that night in Cincinnati, the veteran shortstop aggravated the ankle injury and consequently found himself back on the disabled list the next day.

Because Renteria didn't roll or cause significant trauma to the ankle, the hope is that these past two weeks have simply given the ankle further time to heal. When he suffered the injury originally, doctors told him that it would take three to four weeks to heal.

"Everything is stronger because I've had more time," said Renteria, whose .336 batting average still ranks second in the National League.

Given his production and what his presence means to the lineup, it's not too surprising that the Braves' postseason hopes haven't strengthened in Renteria's absence. Since he originally suffered the injury, they've gone 13-16. In the process, they've lost three games in the National League East standings and four games in the Wild Card chase. "Malo," Renteria said before translating his response to English to explain he's felt "really bad" while seeing his team put itself in an unenviable position.

Before Renteria was injured, the Braves had hit .277 with a .341 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage. Since the start of play on Aug. 3, they've hit .271 with a .334 on-base percentage and .458 slugging percentage.

While the numbers aren't dramatically different, it must be remembered that six of the 16 losses the Braves have suffered since Aug. 3 have been by one run. Nine of the losses have been by two runs or less.

Although it can seemingly be argued that one extra hit might have proven to be the difference in some of those losses, the always humble Renteria isn't saying things would have been different.

"I'm no Superman," Renteria said.

Prado promoted: Martin Prado has no problem with the fact that he won't be around to help his Triple-A Richmond teammates in their quest to win the International League championship. While with Atlanta for the rest of this month, the talented utility infielder hopes to be helping his teammates chase a bigger prize.

Knowing Prado's bat could prove to be a weapon off the bench, the Braves added the Venezuelan infielder to the expanded roster on Tuesday. Once Richmond concludes play, right-handed relievers Chad Paronto and Joey Devine and outfielder Gregor Blanco might also be called up to Atlanta.

After producing a single and a double in his first two at-bats of Monday's 3-2 win over Norfolk, Prado knew he was just one hit away from capturing the IL batting crown. He'd been told before the game that a 3-for-3 performance would push him ahead of Ben Francisco, who had been promoted to Cleveland earlier in the day.

But with his sixth-inning at-bat, Prado flew out to deep center field. He was immediately removed from the game, keeping his batting average at .316. Francisco won the title with a .318 mark.

"I was thinking about it too much," said Prado, who registered seven hits in the final 13 Major League at-bats he got in August.

Braves bits: Left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez has experienced the grueling rehab that follows Tommy John ligament replacement elbow surgery and now he's excited to know he'll be allowed to start playing catch in about three weeks. ... If Renteria tallies at least 39 more plate appearances this season, he'll qualify for the batting title. ... Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira was named the National League Player of the Month for August. During his first month in Atlanta, he hit .315 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-05-2007, 04:21 PM
Notes: Cox's loyalty benefits Harris
Despite prolonged slump, manager has stuck with outfielder

ATLANTA -- Because he's much more athletic and talented, it's seemingly unfair to compare Willie Harris to Charles Thomas. But based on the offensive futility he's experienced over the past two months, he's provided legitimate reason to be compared Ryan Langerhans.
About the only thing currently separating these two outfielders is the fact that when he produced almost identical numbers to begin this season, Langerhans found his services no longer needed in Atlanta. As for Harris, his prolonged struggles have done nothing to affect his role as the Braves' leadoff hitter against right-handed starting pitchers.

When Harris found himself in his customary spot for Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Phillies at Turner Field, he once again felt fortunate to be playing for somebody like Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose undying loyalty can prove both maddening and rewarding.

"It's the best place I've ever played," said Harris, who signed with the Braves in the offseason. "I think a lot of other managers would have given up on a guy by now. He's the kind of guy you want to give 125 percent for. It just shows you his loyalty and character."

Before producing an infield single in his first at-bat on Wednesday, Harris was hitless in his previous 25 at-bats and had registered just three hits in his previous 47 at-bats. Still, the only time Matt Diaz, who platoons with Harris, has started in left field against a right-hander during this stretch came Friday night.

"You know you're going to go through bad times," said Harris. "But I didn't think the bad times could go this long. I knew I wasn't going to hit .400. I just think it's important now to get back to where I was hitting-wise."

When Langerhans tallied just three hits in 44 at-bats in April, the decision to part ways was influenced by the fact that his struggles had prolonged for nearly a year. His worst stretch this year was one that saw him go hitless in 29 consecutive at-bats -- an unenviable stretch that Harris had been threatening to match on Wednesday.

When Harris hit .383 during his first 45 games with the Braves this year, there was reason to wonder if he was simply enjoying the same Cinderella run experienced by Thomas, who burst on the scene with the Braves in the second half of the 2004 season and hasn't seen the Majors since his unspectacular 30-game stint with the A's in 2005.

In fairness, Harris is a more versatile threat whose talents put him in position to score the decisive run for the White Sox in the 2005 World Series. But for now, he's a leadoff hitter who has proven to be a liability for a potentially potent offense.

Entering Wednesday, he'd reached base in just one of his previous 24 plate appearances. Utilizing a larger sample size, he'd reached safely in just eight of his previous 53 plate appearances.

Speaking of Cinderella runs ... : When Buddy Carlyle went 6-1 with a 3.21 ERA in an eight-start stretch from June 26-Aug. 7, he caught the attention of many who wondered why he'd been out of the Majors since a brief stint in 2001.

While going 1-3 with an 8.57 ERA in his past five starts, the 29-year-old journeyman has provided some indication of why he spent most of last summer pitching in Korea. In his past 20 1/3 innings, he's surrendered eight homers.

Before this forgettable five-start stretch, Carlyle had surrendered just four homers in his previous 47 2/3 innings.

"He's kind of a high-ball pitcher, actually," Cox said after Carlyle surrendered two costly homers in Tuesday night's loss. "You've either got to get it way up or way down. You can't be in the hot zone."

Braves bits: Triple-A Richmond was scheduled to begin its best-of-five playoff series against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees on Wednesday night. The R-Braves' scheduled starters in the first three games are Jeff Bennett, Blaine Boyer and Francisley Bueno. ... Walter Victor, who served as the Braves' team photographer for more than 40 years, has compiled his top photographs in a new book entitled "Brave at Heart: The Life and Lens of Atlanta Braves' Photographer Walter Victor." The book is available for sale in the Braves Clubhouse Store and Victor will be signing copies from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Friday in Turner Field's Fan Plaza. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-06-2007, 05:13 PM
Being chasers is odd for Braves
Cox's crew fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch

ATLANTA -- The final month of the season has always been quite easy for the Braves to tackle, but during the last two seasons, September has finally decided to fight back.
During their record string of 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, Atlanta found itself not in first place at the start of September just twice, in 1993 and 2000, when they trailed by just half a game. In 1993, the Braves won 22 of their 30 games in September and October to catch the Giants in the National League West and finish 104-58.

In fact, 2000, 1993 and 1991 were the only three years during their run of dominance that the Braves trailed for even a day in September. They had leads of at least seven games seven times going into the final month and won by that margin or more eight times.

That isn't the case this year, nor was it last season. In 2006, the Braves were all but eliminated from the NL East race going into September, and this year they trailed the Mets by 5 1/2 games, a deficit that has grown to 7 1/2. They are behind in the NL Wild Card race to five teams and by 5 1/2 games.

"I'd prefer to be about 15 games up," starting pitcher Tim Hudson said. "But obviously, this part of the season is always exciting when you know you have a fighting chance to do something -- make the playoffs and hope to do something special. The closer you are to being in it, the more exciting it is for you."

Many of the Braves see it that way -- that September baseball is fun regardless of whether the team is playing from ahead or behind. Staying in contention with at least an outside shot to make the playoffs is the key. Atlanta still has that, but its postseason chances are hanging by a thread.

But a turnaround has to start somewhere, and Wednesday's improbable 9-8 comeback victory over the Phillies might have been the beginning of an even more unlikely late-season rally for the Braves.

If Atlanta plans on adding the Mets to the list of teams that blew big September leads and missed the postseason -- a list that includes the 1951 Dodgers, 1964 Phillies, 1978 Red Sox and 1995 Angels -- scoring seven runs in the final two innings to beat a division rival certainly can't hurt.

"For us, I know mathematically it's getting tough to make the playoffs, but you're never out of it," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "The A's won 20 games in a row a couple years ago (2002), and we've seen teams go on big winning streaks and teams falter late in the year."

The only current Braves with World Series rings are Chipper Jones and John Smoltz -- who won theirs with Atlanta in 1995 -- and Willie Harris, who was a member of the White Sox's championship team a decade later.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox has one, too, with that 1995 team. Being part of a team whose path to the playoffs isn't clear has been a new experience for him. He has managed all of the Braves' playoff teams since 1991, when they clinched on the penultimate day of the season.

"For us, I know mathematically it's getting tough to make the playoffs, but you're never out of it. The A's won 20 games in a row a couple years ago (2002), and we've seen teams go on big winning streaks and teams falter late in the year"
-- Jeff Francoeur

Judging by Cox's demeanor, however, it would be difficult to tell that, for a change, the Braves don't control their own destiny. He's still the same loyal, positive leader he's always been, a facet of his personality that may have helped several of his teams reach the playoffs in the first place.

"I've never seen a guy who's so even-keel all the time, whether we're in it or not," Francoeur said. "I still say last year, at the end of the season, Bobby managed the last 15 games the same way he managed the first 15, and that's what's so great about him."

Sometimes, the pressure of turning every game into a must-win situation can cause a team to change its daily approach unnecessarily.

"That pressure sometimes can get to a team," Francoeur said.

Scoreboard-watching is something players try to avoid, but that's next to impossible when you're reliant on the help of so many other teams to improve your postseason hopes.

The Braves don't want a repeat of last year, when they were swept by the Mets in July and played in few important games down the stretch, forcing themselves to manufacture importance during the season's final weeks.

Instead of feeling the pressure, though, the leaders of the clubhouse are emphasizing a more relaxed approach.

"We've got nothing to lose," Jones said. "We ought to go out there and play free and easy from here on out -- make plays, put up good at-bats. Just about everybody else we're going to play has something to lose.

"We were in a situation where we used the last couple series of the year last year as our playoffs, to knock other teams out. If we don't put some kind of streak together here pretty quick, that's what we'll be doing again." By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

09-08-2007, 12:06 AM
Notes: Renteria activated, not healthy
Veteran shortstop still hampered by sprained right ankle
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- When the Braves activated Edgar Renteria from the 15-day disabled list on Friday, they knew it would be at least a few more days before he'd be ready to return to their lineup. But with the rosters already expanded, there was no reason for Atlanta not to make the transaction.
"We just activated him because we could," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's not ready. I guess if we needed to pinch-hit him in the 20th inning, we could." Renteria, who has been active for just one pitch since spraining his right ankle on Aug. 2, found some benefit during Friday's batting practice, when he began testing the same kind of ankle brace Brian McCann utilized during the final four months of last season.

But while hopeful, the Braves aren't certain Renteria's ankle will even be strong enough to return to the lineup next week. The veteran shortstop's .336 batting average ranks second in the National League. He needs 39 more plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

"I'm ready to go when the manager says I can," Renteria said.

After swinging with two separate groups on Friday afternoon, Renteria indicated the brace provided no problems. Now, he'll have to convince Cox that his ankle is much more sound than it was on Aug. 22 -- the night he was activated from the disabled list and then aggravated the injury while leaning back from the first pitch he saw.

Renteria has been taking grounders and running over the course of the past week. But before taking another chance, the Braves want to make sure the ankle is strong enough to prevent another setback.

"He may favor it occasionally," Cox said. "But it's a lot better."

Playoff chances? It's quite easy to simply say the Braves need a near-perfect finish to advance to the postseason. But the folks who run sportsclubstats.com have actually formulated percentages that indicate each Major League team's chances of competing in this year's playoffs.

Entering Friday's series opener against the Nationals, their analysis indicated the Braves have a 3.1 percent chance to be playing in October.

But through their formulations, they also projected the Braves have a 79.9 percent chance to advance to the playoffs with a 17-5 finish. If they can somehow manage to win 18 of their final 22 games, that chance jumps to 94.3 percent.

Their calculations also somewhat supports the "there are no guarantees" theory that Chipper Jones has expressed this week. The calculations conclude losing one of the final 22 games would assure entry. But if the Braves were to lose just three games the rest of the way, the chance rests at 98.6 percent.

"Somebody is going to have to lose four or five in a row and we're going to have to reel off the same number [of wins]," Cox said. "Then we're right back in it."

Further doubt about Dotel: Octavio Dotel, who has been unavailable since Aug. 7 because of a right shoulder strain, hasn't provided a lot of optimism while playing long toss the past two days. While he was hoping to throw a bullpen session on Friday, the Braves haven't seen enough to definitely say when the veteran right-handed reliever will be able to test the shoulder off the mound.

In other bullpen-related news, former closer Bob Wickman, who was designated for assignment on Aug. 24, signed with the Diamondbacks on Friday. Because he wasn't signed before Sept. 1, Wickman will not be eligible to compete in the postseason.

McCann returns: As the Braves medical staff predicted, McCann returned to the lineup on Friday night. The All-Star catcher was forced to leave Wednesday's game in the eighth inning when a bone spur in his left ankle caused him some discomfort while running from first to second base.

McCann, who missed three weeks last year because of a sprained left ankle, has been sporadically bothered by the spur throughout the season. It's not considered a significant problem. But there's a chance he'll have the ailment surgically repaired during the offseason.

Hudson recognized: During a pregame ceremony on Friday that officially recognized him as the Braves nominee for this year's Roberto Clemente Award, Tim Hudson presented a check for $7,500 to Anna's Angel Fund, a non-profit organization founded by a young Atlanta-area cancer patient that offers financial assistance to children battling cancer.

Game time changes: To accommodate television scheduling, the starting times for the first two games of this month's series against the Brewers have been changed. The Sept. 21 game, which will now be broadcast by ESPN, has been moved from 7:35 p.m. to 7:08 p.m. ET. The Sept. 22 game, which will air on FOX, has been moved from 7:05 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. ET. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-08-2007, 12:08 PM
Octavio Dotel-R- Braves Sep. 8 - 8:51 am et

Ocatvio Dotel (shoulder) had a scheduled bullpen session Friday pushed back a few days.

Dotel threw long-toss rather than the bullpen session. There remains no timetable for his return from the disabled list.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Brian McCann-C- Braves Sep. 8 - 8:48 am et

Brian McCann confirmed Friday that offseason surgery is a possibility to fix the bone spur in his balky left ankle.

McCann occasionally gets sharp pain in his ankle when he stops and starts. The surgery would be a minor procedure and he would be 100 percent in time for spring training.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution rotoworld

09-08-2007, 10:26 PM
Notes: Old arm learns new tricks
Smoltz remains elite pitcher while developing his repertoire

ATLANTA -- As reporters filed into his office on Friday night to discuss John Smoltz's stellar performance, Braves manager Bobby Cox said, "It doesn't surprise anybody, does it?"
Given all the doubts he's erased throughout his career, there might no longer be reason to be surprised by anything Smoltz does. But when you're 40 years old and carry a no-hitter in the eighth inning, as he did in Friday night's win over the Nationals, there's legitimate reason to be surprised.

Before surrendering an eighth-inning leadoff single to Ronnie Belliard, Smoltz was bidding to join Nolan Ryan, Cy Young, Warren Spahn and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters after their 40th birthdays.

But as the Mets' Tom Glavine and the Dodgers' David Wells discovered while bidding for perfect games through five innings on Saturday, success can continue after the celebration of a 40th birthday -- if necessary adjustments are made.

Instead of attempting to blow his fastball and slider by opposing batters, Smoltz is now adding at least a touch of finesse to his arsenal. He took some velocity off a number of his sliders on Friday, and ended up registering a majority of his 10 strikeouts with the pitch. Nationals players admitted after the game they hadn't seen the new slider very much in the past.

"It used to be everything with him was hard," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "You could sit hard, and when he made mistakes, people made him pay. When you change speeds with your breaking ball, it makes a big difference. "When you combine that 95-mph heater with his location and his slider -- when it's on -- he's still dirty. You can just tell that he gets to a point where he gets to about 90 pitches and he starts finessing. He's just as effective then."

Smoltz, whose 23 quality starts rank third in the National League this year, has also recently worked with Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell to develop a two-seam fastball. While utilizing this pitch -- which essentially is a hard sinker -- during his past two starts, he's induced a number of ground-ball outs and aimed toward minimizing his pitch count.

"It's made a major difference," Smoltz said. "It's really changed how I attack a hitter. I'm really excited about that pitch over the next few years of my career, because it's a low-stress pitch and it's gotten a lot of outs. It's rare you can pitch this long and get this excited about a new pitch."

Renteria returns: When Edgar Renteria was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday, Cox didn't provide much indication that his veteran shortstop would return to the lineup this weekend.

But on Saturday, Cox opted to concede to Renteria's wish to return to action. The veteran shortstop felt his sprained right ankle was healthy enough for him to play in Friday night's series opener against the Nationals.

"He says he's ready," Cox said of Renteria, who originally sprained the ankle on Aug. 2 and then aggravated the injury when he was activated from the disabled list on Aug. 22.

As long as Renteria stays healthy, Cox will once again platoon Yunel Escobar, who has spent the past month at shortstop, and Kelly Johnson at second base.

Entering Saturday, Renteria's .336 batting average ranked second in the National League. He needed 39 more plate appearances by the end of the season to qualify for the batting title. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-09-2007, 07:36 PM
Notes: Renteria's wheel of steel
Braves veteran shortstop feels no pain in ankle after return

ATLANTA -- Edgar Renteria tested his right ankle on Saturday with lateral movement and running drills, then entered the Braves dugout with a smile and the message manager Bobby Cox wanted to hear.
"Let's do it," Renteria said.

Cox posted two lineups on the dry erase board in Atlanta's clubhouse for Sunday afternoon's game against the Nationals. One of those lineups didn't feature Renteria, but it was scrapped when Renteria reported back in optimal health.

The Braves shortstop returned to the lineup on Saturday for the first time since Aug. 22, but Cox didn't want to assure Renteria playing time Sunday -- a day game after a night game -- until Renteria tested the ankle.

Renteria initially injured the ankle trying to field a ground ball against Houston at Turner Field on Aug. 2. He landed on the disabled list the next day, and tried to return on Aug. 22 at Cincinnati.

But Renteria re-injured the ankle in his first plate appearance on a check swing. His return on Saturday impressed Cox, who seems to be running out of superlatives to describe Renteria's season.

The 32-year-old native of Colombia had two hits and two hard-hit balls that were caught. Entering Sunday's game, Renteria's batting average sits at .337, second only to Philadelphia's Chase Utley.

"He hit four bullets," Cox said. "The ball he hit hardest was to center -- that was a lineout right against the wall. It's amazing."

Renteria easily made it through his brief workout on Sunday. The only thing that gave him trouble was the brace he must wear. For someone who rarely gets hurt, every aspect of an injury is an inconvenience.

"I hate this thing," he said.

Sunday's lineup includes Kelly Johnson batting eighth and playing second base. Rookie Yunel Escobar, who filled in while Renteria was hurt, will be back in a platoon role at second with Johnson, and was out of the lineup on Sunday.

Carlyle it is: Cox announced on Sunday that Buddy Carlyle will make the start on Tuesday in New York against the Mets. Cox waited to see if Carlyle or rookie Jo-Jo Reyes would be needed in relief during the series against Washington.

"[I wanted to] see how these games went," Cox said. "If we had to use Buddy to help win, or Jo-Jo, the other guys would start. It's that time of year."

Carlyle lasted just 1 2/3 innings and threw 45 pitches against Philadelphia on Tuesday after allowing three runs. He appeared upset when Cox took him out, and Reyes pitched well in relief.

Cox said Reyes could be used again in relief if Carlyle struggles.

Organizational update: The Triple-A Richmond Braves advanced to the International League championship series, known as the Governors' Cup, with a 4-3 win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Saturday.

Iker Franco delivered the game-tying single and Derrick Arnold, who spent the regular season with Class A Myrtle Beach, won it with a sacrifice fly to center field. Arnold was promoted to Richmond on Tuesday.

"Any day you come to the ballpark, you hope you could be that one person to change the game," Arnold, told minorleaguebaseball.com. "When I woke up this morning, I didn't think I was even going to get to play.

"I just got up here a week ago, but I never thought once I'd come in today and win the game. Any time you get a chance to do something like that, it's unbelievable."

Oregon-izational update: Another Braves Minor Leaguer had a big day on Saturday, but it didn't come in a baseball uniform.

University of Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, a fifth-round pick of the Braves in June's First Year Player Draft, led the Ducks to a 39-7 win over Michigan. Dixon passed for 292 yards with three touchdowns and he rushed for another score.

With Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League and Danville of the Appalachian League, Dixon combined to hit just .176 (13 for 74). He has led the Ducks to a 2-0 record to start the season.

Franco missing: Julio Franco injured his hamstring during the series with the Phillies earlier this week and has not been in uniform this weekend against the Nationals. The origin of the injury is unknown.

Franco has been in the Braves' clubhouse, but rarely seen because he is often getting treatment. He last played on Sept. 2, making a pinch-hitting appearance. Franco accepted an assignment to the Minors after Atlanta acquired Mark Teixeira on July 31. Since re-joining the Braves on Sept. 1, Franco has just two at-bats.

Chuck and duck: Chuck James probably saw his life flash before his eyes when Washington second baseman Ronnie Belliard hit a smash up the middle during the fifth inning of James' start on Saturday.

James managed to snag the liner, but by no fault of his own. It happened to hit James' glove, which was extended towards third base on the pitcher's follow-through.

"As long as they're hitting them, I'll throw [my glove] out there anyway and hope for the best," James said. "I see that play all the time on TV, and I'm like, 'I probably have no shot if they hit one back like that.' It was nice to finally make one." By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com

09-10-2007, 11:10 PM
Notes: Chipper late scratch from lineup
Veteran injures himself before game during batting practice

NEW YORK -- Since returning from the disabled list on June 13, Chipper Jones has avoided the injury bug that stung him in each of the past two seasons. But his healthy streak may have come to an end on Monday night, when he strained his right oblique muscle.
While taking a swing during batting practice before the opener of a three-game series against the Mets, Jones felt pain and was consequently removed from the lineup. Two of the three trips he made to the DL last season were necessitated by a left oblique strain.

Adding to the Braves' woes was the fact that Andruw Jones was also a late scratch from Monday's lineup, because he was feeling sick. Willie Harris replaced him in center.

Chipper Jones, who ranks fourth in the National League with a .330 batting average, has seen the Braves go 62-54 in the games that he's started this year. They're 11-16 in the games that he's been out of the lineup.

Yunel Escobar, who had been scheduled to play second base, replaced Jones as the third baseman. With the Mets starting left-hander Oliver Perez, Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to utilize the right-handed Martin Prado at second base.

Schuerholz's Wild Card appreciation: Sarcastically, Braves general manager John Schuerholz said that his newfound appreciation for the Wild Card began about the same time his team stopped winning division championships on an annual basis.

But truthfully, Schuerholz admits he began appreciating the Wild Card before last season, when his team's unprecedented run of 14 consecutive NL division titles essentially came to an end in July. This year, legitimate hopes of regaining the NL East crown were at least maintained until the Mets began this month with a series sweep in Atlanta.

Even when their hopes to win a division title were essentially dashed during the past two seasons, the Braves have still remained motivated by the fact they could gain entry to the postseason via the NL Wild Card. Last year, those hopes were essentially dashed during September's first week.

This year, while the odds are steep, the Braves at least enter the regular season's final three weeks with hope still alive. They entered Monday night's series opener against the Mets at Shea Stadium trailing the the front-running Padres in the crowded NL Wild Card race by 4 1/2 games.

"I love the Wild Card," Schuerholz said. "I always have. I was terribly misguided in my early days with my view of the Wild Card. I've had an awakening."

After admittedly providing a touch of sarcasm with his statement, Schuerholz admitted his awakening has slowly evolved since Major League Baseball opted to begin utilizing the Wild Card before the start of the 1994 season.

Originally, Schuerholz and many of his peers felt postseason entry should remain restricted to those teams who proved to be the strongest in their respective divisions over the course of a 162-game season. His thinking has evolved as he's realized how the Wild Card allows teams and communities to remain interested long after they've essentially been eliminated from the division race.

"It really has worked," Schuerholz said. "It's worked from the perspective of excitement of races. It's worked from fans' interests. It's worked from positive, stimulating impact on a lot of baseball communities that otherwise wouldn't have existed."

Even if the Braves were to sweep the Mets this week, they'd still trail them by 5 1/2 games in the division race with just 17 games left to play. Thus, Schuerholz and others from the Braves organization are more concerned about what a sweep this week would do to affect their standing in the NL Wild Card race. They currently rank fifth, behind the Padres, Phillies, Dodgers and Rockies

With the Padres and Dodgers beginning a three-game series against each other on Tuesday in Los Angeles and the Rockies traveling to Philadelphia for a four-game series that began on Monday, the Braves are in position to certainly increase their pulse this week.

"We've got to crank it up ourselves," Schuerholz said. "For any of that stuff to be meaningful, we need to take care of business."

Franco sore: Simply saying it's remarkable that Julio Franco is still playing in the Major Leagues at the age of 49 doesn't provide all of the story. Since finding his way back to the Majors at the age of 43 with the Braves in 2001, the ageless wonder has had just one stint on the DL and that came in 2003, when he injured his left middle finger while lifting weights.

But Franco is currently experiencing some backside discomfort that might at least prove he's aging like a normal human being. While swinging during his Minor League stint in August, the veteran first baseman felt some discomfort at the top of his right hamstring. Until it worsened last week, he battled through the discomfort.

Franco's soreness prevents him from even sitting without discomfort. He's hopeful to be available for pinch-hitting duties again later this week. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-12-2007, 12:01 AM
Notes: Chipper can't avoid injury bug
Veteran's right oblique muscle strain keeps him sidelined

NEW YORK -- Chipper Jones didn't return to the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Mets, and the Braves know there's at least a chance they'll be spending the remainder of the season without the services of their veteran third baseman, who strained his right oblique muscle during Monday's batting practice.
"I think it's more than day-to-day," Braves manager Bobby Cox said, when asked if he had an idea of when Jones would be able to return to action.

Instead of talking to reporters on Tuesday, Jones chose to provide an update through Braves media relations assistant Adam Liberman.

"It's the same as yesterday," Liberman relayed. "It's day-to-day. It's not good enough for me to play."

After Monday's series-opening loss to the Mets, Jones indicated that he was feeling discomfort when he was simply standing straight. This led him to accurately predict that he'd miss Tuesday's game and say that he was just hopeful to return to the lineup later in the week.

But as Jones learned with a strained left oblique muscle that forced him to make two trips to the disabled list during the second half of last season, oblique strains don't disappear overnight. Many of them require multiple weeks of rest, and with just 16 games remaining, there's obviously a chance that Jones won't return to the Braves' lineup this season.

