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05-01-2009, 12:56 AM
Kawakami adapting on, off field
Japanese righty settling into big league life, American culture

ATLANTA -- As Kenshin Kawakami started to struggle during Sunday afternoon's game in Cincinnati, he was met on the mound by his catcher, David Ross, whose attempt to calm the Japanese hurler was provided through some of the same English words that he'd deliver to Derek Lowe or any of the other Braves pitchers.

While Kawakami has a basic understanding of some of the words of the English language, Ross' message was essentially blocked by the international sense of anger and frustration.

"I do understand everything, to a certain extent," said Kawakami through his interpreter, Daichi Takasue. "But when you're getting hit a lot and you're in a bad mood, even in Japanese, it might be hard to understand."

When he signed a three-year, $23 million contract with the Braves in January, Kawakami knew the ensuing challenges would be greater than the ones he'd encountered over the previous 13 years, while proving to be one of the top pitchers in Japan's Central League.

No longer would he have the comfort of truly understanding opposing hitter's tendencies. Nor would he have the ability to easily relate to the culture or language that awaited him in the United States.

"That challenge is very great, and I did come here to challenge my baseball ability," Kawakami said through Takasue. "So I'm up for it."

While showing signs of effectiveness during each of his first four career starts, Kawakami finds himself 1-3 with a 7.06 ERA. Having to adapt to the strengths of opponents with greater power than the ones he's challenged in the past serves as just part of the initiation process that he's encountered.

In addition, Kawakami has had to physically adapt to the fact that he's no longer part of a six-man rotation, as is commonly utilized in Japan. His attempt to adjust to the schedule that accompanies a five-man rotation may have factored into his recent right shoulder soreness, which has led Atlanta to push his next scheduled start back three days to Tuesday.

But the adjustment obstacles extend beyond the workplace for the 33-year-old right-hander. While visiting the supermarket in Japan, he was routinely approached by fans. Now he finds himself walking up and down the aisles of Publix without a hint of interruption.

"When I'm home, I would probably get a lot of attention," Kawakami said. "But here, none."

Unlike Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui, Kawakami has been able to acquaint himself to the U.S. without much fanfare. But that doesn't change the fact that he's still faced with the daily challenges of creating a new life for himself in a foreign land.

The opportunity to serve as Kawakami's interpreter has led Takasue to do much more than simply interpret conversations that occur in the baseball environment. When the Braves pitcher needed to open a new bank account and add the luxuries of cable and Internet to his suburban Atlanta home, he called upon his interpreter, who is just three months removed from being a senior computer sciences major at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"A lot of people might think my job is just interpreting," Takasue said. "But that is not going to develop a good relationship at work or even outside of work. So that's why I had to get back to my roots and gain a better sense of the Japanese culture."

As an avid Dodgers fan over the course of the past nine years, Takasue developed a passion for the game of baseball. But his closest experience to playing the game on a competitive level came via intramural softball games.

Thanks to UCSB professor Al Ferrer's recommendation, Takasue now finds himself living a dream provided by the Major League lifestyle that he lives with Kawakami. But along with the opportunity to stay in five-star hotels and be on the bench on a nightly basis, he has also encountered challenges far greater than the ones that stood before him and the college degree he would have gained in June.

"It is a friendship, but it's very strictly work," Takasue said of his relationship with Kawakami. "He takes a lot of pride in his work and he understands that the Braves have made a big investment in him. I know I'm a part of that investment, too, and I want to help him any way that I can."

Having never met Kawakami until they were united during Spring Training, Takasue encountered some early struggles. Along with getting used to a job he'd never previously performed, the lifelong California native also found that understanding the Japanese culture was just as important as understanding the language.

One of Takasue's early lessons occurred when members of Kawakami's Japanese management team approached him after a few weeks and grilled him on the need to speak to translate the language in a way that carried on the Japanese tradition of showing respect to elders.

"I knew how to speak the language, but the Japanese speak differently to their elders," Takasue said. "It's rude if you talk to your elder the way you talk to your friends."

Nearly 12 years older than his interpreter, Kawakami has seemingly established a good working relationship with Takasue. The two live approximately five minutes apart and essentially spend every minute of their days at the ballpark together.

"I can't go out and do anything without an interpreter, so he's been helping me out a lot," Kawakami said.

Having been in the U.S. for less than three months, Kawakami hasn't fully acclimated himself to a culture that he recognizes as less strict than Japan's. But he's already tabbed the Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao as his favorite Atlanta restaurant, and the international benefit of sleeping as his favorite non-baseball-related activity.

"I've only been here for a little while and everything has been busy," Kawakami said. "So sleeping at night might be one of the things that I enjoy the most." braves.com

05-01-2009, 12:59 AM
ChopTalk: Interview with Peter Moylan
Braves righty talks about undergoing surgery and his return

ChopTalk: What did it feel like to really throw hard this year after having Tommy John surgery [elbow ligament replacement] last May 8?

Peter Moylan: It was good. My intensity was pretty consistent, but my velocity picked up as I've gotten stronger. I've consistently been throwing around 90 miles an hour, which is where I ought to be at this time of year. I gradually let it rip as the spring went on. It was interesting throwing in Spring Training games, but I didn't feel any differently from when I had thrown the various bullpen and side sessions. Right now, I'm glad that I've made the team, and I'm really proud that I've worked hard to get here. The real intensity of emotion [will come] during the first game of the season.

ChopTalk: When did you know, 'OK, I'm ready?'

Moylan: It was about two weeks before the start of the season. I told a reporter that I was sick of reading that, "The Braves are hopeful Moylan will be ready for Opening Day," because I had a goal to be ready for Opening Day, and I think they did, too, but they didn't push me. It wasn't until I was consistently throwing in games and the rest time between throwing went from seven days to five to three, two, and one. Now I'm throwing every other day.

ChopTalk: Can you describe your disappointment in 2008 after all the success you enjoyed in '07?

Moylan: It was really rough. For about a week, I didn't want to think it was aChopTalkually happening. I would think, 'I'll just rehab and rehab, and it will be fine,' and we aChopTalkually did try to rehab for a few weeks [to avoid surgery]. By the time we eventually sat down together and said, 'OK, you're going to get cut,' I'd already dealt with it inside myself, so I was ready for it. But the first time I felt [the pain], I knew something was wrong.

ChopTalk: When did you know, 'Uh, oh, something is wrong?'

Moylan: On the fifth pitch I threw in the outing against Washington [April 11, 2008]. I threw a fastball to Christian Guzman and struck him out on it. I felt it and thought, 'Something isn't right,' but I thought I'd keep throwing and did that a bit. I ended up pitching to two more hitters and got out of the inning. When I was high-fiving guys after the game, I knew then. I was feeling pain on the inside of my elbow. When I got in the shower and tried to bend or straighten my arm, I couldn't do either. I was washing myself and just thinking ... my mind was racing. I didn't want to tell the trainers. I'd just earned my first official save [of the season, second of his career]. It was the first chance I had to close. I was pumped. I was so fired up, and the last thing I wanted to do was to walk in the training room and say, 'My elbow is sore.' I thought it might settle down over the course of the night. But the next day, I couldn't bend or straighten my arm, so I knew I had to say something. Straightaway they looked at me when I walked in, and I could tell by their reaChopTalkion that something was seriously wrong.

ChopTalk: How did they know?

Moylan: I was in a suit because it was a travel day. We were supposed to go to Miami, and I walked in with my arm slightly bent. The training staff, being their usual happy selves said, 'Hey! How are you doing?' I must have had a look on my face, because that died down and they knew straightaway something was wrong.

ChopTalk: Did you have a lot of pain at that point?

Moylan: Just sitting there, no, but as soon as I went to move it, or if I straightened it too much, my elbow would just grab. My ligament was fine, but I had a bone spur that was stuck in the ligament, and there was hope that it would move while we rehabbed it -- but it didn't. The spur was lodged in there and wouldn't come out without cutting the ligament.

ChopTalk: Where did they take the replacement ligament?

Moylan: They took a piece from my hamstring, so I had two incision sites.

ChopTalk: Did you rely on other teammates who had gone through the same surgery as you?

Moylan: It was great having John Smoltz around and especially Mike Gonzalez, because he'd just gone through it the year before. Smoltz used to wear a T-shirt that read, 'It's all about breaking protocols.' It was great having those guys there, because any question I had, I could go to them. I can ask the training staff, but they're only going by what they'd been told by people who'd gone through it. Smoltz and Gonzalez had gone through it. So any time I had a question, it was great to ask, 'Did you feel this at this point,' and they'd answer, 'Yeah, I did.' Everything felt normal, and it was good to have them there to reassure me that things really were normal.

ChopTalk: It must have been encouraging to have Gonzalez there, because he'd come back successfully so quickly.

Moylan: Absolutely. As soon as he came back and I saw his first outing, he was throwing 94, 95 mph and was spotting the ball, and he looked like the same Mike Gonzalez. I thought, 'Geez, this isn't so bad.' There have been so many guys who have come back, especially these days. Back in the day, there was a 60 percent chance for a full recovery, and I swear now it's got to be at least 80 to 90 percent, because the surgical techniques have gotten better and there's so much information about how quickly to come back. The training staff has been really careful with me. They've asked me every day, every hour, 'Are you OK? Are you sure?' It's basically up to me, and I'm not going to push anything to the point that I'll snap my ligament! I know that I feel good and that I can handle it, and if I can't, I shall let them know. And there's room for that -- time off -- in the schedule.

ChopTalk: Have there been any setbacks for you? You must have been looking for things like adhesions and that sort of thing?

Moylan: To this point, touch wood [knocks on the locker frame], there's not been one. I was looking for it to be sore, to feel pain when I first started throwing, but they take it so slow. The first step is 15 throws at 20 feet, so you really ease your way into it. The first time you feel any pressure is about 120 feet, when you have to let it go to get it to the person you're playing catch with. And then when you get on the mound -- that's the next step. I was waiting to feel something after that, but I didn't. I didn't push it. The first mound session was 15 pitches, and then eventually you get up to 75 pitches, and the step after that is getting on the mound [at Spring Training] against hitters to see how well you recover from that. I did that three times, and it felt good. Pitching in games was the next step.

ChopTalk: In terms of your comfort level, was it more a physical or mental concern when you started throwing? Were you nervous?

Moylan: Of course. Knowing how it felt when it hurt, knowing that it takes 12 months to heal ... the last thing I wanted to do was jeopardize it in any way. But as I said, they don't let you get to that point. Even if you wanted to let it rip, they're standing right there watching you, and you really can't. Or if you do, they'll say, 'Back it down a bit.' I'll be honest with you -- I let a lot go in the last 10 times I threw off the mound, and I felt I was there.

ChopTalk: What are your goals for the season?

Moylan: The No. 1 goal is to stay in the big leagues. I don't want to be the guy who comes back, and then a month later is back down again, and then has to come back again. I want to be the guy who comes back and doesn't have to do this again, because it's awful. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

That's the number one thing. Stay healthy ... maybe get to the playoffs -- that would be nice! I set this goal for myself a long time ago. I'm pumped and excited that it's come true. People have asked, 'What did you do? Did you work harder?' I honestly don't think I've done anything different from anyone else. I just think my arm reaChopTalked better. I haven't had any setbacks. I couldn't have asked for a better Spring Training.

ChopTalk: Can you describe your emotions about throwing again?

Moylan: It was pretty nerve-wracking, aChopTalkually. It was great to get the first session out of the way and recover from it. But leading up to it, I was excited but nervous, as well. I didn't know how I'd reaChopTalk. A friend of mine in Australia told me that the first time he played catch after Tommy John surgery, he couldn't get his feel for the ball. He was bouncing the ball in front of him, or it was flying over someone's head. So, I wasn't sure how my nerves would reaChopTalk. But once I got the first one away, it's fine and your mind starts racing ahead, 'Oh, I could be ready by this time.' You play internal games with yourself and think you could come back earlier, but they shut it down within five minutes! It was a big deal.