Jones was among the players who said on Sunday that the Braves needed to approach the remainder of the season with the mind-set that they'd need to be perfect for the remainder of the regular season.

With Monday's loss, the Braves fell five games behind the front-running Padres in the National League Wild Card race. Making matters even worse is the fact that five other teams stand between them and the Padres.

"Every out, every play matters," Jones said. "If I can't be out there, it's frustrating."

Minus the hand injuries that caused him to miss nearly a month earlier this season, Jones has proven to be more durable this year than he was in the previous two seasons, when he totaled 219 games. He's played in 118 games this season, and Tuesday marked the first time since coming off the DL on June 13 that he'd missed consecutive games.

Sammons added: When Double-A Mississippi was eliminated from the Southern League playoffs on Monday, Clint Sammons assumed his baseball season was complete. But with the Braves in need of a catcher to replace Corky Miller, who is currently tending to his newborn son, Chase, the team provided Sammons a surprise promotion to the Majors.

"It wasn't something I expected," said Sammons, who hit .243 with five homers and 36 RBIs with Mississippi this season.

Sammons, who played with Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur at Parkview High School in suburban Atlanta, will enter Spring Training in 2008 competing to serve as the backup for another childhood friend, Brian McCann, who was also raised approximately 20 minutes north of downtown Atlanta.

Sammons, who was selected out of the University of Georgia in the fourth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, retired 48 percent (38-for-79) of the baserunners who attempted to steal against him this year.

Miller's wife, Jenny Lynne, gave birth to Chase on Monday. The proud new father is expected to rejoin the Braves for this weekend's series against the Nationals.

Some kind of record: With Tim Hudson registering each of his first 14 outs via groundouts on Monday night, the Braves infielders were quite busy. Among the busiest of the bunch was second baseman Martin Prado, who registered assists on seven straight outs during a span that began in the second inning and extended through the end of the fourth.

That end of that span came after Moises Alou grounded out to end the fourth. With Alou being a pull hitter, Hudson playfully gave some of his coaches 1000-to-1 odds that the veteran outfielder would send a grounder Prado's way.

"I'm trying to think if I've ever seen that before," Cox said. "It's got to be a record for a second baseman. Maybe a shortstop has had seven straight balls hit to him when somebody like [Greg] Maddux is pitching or something."

What is known is the fact that Prado's 11 assists on Monday were the most by a Braves second baseman in a nine-inning game since Glenn Hubbard registered 12 on April 14, 1985. Rick Mahler and Bruce Sutter combined to register 17 ground-ball outs that day against the Padres.

9/11 anniversary marked: Observing Tuesday's sixth anniversary of 9/11, Mets players wore various caps recognizing many service branches that sacrificed their lives after the World Trade Center was attacked.

Both the Braves and Mets stood alongside the baselines during Tuesday's national anthem.

Braves bits: Still battling a stomach virus, Andruw Jones returned to Tuesday's lineup. ... Triple-A Richmond continued its quest for an International League championship on Tuesday, when it opened Governor's Cup play against the Durham Bulls, Tampa Bay's Triple-A affiliate. Jeff Bennett, Blaine Boyer and Francisley Bueno are scheduled to start the first three games of this best-of-five series for the Richmond Braves.By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-13-2007, 11:12 PM
Many what-ifs about Hampton's lost year
Another preseason elbow injury ruins lefty's, Braves' season

NEW YORK -- As the Braves' record of 14 consecutive division titles was coming to a close last season, Chipper Jones indicated that things would be different if a healthy Mike Hampton was able to return for 2007.
Now as this 2007 campaign comes to a close and the Braves once again find themselves preparing for a dormant October, nothing has truly changed. A second straight season without Hampton has simply been another one that has gone unfulfilled in Atlanta.

What separates the 2007 season from '06 is the fact that it was planned with the belief that Hampton would be essentially healthy. Having missed all of the previous year rehabbing from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, the Braves didn't know exactly what to expect from Hampton.

But it's safe to say they expected much more than what they've received from the many different inexperienced (Chuck James, Jo-Jo Reyes and ex-Brave Kyle Davies) and unproven (Buddy Carlyle) pitchers who have attempted to fill the starting-rotation void that was created during the first week of April, when Hampton learned another left elbow surgery would force him to miss a second consecutive season.

"I know where we'd be in [the National League East] with 10 more wins, and I believe a healthy Mike Hampton at the top of his game could have given us those wins," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "Not to lay this at Mike's feet, but that was our plan when we put this team together."

Hampton's injury isn't the only one that played a part in the mediocrity that the Braves displayed throughout much of the season. Things might have certainly been different had Jones, Edgar Renteria and Mike Gonzalez avoided the injury bug.

But when Hampton learned he had a torn flexor tendon that required season-ending surgery on April 9, it's safe to say the Braves were dealt a blow from which they never truly recovered.

Instead of enjoying the luxury of having three former 20-game winners in their rotation, the Braves found themselves watching Tim Hudson and John Smoltz provide the only form of consistency that they realize from their starting pitchers.

"This year, I know I was counted on to be one of the main guys in the rotation," Hampton said. "It was set up in the rotation, and I was on schedule. So I kind of put the Braves behind the eight ball, because I was ready to go, and then all of the sudden, I have another surgery."

How Hampton could endure the grueling rehab required after Tommy John surgery and still manage to tear the flexor tendon remains unknown. The discomfort he felt while throwing in the instructional league in early October last year was initially believed to be caused by scar tissue.

When Hampton had both good and bad days during Spring Training this year, he figured he was following the same frustrating path that many other pitchers had traveled following the common ligament-replacement surgery. But after throwing a simulated inning at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia less than 24 hours before Opening Day, the veteran southpaw knew something was certainly wrong. A little more than a week later, Hampton found himself undergoing another surgery.

"I didn't take any shortcuts or miss any steps," Hampton said. "I did everything I was asked to come back healthy, and [the Tommy John surgery] just didn't take. It just wasn't meant to be. Hopefully this last surgery will be the last one that I have, and I can come back to help this team win a World Series."


"This year, I know I was counted on to be one of the main guys in the rotation. It was set up in the rotation, and I was on schedule. So I kind of put the Braves behind the eight ball, because I was ready to go, and then all of the sudden, I have another surgery."
-- Mike Hampton, on his lost season


Any team that has hopes of reaching the World Series obviously needs some stability in its rotation. While watching Hudson and Smoltz combine to go 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA and the rest of their starters go 24-37 with a 5.64 ERA, it's safe to say that the Braves have been burdened by the back end of their rotation.

Before Mark Redman proved to be an uninspired addition, it looked like he might be a nice band-aid in Hampton's absence. After that project crashed, Schuerholz said he diligently attempted to land a "big name" starting pitcher via the trade market. Schuerholz said he was negotiating potential deals that would have provided a splash as big as the one he created on July 31, when he landed first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Rangers.

When this offseason arrives, Schuerholz will once again scour the trade market for a proven veteran pitcher. Given the fact that Hampton hasn't pitched on a consistent basis since May 2005 and hasn't appeared in a big league game since August of that year, there truly is no way for the Braves to predict what he'll provide in 2008.

"None of us really know," Schuerholz said. "We want to believe, as does Mike. But none of us really truly knows what he'll be able to do. My instincts say he'll be a rock-solid starter for us if he's healthy."

Hampton hopes to find a team that will allow him to test himself in winter ball. His hope is to be pitching somewhere when November arrives. The southpaw must prove to himself and the Braves where he stands, as Hampton enters the final year of the much-publicized eight-year, $121 million contract that he signed with the Rockies before the 2001 season.

Given that Hampton struggled for two years in Colorado and really only had two productive years in Atlanta before his elbow problems began, Hampton fully understands that it will be remembered as one of the worst contracts given to a professional athlete.

But Hampton said proving his worth according to the contact won't be a concern in 2008. His desire to return has been fueled by the fact that he's simply tired of being a spectator.

"Being on the [disabled list] for two years in a row, it's almost like retirement, and I know I'm not ready to quit," Hampton said. "I miss competing. I miss the butterflies before a start. I miss the crowd cheering, whether it's good or bad. I miss the high-fives with the guys. There's just so much that goes on in this game that you just miss. It's stuff before all this happened that I just took for granted." By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-15-2007, 11:50 PM
09/15/2007 9:00 PM ET
Notes: Escobar showing maturity
Talented rookie has made strides in mental approach

WASHINGTON -- Based on what he saw while serving as a coach at Double-A Mississippi last year, Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez viewed Yunel Escobar as somebody who had both undeniable talent and a sense of immaturity that could prevent him from realizing his tremendous potential.
While the maximization of this potential likely won't be realized for some time, Escobar has certainly caught the attention of many around Major League Baseball, and at the same time gained the favor of Perez, who has seen the Braves' rookie infielder hit .322, and more importantly, display a complete change of attitude.

"From last year to this year, he's another person," Perez said. "He's the same player. But as a person, he's different. Last year, we couldn't talk to him at all."

But Perez, who is in his first season on Atlanta's coaching staff, got a sense things might be different when Escobar approached him in Spring Training and apologized for the heartache he caused the Mississippi coaches in 2006.

According to Perez, the apology consisted of Escobar saying "last year I was a [jerk] and a bad person. I wasn't paying attention much and I know it."

Escobar's immaturity could be blamed on the fact he'd defected from Cuba less than two years earlier and was struggling to understand both English and life in the United States. But things have definitely changed over the course of the past year, during which he's been reunited with both his father and mother, who also found their way out of Cuba.

"It took me nine years to be in the big leagues," said Perez, who is from Venezuela. "During those nine years, I learned how to speak [English] and learned how to do things in another country. This kid did it in three years."

Given that he's hit .332 -- second among all Major League rookies -- since the All-Star break, Escobar has shown he has few flaws from an offensive perspective. His next task will be to stop being so hard on himself after making those mental fielding mistakes that most rookie infielders are destined to commit.

After reacting hesitantly to a potential double play grounder while manning an unfamiliar third-base position in Monday's one-run loss to the Mets, Escobar chose to punish himself by not eating. According to Braves utility man Brayan Pena, who grew up with Escobar in Cuba, this is a common practice for his friend, who has an intense desire to win.

"He cares a lot," Perez said. "His body language doesn't look like it. But he does care a lot about his team and winning."

'Pen looking good for '08: When the Braves designated closer Bob Wickman for assignment on Aug. 24, some wondered if they'd simply thrown in the towel. Their true intention was simply to replace this disgruntled, grumpy veteran with a mix of young relievers who would provide both immediate and future assistance.

Manny Acosta has taken full advantage of this opportunity and even led manager Bobby Cox to say he could be a closer in the future. In the 14 appearances he's made since making his Major League debut on Aug. 12, Acosta has posted a 1.62 ERA and limited opponents to a .167 batting average. The 10 walks he's issued in 16 2/3 innings is somewhat of a concern and at the same time a mark that shows improvement when compared to some of his Minor League numbers.

"Acosta has pretty much been perfect every time out," Cox said. "He looks real good."

Cox has also been impressed with Jose Ascanio, whose two scoreless innings allowed him to earn the win in Friday's 13-inning victory over the Nationals.

With Acosta, Ascanio, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Tyler Yates and Royce Ring already in place, and the knowledge that Mike Gonzalez will likely return by next June, the Braves won't be spending a fourth consecutive winter feeling definite concerns about their bullpen.

Mr. Clutch: Back when he was overseeing the Braves' Minor Leaguers, current Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Jeff Francoeur's talents shone brightest in the most crucial of situations. Two-and-a-half seasons into his big league career, Francoeur, who delivered the decisive two-run single in Friday night's marathon win, has done nothing that would dispute this claim.

Dating back to his July 7, 2005, Major League debut, Francoeur has hit .337 with runners in scoring position. This mark ranks eighth among all big leaguers and fourth among NL players who have compiled at least 350 of these at-bats during this span.

Ranking fifth among big leaguers during this span is Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira with a .352 mark.By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-16-2007, 10:21 AM
Former Braves playoff-bound
By Carroll Rogers |

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Greetings from the lovely RFK Stadium, where I’m not just complaining because it’s not an ideal spot to take in a baseball game, but because I was born with an aversion to the Redskins. I was born in Dallas. It happens. I’m staying here right near the Navy Yard where the new stadium is going up. All I’ve had time to see today is a couple cranes off in the distance - flight was a coupla hours late. But I’m going to try and check it out this weekend and let y’all know my impressions. And onto other stuff _ and the thoughts I’d had earlier while sitting at my gate at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, waiting to get on a plane. Still feels weird to me, to have the Braves pretty much out of contention for a playoff spot. I look around at the teams in contention and I see familiar faces, and I wondered if, just for the heck of it, I could put together a playoff roster of former Braves, who are all still in position to play in October. Bear with me:

Starter: Tom Glavine, Mets. Won his 300th game this season, went 13-6, with a 3.95 ERA. Has a little experience pitching in October.

Starter: Greg Maddux, Padres: had a five-game winning streak snapped last night but still hasn’t allowed a walk in 57 2/3 innings. He has 12 wins and a 3.86 ERA.

Starter: Paul Byrd, Indians: He’s 15-6 with a 4.34 ERA. That would have tied Tim Hudson for the most wins of any on the Braves roster.

Closer: Joe Borowski, Indians. He’s had his tight-rope walking, no question, and a 5.40 ERA, but he has 40 saves in 46 chances.

Reliever: Rudy Seanez, Dodgers. He’s 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA, 69 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings.

Reliever: Justin Speier, Angels. Don’t remember he was here? Check the book. He was in 1999. I vaguely remember something about him liking donuts. Anyway, he’s 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 43 games (because he was on the DL for two months). Still, he’s seventh in the AL with 20 holds.

Reliever: Kyle Farnsworth, Yankees. He’s 2-1 with a 4.25 ERA, striking out 45 in 55 innings. He’s holding right-handers to a .239 average.

Catcher: Johnny Estrada, Brewers. When he’s not getting in arguments with his manager, he uses that competitive fire on the field. He’s hit .282 with nine homers, 25 doubles and 47 RBIs in 112 games.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal, Dodgers. He’s hitting.271 with a .334 on-base percentage and 83 runs scored. His home runs are down, but that has probably helped him play to his strengths, keeping the ball on the ground and use his speed. And we know about that arm.

Third base: Wilson Betemit, Yankees. He’s hit only .226 this season but we’ve heard his name quite a bit thanks to his 14 home runs. He has 20 RBIs in 28 games, with four home runs, since he was traded from LA to New York on July 31.

First base: Wes Helms, Phillies. He’s a part-time guy but with a little production. He’s got five homers, 19 doubles and 38 RBIs in 105 games.

Second base: Mark DeRosa, Cubs. He’s hit .289 with nine homers and 68 RBIs in his first season since signing a multi-year contract with the Cubs. He’s played all over, but as a second baseman, he’s hit .296.

First base: Daryle Ward, Cubs. He’s hitting .340 in 70 games. He’s really stronger off the bench for this playoff sort of thing, but we’re a little thin at first.

Center field: Kenny Lofton, much as it pains me - he was not my favorite player - we’re a little weak in the outfield. He seems to keep finding his way back to the postseason. Coincidence? Maybe not. He hit .303 in 84 games for Texas and since his trade back to Cleveland, he’s hitting .284 with a .353 on-base percentage in 41 games.

Right field: J.D. Drew. He’s been a total bust by Boston Red Sox standards but at this time of year, we’ll take his glove and his speed in the outfield to save some runs and hope he gets hot. He’s hit .263 with 77 runs scored, with only 8 homers and 50 RBIs.

Left field: Hey, wait a minute. Looks like I’m short here. I guess I’d have to stick Mark DeRosa in the outfield and put Marcus Giles at second? Giles has had a rough year though. OK, so this “team” is not without its flaws. It doesn’t have a whole lot of punch, does it? Fine, rip it. Or better yet, tell me something I’m not thinking of. But it’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? Might not be a bad pitching staff, not exactly a power 1-2 punch but it’s worked for the Braves before.

Hey, it’s what you write about when you haven’t been around the team since last Sunday. But I’m back and I’m here this weekend. And I’m about to go down and be around the team for a while. Apparently a handful of the Braves got to go to the White House today and have a private meet-and-greet with President Bush: John Schuerholz, John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann. I’ll be curious to hear about that and find out what’s going on with Chipper. Talk to me…

09-16-2007, 04:47 PM
Notes: Jones' whirlwind continues
An hour after winning Minors title, prospect called to Majors

WASHINGTON -- It's going to be tough for Brandon Jones to encounter a weekend as memorable as this current one. An hour after helping Triple-A Richmond win the International League championship on Saturday, the 23-year-old outfielder learned he was getting his first call to the Majors.
Making Jones' arrival to the big leagues even sweeter was the fact that Braves manager Bobby Cox had him starting in left field for Sunday's series finale against the Nationals at RFK Stadium.

"We'll get his feet wet," Cox said. "What the heck, he's going to be in camp next year trying to make a roster spot."

During the doubleheader sweep Richmond claimed over Durham to win the IL championship on Saturday, Jones had three hits, including a homer, in five at-bats. This performance provided a fitting conclusion to a season in which he combined to hit .295 with 19 homers and 100 RBIs with Double-A Mississippi and Richmond.

"I had a good year," said the soft-spoken Jones, who was also successful with 17 of his 24 stolen-base attempts. "I was satisfied with what I accomplished this year. Hopefully I just keep getting better as a player."

Regarded as a corner outfielder with an average arm, Jones will go to Spring Training next year competing for time in left field. He may be competing with Matt Diaz and Willie Harris, who platooned in left for a majority of this season.

"We'll go to Spring Training and see what happens," said Jones, who selected by the Braves in the 24th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft and signed on May 12, 2004.

With Jones' arrival, the Braves now can field a lineup that consists of A. Jones (Andruw), B. Jones (Brandon) and C. Jones (Chipper). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday marked the first time in seven seasons that a Major League team utilized a lineup that consisted of three players with the same last name. The previous instance came on Sept. 29, 1999, when in the second game of a doubleheader, the Pirates fashioned a lineup that consisted of Emil Brown, Brant Brown and Adrian Brown.

Corky update: Corky Miller was walking gingerly with a sore right ankle and his neck felt a little stiff. But the Braves' backup catcher still was able to joke about the collision he experienced with his friend Austin Kearns during the eighth inning of Saturday night's loss to the Nationals.

Moving toward third base to receive Jeff Francoeur's throw from right field, Miller put himself directly in the path of Kearns, who used his strength to knock the Braves catcher back and to the ground. The two players, who played together in the Reds system both at the Minor and Major League levels, talked for about 20 minutes after the game.

"He said he felt bad," Miller said. "I said, 'Why? You've gotten me run over worse than that.'"

While he's not certain of the date, Miller is pretty sure the most violent collision he's ever experienced was one in which Lenny Harris ran him over as he was attempting to receive Kearns' throw from right field.

Miller, who also homered for the first time since 2002 in Saturday's game, says this was probably the fourth time this season that he's had a collision at the plate with a former teammate. The most memorable one came earlier this year, when Triple-A Norfolk's Adam Stern was attempting to score against Richmond.

Stern, a former Braves farmhand who played with Miller in Pawtucket last year, ended up going on the disabled list for about a month as a result of the collision.

When he saw Yankees catcher Jorge Posada got plowed by Boston's Eric Hinske on Saturday afternoon, Miller actually said, "I hope that happens to me tonight."

"For me, besides hitting a home run or throwing somebody out, it makes it real exciting that you get to have something real exciting happen at home plate," Miller said. "It's better than watching those guys run by and touch the plate all the time. You want to get those guys out."

Tuesday's starter? Cox still is unsure who will start Tuesday night's game against the Marlins. Two of his candidates -- Buddy Carlyle and Jo-Jo Reyes -- were both injured on Saturday. Carlyle, who hyperextended his right elbow while swinging, is doubtful.

Reyes, who strained his right hamstring while shagging fly balls in batting practice, insists that he's fine and will be available. If he's not ready, Cox may opt to go with Lance Cormier, who lasted just two innings and 59 pitches on Saturday night. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-17-2007, 05:02 PM
Braves cling to slim playoff hopes
Injuries, inconsistency has club fighting uphill battle

ATLANTA -- Based on the moves they made during the offseason, and again at the trade deadline, there never was any reason to believe the Braves would find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoffs with two weeks left in the season.
But that's the reality of the situation, and veteran starter John Smoltz is saying he and his teammates have to approach every remaining game like it's Game 7 of the World Series.

"It's not a lot of fun when you have to play with that kind of pressure," Smoltz said. "But that's where we stand."

The season got off to an ominous start when Mike Hampton, who was counted on to be the No. 3 starter, learned another left elbow surgery would force him to miss a second straight season. But things were still looking just fine six weeks into the season, when the Braves were 12 games above .500 and sitting atop the National League East standings.

Obviously, Hampton's absence from a rotation that relied heavily upon Smoltz and Tim Hudson factored greatly during the frustrating stretch the Braves have endured over the past four months. But so, too, did the loss of Mike Gonzalez to season-ending elbow surgery, and the fact that injuries kept both Chipper Jones and Edgar Renteria out of the lineup for at least a month.

As for Andruw Jones, the fact that he's endured the worst offensive season of his career certainly hasn't helped an organization that at times has to at least be thankful there's still an outside shot of slipping into the postseason.

Bright start: When the Braves began this season by sweeping the Phillies and gaining a 7-1 record, it looked like their restructured bullpen could definitely set them apart from many other teams. Without Hampton and the also-injured Lance Cormier, who had been their best pitcher in Spring Training, the rotation held its own through the middle of May.

While Mark Redman proved to be a disappointment, Hudson entered the second week of May as a top Cy Young Award candidate. At the same time, Chipper Jones was leading the offense with MVP-caliber numbers. As for Kelly Johnson, he was proving to be a valuable leadoff hitter and capable replacement for Marcus Giles at second base.

When the Braves took five of the seven games they played against the Dodgers and Padres during an early May homestand, they were beginning to gain some believers.

May day: When Chipper Jones injured both hands in a collision with Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista on May 11, the Braves were at the beginning of a 10-game road trip that would signal the start of four consecutive months of mediocrity.

During the 29-game stretch that preceded Jones' return, the Braves went 11-18. As a result, they squandered a division lead that they'd never regain and, at the same time, began a tailspin that still exists today.

"I know what it means when I'm out of the lineup," Jones said. "I want to be in there every day. There are just some times when my body won't allow me."

Making matters much worse entering June was the fact that Hudson was starting a bumpy stretch and Smoltz was battling shoulder soreness that developed during his May 29 start in Milwaukee. In the 11 starts he made before the shoulder became a problem, the 40-year-old veteran was 7-2 with a 2.58 ERA.

In the nine starts he'd make after initially feeling the soreness, he went 3-4 with a 3.34 ERA. This, combined with the fact that starters Chuck James and Kyle Davies weren't living up to expectations, had the Braves basically crossing their fingers every time they started a game.

Still, even as Bob Wickman and Rafael Soriano provided late-inning struggles, the Braves managed to stay afloat. After totaling one run in a five-game stretch against the Red Sox and Tigers in late June, they came back to match their season-best five-game winning streak.

Throughout this season, things have never been great. And at the same time, they've never been terrible. The tone for the season's second half was set when the Braves came out of the All-Star break with a three-game sweep of the Pirates, followed by the Reds claiming their own three-game sweep of the Braves.

Tex to the rescue: When the Braves announced they'd acquired Mark Teixeira from the Rangers at the trade deadline, the general consensus was that they'd punched their ticket for the postseason. But the only thing the powerful switch-hitting first baseman's arrival has truly proven is that pitching wins championships.

While Teixeira collected 10 homers and 32 RBIs in August, earning NL Player of the Month honors, the Braves won just 13 of 28 games. Still, they entered September with a sense that they might still be able to catch the Mets in the NL East race. But it didn't take long for those hopes to be squashed.

When the Mets arrived in Atlanta on Aug. 31, they'd just been swept by the Phillies in a four-game set. Consequently, they owned just a 4 1/2-game advantage over a Braves team that hadn't even enjoyed a winning month since April.

But three days later, the Mets swept themselves out of Atlanta and basically ended Atlanta's division title hopes. A little more than a week later, they put the finishing touches on the Braves by taking two of three from them at Shea Stadium.

When the Braves won a 13-inning game against the Nationals on Friday night, it looked like they might be able to pull within 3 1/2 games of the lead in the Wild Card race. But just as their optimism was rising, the front-running Padres tallied two ninth-inning runs and completed a comeback win over the Giants.

This wasn't anything new for the Braves, who find themselves still with their heads barely above water. Just how long they can keep it there will be determined by how close to perfect they can prove to be in the season's final two weeks. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-17-2007, 10:15 PM
Notes: Moylan reunited with family
Braves reliever meets two-month-old daughter for first time

ATLANTA -- When Peter Moylan had last seen his wife back in their native Australia, she was pregnant and he was preparing to come to Spring Training and prove he belongs in the Major Leagues.
When they were reunited during the wee hours of Monday morning, she was carrying the two-month-old daughter he'd never seen, and he was displaying a smile that has been evident throughout what has been a very impressive rookie season.

Moylan has every right to be proud about the fact that his 1.82 ERA and .198 opponents batting average rank first among all Major League rookie relievers. But that sense of pride couldn't top the one he felt when he was finally able to hold two-month-old Matisse, who seemingly took an immediate liking to her father.

"She fell asleep in my arms last night and she fell asleep in my arms before I came to the field today," Moylan said. "[My wife], Tracey, was saying they hadn't been able to get her to lay down like that. So it was a little bit of an ego trip for me."

When Moylan was forced to visit his dentist at 9 a.m. after getting very little sleep, he wasn't complaining. He'd been introduced to his new daughter and reunited with six-year-old Montana, the daughter who'd sadly missed her father as he spent the entirety of this long baseball season in the United States.

"She didn't let go of me the whole time, and I didn't let go of her to be honest with you," Moylan said. "So it was pretty cool."

When Moylan arrived at Spring Training this year, he spoke about how hard it had been to say goodbye to Montana and his pregnant wife. With Tracey not due until the middle of July, he knew he was going to spend nearly eight full months away from his family, with no guarantee that he'd realize his dream of proving himself as a Major Leaguer.

When Moylan arrives at Spring Training next year, he'll at least have the confidence that his separation from his family is worthwhile. Minus the season debut he made on April 15 while working on just an hour or two of sleep, the side-arming right-hander has actually posted a 1.51 ERA in 70 big league appearances this year.

The only other reliever who has made at least 20 appearances and posted a sub-3.00 ERA is Ron Mahay, who has fashioned a 2.74 ERA in the 22 appearances he's made since being acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline.

"He's been quite a find," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Moylan, who was an unknown commodity that wasn't found until he pitched for Australia in last year's World Baseball Classic.

When this season is complete, Moylan plans to take his family to Los Angeles for approximately a week to visit some theme parks. From there, they'll head back to Australia for the remainder of the offseason.

Jones to rejoin R-Braves: Brandon Jones made his second consecutive start in left field for the Atlanta Braves on Monday night. On Tuesday night, he'll rejoin his Richmond Braves teammates in Oklahoma City, where they'll look to claim Triple-A bragging rights in the Bricktown Showdown.

The Showdown, which will be aired on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET, will pit Richmond against the Sacramento River Cats, who won the Pacific League championship. Blaine Boyer will get the start for Richmond in this one-game event.

Jones helped Richmond win the International League title with a pair of wins on Saturday and then traveled to Washington, D.C., to make his Major League debut on Sunday. The 23-year-old outfielder combined to hit .295 with 19 homers and 100 RBIs in 138 games with Double-A Mississippi and Richmond this season.

Cox said Jones would be back with his club when they conclude their three-game series against the Marlins on Wednesday.

Jones, Renteria eyeing batting title: With his 2-for-4 performance on Sunday, Chipper Jones moved to the top of the National League with a .335 batting average. Entering Monday, he was one point ahead of Philadelphia's Chase Utley, Colorado's Matt Holliday and his teammate, Edgar Renteria, who was leading before going hitless in four at-bats on Sunday.

With three plate appearances on Monday, Renteria would reach the minimum (502) required to qualify for the batting title. The veteran shortstop missed more than a month with a sprained right ankle that he suffered on Aug. 2. Utley and Jones also missed approximately a month because of injuries this year.

Braves bits: Cox confirmed that Jo-Jo Reyes will serve as his starter for Tuesday night's game against the Marlins. Reyes strained his right hamstring while shagging balls during batting practice on Saturday but has since said that the ailment wasn't serious. ... The Braves recognized the Cartersville (Ga.) team that won the Senior League Baseball World Series before Monday's game. Earlier this month, they recognized the Warner Robbins (Ga.) club that won the Little League World Series.
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-17-2007, 10:29 PM
A good read on how what mark bradley (http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/sportscolumns/entries/2007/09/17/cant_cross_fing.html) says about our rotation.

09-18-2007, 11:00 PM
Notes: Andruw not making excuses
Braves center fielder enduring tough season at the plate

ATLANTA - While Andruw Jones continues to contend the career-low offensive numbers he's produced this season aren't a product of him stressing about his future in Atlanta, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton understands how this may have been a problem throughout this year.
One year before coming to the Braves to enjoy his 1991 National League MVP season, Pendleton endured the worst season of his career. As he looks back on that '90 campaign, he knows he was undone by the stress created by the fact that he knew he was in his final season with the Cardinals, who had drafted and developed him into a big leaguer.

"After that last game that season, I remember that walk up that tunnel being longer than ever before," Pendleton said. "That was the only organization that I knew. I don't know how [Jones] feels. But I remember how tough it was."

When Jones looks at his .222 batting average and the fact that he may not hit 30 homers or eclipse 100 RBIs, he's not making any excuses. The veteran center fielder has battled soreness in his knees and the discomfort that has been present since he hyperextended his left elbow on May 27.

At the same time, he's never been able to escape the possibility that this will be his final season in Atlanta. Even with these disappointing statistics, his agent Scott Boras is confident that he'll land the nine-time Gold Glover and five-time All-Star a highly lucrative contract on the free-agent market. The asking price in terms of both dollars and longevity might prove far steeper than the Braves are willing to offer.

"I'm just struggling," Jones said. "I'm not going to make excuses about the injuries that I had. I just didn't play on a high level."

Jones' fifth-inning, three-run homer in Monday's win over the Marlins provided him his first home run since Aug. 22 (20 games) and his first three-RBI performance since July 19 (50 games). This isn't the type of drought one would expect from a 30-year-old athlete, who produced career-best totals in homers (51) and RBIs (128) just two years ago.

But even with all of his struggles, Monday's homer -- his 25th of the season -- also allowed Jones to join a select group. According to SABR's David Vincent, he's just the 14th player in Major League history to register 10 consecutive seasons with at least 25 homers.

Jones believes a strong finish over the final two weeks of the season will enhance his stock on the free-agent market. It certainly didn't hurt Carlos Beltran to flourish in the 2004 postseason after hitting just .246 in the final 84 games that he played with the Astros that year.

Boras parlayed that stellar October into a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets. He'll be hoping to land Jones a similar contract when this offseason arrives.

"If you go out and hit three home runs in the last game, people are going to remember that even if you hit .220," Jones said. "You just want to stay positive. Anything can happen."

One for Skip: After reaching first base with his fifth-inning single on Monday, John Smoltz pointed toward the press box in the direction of legendary broadcaster Skip Caray, who has been battling some health problems that caused him to be hospitalized earlier this month.

When Caray returned to work on Monday, Smoltz told his longtime friend that he'd dedicate a base hit to him.

"I said the remedy for him would be a base hit," a playful Smoltz said. "He thought it would help his metabolism if I got a base hit." By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-19-2007, 04:36 PM
The main Pro Sports Daily page talking about the players Carlos Guillen would move from shortstop for... Edgar's apparently on his list.

09-22-2007, 09:55 PM
Notes: Francoeur displays discipline
More patient approach helps Braves right fielder raise average

ATLANTA -- As the regular season heads into its final week and the Braves' postseason hopes grow dimmer, Jeff Francoeur knows that at least one goal will likely go unfulfilled. But from a personal standpoint, he's already lived up to his promise to prove his critics wrong.
"A lot of people just thought I'd be a .260 hitter all my life," Francoeur said. "Last year, I was just 22 [years old]. I was kind of like, 'Let me make some adjustments and let me learn the game a little bit.'"

When Francoeur hit .260 with a .293 on-base percentage, 29 home runs and 103 RBIs last season, many simply assumed that he would remain a free swinger who had the power to occasionally hurt opposing pitchers.

Francoeur admits that rush to judgment bothered him and motivated him to make the adjustments that have allowed him to become a more complete offensive threat this year. Entering Saturday, the 23-year-old right fielder was hitting .292 with a .337 on-base percentage, 17 homers and 101 RBIs.

"I didn't think he was able to make some of the adjustments that he's made -- not in one year," veteran right-hander John Smoltz said. "He's only going to get better. He's only going to get stronger. He's got a bright future."

Francoeur's significant improvement can be attributed to his enhanced sense of patience at the plate. Entering this season, he had drawn just 34 walks in 960 career plate appearances. In 665 plate appearances this year, he has drawn 40 walks, and 20 of those have come in the 288 plate appearances that he's totaled since the All-Star break.

"I think the thing I'm most excited about is the fact that I was able to, for the most part, change pitchers' mindsets about what kind of hitter I am," Francoeur said. "They still know I'm an aggressive hitter, but I think they respect the fact that I'm willing to go to right field, take my walks and be a better hitter."

While becoming a more consistent offensive threat, Francoeur has also continued to prove that he has one of the game's best outfield arms. During the eighth inning of Friday night's loss to the Brewers, Francoeur registered his National League-best 19th outfield assist, moving to within one of the Braves record that Andruw Jones set in 1998.

Minor Leaguers honored: Before Saturday afternoon's game against the Brewers, the Braves honored the Players and Pitchers of the Year from each of their Minor League affiliates. While on the field during batting practice, many of the Minor Leaguers gained a better sense of what it would be like if they realize their dreams of being a Major Leaguer.

"It makes me realize that I feel like I should be here," Triple-A Richmond Player of the Year Brent Lillibridge said. "I feel like you get a visual image of where you're supposed to be. Hopefully, next year, I can come in and do whatever it takes to be here."

Lillibridge, whose athleticism allows him to be a candidate as an infielder and outfielder, hit .287 with 10 homers and 28 stolen bases in the 87 games he played after being promoted to Richmond in June. The 24-year-old shortstop, who was acquired from the Pirates in the Adam LaRoche trade in January, battled discomfort in his left wrist during the final few weeks of the regular season.

After Richmond's season concluded on Tuesday, Lillibridge received a cortisone shot that he hopes will provide the relief needed for him to play in this year's Arizona Fall League.

Below is a list of the organization's Players and Pitchers of the Year:

Triple-A Richmond: Manny Acosta (Pitcher) and Lillibridge (Player)
Double-A Mississippi: Joey Devine (Pitcher) and Brandon Jones (Player)
High-A Myrtle Beach: Sung Ki Jung (Pitcher) and Jordan Schafer (Player)
Class A Rome: Tommy Hanson (Pitcher) and Cole Flowers (Player)
Rookie Level Danville: Jeff Locke (Pitcher) and Cody Johnson (Player)
Gulf Coast League: Eric Barrett (Pitcher) and Samuel Sine (Player)
Dominican Summer League: Dimasther Delgado (Pitcher) and Anthony Feliz (Player)

Braves bits: MLB officials will listen to Rafael Soriano's appeal on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Soriano is appealing a four-game suspension he was given after hitting Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla with a pitch on Monday. ... The Braves awarded grants totaling $98,250 to a number of Atlanta-area non-profit organizations before Saturday's game. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-23-2007, 08:38 PM
Notes: Devine makes positive step
Reliever shows promise by escaping jam against Brewers

ATLANTA -- When the Braves took Joey Devine with their first selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, some wondered if he'd be Atlanta's closer by the end of that same year.
Unfortunately, by the time that season concluded, there was only reason to wonder if Devine's introduction to Major League Baseball had left mental scars that would never heal.

Since becoming the only pitcher to surrender grand slams in his first two big league appearances and ending the 2005 season with the pitch that he threw Houston's Chris Burke in the 18th inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Devine has verbally expressed confidence.

But it wasn't until he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the 11th inning of Saturday's win over the Brewers that Devine truly showed the Braves and himself that he can be an asset in those pressure situations that any reliever is going to encounter.

"It was fun getting out of that situation," said Devine, whose escape act earned him his first career Major League victory. "I had a blast doing it."

When Devine fell behind with a 3-0 count to Damian Miller, it looked like he might add another chapter to his frustrating career. But the right-handed reliever, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Wednesday, battled back and got Miller to end the inning with a lazy infield pop fly.

"It's a different game and the ability to throw quality strikes in certain situations is of the utmost importance," Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "It's a learning process for any young pitcher. The more you learn and the more positive steps that you have will determine how quickly you have success."

Based simply on his stuff, Devine certainly had what it took to make the Major League roster out of Spring Training. But knowing what he'd endured when he was fast-tracked to Atlanta in 2005 and that injuries had basically ruined his 2006 season, the Braves wanted him to spend most of this season finding success at the Minor League level.

While he made a number of brief trips to Atlanta, Devine took advantage of this opportunity to enhance his confidence in the Minors. In 50 combined appearances with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Richmond, he posted a 1.89 ERA, limited opponents to a .202 batting average and registered 20 saves.

"It was important for him to have some success and some continued success," McDowell said. "Every positive step is a building block for the next step. The next step is to have another good outing."

Pleasantly surprised: When Octavio Dotel took the mound in the 10th inning of Saturday's game with the bases loaded and two outs, he didn't know what to expect. It was his first appearance since Aug. 7, and the veteran right-hander wasn't sure what to expect from his previously strained right shoulder.

But while registering an inning-ending strikeout of Geoff Jenkins, Dotel was pleased to produce fastballs that were clocked at 93 and 94 mph.

"I was surprised with the velocity that I had," said Dotel, who'd made just five previous appearances for the Braves since being acquired from Kansas City at the trade deadline.

With his recent health concerns and a $5.5 million option for next year, there's a good chance Dotel won't return to Atlanta next year. Thus, he feels it's necessary for him to make a positive impression during the final week in order to show other teams that he's healthy.

Wanting to return: Before hitting his game-tying homer with two outs in Saturday's 10th inning, Scott Thorman had become a forgotten member of the Braves' roster. His early-season disappointments eventually led Atlanta to acquire Mark Teixeira at the trade deadline.

Thorman hasn't started at first base since July 26 and with Teixeira returning to Atlanta, he would find himself in the same position next year. But the 25-year-old Canadian first baseman says he wants to remain with the Braves.

"All I can say is that I want to be here," said Thorman, who has hit just .202 since the beginning of May.

Thorman, whose homer on Saturday was his first since July 29, will play with Brandon Jones in the Mexican Winter League this year. Having compiled just 49 plate appearances since the All-Star break, he has to make up for lost time.
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-24-2007, 11:45 PM
Mailbag: Will Renteria be back in '08?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions

How many years does Edgar Renteria have on his contract? Do you think the Braves would trade him even though Bobby Cox likes him so much?
--Justin G., Abbeville, SC

Obviously there are some players -- Bob Wickman and John Rocker come to mind -- who will write their own ticket out of town. But you've got to remember a player isn't traded simply because the manager or the organization has grown to dislike them.

Most are simply traded because they have a contract and talents desired by another organization that would be able to compensate their trade partner with a piece that improves their roster. Renteria is well aware of this business reality and that is why he's spent the past few months wondering if this will be his final season in Atlanta.

Renteria's contract includes a $9 million salary for next year and an $11 million option for the 2009 season. When the Red Sox traded Renteria to the Braves, they agreed to pay $11 million of the $29 million remaining on the final three guaranteed years of his contract. In addition, they're responsible for the $3 million buyout for the option in 2009.

Break this down and it's determined that the Braves or whoever owns Renteria's services next year is responsible for just $6 million. This is obviously a bargain for an All-Star caliber, veteran shortstop who has lived up to expectations of being a great teammate.

When the Braves begin searching for starting pitching on the trade market this winter, many teams are going to be asking about Renteria. Because of Yunel Escobar's emergence this year, the Braves would be in position to use the veteran shortstop in an attempt to fill their biggest need.

Renteria's value to the Braves was certainly realized while he missed more than a month after spraining his right ankle on Aug. 2. But because they have depth at the middle infield positions, they are certainly in position to utilize him in their attempt to add a proven veteran starter to their rotation.

Some might wonder why the Braves wouldn't just trade the oft-injured Chipper Jones and move Escobar to third base. While this move would nearly double the savings that would be realized by trading Renteria, it's one that's not going to be made.

Jones has full trade veto privileges and when healthy is undoubtedly one of the game's finest offensive performers.

There's no doubt that Jones infuriated many when he missed the three-game series against the Mets two weeks ago with a sore right oblique and then returned at the end of the same week for the start of a three-game series in Washington D.C.

I'll admit I was among those who wondered how an oblique that usually requires a few weeks of rest could miraculously heal in just a matter of three or four days. In fact, I just figured he should go ahead and sit the rest of the season after not being able to contribute to such a crucial series.

But I've since come to wonder, what would he have gained by simply missing those three games? The only thing he subjected himself to was further health-related scrutiny. Although he did the same thing by missing the final two games of this weekend's series against the Padres with a sore oblique, Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday won't be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny.

Because he has missed so much time over the course of the past three seasons, Jones has become an easy target. But at the same time, until I walk in his shoes and experience the physical rigors of playing on an everyday basis, I have to remind myself that I'm not in position to question his manhood.

What does the Braves bullpen look like for next year?
-- Matt I., Waverly, Va.

Much better than it has heading into any offseason in recent memory. Rafael Soriano will return as the closer and Mike Gonzalez will hopefully be healthy enough to return in June. Throw in the fact that Peter Moylan has legitimized himself as a lethal reliever and this bullpen certainly has the makings for success next year.

Manny Acosta has certainly earned Cox's favor and at times Tyler Yates has proven to be a highly reliable reliever. If Joey Devine builds upon the Minor League success he realized this year and Royce Ring continues to be an effective left-handed specialist this could prove to be a special group.

What is the chance that the Braves will sign both Matt Diaz and Jeff Francoeur to long term contracts this offseason?
-- Chancey C., Mableton, Ga.

Diaz is going to have go the natural route and wait at least one more year before getting rich through arbitration. Such might be the case for Francoeur if he's not able to reach agreement on a deal that would provide him financial security and save the Braves some money during his arbitration-eligible years.

When the Braves locked Brian McCann up this past offseason, they were hoping to do the same with Francoeur. Now that he's proven that his game consists of both power and consistency, his asking price might be even higher. At the same time, this might be enough for the Braves to feel confident in giving him the dollars that he seeks. By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

09-29-2007, 01:45 PM
attendance (http://2,745,207 fans attended games at Turner Field in 2007)

10-06-2007, 08:49 AM
Notes: Teixeira enjoying being a Brave
First baseman had a great two months after coming to Atlanta

ATLANTA -- As the regular season came to a close, Mark Teixeira shared a sense of disappointment with his Braves teammates. But at the same time, the switch-hitting first baseman also expressed that he'd just experienced the most enjoyable two months of his young and still-blossoming career.
"This has been the best two months of my career from an enjoyment standpoint," Teixeira said. "We didn't make the playoffs this year. But I'm so proud of this team. This team has so much talent and we're going to be in a great position next year. Instead of looking at all the negatives, I look at all the positives. That's why I'm very optimistic."

When the Braves acquired Teixeira from the Rangers at the July 31 trade deadline, there was an overwhelming sense of optimism. The expectation was that they'd gained the piece that would deliver them to at least two postseason runs and quite possibly the World Series.

While the expectations from the team's perspective went unfulfilled, it's safe to say Teixeira exceeded any and all of the tremendous expectations from a personal standpoint. Simply looking at the fact that he hit .317 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs in just 54 games with the Braves is impressive. But it only provides a glimpse of why it can be argued that he was the best cleanup hitter in the Majors during the season's final two months.

Teixeira's Major League-best 56 RBIs in the final two months were a product of him seemingly taking advantage of every run-producing opportunity. The .509 (27-for-53) batting average he compiled with runners in scoring position ranked second in the Majors after July.

But the .620 on-base percentage and 1.057 slugging percentage he registered in this situation during this span both stood as the best marks in the Majors by a significant margin.

The next-best on-base percentage compiled under these parameters was the .576 mark produced by Milwaukee's Prince Fielder. The second-best slugging percentage with RISP, during this span, was the .839 mark compiled by Alex Rodriguez. The National League's runner-up in this category was Rick Ankiel with an .818 mark.

"We've got him for one [more] year for sure and we'll do everything we can to re-sign him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's not only a good hitter. He's a great defensive player and he's a great guy. He's a true professional ballplayer who is really organized and knows how to play the game. You want to keep guys like that if possible. It's not always possible."

With Teixeira's agent Scott Boras already making it known his client's longevity in Atlanta could hinge on whether the Braves end their policy of never granting no-trade clauses, there's obviously a possibility the powerful first baseman might leave the Braves via free agency at the end of the 2008 season.

But as long as he's around, the Braves will have legitimate reason to believe they'll return to the postseason. When Teixeira thanked John Schuerholz and told him how much he'd enjoyed these past two months, the Braves general manager reminded him that he hadn't yet experienced ultimate jubilation.

"I told him, wait until you have somebody pour champagne on your head," Schuerholz said. "That is really fun."
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

I can't wait to see what Tex can do a full year in ATL

10-06-2007, 08:51 AM
Financial outlook: The Braves haven't revealed where next year's payroll will stand. Chairman and team president Terry McGuirk has provided assurance that it won't drop and hinted that this year's attendance increase could have a positive effect on next year's budget.

What is known is the reality that many players are going to enjoy salary raises next year. As an arbitration-eligible player, Teixeira could gain a salary in the $13 million neighborhood.

John Smoltz's salary jumps from $8 million to $14 million. Tim Hudson's back-loaded contract calls for his salary to rise from $6 million to $13 million.

Simply looking at these three players provides a better picture of why the Braves chose not to even enter into contractual negotiations with Andruw Jones.

The Braves' other notable arbitration-eligible players are Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Tyler Yates, Lance Cormier, Oscar Villarreal, Willie Harris and Matt Diaz. Some of these guys will be granted raises and others may be non-tendered because it's deemed their price exceeds their value.

Diaz gains arbitration-eligible status because he is a Super Two, which means he ranks among the top 17 percent in total service in the class of players who have at least two but fewer than three years of Major League service. There's a chance Kelly Johnson will also fall into this category.

By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

10-08-2007, 08:09 PM
Mailbag: Will Glavine return to Atlanta?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Now that Tom Glavine has chosen not to exercise his contract option with the Mets, what are the chances that the Braves might sign him?
-- Tyler B., Hendersonville, Tenn.
It's obvious that Glavine wants to be reunited with the Braves and that the Braves certainly would benefit from his return to their organization. What remains to be seen is whether the Braves will be able to create the payroll flexibility that would allow them to take whatever discount Glavine is willing to offer.

Glavine's willingness to decline the $13 million option the Mets didn't come as a surprise to anybody who understands his desire to finish his career in Atlanta. As great as he's been, no other team is going to provide him this kind of free-agent offer.

Then again, if he truly was simply looking for top dollar through free agency, he wouldn't have erased leverage power during both of these past two offseasons by making it known that he'd only play for the Braves or Mets. Now that he's captured his 300th career victory, his other option would be to return to Atlanta to begin enjoying retirement life with his wife and children.

My guess is that those final two weeks of this regular season combined with the disastrous start he made on the season's final day erased any desire to return to the Mets next year. In addition, the fact that he retired just one of the final nine batters he faced during that season finale will only fuel his competitive desire and lead him to decide he wants to continue pitching.

Some have said Glavine would've pitched for the Braves for $6 million last year. Given that he signed with the Mets for $7.5 million plus a $3 million buyout, this seems to be a good estimate and provides reason to believe he might be willing to pitch in Atlanta next year at a cost of around $7-8 million.

With John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Mark Teixeira all set to receive raises that combined outweigh the funds saved by cutting ties with Andruw Jones, the Braves may have to make another significant move. With Edgar Renteria, they have a trade piece that could garner them a talented young starter and at the same time provide some financial relief. The Braves owe Renteria $6 million next year.

When evaluating whether it's wise to sign Glavine, the Braves will look at the fact that during his final three starts, he totaled 10 1/3 innings, surrendered 25 hits and was charged with 17 earned runs. At the same time they'll look at the 10 starts that preceded these struggles, during which he went 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA. He completed 200 innings and his 23 quality starts ranked fifth in the National League.

All numbers aside, this also just seems like the right thing to do. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Smoltz-Glavine friendship that began when Cox, who was then the Braves GM, first put them in the same Atlanta starting rotation.

If next year is Cox's final one in his historic managerial career, then wouldn't it be fitting for him to at least enjoy one more ride with both Glavine and Smoltz? It would create great storylines and possibly increase attendance. But most important, it would significantly upgrade the rotation and make the Braves a legitimate postseason contender.

How is Mike Hampton doing with his rehab? And does he fit into the Braves' plans for next season?
-- Terry W., Ocean Springs, Miss.

While Hampton is certainly in the Braves' plans for next year, he can currently only be viewed as a possible bonus. Two elbow surgeries have prevented him from pitching since he made 12 starts in 2005. Nobody is saying he's forgotten how to pitch. But at the same time, it doesn't take a medical genius to realize there's a chance the elbow could be a problem next year.

While he's been throwing off the mound for the past few weeks, he won't begin truly pushing himself until the end of this month. If he feels he's ready to pitch at that time, he'll either look to play in a Winter League or simulate game activity against collegiate players.

For now, the Braves can't project Hampton to fill any of the first three spots of their rotation. They hope his competitive desire allows for a successful return. But for now, his future is simply an uncertainty.

Do the Braves have the services of Willie Harris for next year?
-- Matt I., Waverly, Va.

Because he's an arbitration-eligible player, the Braves have a choice to tender Harris a contract. The fact that he hit .204 and compiled a .297 on-base percentage in his final 71 games with the Braves certainly clouds his return to Atlanta.

Harris' struggles during the season's final three months were certainly unfortunate. His success in May and June made for a nice feel-good story. In addition, the Cairo, Ga., native, who always dreamed of playing for the Braves, remained a popular clubhouse figure throughout the season.

But if the left-handed Brandon Jones is ready for the Majors, the Braves may choose to utilize him in the same left-field platoon role that Harris served with Matt Diaz this past season.

With the exit of Andruw Jones, what is the chance of a long-term player, like a Carl Crawford, being brought in instead of a bridge player, like a Mike Cameron?

With Jordan Schafer on the horizon, the Braves will likely look to find what you term to be a bridge player. With Cameron being a Georgia native who has told friends and relatives that he'd like to play for the Braves, he's certainly a good candidate to fill this role.

Although he owns a .251 career batting average and hit just .242 with the Padres this past season, Cameron may still request more than a one-year deal with an option and attractive buyout clause.

If the Braves are looking for a one-year solution to give Schafer another year to develop his skills in the Minors, their best option might be via a trade for somebody eligible for free agency at the end of the 2008 season. Jacque Jones, who is owed $5 million next year, is an example of somebody who would fall into this category. Of course, he also falls into the category of guys who hit 27 homers in 2006 and just five in 2007.

Whatever the case, the Braves are very high on Schafer and hopeful that he'll be ready to play in Atlanta during the 2009 season. But the 21-year-old athletic outfielder still has plenty to learn and prove. He is playing in the Arizona Fall League, and next year will be his first above the Class A level.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

04-03-2008, 06:06 PM
Johnson optimistic about right knee
Second baseman held out of lineup, but expects quick return

ATLANTA -- Kelly Johnson's strained right knee kept him out of Wednesday night's lineup against the Pirates. But the Braves second baseman believes he could return within the next two days.
Johnson was forced to exit Monday night's home opener in the fourth inning. He has been battling discomfort in his knee over the course of the past year and believes that he aggravated it while running the bases, or possibly when sliding to catch a grounder.

"We'll give him a day off and see if we can get it to calm down," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The good thing is we can use him anytime we want as a pinch-hitter."

In Johnson's absence on Wednesday, Martin Prado served as the leadoff hitter and second baseman.

Johnson described the discomfort by saying that it felt like somebody had stabbed his knee with a knife. Last year, when he felt similar pain, he was always able to bounce back quickly.

But over the past few weeks, Johnson has been bothered by the discomfort for longer stretches. An MRI taken in January revealed no structural damage.
Atlanta Braves.com

04-04-2008, 12:29 AM
Johnson unable to shake sore knee
Second baseman hoping to avoid trip to 15-day disabled list

ATLANTA -- Kelly Johnson's frustration is growing, and he's starting to wonder what it will take for the pain in his right knee to disappear. For more than a year, he's had discomfort and no indication of the cause.
Before missing his second straight start in Thursday night's series finale against the Pirates at Turner Field, Johnson said that he was hoping to avoid the disabled list. But at the same time, he knows missing the next two weeks could be better than being bothered by the knee throughout a second straight season.

"I don't want to [go on the disabled list]," Johnson said. "I'd love to completely avoid it. But you'd rather miss a handful of games now instead of constantly missing games here and there throughout season.

"Maybe the answer is rest. But I had a lot of rest when the [2007] season ended."

When Johnson returned home at the conclusion of last season, he thought the offseason would provide some relief to the knee. But as Spring Training progressed this year, he continued to be bothered by a pain that he's describe by saying "feels like a knife in my knee."

Johnson had an MRI on the knee in January and again on Tuesday. With both of these tests, no structural damage was found.

Braves manager Bobby Cox indicated that he might be able to put Johnson back in the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Mets. But if this isn't possible, Cox can at least feel good about filling these voids with Martin Prado, who capably handled his responsibilities as the second baseman and leadoff hitter during Wednesday night's win over the Pirates.