ChopTalk: What's the biggest thing you learned going through surgery and rehab about yourself, about baseball?

Moylan: I guess I learned what I've always known and that's that I've got the kind of charaChopTalker that, as corny as it sounds, if you're given lemons, make lemonade. I've got that type of attitude. I don't let things get me down, no matter how big or small they may seem. I always try to see the light, or to make light of it. I enjoy being around people, and I enjoy challenges. This was one of the biggest challenges I've ever had to go through, and I'm not there yet. But I've come out the other end, and it's okay. You can go two ways: You can go work your butt off, or you can feel sorry for yourself. From the day I could work, I worked really hard. I'd had a taste of [the Majors], and I wanted to be there again.

ChopTalk: Do you feel you have something to prove to yourself, your fans, or the Braves' organization?

Moylan: I had one good year, and it's only one good year. My hope was that last year I could prove it wasn't a fluke and that I could succeed year after year. This year for me is about proving that 2007 wasn't a fluke and that I can pitch at this level. I want that opportunity and can't wait for that opportunity.

ChopTalk: Where did you spend your offseason?

Moylan: Most of my time was spent in Florida. After the season, I came to Orlando and stayed until Dec. 2, when I flew back to Australia. I came back to the U.S. on Dec. 30 and returned to Florida on Jan. 5. I had one month at home, off, where I didn't throw. I was still going to the gym, still lifting and working out, but I had a month off from throwing.

ChopTalk: Did you take any kind of vacation break? Do anything just for fun?

Moylan: I was spending time with my girls, Montana and Matisse, which was awesome and fun in itself, but I was still going to the gym. I didn't want to take a break. It was pretty cool that during that time off, I kept myself in good shape. The season was over, and I didn't want a vacation. braves.com

05-01-2009, 01:30 AM
No rest for Braves’ Lowe between starts

Most Braves players find time before games to chill. Derek Lowe? Not so much.

The new ace pitcher is a blur of constant motion. He’s either coming from one workout or going to another. When he slows down long enough to grab something from his locker, he’s usually glistening.

“I have seen him an awful lot through the first month of the season, dripping wet with sweat,” Chipper Jones said.

That’s because Lowe, who starts tonight against the Astros, has just finished some agility work, long tossing or running the stadium steps.

He tackles the lower deck at Turner Field once between starts — two steps at a time going up, every step coming down, from one end of the stadium to the other. And back.

After 45 minutes outside, Lowe breezes in, Ipod still on, drops a one-liner on whomever he passes, and just as quickly, he’s gone again. Off to lift weights.

“I don’t like to just sit in front of my locker,” Lowe said. “I can’t stand it because there’s so much you can be doing to help yourself out, or help your teammates.”

Lowe has proved to be one of the most durable pitchers in baseball. He’s one of only three active players along with Brad Ausmus and Livan Hernandez to play 12 or more seasons without going on the disabled list. Now we know why.

“I’ve never seen anybody do that much work,” said manager Bobby Cox, who is often the only one in the clubhouse when Lowe arrives at 1:30 p.m.

In spring training, Matt Diaz said he’d pass Lowe finishing his workout as he showed up to start his — at 7 a.m.

“(John) Smoltz was like that,” Diaz said. “A lot of pitchers that eat up a lot of innings have the same mentality, and that’s they’re going to work harder on the days they don’t pitch than the days they do.”

Lowe, 35, began this routine five years ago with Boston. He was 30 and starting to think about longevity. He let Red Sox trainer Chris Correnti critique his lanky 6-foot-6 frame.

“When we started working out, I was as inflexible as this table,” said Lowe, thumping a picnic table in the Braves clubhouse. “He said if you continue to be this inflexible you’re going to have back problems, hamstring problems, especially your hips.”

Lowe’s workout always starts with stretching. It’s followed by agility drills, which he does to mimic short bursts of activity pitchers get. He traces a ladder-shaped grid in the warning track dirt.

Lowe is Rocky IV to Ivan Drago. He likes his workouts outdoors.

“I don’t like doing any elliptical machines, I don’t like riding a bike,” Lowe said. “I get more out of it if I do it high intensity on the field, not in the air conditioning.”

He comes inside to lift weights and do core muscle and rotator cuff exercises.

Then he heads back out to the bullpen to work on mechanics. Every day between starts Lowe is on the mound simulating his motion.

“People think I’m crazy,” he said. “But I like to get out there and it’s quiet. And you just go over mechanics to where they get so comfortable, you don’t have to think about it in a game.”

Sometimes he’s there for an hour.

“We’re not hitters,” Lowe said. “We can’t just go in the cage. I can’t go on the mound and throw for an hour and 10 minutes.”

That’s the kind of work ethic that makes the Braves feel justified in their four-year $60 million contract to a 35-year-old pitcher, right up there with Lowe’s 2-1 record so far and his 3.10 ERA.

But ultimately, Lowe does it for himself.

“Doing the work in between for me is more peace of mind,” Lowe said. “I can accept a good game or a bad game because I know that I did everything I possibly could before that gameajc

05-01-2009, 10:37 PM
McCann hoping glasses do trick
Braves catcher ditching contacts, looking to avoid Lasik

ATLANTA -- Brian McCann's optimism about his new contact lenses was short-lived. Still searching for any way to avoid having to repeat Lasik surgery, the Braves' All-Star catcher is now hoping that prescription glasses will erase the blurred vision he's experienced in his left eye since Opening Day.

The glasses, which will look like the Oakley sunglasses that many players wear, are expected to arrive within the next couple of days. The All-Star catcher will then test them during a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett.

"I think this will be the solution," McCann said. "I don't want to give any definites, because I've already said a couple of times that it's feeling better and better. These things take time. It's going to take a couple of days to get used to the glasses."

McCann, who is eligible to come off the disabled list for next Friday's series opener in Philadelphia, never even wore glasses while playing in his youth baseball days. While playing in Gwinnett next week, he'll attempt to get used to the feel and the depth perception that they provide.

There is some worry about the possibility that sweat and heat could impair his vision with the glasses. But having experienced more blurriness while using contacts during a two-game rehab assignment with Class A Myrtle Beach earlier this week, he knows this is his last alternative before having to resort to the same Lasik surgical procedure that he underwent after the 2007 season.

During a visit with Dr. Alan Kozarsky on Monday, McCann was prescribed corrective lenses for both eyes. McCann's vision has changed since he underwent Lasik suregery at the age of 23. The procedure also altered the shape of his eyes. Consequently, the low-powered contact lenses he was provided earlier this week proved uncomfortable in the later innings of the games he played with Myrtle Beach on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"The contacts didn't work," McCann said. "They made my eyes too dry. I tried using drops, and it would be fine for a while, but then it would be blurred again. We're going to try the glasses as a last resort."

Actually, the last resort would be the Lasik procedure, but McCann doesn't want to even explore that alternative until after this season concludes.

McCann, who has been selected as an All-Star in each of his first three seasons, has always been an optimist. But while not gaining a solution to this problem with the use of eye drops, antibiotics and multiple different contact lenses, he admits that his patience has been tested.

"This has probably been one of the most frustrating things that I've had to go through in a long time," McCann said. braves.com

05-03-2009, 06:51 PM
Anderson declines rehab stint
Outfielder set to be activated off disabled list on Tuesday

ATLANTA -- Because he's collected just 49 plate appearances since signing with the Braves during the final week of February, there was reason to believe Garret Anderson would have wanted the chance to see pitching before jumping back into action.

But per his right, Anderson declined Braves management's request that he experience a short Minor League rehab stint before coming off the disabled list. He is eligible for activation on Tuesday and would have the opportunity to make the short drive to suburban Atlanta to play for Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday.

But the 36-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined since April 19 with a strained left calf, doesn't believe that he's missed enough time to warrant the need to go to the Minors for at least one game to re-acquaint himself with pitching. "I did a Minor League rehab in 2007 because I missed 50 or 60 games," Anderson said. "This is a little different. I did it then and in '04, when I missed like 50 games, I did it. But the last time I was on [the DL], I didn't feel that I needed to."

While not providing any public comment, the Braves were surprised with Anderson's decision. Before attempting to play in his second Spring Training game on March 6, he strained his right calf and didn't return to action until the final week of the exhibition season.

Anderson aggravated his calf on April 8 and was unavailable to start the next four games. Just five days later, he strained his left hamstring while scoring from second base during an 11-1 victory. He has hit .200 in just 25 regular season at-bats this year.

"You want to take care of yourself to minimize the injuries," Anderson said. "You can work out as much as you want and do as much as you want, but you can still get hurt."

When Braves manager Bobby Cox pushed for club to sign Anderson in February, he was hoping the veteran outfielder, who has 2,373 career hits, would prove to be a productive everyday player.

But Anderson has provided indication that he could be a defensive liability. In addition, his long periods of inactivity have prevented the chance to clearly determine whether he'll be a key contributor to the lineup.

Anderson, who is a man of few words and emotions, obviously admits that this isn't the way he wanted to begin his first Major League experience away from the Angels' organization, which had previously employed him since selecting him in the fourth round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft.

"It's not ideal," Anderson said. "But I didn't sit around worrying about it. It is what it is, and you do what you've got to do to get back playing. As players, you can't control everything. You can't go out there and just play safe. Injuries are a part of this game. " braves.com

05-04-2009, 10:41 PM
Glavine encouraged by bullpen session
Left-hander throws from mound for first time since April 12

ATLANTA -- While completing a bullpen session at Turner Field on Monday afternoon, Tom Glavine gained some assurance that his left shoulder is still structurally sound enough to at least provide reason to believe he could pitch again.

"There's room to improve arm strength," Glavine said. "But first and foremost, I had to be able to go out there and make my pitches without pain, and I did that."

This marked the first time that Glavine even attempted to throw off a mound since experiencing some concerning shoulder discomfort on April 12, during what had been scheduled to be his final Minor League rehab appearance.

Initially, Glavine was concerned that his troublesome shoulder had reached a point where it would no longer allow him to pitch. But since beginning to throw again last week for the first time in two weeks, the 43-year-old left-hander has steadily gained reason for encouragement.

"If I had done something structurally wrong or made something structurally wrong with my shoulder worse, I wouldn't be able to go out there and throw 150 feet," Glavine said. "I wouldn't be able to go out and throw a bullpen like I did today.

"That doesn't mean that I'm going to be pain-free or that I'm not going to have to deal with some things, but for me, my biggest concern was, 'Did I do something worse to my rotator cuff that I wouldn't be able to pitch again?' But clearly I didn't do that, because I wouldn't be able to do what I've done so far."

As long as he rebounds in positive fashion and continues to gain progress while throwing the rest of the week, Glavine will likely throw another bullpen session on Friday in Philadelphia.

If Glavine is then comfortable to take the next step, he'd like to simulate two- and three-inning outings to build up his arm strength to the point where he would have to make just one or two Minor League rehab appearances during the middle-to-latter portion of this month.

Glavine is attempting to return from an August surgical procedure, during which Dr. James Andrews repaired a torn left elbow flexor tendon and removed debris from the left shoulder.

Somewhat surprisingly, Glavine hasn't felt any elbow discomfort. While knowing that his shoulder will never again allow him to pitch in a completely pain-free manner, he was encouraged with the limited discomfort that he encountered while completing Monday's bullpen session.

"That side session was better than any that I had during Spring Training," Glavine said. "Comparing the beginning of Spring Training to the end, it was better than the beginning, but I didn't feel as strong as I did at the end. But pain, discomfort and everything like that was as good as it was at the end of Spring Training." braves.com

05-04-2009, 10:42 PM
McCann hopeful for Friday return
If two-game Minors rehab goes well, catcher will be activated

ATLANTA -- Brian McCann will remain in the Atlanta area to complete a two-game Minor League rehab assignment, which he hopes will put himself in position to be activated from the disabled list in time to resume his role as the Braves' catcher for Friday's series opener in Philadelphia.