Along with providing with a first-inning leadoff triple and scoring three runs, Prado also made a nifty turn during a pivotal sixth-inning double play. Cox was impressed with the way the 24-year-old second baseman was able to quickly avoid an oncoming slide and make a pinpoint throw to first base.

"He's definitely a Major League player," Braves center fielder Mark Kotsay said. "He's put in his time at every level and proven that he can hit. He's accepted his role professionally and he's doing a good job."

Despite hitting an even .300 in five Minor League seasons, Prado is often a forgotten figure. But during the occasional appearances he's made in the Majors the past two seasons, he's built his cast of supporters.

"I'm so glad he's on this team," Chipper Jones said after Wednesday night's game. "He can help this team win a lot of ballgames, whatever his role may be."

Hearing such things from an established veteran like Jones will only help Prado, who admits he put too much pressure on himself to stick on the Major League roster last year. Consequently, he says he didn't enjoy playing the game like he should have while playing for Triple-A Richmond.

Even though he made the Opening Day roster this year as a utility player, Prado says he's still not satisfied and feels he's still putting some unnecessary pressure on himself. But at the same time, he's getting a sense that others are understanding the benefit he can bring in the Majors.

"Whenever I get a chance to play, Bobby is putting me in there," Prado said. "So I'm getting confidence from the entire team and the manager. It definitely feels good right now."
atlanta braves.com

KJ on the disabled list? peachy, we need KJ bat.

04-05-2008, 12:36 AM
Cox knew risks of switch on Thursday
Manager moved pitcher Resop to outfield momentarily

ATLANTA -- Back when Adam LaRoche was playing for the Braves, there were a couple of occasions when he nearly got a chance to move from his normal first-base position to the pitcher's mound.
While it's rare to see a position player given a chance to pitch, it's even rarer to see a pitcher temporarily playing the part of a position player. But that's what happened at Turner Field on Thursday night, when Braves manager Bobby Cox needed a 10th-inning solution against the left-handed hitting LaRoche.

Cox opted to move Chris Resop to left field while left-handed specialist Royce Ring recorded a strikeout of LaRoche. Then with the right-handed Xavier Nady coming to the plate, an unsuspecting Resop was brought back to the mound to finish the inning he had started.

"I didn't know I was going back on the mound," said Resop, who was stunned when Gregor Blanco, on his way to assume his position in left field, provided him with his pitcher's glove.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marked the first time since 1990 that a pitcher began an inning on the mound, moved to a position and then ended the inning as the pitcher. In 1993, Seattle's Jeff Nelson began an inning as a pitcher, moved to the outfield and then began the next inning back on the mound.

But not since then had such a switch been made. This didn't come as a complete surprise to Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, who estimates he did something like this four times in his career.

"There's always going to be some scrutiny involved," said McDowell, while pointing out a pitcher could easily get injured or botch a ball in the outfield.

Knowing the risks, McDowell reminded Cox that Resop began his career as a position player. At the same time, the veteran skipper knew any ball LaRoche hit against the light throwing Ring would be pulled to the right side.

In addition, Cox was giving Peter Moylan the night off and didn't have any more available relievers. Had he not given up the winning hit to Nady, Resop was going to pitch until the game was complete.

"If it went 18 innings, he had to go another eight [innings]," Cox said. "That's just the way it was."Atlanta Braves.com

04-05-2008, 12:43 AM
Hampton won't let setback deter him
Left-hander receives encouragement from others in the game

ATLANTA -- Physically, Mike Hampton believes he'll soon be healthy enough to finally make his return to the mound. Emotionally, it might take a while for him to cure the wounds that were created when he wasn't able to make his much-anticipated start on Thursday night at Turner Field.
Instead of going home late on Thursday to celebrate with his father, brother and other friends who had come to town, Hampton returned home to experience a relatively sleepless night. It was impossible for him to erase the fact that he was within 10 minutes of making what would have been his first start since Aug. 19, 2005.

Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was in the bullpen on Thursday, when Hampton threw one of his warmup pitches and felt a painful twinge in his left pectoral muscle. Immediately, McDowell could sense the devastation being felt by the 35-year-old southpaw, who has missed the past two seasons recovering from separate elbow surgeries.

"It was like Christmas Day got cancelled," McDowell said.

In the final year of his eight-year, $121 million contract, Hampton has become the target of ridicule from fans and media members who are frustrated by the fact that he's virtually been injured for three straight years. Along with a pair of season-preventing elbow surgeries, his health problems during this span have also included his hamstring, groin and back.

"I wish there was a miracle cure," Hampton said. "But I just want to get this thing taken care of and get it ready. I want to be on the DL [disabled list] the least amount of time as possible and I want to be out there pitching as soon as possible."

Hampton also still has plenty of supporters, many of whom sent him email and text messages over the past 24 hours. He was most impressed with the words of encouragement he received from former big league pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, who is currently battling colon cancer.

"[Hampton] feels awful," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Mike is down and you can't blame him. I thought the way he threw in Spring Training that if we scored him runs, he'd win at least 15 or 17 games."

Hampton has made just 12 starts since the start of the 2005 season and it looks like he'll be waiting at least three more weeks before he makes another one at the Major Leauge level.

"I honestly don't know how long one of these tears takes to heal," Cox said. "I'm sure it takes a while and then he's going to have to go down [to the Minors] and pitch one ballgame and go six innings or so. So it will probably be at least three weeks before he can pitch up here."

Hampton felt some discomfort during his side session on Monday, but thought he'd be fine to make his start. When he was unable to go, the Braves had to call upon Jeff Bennett, who had pitched the night before and twice in a span of the previous three nights.

Bennett's ability to allow just two runs in four innings was praised by Cox, who now also has the ability to call upon Jo-Jo Reyes, who was promoted from Triple-A Richmond on Friday, as a long reliever. Chuck James will likely come off the disabled list to take Hampton's turn in the rotation.Atlanta Braves.com

Same **** here, he is "optimistic" about returning but he is never going to return (I mean seriously this has gone to a whole different level, it is beyond ridiculous now). He is out 3 weeks probably more, and when he comes back he is going to stub his toe putting on his spikes, and he'll be out for the season. Might as well get use to james and jo-jo now.

04-05-2008, 12:49 AM
James hadn't left town when Braves recalled him

Chuck James has said since early March that his shoulder was fine and he was ready to pitch. He'll get his chance now that Mike Hampton is on the disabled list.

The Braves plan to activate James from the DL to start Wednesday at Colorado in what would have been Hampton's next rotation turn.

"I feel like I'm ready," said James, who was diagnosed with a slight rotator-cuff tear in his pitching shoulder in October and brought along slowly in spring training. Surgery was not deemed necessary.

"It's felt fine all spring — I haven't had a problem," said James, who pitched six simulated innings (90 pitches) on Tuesday at Class A Rome.

He has had 11 wins each of his two full seasons in the majors, but last season he also had 10 losses and an alarming 32 homers allowed in 161 1/3 innings.

The Braves had planned to keep the left-hander in the Class AAA Richmond rotation until they needed a starter. That need arose before James left Atlanta.

Hampton strained a pectoral (chest) muscle and was scratched minutes before Thursday's game. The Braves called lefty Jo-Jo Reyes for temporary bullpen reinforcement but announced that James would move into Hampton's rotation spot.

"You hate to get a starting spot for an injury, especially to Hammy," James said. "He's been battling that for so long."

Provided James is healthy and effective, he'll probably get at least a few starts before Hampton might be healthy enough to try again. But there's obviously a chance that James could stick around for quite a while. Hampton hasn't pitched in a major-league game in 31 1/2 months because of injuries.

Kelly in lineup

Cox had two lineups prepared for Friday's game, one with Kelly Johnson at second base and the other with Martin Prado at the position.

The plan was for Johnson to test his right knee in afternoon batting practice to determine if he was ready after missing two games with recurring soreness.

Batting practice was rained out, and the lineup distributed to media before the game was postponed had Prado at second base and batting eighth, with Yunel Escobar leading off and Mark Kotsay hitting second.AJC

Yunel Escobar leading off and Mark Kotsay hitting second
Humm interesting, but I don't like it maybe b/c Esco is raking in his #2 spot, and Kotsay has been struggling.

04-05-2008, 10:52 PM
Rotation alteration is sensible choice
Smoltz will pitch on Sunday vs. Santana, Glavine to go vs. Rox

ATLANTA -- Before Tom Glavine could even sit at his locker late Friday afternoon, he was stopped by John Smoltz. If the evening's game was postponed due to rain, Smoltz wanted to know if Glavine would switch rotation spots with him and pitch in Monday night's series opener at chilly Coors Field.
Once rain postponed Friday's game, Glavine accepted this proposal and cancelled his assignment to face his former Mets teammates this weekend.

For Smoltz, this means he'll make his season debut on Sunday afternoon against Mets ace Johan Santana, who won't provide the same kind of long-term problems that Smoltz's right shoulder could experience in the winter-like conditions that await the Braves in Denver this week.

"I'm not afraid of any situation," Smoltz said. "It's just that I've got to do what's best, and what's best for me is what's going to be best for the team. If this were July, it wouldn't even be an issue."

After Friday's postponement, Braves manager Bobby Cox said that he was just going to push his entire rotation ahead one day. But on Saturday afternoon, he announced that he was flip-flopping Smoltz and Glavine in the rotation.

"It wouldn't be fair for Smoltzie in his first start to be out there under all of these circumstances," Cox said. "It's the smart thing to do."

On a number of fronts, this slight alteration made plenty of sense. Along with Smoltz not having to subject his shoulder to the tightness that the cold temperatures could cause, Glavine doesn't have to feel the intense pressure that would have been present if he'd have started against Santana and the Mets on Sunday.

"It gives me a chance to get my feet on the ground," said Glavine, who returned to Atlanta after spending the past five seasons with the Mets.

Over the past 10 days, Smoltz hasn't felt any of the tightness that was apparent in between his neck and right shoulder during the side session he threw on March 15.

But along with concerns about subjecting his shoulder to cold weather, Smoltz's desire to make this switch came with knowledge that it typically takes a pitcher longer to recover after pitching in Denver's Rocky Mountain thin air.

Smoltz substituted his first three scheduled Grapefruit League starts with three simulated games. His only true game against Major Leaguers in March came on March 15, when he pitched into the fifth inning against the Rays. Thus, it might not have been wise for him to test his endurance during his first start in that setting.

"It's always a little harder to recover out there," Glavine said. "There's potential for him to kind of set him back a little bit. So if we can avoid that, I don't have a problem with that. It's not the best place to pitch. But long-term or long haul, if it's better for John and us, then I don't care."Atlanta Braves.com

04-05-2008, 10:54 PM
Johnson puts discomfort behind him
Second baseman hits pinch-hit grand slam to help beat Mets

ATLANTA -- Kelly Johnson was encouraged after running in the wet outfield grass before Saturday afternoon's game against the Mets at Turner Field. A few hours later, the Braves second baseman found himself taking a celebratory jog around the bases and further proving that his sore right knee is getting better.
Johnson's pinch-hit seventh-inning grand slam helped carry the Braves to an 11-5 win over the Mets and gave manager Bobby Cox further reason to believe his second baseman and leadoff hitter is ready to return to the lineup.

As for the Turner Field crowd, Johnson's first career pinch-hit homer and second career grand slam gave them reason to shower him with his first career curtain call. He quickly rose to the dugout's top step after the crowd repeatedly chanted "Kelly, Kelly, Kelly."

"I didn't expect that," Johnson said. "I'm surprised half the stadium knew my name."

Johnson was out of the lineup on Saturday for the third straight game because of the increased discomfort he's recently felt in his knee. But the rest and treatment that he's gained over the past few days has him believing this won't be an ailment that will be a lingering problem.

"It's not perfect right now," Johnson said a few hours before hitting his first career pinch-hit homer. "But I can definitely play. I'm so dang excited about how much better it's gotten between two days ago and today."

After the game, Johnson playfully said, "It feels better when you don't have to run."

When Johnson attempted to test his knee on Friday afternoon, he wasn't able to do anything more than simple jogging. On Saturday, he was able to simulate his cuts around bases.

Now that he's seemingly approaching full health, Johnson can likely expect a return to the lineup prior to Monday's series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field. His replacement, Martin Prado, has had multiple defensive lapses in the past two games.

"We'll see how [Johnson] is tomorrow," said Cox, who has always shown great caution with his injured players. Atlanta Braves.com

04-06-2008, 06:13 PM
Braves showing off rotation depth
James ready to roll vs. Rockies in place of injured Hampton

ATLANTA -- The Braves have spent the past month talking about the improved depth in their starting rotation, and over the course of the next few weeks, they'll gain a better sense of just how beneficial it might prove to be.
Before Sunday's game against the Mets, the Braves activated John Smoltz from the 15-day disabled list and optioned Jo-Jo Reyes back to Triple-A Richmond. Later this week, Chuck James will be activated from the 15-day disabled list to fill the rotation void created by Mike Hampton's latest injury.

During last year's first week, when the Braves lost both Lance Cormier and Hampton from their rotation, they filled the voids with Kyle Davies and Mark Redman.

It's suffice to say the Braves feel much better about the fact that this year they have the option of turning to James, who has been an 11-game winner during both of his first two big league seasons.

"The depth is already proving to be pretty good," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

James, who is scheduled to oppose Redman and the Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday night, hasn't had any recent problems with his shoulder. An MRI in October showed a partial tear of his rotator cuff, causing the Braves to hold him back at the beginning of camp.

But over the past few weeks, James has passed all of the necessary tests, with his latest one coming on Tuesday, when he completed six innings in a simulated game for Class A Rome.

"I'm ready to go," James saidatlanta Braves.com

04-06-2008, 06:15 PM
Chipper in an early groove
Veteran third baseman hoping to make run at batting title

ATLANTA -- Entering this season, Chipper Jones indicated he didn't know if he'd be able to make a legitimate attempt to claim his first career batting title. But one week into the 2008 season, the Braves third baseman has shown indications that he might be able to make a second consecutive run toward this prize.
While Jones' bid to win the National League batting title came up just short on the final day of the 2007 regular season, nobody in the game has been as offensively consistent as he's been over the course of the past 1 1/2 seasons.

Among the players who have tallied at least 750 plate appearances since the 2006 All-Star break, Jones has hit a Major League-best .343. The .426 on-base percentage he has tallied during that span has been bettered only by Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.

With this in mind, maybe it shouldn't be surprising that entering Sunday, Jones had compiled a .478 (11-for-23) batting average this season. While these are statistics compiled just five games into the regular season, it's still a good sign to the Braves that their third baseman is seemingly in the same groove that carried him to a career-best .337 batting average last year.

"I was a little worried about my left-handed swing; the first couple of games, it was really out of sync," Jones said. "I was battling and wasn't centering many balls. I made a little adjustment and it has seemed to pay off. I hit the ball pretty well [during Saturday's game]. I was pretty pleased with it."

While Jones has five hits, including his only homer, in 14 at-bats against right-handed pitchers, he has six hits in his first nine at-bats against left-handed pitchers.

"We saw a lot of left-handers during Spring Training," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We go some springs where I really have to find a game for him to see a left-hander. This year, we saw tons of them."

During Saturday's 11-5 win over the Mets, Jones matched the three-hit performance he had during Thursday night's loss to the Pirates. He and Jeff Francoeur are the only Braves who have gotten a hit in every game this season.

Now the Braves can only hope that Jones is able to stay healthy. Since returning from his latest stint on the disabled list on June 13 last year, he's hit a Major League-best .362. Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki's .357 batting average stands as the second-best mark during that span.Atlanta Braves.com

04-06-2008, 11:16 PM
Smoltz tweaks shoulder before fifth
Veteran doesn't expect to miss start despite recurring tightness

ATLANTA -- Everything went about as well as John Smoltz could have expected during his season debut at Turner Field on Sunday.
Make that, almost everything.

With five scoreless innings that included six strikeouts, Smoltz was certainly up for the challenge of opposing fellow former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana and the Mets. By the end of the day, he'd been credited with the win in the 3-1 victory that clinched the two-games series sweep for the Braves.

But preventing this from being a perfect start to his season was the fact that while warming up before the start of the fifth inning, he once again felt tightness between his neck and right shoulder. It's the same discomfort that plagued him toward the end of Spring Training.

Because he chose not to pitch beyond that fifth inning, Smoltz is more than confident that he'll be able to make Friday's scheduled start against the Nationals at Nationals Park.

"I guarantee it will be fine on Friday," said Smoltz, while indicating much of the pressure had already been relieved after he'd returned to the clubhouse for treatment.

Once Smoltz admitted the tightness had returned, Braves manager Bobby Cox knew he had no choice but to go to his bullpen. His 40-year-old ace had already thrown 78 pitches and he wasn't going to let him throw more than 90.

"It was an important game," Cox said. "But it is only the fifth game of the year. You don't want to take any chances. He threw outstanding."

Smoltz's emotions were high in the first inning when he popped catcher Brian McCann's mitt with some 96 mph fastballs. But he also showed his added versatility with some curveballs and backdoor sliders. In addition, for the first time since 2006, his arm felt strong enough for him to confidently throw his split-finger fastball.

Having made just one start against a Major League team during Spring Training, Smoltz didn't know how sharp his pitches would be. But by the end of the afternoon, he had proven the simulated games he'd thrown in early March and the Minor League game he completed last week were enough preparation.

"Everything was good," Smoltz said. "I was very pleased with my first outing. I can't tell you the relief it was for me to get out there."Atlanta Braves.com

Amazing isn't he? He only pitches simulated games and he comes out and out-pitches Santana, that is Smoltz the ultimate competitor.

04-07-2008, 12:03 PM
ChopTalk: Rafael Soriano
Braves closer talks pitching focus and '08 goals

The Braves are counting on Rafael Soriano to be their closer this season. Recently he sat down for an interview with ChopTalk's Patty Rasmussen. Teammate Mike Gonzalez served as translator.

ChopTalk: What does your new two-year contract mean to you and your family?

Soriano: For me, I've been working hard this whole time, trying to get something that God has given me now. Everybody is very excited and happy. For me, I don't think this is "it." This is just the beginning of a new life for our family.

ChopTalk: What are your feelings about finally getting the opportunity to be a Major League closer from the start of the season?

Soriano: Yes, this is something that I've always wanted from the start of my career. I wanted to be either a starter or a closer, and now this has happened. I feel really good that when I was given the opportunity to close last year, I was able to show [the Braves] what I could do. I'm happy that they saw it and believe I can do the job for them.

ChopTalk: The coaches and players say you have the right mental approach [makeup] for being a closer. What does that mean? What's the right mental approach for the job?

Soriano: For me, it's meant that I always ask questions of the older guys, the veteran guys, when they give advice about how to do things the right way, on the field and out of the stadium. I feel I've learned most from being open to hearing what other players have to share and learning from what they say. The mental approach is making sure I'm ready to do what I need to do and staying focused.

ChopTalk: Do you enjoy the pressure of save situations?

Soriano: It's something that really motivates me, to be in that situation. The pressure situation definitely takes me to another level, especially having all the fans screaming during that time. It gets me excited and makes me feel larger than life.

ChopTalk: You have an "all business" look on your face -- almost a mean look -- when you're pitching. Is that intentional or just natural?

Soriano: No. It's just the way I am. It's part of my mentality and the way I've always been. I'm not being mean, just focused.

ChopTalk: How does it feel if you blow a save?

Soriano: I definitely get frustrated when that happens, but I understand that it sometimes happens in baseball. At the moment, I get frustrated, but then I have to let that go. The next day is a new day for me, and I have to just get ready to go out there and do it again.

ChopTalk: Last season you struggled from June 20-Aug. 2 (0-2 with a 6.75 ERA (17.1 IP/13 ER), 0-for-3 in save situations). Why?

Soriano: I understand that struggles happen all the time in baseball. What I try to do is not sit down and say the problem is just one thing. I go and look at video to check myself out and see how I'm pitching, see what I might be doing wrong, and how I can better myself.

ChopTalk: From Aug. 14 to the end of the season, you were almost unhittable (1-0, 4-for-4 in save situations, with an 0.47 ERA (17 games/19.1 IP/1 ER) and .121 opponents' batting average, 3 walks and 24 strikeouts). Did you make a change/adjustment? Did Roger McDowell suggest something?

Soriano: It was really all about adjustments. I was adjusting to being in a new league for the first part of the season and figuring guys out. I was adjusting to seeing new hitters. Once I got toward the middle part of the season, the hitters started figuring out how I was pitching. Obviously, after talking to Roger and some of the hitters on the Braves, guys like (former Brave) Andruw Jones, it helped me out. They told me I needed to throw a little more inside with one guy, a little more outside with another guy. They told me different things like that and helped me make the adjustments I needed to make really well.

ChopTalk: How do you feel about pitching more than one inning in an outing?

Soriano: It really depends on the situation. I love to win, and whatever the team needs me to do -- whatever that may be -- I'm ready to do it.

ChopTalk: How many days in a row can you pitch?

Soriano: Last year, I had a limit of pitching four days in a row. That's the most I've ever thrown. I'm going to be there for the team whenever they need me. If the situation arises, then as many days as they need me, that's what I'll do.

ChopTalk: What are your goals this year?

Soriano: No, I don't really think about that. I just want to take every opportunity to go out and pitch. I'm going to get those opportunities

ChopTalk: What kind of first baseman/outfielder were you?

Soriano: (Shrugs) Hitting is too much work.

ChopTalk: So you don't miss hitting?

Soriano: No.

ChopTalk: You have such good command and control. Is that something you've always had, or something you had to work on?

Soriano: I've definitely had to work on it. When I was younger, I had a lot of bases on balls, but through working on that with pitching coaches and finding myself, my own body, my own mechanics, I've figured it out, and now I can throw strikes.

ChopTalk: What pitches do you throw besides the fastball?

Soriano: I throw a changeup and a slider. But if I can get outs with my fastball, I'd rather throw that every time. Atlanta Braves.com

I throw a changeup and a slider. But if I can get outs with my fastball, I'd rather throw that every time.Now that logic can get him in trouble, yes you have a good fastball yes you you can get people out with it but that doesn't mean that it will happen over and over again it is called adjusting and that is what the hitters will do. So throw a good amount of those sliders and changeups (the change is pretty effective he can make that his strikeout pitch if he wanted).

04-07-2008, 02:11 PM
Kotsay's throws make difference

The season is only six games old and center fielder Mark Kotsay is already making a big impression in an area where many thought he couldn't compare to his predecessor — his defense.

Kotsay has two outfield assists already, including one Sunday when he doubled Carlos Delgado off first base in a win over the New York Mets. He made a running, backhanded catch on Ryan Church's ball to right-center and gunned it to Mark Teixeira on one hop.

"I've told people that Mark Kotsay is going to surprise some people with how good his defense is," said Teixeira, who played against Kotsay in the American League.

Though he may not get to as many balls as Andruw Jones does, Kotsay is showing the benefits of a better arm. Kotsay, who leads the majors in outfield assists since 1998 with 112, saved a run on Monday when he gunned down Jack Wilson at home against Pittsburgh.

He preserved a 1-0 lead against Johan Santana in the third inning Sunday when Santana knew better than to try to score from third on a Luis Castillo fly ball to center. Santana had the decision confirmed when Kotsay threw a strike to Brian McCann.

"Outstanding again," manager Bobby Cox said. "His throwing, catching the ball, and he's hitting the ball well too. He's one of the most knowledgeable players I've ever been around. He's really into the game of baseball. He knows exactly what to do. He's not going to make any mistakes at all. He's fun to watch."

Johnson returns at second base

Kelly Johnson was back in the lineup Sunday after giving his right knee the better part of five days to rest. He had not started a game since the home opener on Monday, which he left after aggravating his knee running the bases.

Coming off a pinch-hit grand slam against the Mets on Saturday, Johnson went 1-for-4 Sunday and would have had a second hit if not for a nice play coming off the mound by Santana.

"The last two days it went from jogging — [and] I didn't think I could run much more than that — to the next day being able to run," said Johnson, who benefited from an off day and a rainout. "It's getting close to normal."

Johnson said he had an MRI on his knee on the off day Tuesday and it showed no structural damage, so surgery is not required.

He felt some discomfort in the knee last year but said it rarely bothered him during games. That changed this spring when it started hurting while he was running.

"You don't want to have to deal with stuff like this, but the baseball season is 162 games, so you miss a few and get it right," Johnson said. "It's not terrible. Looking back in two months, three months, the end of the season, hopefully I won't even remember it."

Reyes back down; other move coming

Jo-Jo Reyes was optioned back to Class AAA Richmond Sunday to make room for John Smoltz on the roster. Reyes was up for only emergency bullpen duty and did not pitch.

The bigger roster decision will come Wednesday when Chuck James is activated from the disabled list to take Mike Hampton's place in the rotation against Colorado. It could come down to relievers Royce Ring and Chris Resop, who are both out of options. Jeff Bennett has options left but is proving valuable as a long reliever.AJC

04-07-2008, 02:23 PM
Well it looks like we got ourselves a situation

The bigger roster decision will come Wednesday when Chuck James is activated from the disabled list to take Mike Hampton's place in the rotation against Colorado. It could come down to relievers Royce Ring and Chris Resop, who are both out of options. Jeff Bennett has options left but is proving valuable as a long reliever.

Ring or Resop take your pick to go.

Here (http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/stats/sortable_player_stats.jsp?teamPosCode=all&statType=2&section3=1&timeFrame=1&c_id=atl&statSet1=null&readBoxes=true&section2=1&sitSplit=&venueID=&timeSubFrame=2008&statSet3=null&section1=1&prevPage2=1&subScope=pos&compare.y=11&baseballScope=BS1&compare.x=&box1=XXXX434592atlX&box2=XXXX429721atlX&statSet2=1) is how they compare, you will see that they have similar stats.

04-07-2008, 06:33 PM
I like Ring cause for some reason I just don't trust Ohman.

04-08-2008, 02:03 AM
Kotsay creating a buzz in clubhouse
Teammates, manager Cox showing admiration for outfielder

DENVER -- After the regular season's first week, it's obvious Mark Teixeira hadn't completely lost his mind back in January, when he indicated Mark Kotsay could prove to be just as good as his predecessor Andruw Jones.
"We lose Andruw Jones and we put in a guy who is just as good as Andruw Jones," Teixeira said during the Braves FanFest. "When Mark Kotsay is healthy, he's just as good as Andruw Jones. So we're really not missing a beat."

While some Braves fans raised eyebrows at the time, they at least have had a chance over the past week to understand Teixeira wasn't simply complimenting Kotsay, who at the time had just been acquired in a trade with the A's.

Six games into the regular season, Kotsay has shown these fans that with a healthy back he still has above-average range and an extremely accurate arm, which has enabled him to already notch two key outfield assists.

Dating back to the beginning of his 1998 rookie season, Kotsay leads all Major League outfielders with 112 assists and 31 double plays.

"Andruw is one of the best center fielders in the game," Cox said. "Kotsay is one of the most fundamental players I've ever met in my life. He's caught every ball that he should have caught and made some [plays] that he shouldn't have made. His arm is so accurate it's unreal."

While Cox still has the utmost admiration for what Jones did while winning 10 consecutive Gold Gloves for the Braves from 1998-2007, it's obvious that he has already taken a great liking to Kotsay, who is letting his actions prove that his back is healthier than it's been since 2004.

"This guy is a ballplayer," Cox said. "He knows how to run the bases. He knows the game and I'm happy to have had him on one of the teams I've managed in the last 20 years. This guy is so impressive, it's unreal." Kotsay played in a career-low 56 games after trouble returning from the surgical procedure performed on his back last year. This was obviously at least a concern to Braves general manager Frank Wren when he acquired the 32-year-old outfielder.

But throughout Spring Training and the season's first week, the back hasn't been an issue. Given that he has maintained his aggressive approach with numerous dives in the outfield, there's reason to understand why this is somewhat surprising.

"I can't say that I'm not a little surprised that he hasn't had a problem at all," Wren said. "You expect him to have one day where it felt a little sore. But he's been great and you just hope that continues."
Atlanta Braves.com

04-09-2008, 12:33 AM
Boyer confident in abilities
Despite pair of losses, right-hander believes he's on target

DENVER -- Having already surrendered two game-deciding homers in a span of the season's first seven games, it's safe to say Blaine Boyer hasn't exactly gotten off to a scintillating start. But the right-handed reliever believes he still has the potential to help the Braves throughout the season.
"If I could take back two pitches, that would take care of two [losses] and all the runs I've allowed so far," Boyer said. "That's just frustrating."

Boyer surrendered a 12th-inning, three-run homer to Xavier Nady in the March 31 loss to the Pirates and then ruined Tom Glavine's pitching gem on Monday night, when he allowed Matt Holliday's two-run, eighth-inning homer. In both instances, the Braves reliever attempted to throw an inside fastball and saw it come back over the middle of the plate.

With the need to create roster space for Chuck James to come off the disabled list before starting Wednesday night, the Braves still haven't decided to take a pitcher or position player off their roster. If they choose to go with a pitcher, Boyer still might not have anything to worry about.

While he has surrendered five runs -- each accounted for by the two homers -- Boyer has also registered 10 strikeouts and issued one walk in 5 2/3 innings. The more likely pitcher to be a roster casualty might be Chris Resop, who has issued three walks and allowed two earned runs in two innings.

Another choice the Braves could make would be to option Jeff Bennett, who unlike Boyer and Resop, has remaining Minor League options and thus wouldn't be subject to being lost on the waiver wire.

"I know I have given up runs and somebody has to go," Boyer said. "But look at the other numbers. I haven't walked anybody and I haven't been just getting lit up. I've been pitching all right. I think as the season carries on, with the way I've been throwing, I'll be successful more often than not."Atlanta braves.com

04-09-2008, 11:45 PM
Kotsay to wear No. 42 on Robinson Day
Center fielder honored to represent Braves during celebration

DENVER -- Earlier this week, while reading a Sports Illustrated article on professional golfer Lee Elder, Braves center fielder Mark Kotsay was reminded that segregation actually had a place in professional sports during his lifetime.
While reading about the struggles Elder endured in 1975, when he became the first African-American to play in The Masters, Kotsay couldn't ignore that some of these disturbing events took place just eight months before he was born.

"The reality is that it wasn't that long ago when there still was this issue of race in professional sports," Kotsay said.

With this story fresh in his memory, it didn't take Kotsay long to accept the Braves' request that he wear No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson during next Tuesday's game against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium.

Although Kotsay is Caucasian, he understands that Robinson breaking the color barrier more than 60 years ago benefited more than just African-Americans.

Kotsay will be among many Major Leaguers wearing No. 42 next week when MLB celebrates the fifth Jackie Robinson Day. This marks the second consecutive year that Commissioner Bud Selig has given players the opportunity to honor Robinson by donning his former jersey number.

"Obviously it means a great deal to represent something that Major League Baseball has made into a tradition," Kotsay said. "You pay your respects to the fact that this man and many others went through those racially motivated trials and tribulations."

Introduced in 2004, Jackie Robinson Day was created to honor the enduring impact of Jackie Robinson and his legacy as the first African-American player to break the Major League color barrier. Robinson played his first Major League game at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Robinson breaking the Major League color barrier in 1997, Robinson's uniform No. 42 was retired throughout the Major Leagues.

"My reflection of Jackie Robinson was the way he played the game and how hard he played," Kotsay said. "He had the admiration of his teammates and conducted himself professionally, on and off the field.

"Ultimately, I play the game for the respect of my peers. I believe that's the way he went about it as well."

Robinson's memory lives on today in initiatives such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which was founded by Rachel Robinson in 1973 to provide education and leadership development opportunities for minority students with strong capabilities but limited financial resources, as well as Breaking Barriers, which utilizes baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history in addition to addressing critical issues of character development, such as conflict resolution and self-esteem.atlanta braves.com

04-10-2008, 06:00 PM
Moylan in the mix to close
Australian righty could get save chances while Soriano is out

DENVER -- With closer Rafael Soriano going on the disabled list before Wednesday's game with the Rockies, manager Bobby Cox is reluctant to designate any specific pitcher as the closer in Soriano's absence.
Cox indicated he'd "play it by ear," seeing no reason to put any pressure on a given pitcher when he has plenty of options to choose from depending on game situations.

Two of the top contenders for ninth-inning action are Peter Moylan and Manny Acosta. Both have excelled in relief roles for the Braves, with 2.23 and 2.28 respective career ERAs. Moylan has an edge of an extra year and 74 more appearances than Acosta, who made his big league debut in 2007 while Moylan was posting a 1.80 ERA in his sophomore season, making 80 appearances and earning a 5-3 record with one save.

"It doesn't matter to me whether it's the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth inning," Moylan said of a potential shift in his bullpen role. "I'm still going to do what I do. I'm trying to get guys out. It's exactly the same. It doesn't matter if we're up by 10 or up by one or down by one."

The 29-year-old Australian right-hander fully understands the advantage in Cox keeping his options flexible while Soriano works his way back from the DL, but he is happy to take a crack at closing games if presented with an opportunity.

"I think every relief pitcher wants to be a closer," Moylan said. "But I'm still young in the league, so to speak. I still have to prove that I can pitch at this level for more than just one year. If the opportunity comes along, I'll take it. If not, then I'll continue doing what I'm doing."

Moylan is off to a strong start in 2008, posting a 1.93 ERA in six appearances spanning 4 2/3 innings. Acosta has a 9.00 ERA in four appearances and four innings, primarily as a result of allowing two homers and all four of his earned runs on the season in one outing against Pittsburgh, March 31. The two homers matched his season yield from 2007.
Atlanta Braves.com

04-12-2008, 12:40 AM
Braves accustomed to facing lefties
Atlanta opposes third consecutive southpaw on Friday

WASHINGTON -- When the Braves face the Nationals' John Lannan on Saturday afternoon, they'll be seeing him for the first time. But at they same time, the fact that he's left-handed will provide them some sense of familiarity.
Lannan will be the third consecutive left-handed starter the Braves have faced. They saw the Rockies' Mark Redman on Wednesday night and Matt Chico during Friday's series opener against the Nationals.

"It's amazing how many left-handers we've been seeing over the course of the past two years," Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur said.

What's amazing is how many lefty starters the Braves are seeing compared to everybody else in the Majors. Entering Saturday, they will have faced six southpaw starters this year, tying them with the Pirates for the Major League high.

Last season, the Braves led the Majors with 63 games and 2,016 at-bats against left-handed starters. The Reds ranked second with 59 games and 1,792 at-bats.

Entering Friday, Francoeur had compiled a Major League-high 225 at-bats against lefties since the start of the 2007 season. During this span, he has hit .320 with eight homers against lefties and .277 against righties.

During his career, Chipper Jones has hit .308 against right-handers and .306 against left-handers. But while seeing a regular array of lefties since the start of last year, the veteran switch-hitter hasn't enjoyed similar equal success.

Entering Friday's opener, Jones was hitting .292 against southpaws and .372 against righties since the start of '07.
atlanta Braves.com

04-12-2008, 12:44 AM
Hampton feels OK after playing catch
Lefty experiences minimal soreness following short session

WASHINGTON -- Mike Hampton gained some encouragement when he played a relatively pain-free session of catch before Friday night's series opener against Washington at Nationals Park. But with his injury-riddled past fresh in his memory, the Atlanta southpaw didn't exactly react with a sense of excitement.

"It's not going to do anybody any good for me to go out and do what I did last week," Hampton said. "I've got to get to the point where I can pitch without pain."

On April 3, Hampton's epic health history added an almost unbelievable chapter. Nearly 10 minutes before he was set to make his first start in three years, Hampton found the left pectoral muscle he'd tweaked three days earlier had reached a point where he wouldn't be able to start.

Hampton felt the unmanageable discomfort in his chest area while warming up and then found that he couldn't even simply throw the baseball easy without any pain. Friday marked the first time since then that he even attempted to play catch.

During his 10-minute throwing session in front of the dugout, Hampton said he felt some minimal soreness.

"I didn't know what to expect coming out here," Hampton said. "I didn't feel anything, so that's a good thing. I couldn't even do this last week."

Hampton will play catch again on Sunday, and if all goes well, he might attempt to complete a bullpen session on Tuesday at Dolphin Stadium. While he's eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, he likely won't return until the final week of the month, at the earliest.

The Braves may ask Hampton to complete two bullpen sessions before experiencing at least one necessary Minor League rehab start. With this timetable, and the realization that he might experience a setback, there's a chance he won't return until May.

In his absence, the Braves will likely turn to Jeff Bennett to fill the rotation void. Bennett, who allowed one run in four innings while making an emergency start in place of Hampton on April 3, will likely start next Saturday's game against the Dodgers.

With Bennett likely assuming the rotation spot, Jorge Campillo will likely serve as the Braves' long reliever when necessary. Campillo was promoted from Triple-A Richmond n Thursday after Chuck James proved on Wednesday night that he wasn't ready to assume a spot in the rotation.Atlanta Braves.com

04-13-2008, 03:39 PM
Diaz demonstrating smarts and hustle
Left fielder not the fastest of baserunners, but he's savvy

WASHINGTON -- When attempting to identify a Braves player capable of manufacturing a run without much assistance from his teammates, Matt Diaz definitely wouldn't be one of the first choices.
But as the Braves' left fielder showed during the fifth inning of Saturday's win over the Nationals at Nationals Park, blazing speed isn't the only quality needed to get this done.

Utilizing hustle and smarts, Diaz turned what was a routine single into a double and then, two batters later, turned a soft dribbler to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman into a John Smoltz RBI groundout.

"That was pretty good baserunning," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It's nice to see somebody take some extra bases."

Diaz began the fifth by directing Jason Bergmann's 0-2 delivery into shallow center field. Having seen Nationals center fielder Lastings Milledge lazily approach a few other similar hits earlier in the series, the Braves left fielder took a hard turn around first base and then sprinted for second base as Milledge lofted the ball back toward the infield.

"I go hard every time, and I always look for it. I had noticed that particular center fielder taking his time a few times," Diaz said. "That was in my head. I just noticed he liked to come up and take his time getting it in. A short, fat guy like me has to take advantage of everything that he can."

After advancing to third base on a Mark Kotsay sacrifice fly, Diaz sprinted home on a Smoltz dribbler that didn't even make it to the edge of the infield grass before Zimmerman grabbed it.

Once shortstop Cristian Guzman broke toward the ball and erased the possibility that he would cover third base, Diaz scooted forward and then took off as soon as the throw left Zimmerman's hand.

"I got congratulated for that by the coaches and, for some reason, it just seemed natural," Diaz said. "The third baseman was moving up the line to field the ball, and I knew the shortstop came to field the ball, too. So I figured I could get off as far as the third baseman. By the time he fielded it and threw it [to first base], I was already halfway home. So I just went ahead and finished going.

"I thought it was just the proper read. The scary part is, when they congratulate you for making the proper read, you know they've earned permission to yell at you when you make the improper read."

With his hustle, Diaz allowed Smoltz to record his first RBI of the season. Not knowing he should have shown more gratitude, the veteran hurler left his bat sitting in front of the plate, forcing to Diaz to avoid it with his slide.

"That almost hurt a lot," Diaz said.

04-13-2008, 05:42 PM
Johnson hasn't found groove at plate
Leadoff hitter plugging away, but expects improvement

WASHINGTON -- The right knee discomfort that bothered Kelly Johnson earlier this month hasn't been a recent problem. But the Braves' second baseman and leadoff hitter is still looking to find his usual sense of comfort at the plate.

"For whatever reason, recently it's been more of a struggle just to find a rhythm," Johnson said. "I'm still getting a hit here and there, but I'm still not even close to being where I know I can be."

Although Johnson entered Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Nationals having hit safely in each of the nine games that he'd played, he was hitting just .294 with an identical on-base percentage.

While the season is very young, one of the oddest things on the Braves' stat sheet shows that the usually selective Johnson hasn't walked in 34 plate appearances, and the free-swinging Jeff Francoeur has actually already drawn a walk in his first 48 plate appearances.

"[Pitchers] are just coming right at me," Johnson said. "I'm convinced that the scouting reports [say] to get ahead with strike one and strike two. I can go up there, be aggressive and put those balls in play. There are just situations where you don't do that. The way our starting pitchers have been throwing lately, you don't want to go up there swinging and have them just be on the bench for like five seconds."

Entering this season with a .360 on-base percentage, Johnson has shown an ability to get on base. But at the same time, he struck out 117 times while drawing just 79 walks last year. With this combination, opposing teams have reason to be aggressive early in the count in hopes that he'll be patient and fall into a pitcher's count.

While Johnson understands he has specific responsibilities as a leadoff hitter, he doesn't want to completely change his plate approach. He understands he doesn't have all the tools of a typical leadoff hitter.

"I don't think of it that, because I'm hitting leadoff, I'm going to change into a leadoff hitter," Johnson said. "I think it's just a matter that I'm the guy they want there on our team."

04-15-2008, 10:53 PM
Glavine plays catch, reports progress
Veteran southpaw looks to avoid first career trip to disabled list

MIAMI -- When Tom Glavine awoke on Monday, his right hamstring was much better than expected. After experiencing even more improvement on Tuesday, the Braves' veteran left-hander had even more reason to believe that he'll be able to dodge the disabled list yet again.
"My range of motion [on Sunday] was OK," Glavine said before the Braves opened a three-game series against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium on Tuesday night. "My range of motion today is better. When I stand up and try to touch my toes, I can get down a little further before it actually grabs."

When the hamstring strain forced Glavine to exit Sunday's game against the Nationals before he'd even recorded an out, there was certainly reason to wonder if the 42-year-old hurler was destined for his first career trip to the disabled list.

But he's experienced nothing but improvement and was able to play catch on Tuesday without a problem. His real test will come on Wednesday or Thursday when he attempts to complete a bullpen session in preparation to start on Saturday against the Dodgers.

"Things have to continue to progress," Glavine said. "The telltale sign is getting on that mound and landing on that leg and making sure that it supports what I'm trying to do."

Glavine has made 672 career starts without ever having to go on the disabled list -- and he obviously would like to keep that streak intact. His ability to make at least 32 starts in every non-strike-shortened season dating back to 1990 provides indication that he has been willing to pitch through numerous aches and pains.

Because he's never dealt with leg ailments before, he's unable to confidently say he'll be able to make Saturday's start. But it's obvious that he's planning to at least provide some rare good health-related news to the Braves pitching staff.

Within the past week, the Braves' top two relievers -- Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan -- have been placed on the disabled list. Mike Hampton, who plans to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, was lost from the rotation before he even got a chance to throw his first pitch in three years.

So the Braves will likely send Buddy Carlyle, who was promoted from Triple-A Richmond on Tuesday, to the mound to start Friday night's game against the Dodgers. If Glavine is unavailable, Jeff Bennett or Jorge Campillo would likely start Saturday afternoon's game.

But for now, Glavine is remaining hopeful that he'll be able to take the mound again this weekend.

"Having never been on the DL or dealt with stuff like this, you kind of want to be the guy who provides the steadying force," Glavine said. "I still hope I'll be able to get out there Saturday and do that." braves.com

04-16-2008, 03:27 AM
That is really amazing 20+ years in MLB and never been to the DL. WOW. Maybe its just me but i think this is really amazing i wonder how many pitchers have been able to accomplish this feat.

04-16-2008, 10:47 PM
Glavine throws, will not miss start
Left-hander indicates that right hamstring has healed enough

MIAMI -- It looks like Tom Glavine is going to avoid the disabled list yet again. After throwing a bullpen session at Dolphin Stadium on Wednesday evening, the Braves left-hander announced that his right hamstring strain won't prevent him from making his scheduled start against the Dodgers on Saturday.
"It felt pretty good, good enough that I plan on pitching on Saturday," Glavine said. "So unless I have any setbacks tomorrow or the next day, it should be a go."

Wanting to satisfy his own curiosity, Glavine talked the Braves medical staff into allowing him to test his hamstring with this bullpen session. There had been some thought about waiting until Thursday.

But the 300-game winner's impatient mind-set wanted an immediate answer, and by the time he'd thrown for about 10 minutes, he got the results that he and the Braves were seeking.

"It didn't hurt," Glavine said. "I could still feel some tightness. I threw a couple of pitches that I actually got out in front of a little more than I would have liked to and it felt fine. So that's a good sign."

Glavine's primary concerns about pitching on Saturday relate to fielding his position. At the same time, the 42-year-old hurler joked that he "won't be legging out any doubles or triples."

"There's still things that I can't simulate out there that I'm going to have to do in a game," Glavine said. "Hopefully, over the next couple of days, [the hamstring] will get better and stronger, and that stuff will become less of a concern."

When Glavine was forced to exit Sunday's start against the Nationals before recording an out, there was reason to wonder if this hamstring ailment would send him to the disabled list for the first time in a career that has spanned 672 starts.

There was at least reason to wonder if he'd have to miss at least one turn in the rotation. But showing some of the stubbornness that has allowed him to fight through shoulder soreness and even blood clots at different portions of his career, he has decided the minimal discomfort isn't enough to keep him from pitching.

"Everything that I do in terms of normal day-to-day stuff doesn't hurt," Glavine said. "My flexibility still isn't as good as it was. But it's getting better. I can't really make it hurt. So I assume all of those things are good signs." braves.com

Since Glavine has been injuried we have been 0-3....maybe we need him back.

04-16-2008, 10:50 PM
Hampton has pain-free session
Second outing Friday may clear vet for Minors rehab stint

MIAMI -- There's still no reason to even begin guessing when Mike Hampton might even be able to attempt to pitch again. But the Braves southpaw at least made a positive step by completing a controlled, pain-free bullpen session at Dolphin Stadium on Wednesday evening.
"It was a good step, considering I couldn't do that the other day when I was throwing off the mound," Hampton said.

This marked the first time Hampton threw off a mound since April 3, which is when he strained his left pectoral muscle approximately 10 minutes before attempting to make his first Major League start since Aug. 19, 2005.

During this 40-pitch bullpen session, Hampton threw only fastballs and sinkers and felt no discomfort or restrictions. The injury-marred 35-year-old left-hander is hoping to complete another bullpen session on Friday. At that time, he might attempt to test himself with some breaking pitches.

If Hampton is able to complete a few successful bullpen sessions, he'll begin a Minor League rehab assignment that will likely consist of multiple starts. Having made just 12 starts since the beginning of the 2005 season, he needs every opportunity to reacquaint himself with game speed.

In addition, Hampton, who missed the past two seasons recovering from separate surgical procedures on his left elbow, admits he needs a chance to prove to himself that he can pitch and stay healthy.

Hampton hasn't had any recent problems with his elbow. But he strained his right hamstring in November during the first and only inning he completed in the Mexican Winter League. Spring Training consisted of only an aggravated right groin muscle that didn't cost him any time.

With the setback that he experienced earlier this month, Hampton's confidence obviously was affected.

"When you don't throw for however long it's going to be, you're going to have to find your mechanics and command," Hampton said. "Plus, you've got to get it out of your head that this pitch could hurt." braves.com

I really don't know why I bother posting this stuff he is just going to get injuried before he does anything significant.

04-18-2008, 04:18 PM
Andruw faces old mates on TBS
Former Braves center fielder back at Turner Field for weekend

MIAMI -- Andruw Jones became a nationally known figure while playing for the Braves on TBS. This weekend, the channel will show a national audience the finale of Jones' first series back in Atlanta.
Last year marked the end of two eras for the Braves. First, they bid adieu to their relationship with TBS, which had been airing their games nationally since 1977. Then, just two days after the conclusion of last season, the Braves announced they wouldn't attempt to re-sign Jones, who had been an Atlanta fan favorite since he'd made his Major League debut in 1996.

As part of its new Sunday MLB on TBS package, TBS will air Sunday afternoon's game between the Braves and the Dodgers. Currently, this is the only Braves game that is scheduled to air on TBS this year. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET, and the broadcasters will be Chip Caray and Ron Darling.

While Braves veteran John Smoltz isn't going to get a chance to pitch against his long-time center fielder this weekend, Jair Jurrjens will have a chance to gain some pride when he starts against Jones on Sunday afternoon.

During his childhood days in Curacao, Jurrjens and his father adopted the Braves as their favorite team, primarily because they could regularly watch them on TBS. Surprisingly, their favorite player was David Justice and not Jones, who is undoubtedly Curacao's most famous son.

"It's going to be fun to face him," Jurrjens said. "It's going to be even more fun to strike him out."

Jurrjens, who was acquired from the Tigers in October, never had the opportunity to play with Jones. But they initially met more than 15 years ago, when Jurrjens' older brother played on a team in Curacao that featured Jones. The younger Jurrjens was reunited with the 10-time Gold Glove winner two years ago, when they played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

The first few weeks of the season have been rough for both the Braves and Jones, who has told many of his former teammates that he's looking forward to coming home for the weekend. After the Braves cut ties with him last year, he said he would always maintain his family residence in Atlanta.

"You want to play as well as you can because you were there for so long and you want to show them what they've been missing," Jones said. "It is always going through your mind."braves.com

04-18-2008, 11:33 PM
Teixeira looks to start heating up
Slugger's Thursday night jack could be good sign for Braves

ATLANTA -- Mark Teixeira's long home run to right field in the middle of the back-to-back-to-back attack Thursday night in Florida may be a sign that the slugger is snapping out of his early-season slump that has seen him hover around the dreaded Mendoza Line.
The blast gave Teixeira a hit in six of the final seven games of the Braves' recent road trip, a journey that saw his average hit its nadir at .156 after his 0-for-3 April 8 game in Colorado (it also spiked after a 2-for-4 game on April 13, in Washington).

"It takes a while for me to get going," said Teixeira, who hit only .211 in Spring Training, .100 in the two games in March and was at .224 for the month of April entering action against Los Angeles on Friday night. "I feel like I've been hitting the ball. Not a lot of balls are falling in, but it's a long season and hopefully yesterday was a good indication of how our team is turning around and hopefully we'll keep scoring some runs."

"He's been hitting in hard luck," agreed Braves manager Bobby Cox. "A lot of them have. [Mark] Kotsay, they've been hitting the ball pretty hard but it's been getting caught a lot."

If history is any indication, Teixeira's luck is due to change in a big way sometime around May 1.

April has never been the slugger's month, as he is a career .251 hitter in April, the lowest of any month, but is dramatically better in May (.292). Last season, Teixeira hit .231 in April, then .349 In May. He also saves his best for last, as he's a .300 hitter in August and a .293 hitter in September.

Of course, Braves fans already know how well Teixeira hits late in the year, as he hit .315 in August and .320 last September. braves.com

04-19-2008, 10:18 PM
Hampton completes bullpen session
Southpaw makes strides, admits being 'tentative' mentally

ATLANTA -- There was a curve thrown in the latest chapter of the comeback efforts of veteran lefty Mike Hampton. In fact, there were a few of them -- and Hampton couldn't be happier, since, for a change, he was the one throwing them.
"It went pretty well -- I threw just breaking balls this time," said Hampton of his bullpen session, which took place prior to the Braves' Saturday afternoon contest with the Dodgers and consisted of approximately 50 pitches, and included breaking pitches for the first time.

"I didn't feel anything bite me. Mentally, I'm a little tentative, maybe, trying to feel my way through it.

"I had a little bit more velocity," he added, assessing his strength at about 85 percent. "I'm still a little tentative of the injury itself, but [the bullpen session] was with more intensity than last time."

The 50 or so pitches are up from the 40 that he made in his previous bullpen session, which consisted entirely of fastballs.

"I probably threw four or five curveballs, four or five cutters, a couple of changeups, just kind of feeling through it," Hampton said. "I didn't want to go out there and let it go the first time. The next time I'll make that step."

The 35-year-old lefty will throw another bullpen session on Tuesday and, if that goes well, he feels he's ready for live competition.

"I told [pitching coach Roger McDowell] that if I can do that the next time out I'll be ready to face competition, whether it be simulated or Minor League or whatever," said Hampton. "That's a little ways away, but I feel like if I can make the same jump the next time out that I made from the first time to this time, I should be ready to do something competitive."

Hampton was put on the 15-day disabled list after suffering a strained left pectoral muscle while warming up in the bullpen prior to his April 3 start. It would have been his first since Aug. 19, 2005, and, according to Elias, would have made him only the second pitcher with 250 starts to start a game after missing two consecutive seasons.

The latest setback was especially disappointing on the heels of his stellar Spring Training, in which he collected a 2.16 ERA, allowing only four earned runs (five overall), in 16 2/3 innings.

Hampton feels that regaining that form won't be as hard for him physically as it will be mentally.

"I've kept my body in shape, doing all the stuff that I needed to do," said Hampton, who carries a 138-101 Major League record. "Without a doubt, facing competition, I'm gonna think about [the injury]. It's not an overnight thing. I just have to get to where I just worry about getting hitters out." Braves.com

04-19-2008, 10:21 PM
Blanco proud of first start with Braves
Outfielder eager to show Cox, teammates that he can play

ATLANTA -- Gregor Blanco is one happy kid, and who can blame him?
The 24-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela, grew up watching the great Andres Galarraga, who was known as much for his endearing smile and indomitable spirit as he was for his powerful bat and smooth glove. Now, Blanco is playing for the same team and on the same field as "The Big Cat" once did.

Saturday afternoon made it two starts in a row. And Blanco is not just going through the motions. He's performing.

In his first Major League start on Friday night against the Dodgers, Blanco had his first career multi-hit game and his first Major League RBI, which turned out to be the deciding run in Atlanta's 6-1 win.

"It felt really good, my first start in the big leagues," said Blanco, who made the club thanks to an impressive Spring Training that saw him hit .326 with eight RBIs, a team-leading 11 walks and a .464 on-base percentage. "I was really excited. Everything worked out really good."

Blanco also performed on the defensive end, making an important running catch on a sinking line drive by Andre Ethier, with runners at first and second and nobody out.