McCann expects to receive his new prescription glasses on Wednesday, and then travel approximately one hour north of Atlanta to serve as designated hitter for Class A Rome later that night.

The Gwinnett County native is then scheduled to essentially play in his backyard on Thursday, while serving as Triple-A Gwinnett's catcher.

If McCann is encouraged with the vision that he experiences with these glasses, he'll travel to Philadelphia to prepare for the three-game series against the Phillies.

The All-Star catcher has battled blurred vision in his left eye since Opening Day, and he has been sidelined since April 22.

While attempting to account for the fact that his vision has changed since he underwent Lasik surgery after the 2007 season, McCann has been unable to remedy his situation with multiple pairs of contacts. He has been told that the surgical procedure altered the shape of his eyes and made it difficult for him to wear contacts without feeling discomfort.

McCann's prescription glasses will essentially have the same look as the Oakley sunglasses that many Major Leaguers wear. To account for their presence, he is going to attempt to wear a goalie-style catcher's helmet.

Injuries have limited the Braves to using their Opening Day lineup just three times this year. But they're hopeful that McCann's return is imminent, and they're looking forward to putting Garret Anderson back in the lineup on Tuesday. Anderson has been on the disabled list since April 20 with a strained left quadriceps muscle. braves.com

05-05-2009, 10:10 PM
Schafer plagued by strikeout woes
Rookie won't use sore left wrist as an excuse for struggles

ATLANTA -- Jordan Schafer can tolerate the left wrist discomfort that he's been battling most of the season. But the National League-leading strikeout total that he carried into Tuesday night's series finale against the Mets is a little too painful to fathom.

While recording a third successive three-strikeout performance during Monday night's loss to the Mets, Schafer saw his season total rise to 33. He blames his struggles on the fact that he hasn't made adjustments in a timely manner. But he won't blame the left wrist that he injured during the season's fourth game.

"It affects me, but that's no excuse for the amount of times that I've been swinging and missing," Schafer said. "I've never swung and missed this much in my life."

Schafer's strikeouts have certainly proven costly over the course of the past two games, when he stranded a total of 10 runners. When he opened his offensive performance in Monday's game with a bases-loaded strikeout, it marked the second straight at-bat that he was unable to put the ball in play with the bases loaded.

In the first 26 plate appearances he's had with runners in scoring position, Schafer has hit .100 (2-for-20), recorded 10 strikeouts and produced no RBIs. Two of the three RBIs that he's collected this year came via the two homers he hit during the first three games of his career.

Schafer felt some discomfort in his left wrist during the middle innings of the regular season's fourth game and then felt it pop during his final at-bat. One day later, he enjoyed the first three-hit game of his career.

But in the 20 games that have followed, he's hit .194 with a .258 slugging percentage and 29 strikeouts.

"First of all, we need to get his wrist healthy," Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. "But we have to get him striding back to the ball and getting his backside behind him. That means his balance has to be better as a hitter."

Attempting to provide his wrist some relief, Schafer went about 10 days without doing any early work before games. But after talking with Pendleton and Chipper Jones on Tuesday afternoon, the rookie center fielder participated in batting practice with the confidence that he's ready to make the necessary adjustments. braves.com

05-05-2009, 10:12 PM
McCann to play rehab games at Triple-A
Catcher will suit up for Gwinnett on Wednesday, Thursday

ATLANTA -- The Braves activated Garret Anderson from the disabled list before Tuesday night's series finale against the Mets. They're hoping to also have Brian McCann back in their lineup for Friday night's series opener in Philadelphia.

Before being activated, McCann still plans to experience a two-game Minor League rehab assignment. But slightly altering his plan, the All-Star catcher has decided that he'll play for Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday and Thursday.

Because he was under the impression that Gwinnett was playing at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, McCann had originally planned to begin his rehab assignment with Class A Rome.

This was a result of the fact that he won't receive his prescription-fitted Oakley glasses until Wednesday afternoon.

McCann, who will serve as Gwinnett's catcher on both Wednesday and Thursday, has been bothered by blurred vision in his left eye since Opening Day. Because contacts provided discomfort, he has now decided that wearing glasses is the best way for him to remedy the slight vision change that he's experienced since undergoing Lasik surgery after the 2007 season.

To account for the presence of the glasses, McCann will wear a hockey-style catcher's mask. He was pleased with the comfort it provided while he wore it during the throwing exercises that he performed at Turner Field on Tuesday afternoon. braves.com

05-06-2009, 12:32 AM
Chipper tutors Schafer on his swing

Strikeout-plagued rookie Jordan Schafer spent nearly two hours Tuesday working with third baseman Chipper Jones, who had noticed several flaws in Schafer’s swing in recent weeks.

Schafer was 5-for-25 with 14 strikeouts in his past eight games before Tuesday, including three consecutive three-strikeout games to raise his National League-leading total to 33 strikeouts.

Schafer has been playing with a sore left wrist since hearing a pop on a swing in an April 10 game against Washington. He said the wrist has improved some in the past week, since he stopped taking extra batting practice. He also insisted it wasn’t the reason for his recent struggles.

Jones and hitting coach Terry Pendleton said that compensating for hand or wrist injuries can cause a player to compensate and get in bad habits with his swing. Both of them believed that’s probably happened with Schafer, at least to some degree.

Anderson in, Brandon Jones out

Left fielder Garret Anderson was activated from the disabled list as expected Tuesday, and outfielder Brandon Jones was optioned to Gwinnett to make room on the roster.

Anderson started and batted fourth Tuesday night against the Mets, after missing 15 days with a strained quadriceps and opting not to do an injury-rehab assignment.

When manager Bobby Cox asked Anderson late last week if he wanted to go on an rehab assignment, the outfielder said no, that he preferred not to.ajc

good to see CJ help out the kid

05-06-2009, 09:12 PM
Chipper: Braves not alone in slumping
Third baseman sees most NL East teams underperforming

MIAMI -- They're still close.

The Braves came into a quick two-game series against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium losers of 14 of their past 20 games and have "stunk it up, plain and simple," as superstar Chipper Jones said.

Yet the only difference between them and the team leading their division is just four games.

Going into the season, the National League East looked to be one of the juggernauts in Major League Baseball, with the reigning World Series champion Phillies, the high-payroll Mets and the upstart Marlins.

So far, though, Jones said he hasn't been quite as impressed.

"Honestly, not as good as everybody thought is my first impression," Jones said about the NL East. "I don't think the Phillies played all that well, although they're starting to play a lot better now. I think the Mets have some issues with their pitching, [and] their offense hasn't been great anyway. We have stunk it up, plain and simple, in all facets of the game.

"The Marlins ... the first 11, 12 games of the season, I was like, 'They're the best team we've seen.' They dominated us. Nobody else has dominated us, and the Marlins dominated us. But then, all of a sudden, the wheels fall off."

Lately, the wheels have fallen off the Braves' offense, too.

Atlanta goes into its eight-game road trip ranked 22nd in the Major Leagues in batting average (.256), 26th in runs scored (105) and 25th in home runs (20). And while going 2-7 in their past nine games, the Braves are batting a collective .253 while scoring 3.2 runs per game.

Getting Garret Anderson back and the expected return of catcher Brian McCann on Friday would give Atlanta its expected middle of the order going into the year.

But Jones said none of that matters if the players in front of them don't get on base.

"We haven't generated anything at the top," Jones said. "Top three or four hitters have been struggling. You have to have those guys early in the innings getting on base for your offense to really take flight, and we just haven't had that consistently yet.

"But you have to think, at some point, we're going to turn it around. There's some pretty good hitters at the top of our lineup, and hopefully we've gotten this little rough patch out of the way in April."

To try to speed up that process, Braves manager Bobby Cox has continued to insert Omar Infante in the leadoff spot, where he is batting .412 (14-for-34) this season.

The 27-year-old was at the top of the order once again on Wednesday, playing second base and taking the place of Kelly Johnson, who's batting just .218 in 23 games.

"He can play a lot of positions -- short, third, second, center field, left field, right field," Cox said about Infante, who's started six of the past eight games. "And he's hitting. That's what he brings. He's been hot with the bat, so we want him in there." braves.com

05-06-2009, 10:57 PM
O'Flaherty healthy and seeing results
Reliever having success after '08 filled with back trouble

MIAMI -- For Eric O'Flaherty, it seemed like it was just a matter of getting healthy.

While with the Mariners last season, the current Braves left-hander made just seven appearances in the Major Leagues, giving up 15 runs in only 6 2/3 innings to post an ugly 20.25 ERA.

That and 14 appearances with Triple-A Tacoma -- where he sported a 4.96 ERA in 14 games -- was pretty much the extent of O'Flaherty's season. The 24-year-old then went on the disabled list on June 11 with a lower back strain and had an extended offseason.

Looks like that extra time has helped.

O'Flaherty was claimed off waivers by the Braves in November and came into camp battling for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Now, he's become manager Bobby Cox's main lefty out of the bullpen besides closer Mike Gonzalez.

"I always heard that if his back's good, you have a good one," Cox said.

Going into Tuesday's game, O'Flaherty sports a 2.70 ERA in 12 appearances while retiring 10 of the 12 first batters he's faced and stranding eight of the nine runners he's inherited.

Over his past eight appearances, the Walla Walla, Wash., native hasn't given up a single run.

"It's going pretty good so far," O'Flaherty said. "I have to keep at it, keep working hard. I was just happy to get a job out of spring, just to come somewhere that I had an opportunity, so I'm pretty happy right now."

While with Seattle last year, O'Flaherty said he initially kept quiet about his back because he had finally made an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career -- a decision he now regrets.

"I've never done that before, so I wasn't going to let a little bit of a problem stand in my way," he said. "And it just got progressively worse. And then from there, there was a little bit of bad luck thrown into some of the outings, too, and it just turned into a complete disaster.

"It took a while to get the back healthy, because it just got worse and worse the more I threw. But once I did, I had about two months completely good, and then I came into camp and I've been fine ever since."

Now what?

"Just keep doing what I'm doing," O'Flaherty said. "Go in and get the job done.

"And stay healthy." braves.com

color me shocked, didn't think he would be this effective, good work from the kid.

05-07-2009, 02:30 AM
Braves ticket sales plummet

The Braves have seen their ticket sales slide this season, with the fourth-largest drop in Major League Baseball.

They have averaged 24,192 tickets sold through 14 home games, after ranking 10th among 16 National League teams in home attendance in 2008 with an average of 31,270. One factor is the weather.

The Braves averaged just 20,358 tickets sold during the rain-plagued, eight-game homestand that ended Tuesday and included series against traditionally strong-drawing opponents St. Louis and the New York Mets. There are additional contributors, said Braves CEO Terry McGuirk.

“Start with the economy, and a team that didn’t win last year, and the weather,” McGuirk said of the decline. “And this town always does so much better after school’s out. … But the weather’s had a tremendous effect. We’ve been doing very nicely the last couple of years, averaging about 32,000.

“That’s the kind of numbers we expect to come back pretty soon.”

The Gwinnett Braves, no less affected by bad weather, however have seen a tremendous uptick in their attendance since moving from Richmond for this season. Weekend pre-sale tickets sold hover around 7,000, compared to about 2,000 last season in Richmond, said ticket manager Mike Castle. Weekday pre-sale ticket sales are about 3,500. Like McGuirk, Castle expects bigger turnouts when metro-area schools let out in a few weeks.

“That makes it easier for families to come out on a Wednesday night, for instance,” Castle said.

And when it rains, Gwinnett makes it easy for ticket holders. Just use the same ticket for any other game during the season.

“We want to give ticket holders as much flexibility as we can,” Castle said.ajc

well one way the braves can help out in this case..start winning.

05-07-2009, 02:33 AM
Jones confident in fielding despite costly errors

MIAMI — Chipper Jones entered Wednesday’s game having made four errors this season to lead all National League third basemen. Three led to decisive runs in Braves losses. It happened twice on the recent homestand — Saturday against the Astros and Tuesday night against the Mets.