"I know I am a good defensive player, and I just played my game," said Blanco, who was signed originally by the Braves as an undrafted free agent on July 10, 2000. "Every time I've got to catch the ball. That's my goal, to help the team to win."

That means playing any role Braves manager Bobby Cox wants -- pinch-hitter, pinch-runner and left field, where Blanco, primarily a center fielder, could end up platooning with Matt Diaz.

"I need to play games and show Bobby and show my teammates that I can play here," said Blanco.

"I still can't believe I'm here and playing with these guys," he added with a smile."Especially with Chipper Jones. He's going to be a Hall of Famer someday and for a manager like Bobby Cox. It's amazing to be here watching how those guys play and to play with them." Braves.com

04-21-2008, 11:21 PM
Soriano optimistic about elbow
Ailing closer says he could possibly throw off mound Thursday

ATLANTA -- Over the course of the past week, the Braves have had reason to be both pessimistic and optimistic about the return of Rafael Soriano. Some days the veteran right-handed reliever's elbow has felt good, and during others it has provided some discomfort.
But with his elbow feeling good on Monday afternoon at Turner Field, Soriano said that he planned to play catch on Tuesday, and then possibly make his first attempt to throw off a mound on Thursday. He has been sidelined since April 6 because of the elbow discomfort.

When told that Soriano hopes to throw off a mound near the end of this week, a cautiously optimistic Braves manager Bobby Cox said, "We'll see."

Soriano hasn't even attempted to throw since feeling some pain while simply playing catch on Friday. The 28-year-old right-hander, who underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2004, battled some discomfort during the early portion of Spring Training, and didn't make his Grapefruit League debut until March 15.

After watching Soriano limit opponents to a .181 batting average in a career-high 71 appearances last year, the Braves provided him with a two-year, $9.1 million contract. Now they are hoping to get him on the mound as soon as possible.

Soriano said he's not concerned that this could be an injury that forces him to miss significant portions of this season.

"Three or four doctors have said the ligament is fine," Soriano said.

With Soriano and top setup man Peter Moylan, who is likely destined for season-ending surgery, both sidelined, the Braves are using Manny Acosta as their closer. In the seven appearances he's made since allowing four earned runs in his season debut, Acosta has worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings and limited opponents to a .167 batting average.Braves.com

04-22-2008, 10:13 PM
Hampton eyes Minors rehab stint
Injured Braves lefty still feels 'timid,' but could begin comeback

ATLANTA -- After completing a bullpen session at Turner Field on Tuesday evening, Mike Hampton felt good enough to declare that he might begin a Minor League rehab assignment as early as Friday.
But at the same time, the completion of this 62-pitch side session didn't exactly give Hampton complete peace of mind. The Braves left-hander is still looking to gain the confidence that will allow him to throw every pitch without the fear of potentially adding to his long list of injuries.

"I'm not going to lie, I still felt a little timid," said Hampton, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left pectoral muscle. "Hopefully a Minor League rehab process will get that out of my mind."

If Hampton awakes without discomfort on Wednesday, the Braves will likely plan to send him on his rehab assignment. It's still unknown whether he'll make multiple starts before being activated.

When Hampton strained his left pectoral muscle less than 10 minutes before making his scheduled season debut on April 3, he did more than suffer a physical injury. This proved to be a definite mental setback for the 35-year-old hurler, who hasn't pitched in a Major League game since Aug. 19, 2005.

Hampton's elbow, which forced him to miss both of the past two seasons, hasn't been a problem. But over the course of the past five months while attempting to make his comeback, the muscles that he's strained include his right hamstring, right groin and left pectoral.

"It's more mental now than physical," Hampton said.

During Tuesday's side session, Hampton had no trouble throwing his four-seam fastball to the inside part of the plate against right-handed hitters. But he still hasn't built the nerve to even attempt to throw a sinker in that specific location.

This particular pitch, which forces him to come across his body, is the one that he threw when he injured the pectoral muscle nearly three weeks ago.Braves.com

04-22-2008, 10:18 PM
Relief corps picking up ailing mates
Braves not missing a beat despite injuries to Soriano, Moylan

ATLANTA -- When Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan went on the disabled list, the Braves were left with a bullpen that had a combined one Major League save.
Instead of showing their inexperience, however, the remaining relievers have taken advantage of the increased opportunities and responded to the challenge.

"They've picked us up," Braves manager Bobby Cox said Tuesday before the series finale against the Nationals at Turner Field. "That's the name of the game, picking each other up, and they've sure done it.

"It would be nice to have Soriano and Moylan to go with them, but they've all done a good job."

Manny Acosta got his first save on Saturday against the Dodgers, and Blaine Boyer showed he could do the job in the eighth inning. Left-hander Will Ohman -- the bullpen's only veteran and the owner of the one previous save -- pitched well in a variety of situations, and Jorge Campillo didn't allow a run over his first seven innings.

"The success of a bullpen is a collective thing," Ohman said. "It's not about individuals, but getting the job done as a group. We've been able to do that, which makes us all feel good."

Acosta is the Braves' main option to close with Soriano out, but Ohman can also pitch the ninth inning and Boyer may be working his way into that mix.

Acosta went into Tuesday night's game against the Nationals not having given up a run in his last eight appearances. Boyer, who leads the team with three holds, hasn't been scored on in his past six games.

Boyer's run of success came after he blew a save at Colorado on April 7 by giving up a two-run homer to Matt Holliday. He credits a talk with pitching coach Roger McDowell after that game with helping him to bounce back.

"Roger told me that the team still had confidence that I could do the job," Boyer said. "That helped a lot."

Acosta and Boyer, both 26, have the power arms that bullpens crave. Ohman, 30, and Campillo, 29, can also get strikeouts when needed.

Led by the foursome, the Braves' bullpen held the Dodgers to one run in 10 1/3 innings over the weekend. Boyer pitched in all three games.

"It feels good to get the opportunity," Boyer said. "That's what everyone wants."

Moylan will likely have to undergo Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, but the Braves hope to have Soriano back as early as next week. He has pitched just four times this season.

Soriano, bothered by a sore elbow, is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday, but isn't ready yet. He played catch again on Tuesday and may return to the mound for a bullpen session in a few days.

"We hope that he can get back as soon as he can," Boyer said. "But until he does, everyone is filling in the best that we can."

"It's not about who gets the outs," Ohman said. "It's about making sure that someone does. That's what counts."braves.com

disregarding tonights performace our pen has been solid, however I will feel more assured if we call up stockman or get someone. don't need caryle, you can get rid of him..resop is looking the yates for us

04-23-2008, 05:47 PM
Hampton, Glavine say they're ready to return

Mike Hampton declared himself ready for a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday, which means he could soon return to the mound for the first time since 2005.

Hampton threw his third bullpen session since he strained his pectoral muscle in the bullpen before he was scheduled to make his season debut on April 3. He threw with nearly maximum effort Tuesday and came away confident he was ready to take the next step.

After a couple of days' rest, he could head out on a minor-league assignment as soon as Friday.

"I let it go about as much as I could in a bullpen," Hampton said. "You always wonder if that pitch will happen again where you feel it again. Hopefully a minor-league rehab will get that thought process out of my head and I'll be able to move forward and get back in the rotation."

Hampton mixed in his cutters, curveballs and changeups in 62 pitches Tuesday. He threw all his pitches, he said, except the one he injured himself April 3 — a sinker inside.

"I still wonder why it happened the first time," Hampton said. "I'm not going to go out and throw and act like nothing happened."

He said he's thrown sinkers away but stuck to four-seam fastballs and cutters inside.

"I can get by without it if I can hit my spot," said Hampton, who said it's probably more of a mental hurdle than physical. "It shouldn't be any different, but I don't know. Maybe [I'll] save that [pitch] for after the All-Star break."

Hampton said he's used the extra time to get his legs in better shape and to start hitting in the cage, so he's more ready for other aspects of the game than he was coming out of spring training.

Glavine readies for return

Tom Glavine doesn't plan for his first-ever disabled list stint to go any longer than necessary. He's eligible to come off Tuesday when the team is in Washington, and Glavine is gearing up to start that night.

He's given his sore right hamstring nine days' rest, and other than some soreness where there was bruising, he said it's feeling much better. Glavine said flexibility is still an issue but is not something he thinks will prevent him from getting back on the mound.

Glavine plans to play catch today, his first activitiy since injuring his hamstring on a pitch in Washington on April 13. Then he plans to give the hamstring a real test in a side session on Thursday.

"It's progressively getting better," Glavine said. "It's not 100 percent yet, but I don't really have pain. It's sore where the [bruising] is. That's normal. The biggest thing with me when I did it was my flexibility. I'm usually pretty flexible. Now it's tight, but it doesn't hurt."

Watching his teammates roll off five consecutive wins has made his wait go more quickly.

"For me to be on the DL, you have that feeling of disappointment and feeling like you're letting the guys down," Glavine said. "The time I go down we're in the middle of a losing streak, so it's just like one thing after another. The fact that Benny [Jeff Bennett] filled in and pitched well and Chuckie [James] filled in and pitched well and we won five in a row — it's a little bit easier to be patient."

Bennett, who's scheduled to pitch tonight against the Marlins, had a 100.7-degree temperature Tuesday. But he's still scheduled to pitch, either way. "Got to," manager Bobby Cox said.braves.com

04-23-2008, 11:23 PM
Cox 'hoping' reliever Gonzalez rejoins bullpen by mid-May
Lefty originally slated to return to Braves around '08 All-Star break

Left-hander Mike Gonzalez has looked so good against hitters in extended spring training, the Braves think he could join their bullpen by mid-May, before the one-year anniversary of his "Tommy John" elbow surgery.

"I think so," manager Bobby Cox said of the possibility. "I'm hoping. It might not happen [that soon], but I hope so."

With closer Rafael Soriano (elbow tendinitis) finishing a stint on the disabled list and top setup man Peter Moylan likely headed for season-ending elbow surgery, the Braves eagerly await the return of Gonzalez.

The former Pittsburgh closer had a 1.59 ERA in 18 appearances for the Braves last April and May before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery May 31, 2007.

The original timetable for his return was the 2008 All-Star break. When he made steady progress in the fall, the return date was bumped to June.

When his progress continued this spring without any setbacks, the Braves said he might be back as soon as late May.

Now, it's mid-May. Most pitchers recover from "TJ" surgery in about 12 months, but the range is anywhere from 11 to 14 months.

Cox said the only setback Gonzalez had was a back strain more than a week ago.

He was supposed to throw one simulated inning against hitters Tuesday at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Gonzalez needed so few pitches to get the first three outs that he continued pitching for three more.

He recorded six outs in 23 pitches, according to the Braves. He's scheduled to pitch in extended-spring games Thursday and Saturday, and Cox said he could then begin a minor-league rehab assignment after those outings.

Gonzalez, 29, was perfect in 24 save opportunities for the Pirates in 2006, when he posted a 2.17 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 54 innings.

The Braves got him and infield prospect Brent Lillibridge in a January 2007 trade for first baseman Adam LaRoche and minor-league outfielder Jamie Romak.

Francoeur playing through pain

The right ankle broke eight years ago playing high school football is barking again, but the right fielder doesn't plan to let the pain end his streak of games played.

Cox said if he has to, he'll make Francoeur rest. But as long as he remains productive, Cox is inclined to let him play. Francoeur made his 347th consecutive start Wednesday, the longest active streak in the National League.

He received a cortisone shot late Tuesday in the outer part of his ankle where it meets the foot, after running with a noticeable limp during Tuesday's game.

He's had discomfort periodically since spring training, but said Tuesday was the worst, and it began when he was doing nothing more than running to his position before the first inning.

Francoeur said it "pinches" at times, particularly when rounding the bases.

"In the offseason I'll get it checked out," said Francoeur, who also plans to be fitted for orthotics after a road trip that starts Friday.

Until then, he'll play with it taped and hope the injection helps. He also had an injection late in spring training.

Glavine on schedule for Tuesday

threw a side session in the bullpen Wednesday, one day sooner than planned. The left-hander is scheduled to come off the DL and start Tuesday's game at Washington — the original scene of the crime, so to speak.

The bullpen session was the first strenuous activity for the 42-year-old since he strained his right hamstring in the first inning April 13 at Washington. It's the first DL stint of Glavine's 22-year major league career.

Pitching coach Roger McDowell reported no setbacks from the side session.

Smoltz jokes with Harris

After got an RBI double off on Tuesday, the newly minted 3,000-strikeout man called his former teammate and made a promise.

Smoltz has allowed only two runs in 23 innings, both runs driven in by Harris.

"I told him I'm coming to Hahira [Harris' hometown] this offseason and dunking on him," joked Smoltz, known for his basketball prowess — even at age 40.Braves.com

04-25-2008, 12:43 AM
04/24/2008 10:55 PM ET
Gonzalez, Infante see action
Reliever, infielder play in extended spring game in Florida

ATLANTA -- The Braves got some good news from extended Spring Training on Thursday. Reliever Mike Gonzalez and utilityman Omar Infante got in their first game action and both came away encouraged.
Gonzalez, coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery, pitched a perfect inning in an extended spring game and struck out two. The left-handed reliever, who is ahead of schedule in his recovery, is scheduled to pitch again on Saturday in Florida and should be ready to go out on a Minor League rehab assignment in early May.

Infante, who broke his hand in winter ball, played four innings at shortstop and got three at-bats, going hitless. He is expected to begin his Minor League rehab assignment next week if all continues to go well.

Closer Rafael Soriano, on the disabled list with a tender elbow, is scheduled to throw off the mound this weekend when the Braves are in New York to play the Mets. He has just played catch since going on the DL.braves.com

04-27-2008, 04:54 PM
Glavine anticipates Tuesday return
Reports good bullpen session, set to end first career DL stint

NEW YORK -- To say it was the best of the thousands of bullpen sessions Tom Glavine has thrown wouldn't exactly be accurate. But because it was the one that gave him the assurance that his first career stint on the disabled list will soon end, it was at least memorable.
After completing a short bullpen session at Shea Stadium early Sunday morning, Glavine confirmed that he will be ready to make his scheduled start on Tuesday against the Nationals. He'll be pitching off the same Nationals Park mound on which he strained his right hamstring on April 13.

"It felt good," Glavine said. "It was just another opportunity to make sure everything was all right."

Glavine didn't put as much strain on his hamstring as he did during the more grueling side session he completed at Turner Field on Tuesday. But he was able to provide himself more confidence that he is healthy and at the same time attempt to regain some of the feel that he may have lost while not being able to pitch for the past two weeks.

"The good thing is that I've been able to throw a little," Glavine said. "There is always going to some concern for me that I'll be too strong or that my command will be off."

When Glavine initially injured the hamstring before recording an out against the Nationals two weeks ago, there was thought that he might not need to go on the disabled list. But when he arrived at Turner Field on April 18, less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to make his next start, the Braves' medical staff noticed that the strain had caused some bleeding below the hamstring.

While Glavine's mobility was barely affected by the hamstring, the bleeding caused the type of discomfort one might feel with any type of bruise.

When the Braves decided to place Glavine on the disabled list for the first time in a career that has consisted of 672 starts and 303 wins, the 42-year-old southpaw was disappointed.

But because the Braves have at least won six of the nine games (entering Sunday) they've played since deciding to sideline him, Glavine admits the experience hasn't been as bad as it could have been.

"It wasn't as miserable, because we played OK," Glavine said. "It's not fun because you don't have anything to look forward to when you come to the ballpark every day." Braves.com

04-27-2008, 04:57 PM
Chipper, Escobar look to return
Injured Braves hope to be back in lineup for Tuesday's game

NEW YORK -- Chipper Jones wasn't exactly capable of doing anything much more than simply walking early Sunday morning. But the veteran third baseman and young shortstop Yunel Escobar are both hoping to return to the lineup on Tuesday, when the Braves begin a two-game series against the Nationals.
While getting dressed before Saturday afternoon's game against the Mets, Jones was felled by the enormous discomfort caused by back spasms. As for Escobar, he bruised his right ring finger in the first inning of Friday's series opener at Shea Stadium and has since been limited to one appearance as a pinch-runner.

"I feel better," said Jones, who leads the Majors with a .433 batting average. "I'm still having trouble with my rotation [of the torso]. But as far as being able to stand here and carry on a conversation, I'm fine."

While Jones' back spasms had disappeared and he was able to breathe better than he did most of Saturday, there was never any question that he was going to have to miss Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Mets.

"If they want to cart me off the field in the first inning, I'll go out there and play," Jones said. "But I don't think anybody wants to see that."

Given that he would have been playing in front of the Mets fans that love to hate him, there might have been some people who wanted to see Jones attempt to play on Sunday. But the Braves were content to have him rest another day with the hope that he can play on Tuesday.

Escobar, who cracked his fingernail while laying down a sacrifice bunt in Friday's first inning, said that the swelling in his finger had decreased and he expected to play on Tuesday. But Braves manager Bobby Cox wasn't able to confidently say his 25-year-old shortstop would be able to return that soon.

"Maybe," Cox said when asked about Tuesday. "He can't even hit right now."

04-27-2008, 10:01 PM
At least some good news coming out on sunday... I hope Smoltz doesn't go back to the DL or something. but at least it looks like we have glavine back and hopefully hampton soon

04-28-2008, 05:12 PM
Smoltz likely to miss next start
Braves right-hander will be evaluated by doctors on Tuesday

WASHINGTON -- The Braves understand that John Smoltz will likely have to miss his next scheduled start. But they're hoping to soon learn that they won't be without the 40-year-old hurler for too long.
Smoltz will return to Atlanta on Monday night and be evaluated by the Braves' team doctors on Tuesday. After completing just four innings against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the veteran pitcher's words and body language showed that he was certainly concerned about his right shoulder.

Over the past month, Smoltz has dealt with tightness between his shoulder and neck. But he wasn't able to make any adjustments to provide relief on Sunday. He has told some of his friends that he thinks he might need to go on the disabled list.

The Braves' pitching staff has battled numerous injuries this season. Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano, the team's top two relievers, are both battling sore elbows.

Tom Glavine is coming off the DL on Tuesday, with the hope that his right hamstring is healthy. As for Mike Hampton, he will start for Triple-A Richmond in Durham, N.C., on Wednesday. If all goes well, Hampton could immediately return to the rotation. braves.com

the baseball gods just hate us.

04-28-2008, 05:22 PM
tough one...lets hope this isnt season a season ending injury.

05-04-2008, 05:05 PM
Composure key to Reyes' progression
Southpaw improves control, footwork in acquiring Smoltz's spot

ATLANTA -- Last season left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes learned that winning on the Major League level is cool.
Saturday night Reyes learned that winning on the Major League level consistently is a matter of keeping his cool.

"I haven't been nervous," said the 23-year-old lefty, who was 2-2 with a 6.22 ERA -- 35 runs, including nine homers, over 50 2/3 innings -- last season. "It was more that I couldn't control my adrenaline before.

"I don't think you can explain it," he added. "Just take it pitch-by-pitch, and don't get overwhelmed with what you need to do."

Reyes didn't overwhelm the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night, but he kept them at bay, allowing only one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. More important was his improved control: he struck out five, walking only three.

"He was very, very aggressive," said Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell. "He got ahead, he kept the ball down. He was pitching in all good counts. He had a good changeup, he had good life on his fastball, good sink on his fastball and mixed in his breaking ball here and there. Obviously, against the left-handed hitters they have, that's big to be able to throw those off-speed pitches, especially behind in counts. He was able to do that."

Being in control this time around required Reyes to improve his footwork, something McDowell helped him with at the end of Spring Training, and something he worked on at Triple-A Richmond with pitching coach Guy Hansen.

"We moved last year to the third base side at the end of the year," recalled Reyes, who began the season with a 20-inning scoreless streak. "It was a big part of it. Just keeping my leg lift smooth and not so violent and that's helped a lot."

Now with his feet firmly -- and correctly -- planted on the ground, and his head on straight, he is ready to fill in where Bobby Cox needs him. That appears to be in the rotation spot formerly held by John Smoltz.

Reyes will next toe the rubber on Wednesday night against San Diego. He hasn't forgotten the rather rude welcome the Padres gave him in his Major League debut last July 7 at PETCO Park, where he gave up five earned runs -- including two home runs -- in three innings.

"I was just thankful that it was over," said the West Covina, Calif., native with a laugh. "I had a bunch of family there, and just a lot of hype. I'm glad it's over and now I've got to move on."

The best way to move on for Reyes is to play the role of the rude host when the Padres come to Turner Field.braves.com

go get them jo-jo.

05-04-2008, 05:31 PM
Braves' relief corps enjoying anonymity
Comprised of relative unknowns, Atlanta 'pen thriving in '08

ATLANTA -- Ask a casual fan to name three members of the Braves' bullpen, and chances are the names that come out will be Rafael Soriano, Peter Moylan and John Smoltz.
The fact that all three are on the disabled list and Smoltz has only announced that he'll pitch out of the 'pen when he returns says something about the guys who are in there.

"We never get written about," said lefty reliever Will Ohman. "We're the offensive linemen of baseball. That's how it works."

The relief corps is one of those groups that simply isn't known about until something goes wrong. But try putting together a winning streak without them. The Braves might not be on a roll heading into Sunday's series finale against Cincinnati without the bullpen.

Don't be fooled by Saturday night's 9-1 final. It was a 2-1 game with Reds on first and second and one out in the sixth, before Jeff Bennett retired Edwin Encarnacion on an infield grounder and Ohman struck out Adam Dunn. While those two relievers helped save the game, there were only H's for holds next to their names. It's an obscure stat, but one that's as good as gold for Bennett.

"As a reliever, holds is a big stat. Inherited runners is another one that I've always taken pride in," said Bennett, who has two holds and has retired six of the nine first batters he's faced. "Not giving up other guys' runs ... my runs are one thing, but other guys are more important. I'm just glad me and Will were able to keep those guys on base and get Jo-Jo [Reyes] the win."

The Braves' bullpen was perfect Saturday, retiring all 11 Reds it faced. And everybody got into the act, as Jorge Campillo, Blaine Boyer and Chris Resop each threw a scoreless inning.

"When you've got guys like Peter and [Soriano] on the DL, guys have to step up," said lefty specialist Royce Ring, who has not allowed a run in eight of his past 10 appearances. "I think we have a good collective group in there that can get it done. Everybody's excited to be here."

Second-year bullpen coach Eddie Perez admits that the ringing of the phone has a Pavlovian effect on the group.

"As soon as the phone rings, everybody's looking at my face. Everybody wants to go in," said Perez. "I've never seen a bunch of guys so ready to go into the game. They want to go out there and perform. They're ready."

For these Braves, the concept of closer-by-committee has taken on a whole new meaning.

"I try to tell the guys, no matter what inning you're coming in, essentially you're the closer for that inning," said Ohman, who has retired 11 of 15 first batters and has allowed only two of eight inherited runners to score. "That's the job of the bullpen. Whatever outs are given to you, just keep the opposition at bay."

So far this season they have, as entering play Sunday afternoon the group ranked fifth in holding opponents to a .223 batting average, having retired 63 percent of first batters and allowing only 22 percent of inherited runners to score.

Perez likes the group's versatility.

"Anybody can save games, anybody can set up," said Perez. "Right now, we have [Manny] Acosta as a closer. It's going to be good to see Smoltz and Soriano when they come back. It's a nice problem to have. Hopefully they'll continue to pitch the way they have."

Of course, if they do, fans probably won't hear much more about them. That's fine with Boyer.

"I've always said that as long as nobody talks about me, I'm doing a pretty good job," he said with a laugh. "When my name is usually mentioned in the press, a lot of times it's that I did something wrong. So the quieter it can possibly be, usually the better it is."Braves.com

05-04-2008, 08:51 PM
Braves' Prado suffers left thumb sprain
Versatile infielder leaves game, will be examined Monday

ATLANTA -- While just about everything went the Braves' way Sunday afternoon, the status of Martin Prado may put a damper on things.
The utility infielder, who started the series finale when Yunel Escobar was scratched just before first pitch with the flu, injured his left thumb in the fifth inning as he slid into first base while racing Reds first baseman Joey Votto to the bag.

Prado reached on the play and eventually came around to score. He played the field in the sixth inning before being replaced by Escobar to start the seventh.

Later in the game, the team announced that Prado had sustained a sprained left thumb. But afterward, manager Bobby Cox was not upbeat when asked about Prado's condition.

"Prado's not OK," said the Braves skipper. "He's got a pretty damaged thumb right now."
Just how damaged will be clearer on Monday, an off-day for the team, when Prado is scheduled to be examined by Dr. Gary Lourie.

The 24-year-old Prado is hitting .282, with six RBIs, and is tied for the team lead with two triples. More important is his defensive versatility, as he has played every infield position.

05-06-2008, 08:21 PM
Braves' bullpen dealt setbacks
Soriano to undergo MRI on elbow; Gonzalez's return delayed

ATLANTA -- Over the past couple of weeks, the Braves have received both good and bad news regarding their bullpen on seemingly a daily basis. Unfortunately, the news regarding Rafael Soriano got worse while he threw a bullpen session at Turner Field on Tuesday afternoon.
Soriano's latest bullpen session was cut short when he felt further discomfort in his right elbow. Given that the veteran closer has been battling elbow pain since early March, the Braves have opted to send him for further evaluation. He'll undergo an MRI scan and other imaging tests on Wednesday.

"It just hasn't seemed to improve much," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "It's a lingering issue that we want to get to the bottom of. It had seemed to be getting better."

Just when it looked like Wren's bullpen was improving, he's been forced to deal with some sort of setback. With little surprise, the Braves also announced on Tuesday that Peter Moylan will undergo season-ending surgery to repair his right elbow tendon on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala.

Moylan is 95 percent sure that he'll need Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery, which would require at least a full year of rehab. Noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews has said there is a five percent chance that the bone spur that is impeding the Australian reliever's ligament can be repaired via another surgery.

While the Moylan development didn't cause any alarm, news that Mike Gonzalez had a little tightness in his left elbow this past weekend did at least force the Braves to realize his return might be delayed until the final week of May. Still, they didn't seem concerned, providing indication that he was finally feeling the discomfort that all pitchers eventually feel while coming back from Tommy John surgery.

The Braves are still hopeful that Gonzalez will be able to make a two-inning appearance on Wednesday or Thursday. If all goes well, Wren said he's hopeful that the left-handed reliever will still be able to begin a Minor League rehab assignment "in the near future."

"Everybody [coming back from Tommy John] gets [this tightness] at some point," Wren said.

Soriano, who hasn't pitched since recording a save on April 6, said after Tuesday's bullpen session that the discomfort in his elbow wasn't as great as it had previously been. While there might have been a hint of progress in his words, the fact that the discomfort lingered for so long always seemed troubling.

After making a career-high 71 appearances with the Braves last season, Soriano signed a two-year, $9.1 million contract. Before signing this deal, the 28-year-old reliever traveled to Atlanta to undergo an MRI and other tests similar to the ones that will be performed again on Wednesday.