Jones said he still feels confident in his defense at third base.

“I want the ball hit to me,” Jones said. “I just had a couple plays that haven’t worked out — whether it’s bad judgment or a bad hop or stone hands, whatever. We all go through little streaks where we make these errors, then you’ll go 25, 30, 40 games without making one. Hopefully the bulk of my error total is behind me.”

The first of those costly errors came fielding a ground ball in Washington on April 21. Coupled with an error by left fielder Matt Diaz, it led to a three-run sixth inning in a 4-3 loss.

On Saturday, Jones had a double-play chance against the Astros that he bobbled, opening the door to a three-run inning in a 5-1 loss.

Then Tuesday night against the Mets, he threw wide to second base on a bunt play to set up Carlos Delgado’s two-run single in a 4-3 loss.

“I’ve made two really bad errors in the last week that have come at inopportune times, but physical errors are going to happen,” Jones said. “(Tuesday night) was just a case where I was going to first, I was set up to first, and the catcher at the last second yelled ‘Two, two, two.’ I tried to throw across my body and made a bad throw.”

Not only was Jones last among National League third basemen in errors, but he was last in fielding percentage (.915) before Wednesday’s games.

Fielding percentage is based on how successful a fielder is with chances that come his way. It can’t account for how well a player gets to those chances. But Jones said he doesn’t place much weight on the statistic to begin with, especially for a third baseman.

“At third base you’ve got to put fielding percentage out of your mind because you’re going to have the lowest fielding percentage on the team,” Jones said. “You play closest to home plate; you’re going to get some tough errors. You don’t get as many plays as the shortstop and second baseman, but the degree of difficulty is harder.”

Jones said his main goal on defense is to keep errors down.

“If you can stay somewhere between 10-15 as a third baseman, you’ve had a pretty good year,” said Jones, who’s done that six times in his career. “Anything under 10 is phenomenal.”

Loading vs. lefties

Manager Bobby Cox started Martin Prado at first base for the second time in three days Wednesday, sitting Casey Kotchman against left-hander Graham Taylor.

Putting Prado at first and Omar Infante instead of Kelly Johnson at second, gave the Braves two more right-handed bats in a lineup that is predominantly left-handed.

Kotchman is hitting .300 (9-for-30) with no home runs and three RBIs against lefties, but Prado is hitting even better at .353 (6-for-17) with a home run and five RBIs. Johnson is hitting .308 (8-for-26) against lefties, but Infante is hitting .364 (8-for-22).

“They’re swinging the bat so good, [Prado] and Infante,” Cox said. “Nothing against anybody else or anything. … They’re swinging good and we need some hitting. Got to get them in there.”ajc

05-07-2009, 04:07 PM
Anderson emerging as lineup presence
Veteran slugger eager to produce in heart of Braves' order

MIAMI -- It's a small sample size, yes. But in just his second game back from injury, the Braves were able to see what a healthy -- and productive -- Garret Anderson can do for their lineup.

Playing for the second straight time since returning from a strained left quadriceps muscle, Anderson finished 1-for-4 and led the Braves with three RBIs. While hitting in front of him, Chipper Jones, who had just three hits in his previous 21 at-bats, went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.

The All-Star third baseman said he's already beginning to feel the difference of having an established power hitter bat behind him.

"When you have that guy in the four-hole, you're able to sustain rallies, able to make people pay when they walk me," said Jones, who was out of the starting lineup in the finale of a two-game series against the Marlins on Thursday. "He did what he had to do in the first to give us a lead, and a big two-run knock the next time out kind of got us back on top. That was big, and hopefully he can get on a little bit of a roll."

Anderson's presence was most evident in the top of the second. That inning, the Braves had runners on first and second with two outs when Marlins starter Graham Taylor decided to pitch around Jones.

Next up, though, Anderson came through with a two-run single to cap a four-run inning in an eventual two-run victory for the Braves.

"They'd rather pitch to Garret," hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. "And I think it adds that presence to the whole deal that even if you put Chipper on, that guy behind you has proven himself in the Major Leagues, too, and he can do some serious damage. So it's a big plus to get him back in the lineup. And it will be a bigger plus to get Brian McCann back in the lineup also. So Garret's presence is definitely a big plus for our offense, no doubt."

Signed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract in February, Anderson hit .293 with 15 home runs and 84 RBIs in 145 games with the Angels last season. Throughout his 16-year career, the lefty-hitting outfielder hit 25-plus home runs while driving in more than 100 runs for a four-year span from 2000-03.

But Anderson is 36 years old now, and after getting just 20 at-bats in Spring Training, he played in 10 regular-season games before missing another 12 after landing on the disabled list on April 20.

Manager Bobby Cox said Anderson is still "in Spring Training mode," and Anderson believes he'll need a bit more time to get back into game shape.

But he's ready to help the Braves' struggling offense.

"That's what I'm here to do," he said. "All players deal with injuries. You just try to do the best you can with it, so that's why I'm able to play again and be out on the field.

"It's a long season. It's early on. But really, there's been no continuity to the lineup. To judge it fairly, you can't really judge a team unless your whole team is out there, so that's kind of how I look at it." braves.com

05-07-2009, 04:10 PM
Campillo making way back from DL
Right-hander feels good after 'pen session on Thursday

MIAMI -- A rehab assignment is getting closer for Jorge Campillo.

Prior to Thursday's game against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium, the Braves' right-hander threw a 25-30-pitch bullpen session and utilized all of his pitches. Campillo will next throw one more side session and then start getting into some rehab games before coming off his 15-day disabled-list stint.

Campillo was placed on the DL on April 17 with right rotator cuff tendinitis and tossed his first 'pen session on Tuesday, when he threw only fastballs and changeups. On Thursday, the 30-year-old's plan was to utilize all of his pitches.

"I feel strong, so I hope I can get back out there soon," Campillo said before heading to the bullpen.

The Braves hope so, too.

In 2008, Campillo made 39 appearances for Atlanta and finished 8-7 with a 3.91 ERA. The Mexico native started 25 of those games, posting a 4.34 ERA as a starter and a 1.25 ERA as a reliever.

"I want him to be healthy," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The season just started. He was a big contributor to our team last year. [Let's] get him well."

That's the main concern right now for Campillo, who said he started feeling soreness in the shoulder while trying to get ready for the World Baseball Classic. For the first time in his career this offseason, Campillo didn't pitch in winter ball and had a very limited Spring Training before playing for Team Mexico in the Classic.

"It's a big tournament, and you have to give it 100 percent, and I was not ready for that," Campillo said. "I think that was the problem."

But Campillo wasn't in sharp enough pain to be shut down from the start.

"I just didn't feel strong," he said.

So he ended up registering six innings in Spring Training, and made four regular-season appearances for Atlanta to start the season -- giving up two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings -- but when he started hitting about 83 mph on the radar gun on April 16 against the Marlins -- when he's usually up around 87 mph -- he knew it was time to shut it down.

"I just wasn't feeling good, and I didn't feel like my normal self," Campillo said. braves.com

05-08-2009, 10:24 AM
I guess Parr is still up here with the big club, and that would be the spot Campillo would be taking, I guess. B/c Parr could use some more pitching in the minors.

05-08-2009, 10:55 PM
mccann to reassess vision after season ends

philadelphia — on friday afternoon brian mccann smiled, laughed, did some early hitting, razzed teammates, met with pitchers, took regular pregame batting practice.

In other words, mccann finally looked, sounded and behaved like himself on the day he came off the 15-day disabled list and rejoined the braves for their series opener against the phillies.

It’s been a while since the catcher had as much fun and didn’t have to worry about his left eye.

“it’s just glad i have a uniform on again,” said mccann, who was out 15 days and spent the time pursuing a remedy for the dryness and blurred vision that kept him from wearing contact lenses.

he was fitted for prescription sports glasses and a hockey-style facemask, and he gave the gear passing marks after playing in it thursday at class aaa gwinnett. He had no problems with the left eye.

“everything’s going to be fine,” said mccann, who plans to wear the glasses for the rest of the season, then reassess the situation after seeing how they function through heat and other conditions.

“they’d be perfect if they didn’t fog or if sweat [didn’t affect them],” said mccann, who will try some different products designed to reduce those problems.

he said it would take getting used to, but decided after catching five innings without the glasses thursday that he needs to wear them not just for hitting but also when he’s behind the plate.

He said a second pair will arrive next week, so he won’t have to worry about rinsing or wiping away smudges, such as those he got thursday when he pulled the mask off once while running to back up first base.

Mccann flew to philadelphia on friday, the first day he was eligible to be activated. Manager bobby cox said he didn’t hesitate to put him in the lineup, in the fifth spot behind chipper jones and garret anderson. It was just the fourth game in which jones, anderson and mccann were in the lineup together.

glavine continues progress

tom glavine reported no pain friday during his second pitching workout in five days, which cox and pitching coach roger mcdowell observed in the early afternoon at citizens bank park.

“he threw very well, and threw a lot,” said cox, who estimated about 90 warmup tosses and pitches. “he had no sharp pains. He’s recovering well. We’ll see what happens after his next session.”

the 43-year-old left-hander has been on the dl all season recovering from shoulder and elbow surgeries in august. Glavine was only days from what would have been his season debut three weeks ago when he had shoulder pain while batting in his last scheduled minor-league rehab start.

After two weeks of rest, he had a pain-free bullpen session monday at turner field that led him to believe he would make it back to pitch again this season. For now, retirement talk is dormant.

Glavine returned to atlanta after friday’s session to attend his child’s first communion.ajc

05-09-2009, 02:32 PM
Extra-special Mother's Day for Kotchman
First since his mother survived a brain injury last summer

ATLANTA -- The evening of Aug. 19, 2008, was supposed to be like so many of the others the Kotchman family had experienced. Tom Kotchman was prepping the Orem Owlz for a game in Missoula, Mont., and his son, Casey, was getting ready for his first taste of the Braves-Mets rivalry at Shea Stadium.

Back at the family's Florida residence, Sue Kotchman had little reason to be overly concerned about her husband, who was wrapping up his 30th consecutive season as a Minor League manager, or her son, who was adapting to the trade that ended his days as an Angel and made him the Braves' newest first baseman.

As she prepared for bed that evening, Sue's thoughts rested on her two children and the many others who would soon greet her when she continued her duties as the principal at Madeira Beach Elementary School, located in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area.

Within the next couple of hours, the Kotchman family would encounter an extended stretch during which they would have nothing but grave concerns about Sue, who collapsed before making her way to bed.

After returning to his Manhattan hotel that evening, Casey received word that his mother had suffered what initially appeared to be a brain aneurysm. Before boarding a chartered flight back to Florida, he alerted his father, who would immediately make travel arrangements that would force him to fly through Denver before returning to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

"When I got to Denver, I called Casey just to see if she was still alive," Tom said. "When I got [to Florida], she had a 33 percent chance of living. When the surgeon tells you that ... and then it was hit and miss for the first three or four days."
More than eight months removed from the most trying ordeal of their lives, the Kotchman family is preparing to celebrate a Mother's Day that will prove to be every bit as emotional as the one in 2004, when Casey made his Major League debut for the Angels.

Having battled through an ailment that medical science primarily never cures, Sue spent portions of the past two weeks watching her children play the games that they love.

"As a mom, she's just happy that I'm happy doing what I love to do," Casey said.

After spending some time with her 22-year-old daughter Christal, who is concluding her senior season with the College of Charleston's softball team, Sue made her way to Turner Field on Monday night to watch her son play in person for the first time since encountering the brain ailment that nearly took her life.

"As a mom, you want your kids to be happy," Sue said. "They've worked so hard all of those years to get where they are. You want them to do what they want to do. What mother wouldn't? And, God forbid, had I died, I would still want them to know in their hearts that I would still want to them to fulfill their dreams and take advantage of the talents that they've been given."

Still encountering some fatigue, Sue hasn't yet been able to able to resume her professional duties as an educator. But by overcoming great odds, she's proudly been able to continue displaying the same parental affection that her children have experienced throughout their lives.

"We don't take anything for granted anymore," said Tom, who accompanied his wife to Turner Field this week. "Not that we did. But we sure don't now."

When Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart died in a car accident last month, Casey spoke about his former teammate while delivering a message that was partially created from the experience he encountered with his own mother last year.

"It's another reminder that every breath is a gift from God," Casey said. "That's not a cliché. It's the truth."

While Sue spent the early portion of a 15-day stay in a neuro intensive care unit, doctors believed that the hemorrhaging of her brain was caused by an aneurysm. Later they concluded that she was one of the few who have survived a subarachnoid hemorrhage without any debilitating complications.

Doctors explained that in many instances, individuals struck with this ailment arrive at the hospital either dead or in need of a surgical procedure to stop the bleeding on the brain. Miraculously for Mrs. Kotchman, the bleeding stopped in time for medical personnel to provide her the necessary assistance to stay alive.

"I believe in miracles," Sue said. "I just know that God just stopped it. That's my firm conviction. Nobody can tell me anything different. Doctors don't have anything medical to cure it. It just stopped.

"I think my doctor said less than one percent might ever stop on their own. Usually you die, you don't even make it to the hospital. I think there must be more for me to do in this world."

As she started to regain her health during the early days of September, Sue immediately told Casey that it was time for him to return to the Braves.

While still recovering over the next few weeks, she would watch his games on television from the comforts of her own living room.

"It makes a mother so proud to see your kids living their dreams," Sue said. "You're happy that they're happy." braves.com

05-09-2009, 11:29 PM
Bobby Cox not giving up on Reyes, loser of 9 in a row
By David O'Brien

PHILADELPHIA — Jo-Jo Reyes has lost his past nine decisions and recorded one win in his past 22 starts, but Braves manager Bobby Cox isn’t ready to give up on him.

“He’s so close to being good,” Cox said of the left-hander, charged with eight runs (four earned) on five hits including three homers in five innings of Friday’s 10-6 loss to the Phillies, the Braves’ only loss in four games.

“We certainly don’t want to give up on him. We’re going to stick with him and see if he can get through this.”

Reyes is 0-9 with a 6.61 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) since mid-June 2008. He has allowed 102 hits in 83 innings during that skid, with 43 walks and 51 strikeouts.

But the 24-year-old has made significant strides in Cox’s view, working with pitching coach Roger McDowell to become a pitcher rather than a thrower. Instead of trying to overpower hitters with fastballs like he once thought he could, Reyes changes speeds and uses a full repertoire of pitches.

Cox noted how Reyes “dominated some of their best hitters” for much of the night Friday, striking out Chase Utley twice (before Utley homered off Reyes in the fifth inning) and Ryan Howard twice. It’s those flashes that keep the Braves from discarding or demoting him.

But it’s unclear how patient they would be before Reyes might be replaced, by Tom Glavine if and when the 43-year-old comes off the disabled list, or by an up-and-comer such as top-rated prospect Tommy Hanson from Class AAA Gwinnett.

Bloggers and callers to talk shows have been clamoring since spring training for Hanson, and Reyes’ struggles have raised the volume of those requests. Reyes is scheduled to start again Wednesday against the Mets at New York, and Cox said there were no plans to change that.

There are obviously flaws with the lefty, including a proclivity for getting hurt by the big inning, giving up three or four runs to negate the good work he’s done in previous innings or that he might do in subsequent innings. Instead of damage control, Reyes seems to let errors or a poorly timed walk lead to more mistakes, whether from losing his focus or pressing too much.

When he has pitched well in his winless streak, he often has received scant run support. The Braves have scored two or fewer runs while he has been in the game in 10 of his 17 starts during the 0-9 skid, including no runs at all while he was in seven games.

On the other hand, Reyes lasted 4 1/3 or fewer innings in four of those seven games.

Chipper streaking vs. Phillies

With a hit in Sunday’s series finale against the Phillies, Chipper Jones would become the sixth player in 55 years to hit in at least 30 consecutive games against a single opponent.

The third baseman’s eighth-inning single Saturday gave him a 29-game hitting streak against the Phillies, extending what was already the longest such streak in 55 years by a Braves player against any single opponent, and the longest such streak against the Phillies by any player.

“It’s important to play well against these guys,” said Jones, who has hit .380 with 11 homers, 25 RBIs, 21 walks and a .490 on-base percentage in 29 games against the Phillies since April 5, 2007. “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. They’ve won the last two division titles and the World Series.”Trent McCotter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) has done the research in this category only as far back as 1955. He said that in that period, the next-longest streaks by Braves were Dale Murphy’s 24-gamer against the Cubs (1981-83) and 22-game streaks by Hank Aaron (vs. St. Louis) and three different Braves — Eddie Mathews, Ralph Garr, Marcus Giles — against the Cubs.

The longest streaks against the Phillies during that period had been 25-game streaks by Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda and Pete Rose.

The longest streaks against one opponent since 1955 were Vladimir Guerrero’s 44-gamer against Texas, and Ken Griffey Jr.’s 35-gamer against Cleveland.ajc

05-10-2009, 12:35 AM
I heard one day this week Glavine had a bullpen session with no pain, how long before he starts another rehab assignment or does anyone know?

05-10-2009, 12:40 AM
Let's just remember that in an era before HRs were king, a young Tommy Glavine was roughed up quite a bit. Glavine amassed 105 starts before his 25th birthday and wasn't very good in that time. He was pretty good in 1989 but other than that, he was below average. His ERA+ never went above 100 and his ERA+ through his first 2 years (43 starts) was 80. Jo-Jo's ERA+ through 36 career starts is 72.

Now we all know Tommy went on to be a HOF pitcher and I doubt anyone thinks Jo-Jo will follow suit, but it's far too early to be giving up on a 24-year old lefty who has shown promise but hasn't quite figured it out. Jo-Jo actually has more major league starts than AA and AAA starts COMBINED and I think that may be his problem. He's made only 13 AA starts and 14 AAA starts and he pitched okay at AA and pretty damn well at AAA. But he needs more time in the minors IMO. He's shown he can completely shut down an offense for a whole game and even for all but one inning, but he can' get over the hump. I think a full season in AAA would benefit him greatly.

05-10-2009, 12:57 AM
Let's just remember that in an era before HRs were king, a young Tommy Glavine was roughed up quite a bit. Glavine amassed 105 starts before his 25th birthday and wasn't very good in that time. He was pretty good in 1989 but other than that, he was below average. His ERA+ never went above 100 and his ERA+ through his first 2 years (43 starts) was 80. Jo-Jo's ERA+ through 36 career starts is 72.

Now we all know Tommy went on to be a HOF pitcher and I doubt anyone thinks Jo-Jo will follow suit, but it's far too early to be giving up on a 24-year old lefty who has shown promise but hasn't quite figured it out. Jo-Jo actually has more major league starts than AA and AAA starts COMBINED and I think that may be his problem. He's made only 13 AA starts and 14 AAA starts and he pitched okay at AA and pretty damn well at AAA. But he needs more time in the minors IMO. He's shown he can completely shut down an offense for a whole game and even for all but one inning, but he can' get over the hump. I think a full season in AAA would benefit him greatly.which is what I hoped for before the season, Jo-Jo getting a full year at AAA, but injuries are part of the game and no surprise jo-jo was first up. still has his potential and talent and even in his starts he has shown he has improved and is a better pitcher than last year. Just keep battling jo-jo.

05-10-2009, 12:58 AM
I heard one day this week Glavine had a bullpen session with no pain, how long before he starts another rehab assignment or does anyone know?for all I know he still has to make another pen session before he goes on a rehab assignment, might take a bit.

05-10-2009, 05:18 PM
Johnson fights slump by platooning
Infante subs so second baseman can work on plate approach

PHILADELPHIA -- While spending the past two weeks in a platoon role with Omar Infante, Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson has attempted to take advantage of the opportunity to evaluate the aggressive approach that he was attempting to utilize in the leadoff role.

"It did help that I had a second to re-evaluate myself and do what I needed to do to get back on track," Johnson said. "I feel better now."

When the Braves concluded their three-game series against the Phillies on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, Johnson found himself in the familiar leadoff role. This marked the first time since April 27 that he started consecutive games.

With Johnson in a 4-for-39 slump through April 26, Braves manager Bobby Cox decided that his second baseman needed the opportunity to get himself right from both a mental and mechanical perspective. Thus over the course of the past 12 games, the right-handed Infante has made seven starts at second base.

Despite the fact that Johnson has hit .331 (59-for-178) against left-handed pitchers and .259 (118-for-456) against right-handed pitchers since the start of the 2008 season, Cox seems comfortable with this platoon arrangement that gives Infante a chance to primarily play when the opposing team is starting a left-handed pitcher.

Three of Infante's past seven starts have come in games that the opponent was starting a right-handed pitcher. But two of those occasions were April 28 and 29, when Johnson was trying to figure out what had gone wrong since starting the season with 10 hits, including three homers and two doubles, in his first 30 at-bats.

"I think I was swinging the bat the way I shouldn't be swinging the bat," Johnson said. "I was looking to be aggressive and looking to hit, but I wasn't thinking about how I was doing it. I think I just need to be a little more under control."

During his past six games, Johnson has recorded six hits in 18 at-bats and compiled a .400 on-base percentage.

"I feel good right now, regardless of how many hits I'm getting," Johnson said. "I feel like I've got a good base, whereas in the beginning I was kind of free-swinging and not really thinking too much. Now I have more of a controlled swing. I think it's going to lead to better results." braves.com

poor kid man, it's back and forth with him I have read plenty of articles relating to KJ and his slumps and it is something different every time "I need to be more aggressive," "I need to be more patient," "I have to start thinking", "I am thinking too much up there."

05-10-2009, 09:16 PM
Kotchman makes pink bat count
First baseman has three big hits honoring annual tradition

PHILADELPHIA -- Having the opportunity to actually hear his mother's voice gave Casey Kotchman reason to consider this most recent Mother's Day to be special.

Making it even more memorable was the three-hit performance that he produced during the 4-2 win the Braves claimed over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

With one of the pink bats that many Major Leaguers utilized on Sunday to recognize the fight against breast cancer, Kotchman delivered a decisive two-run seventh-inning single and then produced an insurance run with a ninth-inning RBI double off Brad Lidge.

"There's a lot of individual meanings for the pink bats across the country," Kotchman said. "It's not something you use selfishly for your own mom, grandmother, wife or whoever you know. It's obviously a significant meaning for the women to see those pink bats and pink wristbands, ribbons and all of that stuff."

Pink bats have become annual Mother's Day symbols as part of an overall "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative by Major League Baseball that raises awareness about breast cancer and directs proceeds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Fans play the next big role in this process, because attention will move now to the MLB.com Auction and the gradual arrival of game-used pink bats, home plates and logo bases and lineup cards. Fans also can purchase their own personalized "Mother's Day 2009" pink bats right now for $79.99 apiece at the MLB.com Shop, with $10 from the sale of each one going to Komen.

Indicating that he utilized the bat in support of women everywhere who have been affected by breast cancer, Kotchman also acknowledged that this was a special Mother's Day in his family's household.

In August, his mother nearly lost her life to an ailment that doctors diagnosed as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Miraculously, this often-fatal ailment has left her without any visible complications.

"Each day is memorable at this point," Kotchman said. "I'm trying to get the most out of each and every single day, and then obviously this Mother's Day is special. That kind of goes without saying."

Kotchman, Brian McCann, Yunel Escobar, Garret Anderson, Martin Prado, Jordan Schafer and Greg Norton were among the Braves players who showed their support for this MLB initiative by utilizing the pink bats and wearing pink wristbands.