Wren remains hopeful that Soriano will be able to overcome his discomfort and that Gonzalez will overcome the expected pitfalls that come following Tommy John surgery. As for John Smoltz, who is currently battling right shoulder problems, the Braves don't know when he might be able to join their bullpen.

But if he's able to stay healthy and join a mix that also includes either Soriano or Gonzalez, the Braves could still potentially have a strong bullpen.

"We feel like we're going to have some quality guys joining our bullpen soon and hopefully Rafael Soriano soon," Wren said. "It's just taken a little longer than we had hoped."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


05-06-2008, 10:45 PM
^ good find, I am starting to think if we are ever going to get soriano back. Everytime there is an article on him he is always has some type of pain.

05-06-2008, 10:47 PM
Norton in situation where he's wanted
Backup infielder thrilled to get his chance with Braves

ATLANTA -- After Greg Norton was designated for assignment on Wednesday by the Mariners, he knew he would land somewhere.
Norton had to -- for his children's sake.

Norton, who was acquired by the Braves on Monday for a player to be named later or cash considerations, said his sole goal this season was to have his young kids -- Jacen, 2, Ciana, 1 -- see their father play in the big leagues.

"I'm happy these guys picked me up, and hopefully, my kids can come check out Turner Field," Norton said.

If they do travel from their home in Colorado, they'll see Norton in many late-game situations. He will likely become the Braves' primary pinch-hit option, and he can play both corner infield positions.

The Mariners no longer found a need for Norton, because they had a solid designated hitter in Jose Vidro, and they wanted to add a pinch-runner and defensive replacement from Triple-A Tacoma. In six games with the Mariners this season, Norton went 7-for-16 with four RBIs.

The Braves showed interest in the switch-hitting 35-year-old during Spring Training, but when it became clear that the Mariners wouldn't trade him, the Braves opted for Scott Spiezio.

Norton last played against Oakland on April 27, when he went 1-for-4. In the previous game against the A's, he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.

"I wasn't upset," said Norton, a career .253 hitter. "Seattle gave me a shot to show that I was healthy again."

Norton needed surgery last spring to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He also underwent surgery after the season to repair a balky left elbow. Norton said he feels great now, and he's looking forward to contributing off the bench.

It's a role Norton said that he is comfortable with, having done so with Colorado from 2001-03. He played no fewer than 113 games in each of his three seasons with the Rockies, but his playing time has significantly decreased since then.

In arguably his best season with the Rays in 2006, Norton hit .296 with 17 home runs.

When the Rays didn't pick up his option, Norton signed with the Mariners this offseason, and he started the year with Tacoma.

Norton does have a propensity to strike out during his career, recording 544 in 2,163 career at-bats.

"It's getting that routine down, getting used to doing it again," Norton said. "I have prepared myself being that pinch-hitter late in the game. It's not going to be a foreign thing to me." Braves.com

I get a feeling he is going to be a quality pinch hitter for us.

05-07-2008, 12:07 AM
I wonder the same. It's sad, but at least the bigger portion of his contract is next year. On the bright side Bennett is a beast, he is going to be our work horse for a while and has been thus far. He takes everything we throw at him and does it well. Boyer has been getting his outs. Ring, I like him too.

05-07-2008, 10:46 PM
Braves get good news on Soriano
Wren says tests show closer's elbow is structurally sound

ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Frank Wren finally had the opportunity to present some promising news regarding his injury-plagued pitching staff. It appears closer Rafael Soriano's elbow is structurally sound.
Before Wednesday night's game against the Padres, Wren revealed that an MRI and bone scan performed earlier in the day on Soriano's elbow both showed no alarming damage. Through these tests, the Braves were looking to ensure that the 28-year-old right-hander didn't have any ligament damage that would definitely sideline him for a significant period.

"He still has some pain," Wren said. "But now that we've able to rule out anything significant, we think that he can resume his throwing program with the confidence that he can do so without doing any further damage."

Soriano has battled elbow discomfort at various times over the course of the past two months and has been on the disabled list since April 7. The slight progress he was making over the past couple of weeks was halted on Tuesday, when the increased pain caused him to abruptly stop his bullpen session.

"It's not like he's had all bad days," Wren said. "He's had some good days."

Soriano, who entered this season as the Braves' projected closer, began feeling some elbow soreness in the early days of Spring Training and didn't make his Grapefruit League debut until March 15.

Then, after making four regular-season appearances and converting his only save opportunity on April 6, he was sidelined with discomfort the Braves thought might last just a week or two.

There's certainly a chance that Wednesday's tests will provide Soriano some increased confidence. He was forced to miss most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons because of Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery.

"That's the kind of peace of mind you want to give to your players as they're pitching through some things," Wren said.

Wren isn't setting a specific timetable for Soriano. But he is hopeful that the veteran reliever, who made a career-high 71 appearances last year, might be able to make steady progress during the next few days and weeks.

The Braves are in a holding pattern with both Soriano and John Smoltz, who is planning to return from the disabled list as a reliever. Smoltz won't know how much relief he's gained in his shoulder until he resumes throwing, and he's still not sure when that will occur.Braves.com

05-07-2008, 10:49 PM
Bennett proving his worth
In bullpen or as starter, right-hander wants to contribute

ATLANTA -- Jeff Bennett may play this entire season without a specific role. But that's fine with the Braves' 27-year-old hurler. He's just happy to have a healthy right arm.
Bennett notched his first career save during the Braves' 5-3 win gained Tuesday night against the Padres.

"Whatever role [manager Bobby Cox] wants me in is what I'm going to do my best at, and hopefully that role can help the team win," said Bennett, who is 0-1 with a 3.90 ERA in three starts and 10 relief appearances this season.

His most important role, however, may be that of damage control. That was the case Tuesday night.

With the Braves leading, 5-3, in the top of the ninth and one out, closer Manny Acosta allowed two runners to reach base before he was pulled by Cox, who opted for Royce Ring to face hot-hitting lefty Adrian Gonzalez. After Ring struck out Gonzalez, Bennett was called upon to record the final out.

"You never wish that upon anybody, and I was hoping Manny could go out there and shut them down, but that's part of the bullpen," Bennett said. "When guys struggle a little bit, you have to come in and pick them up."

And Bennett did, inducing a game-ending flyout by Kevin Kouzmanoff to preserve the Braves' fourth straight win.

"They did their job, and they got a strikeout against one of the best hitters in the league [Gonzalez]," Cox said of Bennett and Ring. Bennett has already tossed 27 2/3 innings this season. His previous season high is 7 1/3, which he had during his rookie year with the Brewers in 2004.

Bennett missed the entire 2006 season recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery. After the Braves purchased Bennett's contract from Triple-A Richmond last September, he went 2-1 in three appearances (two starts).

"I'm just glad I get to pitch whenever and however I'm pitched as long as I can throw a uniform on every day," said Bennett, who has not allowed an earned run in five of his last six appearances.

When Mike Hampton injured his left pectoral muscle while warming up for his April 3 season debut, Bennett was thrown in as an emergency starter. Given the circumstances, he did well, giving up two runs on four hits in four innings. He did not factor in the decision.

Bennett last started April 24 against the Marlins, when he tied a career high with six strong innings, giving up three earned runs and taking the loss. He also threw six innings in his final start last season against the Astros.

"I don't really have a preference," Bennett said when asked what role he is most comfortable pitching in. "Whatever it is to help the team, that's the way I'm needed."Braves.com

05-08-2008, 06:16 PM
Diaz to see bulk of action on trip
Cox plans to continue platooning Blanco in left field with veteran

ATLANTA -- Matt Diaz started his second straight game against the Padres on Thursday and will likely be in the Braves' lineup at least five times in the next seven days.
That doesn't mean, however, that Atlanta manager Bobby Cox has abandoned his left-field platoon of rookie Gregor Blanco and the veteran Diaz.

The Braves are in a stretch where almost all they will see are left-handed starters, giving the right-handed-hitting Diaz plenty of playing time after a couple of weeks where he hardly started at all.

"I don't remember anything like it," Cox said of facing seven lefty starters over a nine-game span.

The Braves also went up against a number of left-handed starters early in the season, when Diaz was playing every day. But his starts had been limited recently, with Blanco taking over against righties and hitting .314.

That has left Diaz looking ahead at the probable pitchers and hoping for the best.

"When I see a lefty in there, I get excited," Diaz said. "You want to play as much as you can, and getting some games in a row definitely helps you."

Diaz went into Thursday's game with the Padres batting .295 with two homers and 13 RBIs. Almost all the damage had been done against lefties. Diaz was hitting .452 against left-handers compared to .170 against righties.

"I know I can hit right-handers better than that," said Diaz, a .338 hitter overall last year and .327 in 2006. "But right now, I just have to take advantage of my opportunities and help the team anyway I can."Braves.com

05-08-2008, 06:20 PM
Ring working all the right angles
Change to lower arm slot in 2005 has helped lefty specialist

ATLANTA -- Left-handed batters have had a difficult time cracking Braves reliever Royce Ring since he dropped his arm angle in 2005.
From a hitter's perspective, the ball is difficult to pick up when it comes from a left-hander with a lower release point. It's no wonder Ring has limited lefties to a .143 batting average in 14 at-bats this season.

"It's like completely changing your batting stance around," Ring said of altering his arm angle. "It's changing something you've done your whole life, so considering that, it's been a growing process and I am just learning myself what I need to do mechanically to have the results I need."

Ring clearly has found his niche in the Braves' bullpen. He is a left-handed specialist, called into late-game situations to get a crucial out or two. Ring has not allowed a hit since giving up two runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning on April 15 against the Marlins.

Ring has stranded each of the 18 runners he's inherited this season, while allowing just one baserunner to reach in the past eight games.

"I'm just throwing good pitches, quality pitches down in the zone, and mixing it up with the sliders and curveballs," said Ring, who has allowed four runs on four hits in five innings of relief this season.

Ring said the key to his success was getting ahead early in the count. From there, he can begin confusing batters with offspeed pitches.

That's what he did against Padres lefty Adrian Gonzalez on Tuesday night, when Ring was inserted in the ninth inning of a 5-3 game with runners on first and third. Ring threw a curveball down and in, and Gonzalez ripped it down the left-field line. The would-be home run barely drifted left of the foul pole. A harmless foul ball.

"I knew from the past he was a little erratic with the fastball, and I was looking for the curveball," Gonzalez said. "But it was a weird angle and delivery, and guys like that have success when they can hide the ball. He made the pitches when he needed to, and you've got to tip your hat to the guy."

Ring said that pitch to Gonzalez was perfectly located, one a batter could only hit foul. With that first-pitch strike, Ring used his sinking fastball that moves back in on left-handed hitters and got the strikeout. Jeff Bennett induced a flyout one batter later to record the save.

And that's the role Ring has grown accustomed to -- throwing to one or two batters and calling it a night.

"Whether it's a strikeout or getting them to hit it hard at somebody, as long as I get the out, I can help the team win, and that's all I'm trying to do," Ring said.

Ring has pitched more than two-thirds of an inning just twice this season. Despite dominating success against lefties, he has allowed two hits in four at-bats against right-handers.

"I'm getting the work in the bullpen where I can keep all my mechanical stuff sharp and every time I go out, it's the same thing," he said.

Ring made 11 scoreless appearances for the Braves last season. The Braves purchased his contract from Triple-A Richmond after acquiring the 27-year-old from San Diego on July 31 in exchange for Wil Ledezma, who started Thursday's game for the Padres.

He did not allow a run in nine of his first 10 appearances last season for the Padres, but gave up runs in four of his last five to prompt the trade.

"From what [the Braves] saw, they liked it," said Ring, who allowed 13 hits, six earned runs and 17 walks in 26 appearances for the Padres and Braves last season. "I'm a great situational guy, and I've been doing it the last couple of years pretty well."

05-08-2008, 06:22 PM
Reyes exits early with blister

ATLANTA -- Braves left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes left in the third inning of Thursday's start against the Padres with a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand.
Buddy Carlyle replaced Reyes, inheriting runners on first and second base.

Reyes, a 23-year-old southpaw, walked Khalil Greene and met briefly with pitching coach Roger McDowell on the mound before heading into the dugout.

Reyes had thrown 51 pitches in 2 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and two runs (one earned). He was making his second start of the season after beginning the year with Triple-A Richmondbraves.com

05-08-2008, 06:24 PM
Carlyle leaves after collision
Reliever suffers muscle strain in neck, listed as day-to-day

ATLANTA -- Braves reliever Buddy Carlyle left Thursday's game vs. the Padres in the fifth inning after colliding with Kevin Kouzmanoff, and he is listed as day-to-day after suffering a muscle strain on the left side of his neck.
Kouzmanoff was trying to beat out a bunt down the first-base line when he collided with Carlyle, who was trying to apply a tag. Carlyle pitched two innings, allowing one run on one hit.

Carlyle had entered the game with two out in the third after starter Jo-Jo Reyes left with a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand.

Jorge Campillo entered with two out in the fifth and gave up an RBI single to Scott Hariston, pushing the Padres' lead to 3-1. Khalil Greene then doubled down the left-field line, scoring Hairston.Braves.com

05-09-2008, 10:43 PM
Norton taking quick start in stride
Pinch-hitter starts 2-for-3 with Braves, but knows to stay humble

ATLANTA -- While the rest of the Braves marveled at his late-innings pinch-hit magic, Greg Norton stood calmly in front of his locker on Thursday afternoon, forever leery of what he calls "the humbler."
"You can never figure out the game," Norton said. "Things aren't easy, you just try to do as well as you can for as long as you can. Once you start patting yourself on the back too much, the humbler will jump on your back."

Get used to this sort of modest talk from Norton. He's a California guy who says he won't become enamored with his results, however impressive they may be.

Norton's feast-or-famine position as the Braves' main pinch-hit threat won't allow it.

"Especially in the role that I have now, you can't really beat yourself up," said Norton, who smacked a pinch-hit, two-run single in the sixth inning of Thursday's 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Padres. "You're not going to come through every time, and my goal is to get as many big hits as I can. I never give myself much credit, which maybe is a fault, but that's just how I am."

Norton's two-run single cut the Padres' lead to 4-3 before a wild pitch in the seventh and Matt Diaz's game-winning single in the ninth gave the Braves their first one-run win of the year.

"Norton again got the big hit that got us going," said manager Bobby Cox, whose Braves are now 1-9 in games decided by one run this season.

Norton, acquired Monday from the Mariners for cash considerations or a player to be named later, didn't even know the run of futility existed.

"Like I said [Wednesday], I didn't even know where the clubhouse was," Norton quipped. "I'm happy we got it off our backs."

In the seventh inning of Wednesday's game, Norton hit a bases-loaded single to propel the Braves to a 5-2 win.

"I think it's a bigger load off his mind than I think it is ours," third baseman Chipper Jones said after Wednesday's game. "That's the kind of situation you live to come off the bench for."

Norton had a strong start to the season, collecting seven hits and four RBIs in 16 at-bats for Seattle. But he was designated for assignment when the Mariners looked to add a speedy pinch-runner and defensive replacement, roles Norton admits he can no longer fill.

But in one of the least desirable roles in baseball -- coming in cold off the bench, looking to provide a spark -- Norton said he is in his element.

Never more so than this season.

"I have never started out a season this hot, and it's something you try to hold on to," said Norton, who is 2-for-3 with three RBIs in three games with the Braves. "Especially with switch-hitters, because it's rare when you feel good from both sides of the plate, and you just try to get as much out of it before it goes away."

And before any unreasonable expectations begin forming, Norton offered this: "Don't expect it every night. It's only two hits."Braves.com

05-09-2008, 10:46 PM
James looks to extend role on Saturday
Starting for Hampton, lefty looks for a place in hobbled lineup

PITTSBURGH -- When Chuck James starts against the Pirates on Saturday night, he'll look to make the type of impression that will allow him to remain in the Majors. If for no other reason, the Braves southpaw would at least like to stay somewhere long enough to be able to gather all of his belongings.
After tossing five innings and getting the win against the Marlins on April 24, James was wearing a pair of dress slacks and preparing to take the team's charter to New York. But instead of heading north to Shea Stadium, he was sent halfway up the East Coast, rejoining Triple-A Richmond.

Unfortunately, his suitcase had been packed on a truck before it was determined that he was going back to the Minors. Thus when he rejoined the big league team on Friday afternoon at PNC Park, he was still wearing that same pair of dress slacks.

"I had just got my bag back from going down the last time," said James, who was awoken in his Louisville, Ky., hotel on Friday at 4:30 a.m. ET to learn he was coming back to the Majors.

James will be making a start that had been tentatively scheduled for Mike Hampton, who is among the many injured Braves starters. John Smoltz is on the disabled list, though his eyes are set on a return to the bullpen. As for Jo-Jo Reyes, he's hoping the blister on his left index finger that forced him to leave Thursday's game won't prevent him from starting on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

When Reyes was forced to leave in the third inning, he was replaced by Buddy Carlyle, who was forced to exit in the fifth inning after a collision along the first-base line. Carlyle, who will likely be placed on the DL or optioned to Richmond to make room for James, was battling a stiff neck on Friday.

"It feels like I was in a car accident a little bit," Carlyle said.

While most of his clothes are now in Richmond, James is hoping his recent success provides further indication that he has the stuff to stick in the Majors this time around. While some will continue to harp on the fact that he's just a two-pitch pitcher, that fastball-changeup combination was good enough for him to win 11 games each of the past two seasons with Atlanta.

Plus, James is seemingly much healthier than he was last year, when he was battling left shoulder fatigue. Having been brought along slowly in Spring Training, he admittedly wasn't ready when he allowed six earned runs in just three innings of an April 9 start at Coors Field.

In his three appearances (two starts) for Richmond, James has posted a 1.59 ERA and held opponents to a .246 batting average. More importantly, during his past two starts with Atlanta, the 26-year-old left-hander was 2-0 with a 4.45 ERA.

During Monday night's game against Indianapolis, James allowed just one earned run over seven innings.

"I felt real good the last time out," James said. "Each start it gets better. Hopefully we can keep it rolling."Braves.com

so james hasn't gotten a third pitch look for more of the same from him.

05-10-2008, 10:57 PM
Smoltz's ailing right shoulder improving
Braves hurler hoping to play catch before Sunday's game

PITTSBURGH -- Nobody has to tell John Smoltz it's been two weeks since his ailing right shoulder allowed him to deliver a pitch. As the veteran pitcher has gained some relief over the past few days, he's been reminded that patience isn't one of his primary qualities.
"I'm getting close to feeling like things are turning the corner," said Smoltz, who is hoping to gain permission to at least play catch before Sunday afternoon's game against the Pirates at PNC Park.

Smoltz, who was diagnosed on April 29 with an inflamed right biceps tendon and an inflamed right rotator cuff, has realized greater flexibility the past few days while imitating his throwing motion without a baseball. With Sunday marking the two-week point since he last made a throw, the veteran hurler, who will turn 41 on Thursday, feels it's important for him to begin throwing again as soon as possible.

"I don't want to keep losing ground," said Smoltz, who wasn't able to convince the Braves' medical staff to let him play catch before Saturday evening's game.

Although he wasn't allowed to play catch before Saturday's game, Smoltz was permitted to shag balls during batting practice. Whenever he caught a ball, he resisted the urge to make an overhand throw back toward the infield. Instead, he made some underhand throws.

When Smoltz comes off the 15-day disabled list, he'll serve as a reliever. Based on his current capabilities and the experience he gained as a closer from 2001-04, he has a plan to minimize the stress he places on his arm.

While warming up in the bullpen, Smoltz plans to throw just 20 warmup pitches and then enter the game with the mind-set of completing his one inning in 20 pitches or less.

"My mind-set in whatever role will be to get quick innings," said Smoltz, whose decision to end his days as a starter was based on the fact that he realized he would serve as a hindrance by not being able to complete more than five innings on a consistent basis.

When Smoltz begins throwing again within the next few days, he's expecting to feel some discomfort, and he knows that he likely won't be able to complete this entire season without battling some occasional pains.

But he hopes within the next couple of weeks, he'll once again have the opportunity to pitch without any of the discomfort that was present during the five starts he made this season.

"Hopefully when I'm back pitching, it will be pain-free," Smoltz said.Braves.com

05-10-2008, 10:59 PM
Braves' makeshift 'pen pleasing Cox
Despite injuries, Atlanta's relief corps shutting foes down

PITTSBURGH -- If Braves manager Bobby Cox had already pulled out all of his remaining hair, nobody would have been surprised. But at the same time, those who understand his tremendous patience probably aren't surprised that his lack of experienced, proven and healthy relievers hasn't bothered him at all.
"It's been pretty fun to deal with," Cox said. "Normally it wouldn't be fun when you lose your top two relievers."

When the season began, Cox planned to use Rafael Soriano as his closer and Peter Moylan as his top setup man. Soriano remains out for an undetermined period because of a sore right elbow and Moylan has already undergone season-ending right elbow surgery. As for Manny Acosta, who was supposed to be one of the other top relievers, he has too often shown his inexperience.

Thus, instead of being able to call upon this trio to protect many of the late-inning leads, Cox has been forced to mix and match a bullpen that has overachieved at this point. In five of the six previous games -- none of which required extra innings -- entering Saturday, the Braves had used at least five pitchers. In four of those games, they used at least six hurlers.

"Any of the guys that we have out there can pitch in any situation," said right-handed reliever Blaine Boyer, whose 20 appearances tie him with left-handed reliever Will Ohman for the team lead.

Actually, the only specialist the Braves have is left-hander Royce Ring, who has made 15 appearances and totaled just 5 2/3 innings. In the process, he's limited left-handed batters to two hits in 16 at-bats and stranded each of the 19 baserunners that he's inherited.

This makeshift Braves bullpen has combined to make a Major League-high 120 appearances this season. Still, this group, which has been taxed harder because Cox is also employing an injury-produced makeshift rotation, has certainly fared better than many would have expected.

The .226 batting average allowed by Braves relievers ranks third in the National League, and the .317 on-base percentage they've surrendered ranks fifth. They've also picked each other up, allowing just 12 of the 63 (19 percent) baserunners they've inherited to score.

By using so many relievers on a regular basis, there's reason to wonder if Cox will soon wear out his bullpen. But because there haven't been many occasions when they've warmed up and didn't enter a game, Ohman, who is the veteran leader of the current bullpen mix, doesn't view this as a problem.

"It's phenomenal what [Cox] has done," Ohman said in reference to his manager's ability to mix and match his relievers in a relatively successful manner.Braves.com

05-11-2008, 05:44 PM
Soriano throws second bullpen session
Injured closer could begin Minors rehab assignment this week

PITTSBURGH -- Rafael Soriano has reached a point where he's grown tired of answering questions about his right elbow. After throwing a bullpen session at PNC Park on Sunday morning, the Braves' closer was confident that he could return from the disabled list early next week.
"It felt good," Soriano said. "It was a little bit sore, but it was better than before."

Soriano has been on the DL since April 7, and he has yet to complete a side session without discomfort. The pain he felt on Sunday wasn't as severe as the pain he felt when he cut his session short on Tuesday, however.

After an MRI scan on Wednesday showed that Soriano's discomfort isn't the product of a structural problem, the Braves and the right-handed reliever were given some peace of mind. Sunday marked the first time he'd thrown off a mound since Tuesday.

Soriano plans to throw another bullpen session on Tuesday and then possibly begin a Minor League assignment. The 28-year-old right-hander says that he'd like to make two appearances before being activated.

With that timetable in mind, Soriano thinks it's possible that he could be back in the Atlanta bullpen early next week. He made just four appearances and converted his only save opportunity of the season before going on the disabled listBraves.com

05-12-2008, 07:57 PM
Smoltz on road to recovery
Pitcher plays catch pain-free for second straight day

PITTSBURGH -- John Smoltz took another successful step toward joining the Braves bullpen when he was able to play catch without any discomfort for a second consecutive day.
Before the start of Monday's doubleheader at PNC Park, Smoltz made 45 throws from a distance of 60 feet. While throwing for the first time in two weeks on Sunday, he made 25 throws from 40 feet.

Smoltz plans to rest on Tuesday and then play catch from a distance of 90 feet on Wednesday. The Braves' veteran hurler, who will turn 41 on Thursday, is on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed biceps tendon and inflamed rotator cuff. His true test will come when he's permitted to begin throwing off a mound.

After struggling with shoulder discomfort during his five starts this season, Smoltz decided it would be best to spend the rest of the season as a reliever. He is hoping to be activated before the end of this month.Braves.com

05-12-2008, 07:59 PM
Teixeira out of Game 1 with back spasms
He becomes third Braves player to suffer from same ailment

PITTSBURGH -- Mark Teixeira can now count himself as the latest member of the Braves organization to be sidelined by back spasms.
Teixeira was forced to leave during the fourth inning of the first game of Monday's doubleheader at PNC Park. He had gone hitless in his first two at-bats against Pirates starter Zach Duke.

Teixeira said he felt the discomfort while going to the first base bag to receive a throw from second baseman Omar Infante. Last week, Braves manager Bobby Cox said that he had never seen so many of his players experience back spasms in such a short span of time. Earlier this season, Chipper Jones and Kelly Johnson were both forced to miss a game with this ailment.

Bench coach Chino Cadahia experienced a bout with back spasms and backup catcher Brayan Pena is on the 15-day disabled list with a back strain.

Greg Norton replaced Teixeira at first base and remained there to start the second game of the doubleheaderBraves.com

05-13-2008, 11:57 PM
Soriano finally optimistic about return
Closer throws successful 10-minute bullpen session Tuesday

PHILADELPHIA -- Over the course of the past month, Rafael Soriano has seemingly been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. But the Braves closer now is finally finding some consistent comfort with his right elbow.
After completing a 10-minute bullpen session, during which he threw both fastballs and sliders, at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday evening, Soriano returned the Braves clubhouse with a sense of optimism that had previously eluded him.

When asked how the session went, Soriano responded, "Real good."

When asked this question over the course of the past month, the usual answer had been, "More better than before, but it's still a little sore."

Thus, there's certainly reason for the Braves to be more optimistic about Soriano, who hopes to pitch a simulated game at Turner Field on Friday or Saturday. It would mark the first time he's faced hitters since notching a save against the Mets on April 6.

Because he's been out for an extended period, the Braves may ask Soriano to make at least one Minor League rehab appearance before being activated.

"If [the simulated game] goes good and they want me to throw in one or two games, I'm fine with that," Soriano said.

It appears that Soriano definitely found some peace of mind last week, when an MRI showed that the elbow discomfort he's been experiencing since the beginning of Spring Training hasn't been caused by structural problems.

"I was a little worried, because I didn't know what it was," said Soriano, who made just four appearances before beginning his current stint on the disabled list.

If all continues to go well for Soriano, there's a chance he could join the Braves bullpen some time next week. At that time, he could certainly resume his role as the team's closer. But there are no guarantees that he'll keep the role throughout the remainder of the season.

John Smoltz, who plans to test his right shoulder by playing catch from a distance of 90 feet on Wednesday, is still planning to join the bullpen by the end of this month. While he's said he wouldn't immediately come back as the closer, the fact remains that he notched 154 of his 167 career save opportunities and set a National League season record in 2002 with 55 saves.