"You don't realize how many women are affected by breast cancer or die from it or have gone through some tough times," Francoeur said. "For us to show this kind of support, I think it's a real cool thing that MLB does." braves.com

05-10-2009, 09:25 PM
Hyperextended elbow sidelines Chipper
Third baseman may miss Monday's Citi Field opener vs. Mets

PHILADELPHIA -- Mets fans might have to wait one additional day to welcome Chipper Jones to Citi Field.

Jones hyperextended his right elbow and then removed himself from the 4-2 win the Braves claimed over the Phillies on Sunday afternoon. The 37-year-old third baseman said there's probably a 50 percent chance that he'll be ready to play on Monday, when the Braves begin a three-game series against the Mets.

But the man that Mets fans affectionately recognize as "Lah-REE" says he doesn't believe that this ailment will force him to miss more than one game.

"We'll see how it feels tomorrow," Jones said on Sunday. "If I can throw, I'll play. If I can't, then I won't. ... That area is pretty jacked up right now. But I don't see it being more than a day."

Jones revealed that he's been battling some tendinitis for a few weeks, and that his right elbow discomfort was enhanced when he initially hyperextended his elbow during a fifth-inning strikeout.

Two innings, later, with a swing that produced a lazy fly to right field, he felt the elbow hyperextend again.

"I've had a pretty serious case of tendinitis in my elbow all year and that combined with the hyperextension prevented me from really throwing across the infield," Jones said. "So once we got the lead, I told [manager] Bobby [Cox] to get [Martin] Prado in there, because I didn't want to hurt us defensively."

Going hitless in three at-bats, Jones was denied the opportunity to become the sixth player since 1954 to construct a 30-game hitting streak against one club. His 29-game hitting streak against the Phillies had extended back to April 5, 2007.

According to SABR's Trent McCotter, Jones is one of 11 Major Leaguers since 1954 to compile a 29-game hitting streak against one team. Just five players have carried the streak to the 30-game mark. braves.com

color me shocked...well not really. fine put infante at 3B, while he leads off, KJ moves in the lineup in the lower part of the order.


05-10-2009, 11:33 PM
Man, age just won' leave Chipper alone. Someone get him some HGH or something.

05-11-2009, 11:32 PM
Glavine maps out return to mound
Veteran left-hander aiming for first rehab start next week

NEW YORK -- One month ago, Tom Glavine was certain that he was just six days away from making his regular-season debut. To guard against the possibility of experiencing more disappointment, the 43-year-old left-hander is remaining cautiously optimistic about the fact that he could be taking the mound for the Braves again during their next road trip.

In a bullpen session at Citi Field on tap for Wednesday, Glavine plans to push himself in the same manner that he would while completing a two- or three-inning rehab start. To simulate game conditions, he'll take at least one break during the session that is expected to consist of 35-40 pitches.

If all goes well, Glavine will likely aim to make a Minor League rehab start early next week. He'll be on a timetable that would provide him a chance to start during the four-game series the Braves will play against the Diamondbacks in Arizona from May 28-31.

"There's a possibility that I'll only need one rehab start, but that's probably not likely," Glavine said. "It would probably make more sense to have two rehab starts."

Glavine is obviously much more optimistic than he was during the days following April 12, when he experienced some concerning shoulder discomfort during a swing that he took in what was supposed to be his final Minor League rehab appearance. Thoughts of retirement slowly faded and the 300-game winner grew even more encouraged during two throwing sessions that he completed last week. He essentially tested his arm during a May 4 bullpen session at Turner Field and then threw with much less fear during a 90-pitch session on Friday in Philadelphia.

"I felt it was dramatically better in terms of my arm strength and my velocity than the time I threw in Atlanta," Glavine said. "But at the same time, I went into the side session in Atlanta with a lot more trepidation."

Glavine, who had his elbow and shoulder surgically repaired during the same August procedure, says that he feels his arm strength is as good as it was before he suffered his setback last month.

"In all honesty, I probably feel better now than I did then," Glavine said. "But I'm probably mentally more in a day-to-day mode than I was then. Because I don't know what happened. Because of that uncertainty, there's always in the back of my mind, 'Well, that could happen again.'" braves.com

05-11-2009, 11:36 PM
Sore elbow keeps Chipper out
Third baseman hopes to make Citi Field debut Tuesday

NEW YORK -- Chipper Jones will likely have to wait one more day before learning if Mets fans will greet him as warmly as they did in Shea Stadium.

With his sore right elbow still preventing him from being able to make throws across the infield, Jones wasn't in the Braves' lineup on Monday night when they played their first game against the Mets at Citi Field. But the veteran third baseman was available to pinch-hit and he's hopeful that he'll be ready to return to full-time action on Tuesday.

"It's still keeping me from being able to throw," Jones said. "We treated it three times today, so hopefully it will be better tomorrow and I'll be able to get enough extension to make a throw."

Jones hyperextended his right elbow with two swings before removing himself from Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Phillies. After the game, he revealed that he's been battling tendinitis in the same elbow throughout the early portion of this season.

When Jones reported to Citi Field early Monday afternoon, he determined that the discomfort was still too great to even attempt to throw across the infield. While talking to reporters, he extended his right arm to show that he still isn't able to generate full extension.

"If I come back in tomorrow and I'm the same, I'll probably get a [cortisone] shot and that would keep me out a couple more days," Jones said. "But I want that to be the last resort."

Mets fans have long shared a love-hate relationship with Jones, who they playfully mock with chants of "Lah-REE" -- a reference to his birth name. But they haven't had the opportunity to taunt him with great regularity over the course of the past three seasons.

Dating back to the start of the 2006 season, Jones has played in just 14 of the 28 games the Braves have played against the Mets in New York. During this same span, he's started just 37 of the 57 games these two division rivals have played against each other.

With Jones absent, there was some reason to wonder if Braves manager Bobby Cox would go against the numbers and keep left fielder Garret Anderson's power potential in Monday night's lineup. But Cox opted to rest Anderson and allow Matt Diaz the opportunity to prolong his career-long success against Johan Santana.

Entering Monday, Diaz had eight hits, including a homer and a double, in 15 career at-bats against Santana. Anderson has six hits, with one homer, in 25 at-bats against the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

After starting just six of the first 12 games the Braves played this year, Anderson was placed on the disabled list on April 20. Since being activated last week, the 36-year-old outfielder has remained healthy and has given Cox more reason to believe he'll be a key offensive contributor this year.

"He can hit and he looks good in the outfield now," Cox said. "He's just one of those tough outs. You always have that feeling that he's going to get that big hit when you need one." braves.com

05-12-2009, 08:46 AM
^I hope if Glavine comes back he can still get hitters out, b/c if he can't it could be ugly. Love the man for what he did with the Braves, but sometimes you need to move on with the young talent we have waiting.

05-12-2009, 03:41 PM
Pitcher Tim Hudson is the only member of the Braves with a 2010 option. It's a $12MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout. Back in January, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said the Braves "fully intend to exercise it, barring some unexpected turn of events." Hudson hopes to return in August from Tommy John surgery, and even seems willing to come back as a reliever to help more quickly. In February, talking to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, Hudson expressed his desire for the Braves to pick up the option:

"If I'm healthy, I hope they like what they see enough to pick up the option. If not, I'm still young. If everything goes right with this elbow, I see myself pitching another seven or eight years. I've got a new elbow. I'm ready to go. There's no other place I'd rather be, that's for sure."

It's safe to assume that if the Braves exercise Hudson's option, he won't choose to void it in search of a bigger contract. The Braves' 2010 rotation would be deep, with Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez, Kenshin Kawakami, Hudson, and Tommy Hanson. Kawkami is off to a shaky start, but his $23MM contract runs through 2011.


05-12-2009, 03:52 PM
I can see the rotation looking like this next year:


05-13-2009, 12:13 AM
Braves get Chipper back in lineup
Third baseman declares himself ready to go in BP

NEW YORK -- Chipper Jones' belief that his sore right elbow would sideline him for just one game proved to be true.

While taking batting practice in a pain-free manner, Jones determined that he was ready to return to the lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Mets at Citi Field. The veteran third baseman hyperextended his right elbow in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Phillies and was forced to miss Monday night's series opener, which the Braves also won, 8-3.

Jones was still feeling some slight discomfort while throwing the ball across the infield. However, this could be a product of the tendinitis that he says he's been battling throughout the season.

While winning five of their past six games entering Tuesday, the Braves have benefited from the returns of Garret Anderson and Brian McCann, who were both activated from the disabled list last week. Tuesday night marked just the seventh time this season that manager Bobby Cox constructed a lineup that included Jones, Anderson and McCann. braves.com

05-13-2009, 12:14 AM
Escobar proving value to Braves
Chipper's praise backed up by shortstop's performance

NEW YORK -- Amid offseason speculation that the Braves might send Yunel Escobar to the Padres in exchange for Jake Peavy, Chipper Jones said that Escobar has the tools to establish himself as the National League's top shortstop.

Five weeks into his second full Major League season, Escobar is proving why Jones showered him with such praise. With his fourth three-hit performance of the young season on Monday night, Escobar entered Tuesday night's game against the Mets hitting .302 with a .367 and a .431 slugging percentage.

This offensive production only enhances the value Escobar provides on a daily basis with his glove. His latest defensive gem occurred during the first inning of Tuesday night's game against the Mets. After backhanding an Alex Cora grounder along the outfield grass, he showed his arm strength with a pinpoint throw that beat Cora to the first base bag.

"His arm is as strong as anybody out there and his range is as good as anybody else's," Jones said. "Those are the two tools that you need to be considered among the best."

While it's debatable that Escobar has done enough to be considered more valuable than Florida's Hanley Ramirez or any of the NL's other top shortstops, it's clear that Escobar has regained some of the strength that he lost after straining his left shoulder while diving back to first base during a June 24 game against the Brewers last year.

During the 75 games that preceded that injury, Escobar hit .296 with a .372 on-base percentage and .398 slugging percentage. In the 61 games that followed, he hit .277 with a .357 on-base percentage and .405 slugging percentage.

While serving as an offensive catalyst in the second spot of the lineup, Escobar has also proven that he's capable of delivering the much-needed clutch hits on a regular basis. Entering Tuesday, he ranked fourth in the NL with a .457 batting average with runners in scoring position.

"It's not surprising that he's doing that, because you always have the feeling that he can get it done," Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. braves.com

05-13-2009, 02:05 PM
Francoeur given rest in finale
Cox takes opportunity to give right fielder a breather

NEW YORK -- After Tuesday night's 10-inning loss to the Mets, Jeff Francoeur was among the many Braves who were upset that they had squandered yet another impressive effort from Jair Jurrjens. Adding to Francoeur's frustrations was the fact that he'd gone hitless in five at-bats and left seven runners on base -- five during the final three innings.

In the midst of his roughest stretch of the season, Francoeur was given a chance to rest during Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Mets at Citi Field. The 25-year-old right fielder had started each of the previous 33 games the Braves played this year.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to allow Francoeur to essentially rest for two successive days. Thursday's scheduled off-day is the last one the Braves will have until June 1. "He's been going non-stop throughout the offseason and then he played so much during Spring Training," Cox said. "I just wanted give him a chance to rest."

During his first 15 games this year, Francoeur hit .317 with a .795 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). In the 18 games that have followed, he's hit .216 with a .238 on-base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage.

With Francoeur gaining a rare day off, Matt Diaz was given the chance to make his third career start in right field. Diaz's most recent start there had occurred while he was with the Royals on Sept. 27, 2005. During that game, he recorded two hits, including a seventh-inning leadoff homer, off Johan Santana, who was then with the Twins. braves.com

05-13-2009, 06:00 PM
Glavine confident after 'pen session
Veteran lefty throws 37 pitches, simulates game conditions

NEW YORK -- Tom Glavine knows there's a chance that he might start to encounter more shoulder discomfort as he continues to increase his effort level while throwing off the mound. But as the 43-year-old left-hander has steadily moved closer toward returning to the Atlanta rotation, he still hasn't experienced a concerning level of discomfort.

Still aiming to pitch in a Major League game before the end of this month, Glavine was pleased with the 37-pitch bullpen session that he completed at Citi Field on Wednesday morning. He attempted to complete this session with the same type of aggression that he would have if he were completing a two-inning Minor League rehab start.

"Based on what I did today, yeah, I could definitely pitch in a game," Glavine said. "It's just a question of am I better off trying to continue building arm strength in a controlled atmosphere vs. going and pitching in a rehab game."

Glavine will attempt to keep himself on a regular five-day schedule that would put him in line to pitch again on Monday. With Triple-A Gwinnett and Class A Rome both playing outside of the Atlanta area early next week, Glavine will likely choose to complete a simulated game at Turner Field instead of traveling somewhere to complete a three-inning Minor League rehab start.

Glavine's optimism grew last Friday, when he impressed both himself and the Braves' coaching staff with the arm strength he possessed during a 90-pitch bullpen session.

During Wednesday's bullpen session, Glavine attempted to further increase his effort level while simulating game conditions. He warmed up like he was prepping for a normal start and then sat down after throwing his first 15 pitches with game-like effort.

"I don't feel like I have to stay below any effort level to avoid any pain," Glavine said. "I feel like I'm letting the ball out as free and easy as I can. It's coming out good and it doesn't hurt. It's just a matter of how much more arm strength or velocity I'm able to get out of it."

While Glavine knows that he's not going to generate a fastball that reaches much higher than 81 mph, he has been pleased with his location and the feedback Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez has provided after standing in as a stationary hitter during the past two bullpen sessions.

"With Eddie, he's caught and faced me enough that he's a pretty good judge of what my spin and my speeds are right now," Glavine said. "I think he felt good about spins on my breaking balls, but more importantly about the speed differential between my fastball and changeup." braves.com

05-14-2009, 09:47 PM
Schafer benefitting from Cox's patience
Manager's approach has helped several Braves mature

ATLANTA -- Long before they started knocking on Cooperstown's front door, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones and John Smoltz all endured some of the same initiation struggles that Braves rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer has encountered during the first six weeks of his Major League career.

Like Schafer, they all benefitted from the direction of the patient managerial direction of Bobby Cox, who has cleared his own path toward Cooperstown by providing all of his players, both young and old, every reason to believe that they have what it takes to be a successful Major Leaguer.

"You know that Bobby is going to be fair, bottom line," Glavine said. "As a player, I don't care if you're a young kid struggling to get your feet on the ground or a veteran guy struggling at a particular time, he's going to be patient with you."

When Glavine carries his 300-plus wins into the Hall of Fame, he'll be able to reminisce about how much he progressed after going 6-17 with a 5.43 ERA during his first 34 career starts.

Through the first 34 games of his blossoming career, Schafer has compiled a .214 batting average, collected a National League-high 44 strikeouts and gone more than a month since collecting the most recent of his three RBIs.

But blessed with great range and a strong arm, the 22-year-old defensive phenom has seen Cox place him in the starting lineup during each of the first 34 games the Braves have played this year.

"He could have easily taken me out and said, 'Sit out today and relax,'" Schafer said. "It means the world to me that he keeps throwing me out there, because I'd much rather figure it out on the field."

Provided more viable options than the Braves, the Marlins have already sent their struggling rookie center fielder, Cameron Maybin, back to the Minors.

With Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick now on the disabled list, Colby Rasmus will find himself playing on an everyday basis for the Cardinals, who introduced him to the Majors by allowing him to split time with the other members of the talented outfield cast during this season's first month.

With Cox providing the direction in Atlanta, Schafer has hit .172 (16-for-114) during his past 29 games and come to the realization he'll continue to find himself in the lineup as long as he continues to make great defensive contributions and shows a willingness to learn from the offensive struggles that he was destined to encounter.

"I'm not going to play a guy for five games and then if they don't hit, send them back," Cox said. "That's silly. Shafe brings a lot to the table defensively. He catches everything. He's going to hit. He'll learn."

Schafer displayed his strong, accurate arm with a throw that retired David Wright at the plate to end Tuesday night's seventh inning against the Mets. Then long before Wednesday's 12-inning series finale was captured by the Braves, the athletic outfielder raced through Citi Field's spacious outfield and grabbed Ryan Church's long drive before running into the wall.

"Once you play yourself into Bobby's lineup, you've got to play yourself out," Jones said. "Schafer has shown some good signs offensively the past few games. More importantly, he's played tremendous defense. I think that's what Bobby's concerned with right now. [Schafer's] saving a lot of runs and making a lot of great plays defensively. Anything we get out of him offensively is a bonus."

While hitting .262 with seven homers and 24 RBIs through the first 34 games of his first full Major League season, Jones didn't have much reason to worry about the possibility of not playing on an everyday basis.

But with 28 strikeouts during that span, Jones at least got a small taste of the struggles that Schafer is currently encountering. This has at least provided him some background while attempting to help the young outfielder make the necessary adjustments during the early portion of his big league career.

Physically, Schafer has been bothered by a sore left wrist since April 10. Mechanically, he was admittedly affected by the fact that he hit each of his two homers during the season's first three games.

Homering in his first career at-bat against the Phillies in front of a nationally televised audience on April 5 provided a lasting memory. Going deep again three days later led to the development of an elongated swing that has steadily been simplified over the course of the past month.

"I know I can hit," Schafer said. "I've had to make adjustments with my swing to the point where I feel like my swing is totally different than it was during the first day of the season. I got lucky with a few hits early. But for the long run, I needed to change my swing in order to be more consistent."

Schafer's initiation to the Majors provides a different atmosphere than the one Glavine and Smoltz encountered when they joined the woeful Atlanta teams that existed during the late 1980's. Serving as the club's general manager at the time, Cox watched those future Cy Young Award winners take their lumps with the likes of Steve Avery and Kent Mercker.

Both Smoltz and Glavine would start to materialize during the 1989 and '90 seasons. But when Cox began the first full season of his current managerial tenure in 1991, Smoltz went 2-11 with a 5.16 ERA during his first 18 starts.

Under the direction of Cox's patient watch, Smoltz proceeded to go 12-2 with a 2.63 ERA during his final 18 starts. Then during four postseason starts, which culminated with his epic World Series Game 7 showdown with Jack Morris, he went 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA.

"[Cox] is going to be encouraging, trying to get you back on track," Glavine said. "As a player, you can't ask for anything more than that. The worst thing you could have as a player is to be struggling every day and wondering if [the club] is going to do something. With Bobby, you don't have to worry about it."

When Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson started his career with one hit in his first 30 at-bats, he found himself trying to right himself by talking about the art of hitting with Jones and former Braves second baseman Marcus Giles.

Having heard part of this conversation, Cox pulled Johnson aside a few days later and simply told him that the hits would start to fall as long as he continued to use the same swing and approach that was present during his Minor League days.

Along with this verbal confidence boost, Cox gave Johnson even more reason to believe in himself by continuing to place him in the lineup on a regular basis. Immediately following that rough stretch of 30 at-bats, Johnson hit .417 with three homers and 11 RBIs over the next six games and was named the National League Player of the Week.

"Anybody who comes up here, I don't care how good you are, you're going to hit a bump in the road during the first two or three years," Glavine said. "If you're a young guy trying to get your feet underneath you, I can't think of too many better guys to do it under. Bobby is going to be patient. He's going to give you opportunities." braves.com

05-17-2009, 02:50 PM
Gonzalez struggling to handle lefties
Braves closer has yet to regain effectiveness after surgery

ATLANTA -- Braves closer Mike Gonzalez described the pitch as a slider that didn't slide. As professional hitters are prone to do, Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew made the pitcher pay for his mistake, launching a game-tying home run in the top of the ninth to spoil Javier Vazquez's bid for his first home win on Friday night at Turner Field.

Fortunately, Atlanta's offense was able to battle back in the bottom of the ninth and pick up the closer with a 4-3 victory. However, Drew's blast was the latest installment in a somewhat troubling trend for the left-handed hurler.

Before undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in May 2007, Gonzalez had surrendered just two home runs to left-handed hitters in 203 career at-bats. Since returning from the surgery last season, Gonzalez has allowed six homers in 46 at-bats against lefties. Lefties have hit .283 (13-for-46) off Gonzalez since the surgery, an increase from the .213 average lefties have against him in his career.

For Gonzalez, the increase in homers is no cause for alarm, because he's still in the midst of the long recovery process that follows such a major surgery.

"I'm in the process of getting back to where I need to be," Gonzalez said. "It's one of those things where some days you have it, and some days you don't. You can't tell much in the bullpen, so you have to make adjustments off of the hitters."

The recovery time for Tommy John surgery is typically around a year. Gonzalez is approaching the two-year anniversary of his surgery and is without any sort of pain when pitching. He is throwing strikes and getting good velocity, but is still having trouble locating pitches exactly where he wants to.

"I feel good," Gonzalez said. "Every outing is good, velocity-wise. I'm getting more consistent with my location. I would rather give up a home run than walk people."

Gonzalez's optimism about his health and performance so far is slightly tempered by the frustration of not being to close out wins for his teammates. Before Friday's blown save, he blew a save for Jair Jurrjens on May 13 against the Mets after Jurrjens tossed 7 2/3 innings.

"The main thing for me right now is that I realize things like that will happen to me every once in a while," Gonzalez said. "I understand that. The frustrating part for me is that [Jurrjens] went out and did his thing in New York and [Vazquez] hadn't gotten a win at home. They pitched really well."

One particular issue for Gonzalez has been his ability to throw his slider effectively. The pitch is normally a devastating weapon against lefties, but Gonzalez has had issues getting the movement and location he wants out of the pitch. The slider to Drew hung up and out over the plate, making it much easier to hit.

"It was one pitch," Gonzalez said. "I wish I could take that pitch back. I know that when my slider is on, they're not going to hit it. That's just the truth of the matter. It doesn't matter which left-handed hitter is in the box." braves.com

05-17-2009, 03:22 PM
Braves outfield prospect is part rocket scientist

From the time he was 5 years old, Brian Barton looked up at the stars and saw a place he would like to go.

To him and his brother, a balled up piece of aluminum foil could be a baseball, and someday he would play in the major leagues.

His dreams should have been snuffed out by nightly sounds of gunfire, police helicopters and voices that perpetuate stereotypes among boys in the ‘hood: “You’ll never amount to anything.” But Barton wouldn’t let them.

He wanted to be an astronaut. And even more than that, he wanted to play in the majors.

What seems extraordinary about Barton — a minor-league outfielder whom the Braves acquired in a trade last month for reliever Blaine Boyer — is that he managed to pursue both.

Barton, left fielder for the Gwinnett Braves, made it to the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals last season as a backup outfielder. He is also a semester shy of a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Miami.

But to leave it there, at rocket scientist and right-handed bat, is only scratching the surface. Barton goes deeper than that.

Last summer, during his first full season in the major leagues, he read 17 books. He recently finished off the 900-page “Roots” by Alex Haley. Barton travels every offseason, usually alone, to get to know other cultures. He has visited 12 countries so far and wants to reach them all.

The childhood dreams of getting out into the world evolved into adult dreams. Now he wants to change the world.

“I know I can’t change the world by myself,” Barton said. “But I feel like in changing other people’s lives, the effect becomes exponential.”

Barton wants others to follow his trajectory, out of the low-income, low-expectation world and into things they’re passionate about doing.

It’s a message he passes on when he speaks to elementary school students, in private conservations with friends and family back home, or in the book he’s writing.

“What happens in a lot of families, especially in the inner cities, we’re not being taught to grow,” Barton said. “We were being taught to be content with the life we were in, instead of searching for more, actually taking risks, and doing all the things we wanted to do. I’ve talked to so many people who say ‘I’m fine staying in LA. L.A. is home to me.’ And sometimes I wonder if it’s just because it’s not in them or it’s because nobody ever told them that they could do more.”

Something in Barton always told him he could do more.

He had the support of two parents — a mother who works in the payroll department of a local grocery store, a father in security — who understood that education was key to a new life. He had an older brother, who set out with the same goal of getting a college scholarship, so their parents wouldn’t have to pay.