The Braves could also soon benefit from the presence of Mike Gonzalez, who is attempting to return from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Gonzalez, who converted each of his 24 save opportunities with the Pirates in 2006, is still pitching in extended Spring Training. There's a chance he could return during the next few weeks.Braves.com

05-14-2008, 12:04 AM
man would that be a huge boost to our bullpen getting our 3 top guys back

05-14-2008, 12:13 AM
Braves adjust lineup to bolster scoring
Escobar, Kotsay, swinging hot bats, hit leadoff and second

PHILADELPHIA -- If there was a lineup that would definitely allow his team to end its misfortunes while batting with runners in scoring position, Braves manager Bobby Cox would immediately begin utilizing it on a nightly basis.
But with this not being a possibility, Cox has instead opted to put Yunel Escobar into the leadoff spot and let the red-hot Mark Kotsay move into the second spot. As for Kelly Johnson, whose bat has cooled recently, he's now going to get re-acquainted with hitting near the bottom of the lineup.

During Tuesday night's series opener against the Phillies, Escobar and Kotsay manned the lineup's top two spots and Johnson batted seventh.

"To me, it just seemed like the right thing to do right now," Cox said.

During his past 11 games, Escobar has batted .364 with a .417 on-base percentage. In 34 games as the Braves' leadoff hitter last year, the 25-year-old shortstop hit .351 with a .400 on-base percentage.

This year, the Braves' leadoff hitters have batted .265 with a .343 on-base percentage. Much of this can be blamed on Johnson, who has hit .263 with a .328 on-base percentage in the 29 games that he's served in the leadoff role.

This marks the second consecutive year that Johnson has been moved out of the leadoff role. He hit .347 (34-for-98) while hitting in the seventh and eighth spots of the lineup last year.

"I think this will give Kelly a chance to get some RBIs down there," said Cox of Johnson, who, entering Tuesday, had batted .250 (11-for-44) with a .306 on-base percentage in his previous 12 games.

It certainly gives Cox a chance to get Kotsay's sizzling bat toward the top of the lineup. In his previous 20 games, the veteran center fielder hit .368 (28-for-76) with a .407 on-base percentage. More impressively, in his previous 12 games, he had hit .396 (19-for-48) with a .420 on-base percentage.

Most of Kotsay's struggles this year have come against left-handed pitchers, who limited him to a .217 (5-for-23) batting average in his past 20 games. During this same span, he has batted .434 (23-for-53) against right-handers.Braves.com

so it doesn't look like KJ will get back to the top of the lineup any time soon so that just leaves the question who is going to bat lead-off? I don't like esco hitting lead-off, cause I believe he is a better #2 hitter, he is more suited for that.

05-14-2008, 10:53 PM
Smoltz believes rehab could start soon
Veteran may begin Minors stint next week, will return as reliever

PHILADELPHIA -- John Smoltz's checklist is getting a little shorter. If he continues to realize positive results, he foresees himself beginning a Minor League rehab assignment around this same time next week.
After playing catch from a distance of 90 feet at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, Smoltz was happy to report that he's still not feeling any discomfort in his right shoulder. The Braves veteran pitcher threw on flat ground from a distance of 120 feet on Wednesday and if all goes well, he'll get a true test on Saturday, when he throws off the mound for the first time since going on the disabled list.

While celebrating his 41st birthday on Thursday, Smoltz will have the chance to pass his final flat-ground test. If that session goes as well as the previous three, he'll approach Saturday's bullpen session with the hope that his shoulder remains pain-free even while he begins attempting to locate his pitches.

"Velocity was never a problem," Smoltz said. "It's the fine stuff, like trying to throw the ball on the outside corner."

Smoltz went on the disabled list on April 26 because both his right rotator cuff and right biceps tendon were inflamed. This prolonged shoulder discomfort, which he battled in each of his five starts, prompted him to decide he'll be best utilized as a reliever for the remainder of the season.

Smoltz's plan is to throw back-to-back bullpen sessions on Saturday and Sunday. If he's able to stay strong through both, he thinks he could begin a Minor League rehab assignment next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Right now, Smoltz says he's not sure how he'll approach his rehab assignment. But he said he'd likely pitch one day, take the next day off and then attempt to test his shoulder again by pitching one inning on consecutive days.

"I'll know where I'm at and what I need to do after throwing back-to-back [days]," Smoltz said.Braves.com

05-14-2008, 10:56 PM
McCann believes in law of averages
Catcher struggles early with runners in scoring position

PHILADELPHIA -- Brian McCann is well aware of the fact that he's squandered a number of RBI opportunities this season. But knowing that he's had previous success in clutch situations, the Braves' All-Star catcher isn't too concerned.
"I'm not thinking about it when I go up to the plate," McCann said. "Baseball is so streaky. When I was struggling for a while at the plate, I think I had a lot of chances to drive in runs. Now I'm feeling better and I hope that I get more chances to drive in runs."

Entering Wednesday night's game against the Phillies, McCann was hitting just .233 (10-for-43) with runners in scoring position. Entering the 2008 season, he had batted .302 with runners in scoring position.

On Wednesday against Phils starter Brett Myers, McCann changed his fortunes to a degree, lacing a two-run double to right field with two outs. He added an RBI single in the fifth.

Given that his career numbers entering this season included 295 at-bats, the greater sample size might be more indicative of how he'll hit in these clutch situations. His ninth-inning double in Tuesday night's loss moved his batting average with runners in scoring position from .214 to .233.

During the 2006 season, McCann hit .346 (36-for-104) with runners in scoring position. Last year, he hit .278 (42-for-151).

"If I get a few more hits with runners in scoring position, my average will be where it should be," McCann said. "I'm not worried about it. I know my job is to drive runs in, and that's why I'm batting fifth. There's nothing I love more than driving runs in."

Unfortunately for the Braves, they haven't taken full advantage of the .475 on-base percentage which Chipper Jones carried into Wednesday's game. When the Braves are facing right-handed starters, the two players who follow him in the lineup are Mark Teixieira and McCann.

Teixeira entered Wednesday hitting .220 with runners in scoring position. Entering this season, he had hit .327 in 737 at-bats with runners in scoring position.Braves.com

05-14-2008, 11:03 PM
^^^just more news to let us know that when Tex gets going our offense will increase its consistency.

05-17-2008, 11:29 PM
Slight adjusment pays off for McCann
Hot-hitting Braves catcher batting .429 in last 11 games

ATLANTA -- Braves catcher Brian McCann didn't consult hitting coach Terry Pendleton when he decided to alter his stance during Spring Training. The way McCann was stroking it, he didn't need to.
Now, minor tweaks are producing major results for McCann, who is the Braves' hottest hitter not named Chipper Jones.

"We were trying to get his stance right in Spring Training," Pendleton said Saturday. "But he decided to try and get more load in his swing by himself."

The left-handed hitter said he implemented a coil in his lower body in hopes that it would give him more power to all fields, not just his pull side. As a result, McCann has hit more gap shots, which, despite being blessed with catcher's speed, has led to more doubles.

"I'm just trying to swing the bat with authority," said McCann, who has hit at least one double in the last four games. "I just hope I can hit this consistent the whole year."

McCann went 3-for-4 with two doubles in Friday's 3-2 win over the A's. He now has 16 doubles on the year, tied for most in the National League with Houston's Lance Berkman.

Over the past 11 games, McCann is batting .429 (18-for-42) with 11 RBIs. Jones, who leads the Majors with a .423 average, is also batting .429 over that 11-game stretch for the Braves.

So given McCann's recent production, Pendleton has had no reason to intervene.

"I'm just leaving him alone," Pendleton said. "Sometimes guys will try to add a little more to their swing, but he's just staying right there. He's pretty consistent right now."

"I'm a streaky hitter, and I hope I can keep this up," said McCann, who has raised his average from .275 to its current .319 during this two-week span.

McCann moves up a spot in the order -- to fifth -- when the Braves face a right-handed starter, such as the A's pitcher on Saturday, Rich Harden. McCann is batting .284 against right-handers, and .375 against lefties in 32 fewer at-bats.

"He's aggressive at the plate and the guy knows how to hit," manager Bobby Cox said.

McCann's seven homers and 25 RBIs ranks second among NL catchers. Chicago's Geovany Soto is first with eight homers and 30 RBIs.

"I believe he's the type of hitter who can do this on a consistent basis," Pendleton said of McCann. Braves.com

05-17-2008, 11:34 PM
Campillo will get a look as starter

The Braves announced right-hander Jorge Campillo will start the second game of their doubleheader Tuesday against the Mets.

Campillo, 30, has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in his 13 outings with the Braves this season, and dominantly. He has a 1.27 ERA (three earned runs in 21 1/3 innings), with 17 strikeouts and five walks.

Nine of his 13 outings have been for multiple innings, including three scoreless frames Thursday in Philadelphia.

"He's got a great curveball, great change-up and he can zip his fastball in there a little bit," manager Bobby Cox said Saturday.

Campillo was a starter most of his eight years in the Mexican League and in the minor leagues with the Mariners.

He made one major league start for Seattle in August 2005 in Detroit but had to leave the game after one inning with an injured elbow. He had ligament transplant surgery three weeks later.

"I'm surprised and I'm happy," said Campillo, who was signed as a minor league free agent this winter. "I'm just going to try to do the same things as I did as a reliever."

Smoltz update

John Smoltz threw his second bullpen session in three days Saturday, despite feeling some stiffness in his right shoulder the day after his Thursday session in Philadelphia.

He is on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation and is working his way back to a return to the bullpen.

Smoltz threw 40 pitches Saturday without incident but said the bigger test will be how the shoulder feels today. He's learning this process might not go as smoothly as he'd hoped.

"Although throwing the ball I didn't feel anything, the next day I felt tight," Smoltz said after Saturday's session in the indoor cages. "That set me back in my mind a little bit. But throwing the ball was good. And throwing the ball today was good. Maybe it's just different stresses I've got to get used to."

Smoltz said he is working on mechanical changes to allow him to pitch through discomfort.

"The other day was a little frustrating because the next day didn't feel so hot," Smoltz said. "There wasn't much behind it. So today I made some adjustments to combat that, and we'll find out tomorrow [how it feels]. I'm busting it, trying to do everything I know, doing what they tell me. We'll see what happens when the chance of throwing comes in a game, whenever that is."

Smoltz still plans to return in late May.AJC

I don't llke this at all.

05-18-2008, 05:30 PM
Stockman making most of opportunity
Right-handed reliever capable of filling in as Braves' closer

ATLANTA -- Fully healthy for the first time in more than two years, Phil Stockman has presented the Braves with another ninth-inning option as they continue to employ their closer-by-committee.
The 28-year-old right-hander, who was recalled on Friday from Triple-A Richmond, threw a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday against the A's that thoroughly impressed his manager.

"I thought he did really well," Bobby Cox said after Saturday's game. "His ball really sails. I call it a 'Navy ball,' because it takes off, his heater. And he's got a nice breaking ball."

Stockman's fastball topped out in the mid-90s on Saturday, as he struck out one and didn't allow a baserunner.

"It got the blood going, the heart pumping out there," said Stockman, who took the roster spot of struggling left-hander Chuck James, who was optioned back to Richmond on Friday. "I was anxious to get out there, and it went all right."

Stockman is finally healthy after dealing with a slew of hamstring-related injuries last season in the Minors. He was 1-0 with a 0.77 ERA in 14 appearances (23 1/3 innings) with Richmond this season before being called up.

In nine relief appearances last year with Richmond, Stockman was 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA. He held right-handed batters to a .069 (2-for-29) average.

Stockman recently began closing for Richmond, and he didn't allow a hit in his last six appearances, a span of eight innings. He recorded two saves. He said he wouldn't mind pitching the ninth inning for the Braves until they get their three relievers -- Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, and in all likelihood, John Smoltz -- healthy and back from the disabled list.

"It doesn't bother me, I enjoyed it," Stockman said of filling the closer's role in Richmond. "I got that little extra heart pumping, so it was a lot of fun. As long as I get to pitch, that's all that really matters. As long as I can get out there and help the team win."

Stockman made four appearances for the Braves in 2006, and allowed one earned run in four innings. He was put on the disabled list on June 24 after tearing his left hamstring, an injury that also plagued him in the early part of last season.

05-19-2008, 04:36 PM
Steady Jones not thinking about .400
Third baseman realistic about prospect of rare hitting feat

ATLANTA -- When Ted Williams -- the last Major Leaguer to hit .400 over the course of an entire baseball season -- hit .406 in 1941, the Braves were 49 years away from making Chipper Jones the top selection in the 1990 First-Year Player Draft.
Now nearly two full decades later, 67 years have passed since Williams achieved this hallowed mark. Legendary pure hitters like Tony Gwynn and George Brett never matched The Splendid Splinter's accomplishment. Thus, just six weeks into the season, Jones finds himself much more of a realist than a dreamer.

For nearly two full seasons, Jones has been in an incredible zone and now has the privilege to boast about his Major League-best .410 batting average. But the Braves third baseman says he hasn't even allowed himself to think about chasing the .400 mark, which provides occasional flirtation in May and distraught frustration as the summer progresses.

"[Hitting] .400 is not a concern for me," Jones said. "You're going to run into enough Rich Hardens and Johan Santanas to keep that from happening. If I had hit .390 before in my career, then maybe. But I haven't. When you're a .310 career hitter, you usually hit .310."

Obviously Jones isn't planning to encounter the type of tailspin that would lead him to end this season with a mark similar to the .307 career batting average that he carried into it. Nor is there any recent history that shows he's destined to endure the consistent frustrations that would carry him down this path.

In fact, it could easily be argued that when he's been on the field over the course of the past two years, nobody in baseball has been more consistently successful. Dating back to June 23, 2006, Jones leads all Major Leaguers (minimum 900 plate appearances) in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Still, even though he made one trip to the disabled list last season, Jones' injury problems have diminished since the end of the 2006 season. Some of his teammates believe his current success is a product of the fact that he's been able to avoid the injuries that forced him to miss extended periods earlier this decade.

"He's staying away from the prolonged absence, which helps him stay in a groove," Braves pitcher John Smoltz said. "He hasn't done anything different. He's just mentally locked in."

Whether taking his powerful, picturesque swing from the left side or launching his more compact swing from the right side, Jones still has the same mechanics that have followed him throughout his rise to become one of the greatest switch-hitters ever. He is the only switch-hitter to have a .300 career batting average and at least 300 homers.

"As a younger guy early in my career, I asked him several times about switch-hitting because it's tough -- how to go about it and maintaining his swing from both sides of the plate -- and he was very helpful to me in trying to figure out the right side," Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said. "He gave me some good advice on how to be a switch-hitter at this level."

Even with all of the success Jones has realized this season, he certainly wouldn't be considered the clear-cut favorite to win the National League MVP Award. With Berkman putting up equally impressive numbers, the Braves vet wouldn't even be clearly considered the NL's most valuable switch-hitter.

After recording a pair of hits on Sunday, Berkman kept his batting average at .399. He also leads the Majors in homers (16) and slugging percentage (.816). His .478 on-base percentage is slightly better than Jones' (.475) and just behind Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols' (.493).

Jones, whose .679 slugging percentage ranks second in the Majors, has been keeping tabs on his competition. Before Sunday afternoon's game, he asked, "What did Berkman do last night?"

"I think it's a mutual admiration society if he's watching me, because I know every time he's having an at-bat, I always stop to watch him hit, because he's one of the best," Berkman said.

Although he lost his bid for his first career batting title on the regular season's final day last year, Jones' current pace has certainly caused some surprise. Through the first 40 games he's played in any of his previous 13 full seasons, he's never hit better than .333. In fact, there have been just four previous times when he's been hitting at least .310.

But now Jones is the first Major Leaguer in seven years to be hitting over .400 through his team's first 43 games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time it happened was 2001, when Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez and Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz briefly flirted in this exclusive neighborhood.

Whether it's Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, his manager Bobby Cox or Smoltz, those who have spent the better part of the past two decades with Jones can't really explain why he's found so much more consistency the past two years.

Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is one of Jones' closest friends, believes the Braves third baseman has simply reached the point in his career where he's been able to mix some patience with the vast knowledge he has about pitchers he has seen in the past.

"I can't think of a tougher out in the league right now," LaRoche said. "He's not really a free-swinger. He'll take his walks. He's very patient, knows the situation. He's a guy that's been around a long time and has really figured it out. He's figured out what works for him."

While Jones was growing up, his father, a collegiate baseball coach, told him many stories about Mickey Mantle, who is widely considered the greatest switch-hitter ever. Mantle said that he went to the plate looking to homer during every at-bat and Jones admits he has spent most of his career with this same approach.

But some of the consistency he's gained recently has come from the fact that he understands his capabilities against some pitchers. In other words, when facing Brandon Webb and seeing nothing but filthy sinkers, he's less apt to swing for the fences.

"Earlier in my career, every time I walked up to the plate, I tried to take everybody deep," said Jones, who enjoyed 30-homer campaigns in five of his first six Major League seasons. "Now I realize that there are certain guys that I can't take deep. I just take what they give me."

Even though he's struggled through this season's first six weeks, Mark Teixeira has provided some protection while hitting behind Jones. Knowing Teixeira's potential as a powerful switch-hitter, opponents are often challenging Jones and paying the price.

Since Teixeira arrived as a trade-deadline acquisition last July, Jones has hit .368 (129-for-351).

"I saw Chipper play in high school, and his swing has always been great from both sides of the plate," said Cox, who was the general manager when the Braves took Jones in the 1990 Draft. "He's got that nice swing and when he makes contact, he can send the ball 450 feet."

While many of the Braves say Jones hasn't made any mechanical adjustments, their former center fielder, Andruw Jones, says that Chipper has managed to reduce the number of times he gets jammed with inside pitches.

"Now he gets good wood on the inside pitch," Andruw Jones said. "I've hit behind him and in front of him and he's unbelievable. I've never seen a switch-hitter like him. They talk about Mantle, but I never saw him. He's up there with him or Eddie Murray or any of them. I hope he keeps it up."

Jones' personal history and the game's rich history provide strong reason to believe his batting average will dip below .400 long before he begins to face the pressure presented to George Brett, who was hitting exactly .400 on Sept. 19, 1980. While recording 14 hits in his final 46 at-bats, Brett's average dipped to .390.

"The law of averages are stacked against [Jones]," said Braves 300-game winner Tom Glavine. "But who knows? You never know. It might happen again someday, and who is to say he's not the guy? If you're going to pick a guy to do it, I'd either pick a guy like him, a switch-hitter who hits line drives from both sides of the plate, or I'd pick a guy who is typically a contact hitter and has a little more speed, allowing him to rely on more infield hits."

That second category points directly at Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. But while further illustrating the difficulty of .400, Jones quickly pointed out that when Suzuki recorded a Major League record 260 hits in 2004, he batted .373.

"It's going to take somebody like an Ichiro, somebody who doesn't have to rely on driving the ball into the outfield to get hits," Jones said. "You need somebody who is going to leg out 50-60 hits a year. I'm going to leg out two."

Another memorable bid for .400 occurred in 1994, when Gwynn hit .403 in the 51 games he played after June 16. But when a players' strike ended the season on Aug. 11, the Padres legend was three hits shy of a .400 average.

Many believe Gwynn, who also hit over .400 through July 14, 1997, had the best chance of actually hitting .400 over the course of an entire season.

"Gwynn was one of the greatest hitters in the game," Smoltz said. "Chipper does have an advantage from the standpoint that as a switch-hitter, he gets to see all of the dominant pitchers from the side of the plate that would give him a little bit of help. The opposite theory is that it's hard to keep two swings going."

Pendleton, another switch-hitter who won the NL MVP Award in 1991, marveled that Jones has found this level of consistency while having to keep his swing fine tuned from both sides of the plate.

"He's just been unconscious lately," Pendleton said. "To do that from both sides of the plate for this long is an extremely difficult thing to do."

Jones hasn't shown favor to either side. He's hitting .426 (26-for-61) against left-handed pitchers and .400 (38-for-95) against right-handers. Entering the season, he showed this same consistency, owning a .308 career average against right-handers and a .305 mark against left-handers.

Whether Jones' ability to hit to all fields and willingness to patiently approach at-bats allows him to prolong his bid for .400 deep into the summer remains to be seen. But it's obvious that already, he's taken his game to an unforeseen level.

"If there was ever a switch-hitter in the history of the game who could do it, he would be one of the two or three that I think could," Berkman said.

05-20-2008, 07:58 PM
Trio to represent Braves at Draft
Garr, Cronin and Kilby announcing team's selections

ATLANTA -- When the Braves get ready to make their first selection in this year's First-Year Play Draft, they'll have their favorite Road Runner representing them with the announcement.
For the second straight year, Major League teams will be sending notable representatives to Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. Representing the Braves will be Ralph "The Road Runner" Garr, Hep Cronin and Gregg Kilby.

MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage on BaseballChannel.TV begins at 1 p.m. ET with a special ceremonial Draft of former Negro Leaguers who will be on hand at The Milk House.

The First-Year Player Draft follows at 2 p.m. with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively on BaseballChannel.TV, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo and David Rawnsley of Perfect Game USA.

Several of the top amateur prospects are expected to be in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.

Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.

Garr, who was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2006, serves as an area scout for Atlanta in southeastern Texas. He hit .306 during a 13-season Major League career that included eight seasons in Atlanta.

Cronin, once regarded as one of the top high school basketball coaches in Ohio, has served as a Braves scout for more than 25 years. He is one of the club's four professional scouts.

Kilby, a former coach at the University of Maryland, has been scouting Florida for the Braves since 2005.

05-21-2008, 11:42 PM
Collision draws ire of Braves' skipper
Cox upset about Church's slide that took out Escobar

ATLANTA -- Braves manager Bobby Cox wasn't able to put Yunel Escobar at the top of his lineup card for Wednesday night's game against the Mets. If he's without his shortstop for a few more days, there's a chance Mets right fielder Ryan Church will draw even more of his ire.
Church's aggressive attempt to break up the double play that concluded the Braves' doubleheader sweep at Turner Field on Tuesday led to him suffering his second head injury in the past three months.

At the same time, Escobar suffered a badly bruised right leg that was causing him to continue limping badly when he arrived at Turner Field late on Wednesday afternoon.

"Not good," Escobar responded after being asked how he felt.

While Cox is hopeful that Escobar will return on Thursday, the 26-year-old Cuban shortstop wasn't as confident that he'd be healthy enough to play that soon.

"It's not up to me," Escobar said, with Brayan Pena serving as an interpreter. "It depends on the way my knee feels. I've put a lot of ice on it and I feel better every time that I do that."

Escobar's discomfort is located just below his right knee, which is where he made contact with Church's forehead.

With his team trailing by four runs, Church slid late, causing Escobar to make an acrobatic leap while making the throw. As the Mets right fielder moved toward the bag, his head collided with the Braves shortstop's leg.

Church's head hit the dirt and he remained motionless with his face on the ground for about three minutes. While concerned about his health, Cox was among the Braves who thought this slide was dirty.

"The slide was extremely late," Cox said. "You have to slide before you get to the bag, not after you get even with it. I don't know if he got his stride messed up or what."

Escobar wasn't as upset about the ninth-inning slide that put an odd end to the long doubleheader.

"I'm used to it," Escobar said. "Back in my land [Cuba], that's the way people would slide. I was expecting him to slide hard because he did it before. It's just baseball. Four innings earlier, while trying to prevent a double play, Church performed an early pop-up slide. As he came up in front of second base, he raised his arm in attempt to alter Escobar's throw.

"I didn't think much about that one, it was a little late," Cox said in reference to this slide which caused Escobar to feel some discomfort in his left quadriceps muscle.

Without Escobar, who has seven hits in his past 13 at-bats, the Braves used Omar Infante as their starting shortstop and leadoff hitter on Wednesday.Braves.com

So cox thought it was dirty humm.

05-21-2008, 11:46 PM
Francoeur fidgets while out of lineup
Right fielder returns to order after missing Game 2 on Tuesday

ATLANTA -- He paced back and forth in the dugout, spitting more sunflower seeds than he had in his life. Yeah, it's been a while since Jeff Francoeur sat out a Major League game.
It had been 370 games, in fact, as Francoeur's consecutive games streak ended on Tuesday night when Braves manager Bobby Cox told the right fielder he wouldn't start the second game of the doubleheader against the Mets. Although it was the Majors' longest active streak, Francoeur didn't object.

"Mentally I needed it more than anything, to get my mind back right, and hopefully I'll come back and start a hot streak and get going," said Francoeur, who went 0-for-3 in Tuesday afternoon's game and saw his average drop to .258, the lowest it has been since the second game of the season. "This team, we need wins and me driving the ball a lot more than we need me playing every game."

In between the two games, Francoeur said he went into the Braves' indoor batting cage and hit about 100 to 150 balls, going home with a confidence he hasn't had in about a week.

"I feel like I had two or three hits last night, the way the session went with the confidence that I have," said Francoeur, who is batting .258 with three home runs and 26 RBIs this season. His three homers are the fewest of any Braves starter.

During Tuesday night's 6-2 win over the Mets, Gregor Blanco filled in for Francoeur in right field. So with no game responsibilities, Francoeur resorted to something he has always enjoyed doing: bugging teammate Brian McCann.

"He's the most annoying bench player in the world," said McCann, who also had the night game off after catching the first game. "I don't ever want to have him on the bench again.

"He's just annoying," McCann added. "He talks the whole time, doesn't give you your space. Every time you turn around, he's there."

Luckily for McCann, Francoeur won't be spending much time in the dugout anytime soon. Francoeur said he feels energized after sitting out his first game since Oct. 1, 2005, and is ready to start contributing to a Braves lineup that needs another bat to produce.

"Last week, I definitely did not have fun," said Francoeur, who has batted .244 (10-for-41) with four RBIs in his past 10 games. "Hopefully I'll get back to having fun tonight."

Even McCann, who put up with Francoeur's antics all night, said it was good for his friend to take the night off.

"He needed a mental day off," McCann said. "I think sitting back watching the game, you get to regroup your thoughts and think about the game and about what you need to do to hit the ball on a consistent basisBraves.com

05-22-2008, 11:31 PM
Escobar hopes for Friday return
Shortstop's limp gone, but discomfort in right leg lingers

ATLANTA -- When Yunel Escobar arrived at Turner Field on Thursday afternoon, he looked much healthier than he had 24 hours earlier. Gone was the noticeable limp caused by the bruised right shin he'd obtained at the end of Tuesday night's doubleheader.
Before taking batting practice on Thursday, Escobar said that he hopes to be able to play during Friday night's series opener against the Diamondbacks. While his limp is gone, he still feels some discomfort when he bends his leg to run, swing the bat and throw.

Escobar was injured when Mets outfielder Ryan Church slid high while attempting to break up the game-ending double play. As he came upon second base, a sliding Church's forehead was struck by Escobar's right leg.

Church suffered a mild concussion and missed his second straight game on Thursday night. In Escobar's absence the past two games, Omar Infante has served as the Braves leadoff hitter and shortstop. Braves.com