And he had friends, who even if in gangs, respected that he was paving his own way.

“I remember some of the guys are like ‘I’m proud of you, you made it,’ ” said Barton, recalling the start of his minor-league career with the Cleveland Indians. “And I’m like ‘I’m just in the minor leagues.’ They’re like ‘Nah, you made it.’ “

Barton made his own breaks. He and his brother Derard used their cousins’ address to enroll at Westchester High School, which had an aerospace magnet program and an impressive list of sports alumni, including NFL linebacker Ken Norton Jr.

Barton earned a Boeing internship, which gave him summer jobs in satellite production and paid for four years of college. He spent his freshman season on the baseball team at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles before transferring to Miami — a baseball powerhouse, where he joined the team as a walk-on.

He had to make his own way into professional baseball, too. Barton went undrafted out of Miami, when scouts assumed his priority was aerospace engineering and working for Boeing.

He went to the Cape Cod league, where college players can prove they can hit with wood bats. The Indians signed him late that summer of 2004 for a $100,000 bonus and another $100,000 in college funds. He hit .317 in three years in their minor-league system before the Indians left him unprotected on their roster, concerned about a knee injury.

The Cardinals then took Barton in the Rule 5 draft. They had to keep him on their major-league roster all season or send him back to the Indians.

So on Opening Day last year, Barton realized his dream of making the major leagues. He rode the warning track at Busch Stadium in the back of a convertible, mother and girlfriend in the stands, filming the pre-game ceremony with his camcorder.

He hit .268 in 82 games. And he came to an interesting realization.

“When I actually made it to the big leagues, I realized it wasn’t it,” Barton said. “I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy doing it, but I realized that baseball is just another big door that just opened another whole world to me.”

When his baseball career is over, Barton plans to finish his degree at Miami. Then maybe he’ll start his own aerospace business or design a car. He wants to learn five languages and continue his travels.ajc

05-18-2009, 10:24 PM
Simulated game goes well for Glavine
Braves starter hit by liner, but feels no discomfort in shoulder

ATLANTA -- While facing live hitters for the first time in nearly a month, Tom Glavine didn't experience any concerning discomfort with his troublesome left shoulder. But his three-inning simulated game staged at Turner Field on Monday afternoon still left him with a bruise that prompted laughter throughout the Braves' clubhouse.

After throwing a misplaced cutter that hung over the middle of the plate, Glavine was stung on the left hip with a line drive off Greg Norton's bat. While the impact will likely leave a noticeable bruise, it didn't prevent the 43-year-old left-hander from completing his outing.

"I told Norton that I've gotten hit a lot harder with slap shots," said Glavine, a former hockey phenom who was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round of the 1984 NHL Draft.

As soon as it was apparent that Glavine wasn't fazed by the liner, Norton and a handful of his teammates shared some laughs behind the batting cage.

"If I was fast enough, I'd have run and caught that ball before it hit him," said Norton, while remembering that he also hit former Braves pitchers Kent Mercker and Mike Hampton with comebackers during simulated games.

As long as his shoulder is still cooperating, Glavine plans to throw three or four innings during a Minor League rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. While he once said that he'd like to return to the Atlanta rotation before the end of this month, he now knows that he's going to need at least two rehab starts.

"I probably need a couple based on the way I felt today," Glavine said. "It's a big difference when you get hitters in there."

It was the first time that Glavine had faced hitters since feeling a strain in his left shoulder during an April 12 rehab start with Double-A Mississippi. The near-perfect location that he'd produced during bullpen sessions in Philadelphia and New York over the course of the previous 10 days wasn't as apparent.

Without the benefit of a radar gun, Glavine could only surmise that the velocity of his fastball was sitting around the 80-mph mark that he routinely hit during Spring Training. But at the same time, he was once again encouraged by the fact that the baseball seemed to leave his hand easier than it had in March, when he referred to his shoulder discomfort as "crankiness."

"I wasn't inhibited while throwing any of my pitches," Glavine said.

Glavine's early exit from his April 12 rehab start came after he felt a strain during a swing. He says that he'll be "ultra conservative" if he needs to swing the bat during Saturday's game with Gwinnett. braves.com

05-18-2009, 10:50 PM
Hudson making progress toward return

Tim Hudson’s rehabilitation from elbow reconstruction surgery is going so well that it’s hard to wipe the smile off his face.

Hudson is throwing at 150 feet and expects to be back on the mound for bullpen sessions next week when the Braves are in San Francisco.

Braves pitcher Tim Hudson is expected to be back on the mound for bullpen sessions next week.

“It’s feeling phenomenal,” Hudson said. “I feel like I could go out there and get people out.”

Hudson threw some bullpen sessions in spring training but took a few weeks off in April — a break that was built in to his rehab schedule — before building back up arm strength by throwing long toss.

He will throw fastballs exclusively when he first gets on the mound, then gradually work in changeups, breaking balls and split-fingers.

He will also have to work on not pushing too hard, a natural urge given how he feels as good as he is.

Recovery from “Tommy John” surgery typically takes 12-18 months and Hudson appears on target for a 12-month return. The anniversary of his surgery is Aug. 8.

“Maybe even before the end of August, but definitely August,” said manager Bobby Cox, factoring in time to rebuild Hudson’s arm strength through a minor league rehabilitation assignment.ajc

05-19-2009, 10:37 PM
Glavine family raising adopted newborn
Chance meeting leads to baby boy joining pitcher's clan

ATLANTA -- As Tom Glavine nears the end of his playing career, he finds himself anxiously accepting the responsibilities that he and his wife, Chris, have accepted by welcoming an adopted newborn to their family.

Exactly one month into the life of Kienan Patrick Glavine, the 43-year-old Braves pitcher arrived at Turner Field on Tuesday and spoke glowingly about the new son that he gained after his wife had a chance encounter with a pregnant woman, who was attempting to place her child in the care of parents who could provide both love and support.

"We like kids," Glavine said. "There's always something going on at our house. It's fun. I enjoy it. [Chris] enjoys it. In the long run, it will keep us young. It will keep me in the carpool for a long, long time. You can't ever say that I'll be bored."

Already the proud parents of four children, Amber (14), Jonathan (14), Peyton (10) and Mason (8), the Glavines spent the past couple of years discussing the possibility of adopting another child. But they didn't seriously begin positioning themselves for this experience until tending to the legal requirements this past winter.

Still, when Glavine reported to Spring Training during the first week of March, he didn't realize that he was just six weeks shy of adding another child to his family.

One weekend after visiting her husband in Florida, Chris found herself going about her business in Atlanta when she visited a restaurant and just happened to be introduced to an unidentified woman, who was already in the process of talking to adoption agencies.

Unaware of Glavine's storied background, this woman immediately grew comfortable with Chris. A short time later, she informed the Glavines that she wanted them to adopt her child.

"It was a chance encounter," Glavine said. "It's one of those things that makes you believe a little more in divine intervention."

Having been present at Kienan's birth, Glavine understands that this was a tough process for the biological mother. But at the same time, he's confident that he and his wife are capable of providing the care and direction that this woman wanted her son to experience.

"We'd like to think we're going to provide him with something special," Glavine said. "It's been great for our kids. They love having the little guy around. It's been a good all-around situation for everybody -- except for mom and dad. We're not getting much sleep."

05-22-2009, 01:24 AM
Chipper day-to-day after reinjuring foot
Third baseman aggravated old bunions running out grounder

ATLANTA -- The Braves were able to win a game that Johan Santana started without Chipper Jones in their lineup last week. When they are tested by Roy Halladay during Friday night's series opener against the Blue Jays, they might once again have to battle an ace without the presence of their veteran third baseman.

After Thursday night's 9-0 loss to the Rockies at Turner Field, Jones was walking with a noticeable limp that was a product of the misstep that he took while attempting to beat out a sixth-inning grounder. The 37-year-old veteran believes that he aggravated one of the bunions that caused him regular foot discomfort during the 2004 and '05 seasons.

"I just ran down there like normal, and I guess just short-stepped the bag and just caught it perfect, and it snapped," Jones said. "It's almost like you come down wrong on your ankle, and you hear that pop, and you know that you're going to have a blown-up ankle for a week."

Jones doesn't know how much time he might miss with this ailment that is affecting his right foot.

But he said that he wasn't worried about the possibility that he's suffered an injury similar to the one that sidelined him for six weeks during the 2005 season. That ailment, which followed spurts of discomfort caused by the bunions, was diagnosed as a torn ligament in the second toe of his left foot.

"A lot is going to depend on how I feel tomorrow," Jones said. "I've got swelling on the joint already. We'll just wait to see. It was hurting playing defense the next inning. We'll just have to see how we wake up. I don't know what you can do for it."

After running out the grounder, Jones limped back toward the dugout and then limped onto the field to play defense during the seventh inning. But he exited the blowout when the discomfort didn't subside one inning later. braves.com

05-22-2009, 01:26 AM
Hanson still waiting for first taste
Heralded prospect outduels Tigers' Bonderman

There's not much more Tommy Hanson can do to prove he belongs in the Major Leagues, except wait.

The heralded Braves' pitching prospect continued his dominance in the Minors on Thursday, allowing one hit and striking out nine over six scoreless innings as the Gwinnett Braves cruised to a 7-2 victory over the visiting Toledo Mud Hens.

Hanson (3-3), arguably the second-best pitching prospect in the Minors behind Rays left-hander David Price, went a combined 11-5 with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Double-A Mississippi last year before becoming the first pitcher ever to be named the Arizona Fall League's Most Valuable Player.

Despite his dominance throughout 2008, Hanson was denied a spot in the Braves' starting rotation out of Spring Training, and he has watched other notable prospects make the jump to Atlanta ahead of him.

"I feel like it's one of those things I have no control over, so I'm not going to worry about it," Hanson said. "This is where I'm pitching, so I just need to go out and keep doing what I'm doing. When the time comes, they'll let me know."

The 22-year-old Oklahoman has not let the situation derail his performance on the mound, as evidenced by his latest gem.

Hanson, who has yielded one earned run or fewer in seven of his first nine starts with Gwinnett, was at it again Thursday. But not before a small scare.

The Riverside Community College product deflected a comebacker off the bat of Jeff Frazier with one out in the opening frame, accounting for Toledo's lone hit of the night against him. After being attended to on the mound, Hanson went right back to work, striking out Brent Clevlen and hitting Mike Hessman with a pitch before getting Don Kelly on an inning-ending groundout.

"I got it in the calf," Hanson revealed. "The right side. It tightened up in between innings, but once the blood started to flow again it was fine. It swelled up pretty good. It got all meat. I think it's just going to bruise up, but it's not going to affect me one bit."

From there, the former 22nd-round pick faced just one batter over the minimum, fanning Clevlen with his 90th and final pitch, 59 of which went for strikes.

Making Hanson's performance even more impressive was that he outdueled Major League veteran Jeremy Bonderman, who is working his way back from a shoulder injury with the Mud Hens.

Bonderman and Hanson were locked in a scoreless deadlock before the Braves roughed up the Tigers' right-hander for five runs -- three earned -- in the bottom of the sixth.

Just last week, the Braves were in need of a starter for their rotation after Jo-Jo Reyes was sent to the bullpen due to ineffectiveness. But rather than going with Hanson, the organization chose his Gwinnett teammate Kris Medlen, who surrendered five runs on three hits and five walks with three strikeouts over only three innings in his big league debut Thursday against Colorado.

"Kris is one of my good friends, so I was excited for him," Hanson said. "I don't expect anything. I'll just be ready when they call. I'd like to be up there as soon as possible."

The Braves did indicate that if they had needed a starter for the remainder of the season, Hanson would have been the choice. But with 300-game winner Tom Glavine trying to work his way back from a shoulder injury, Medlen provided a better short-term solution.

The organization would prefer Hanson to continue with his development until they have a full-time slot for him. But that doesn't make waiting any easier, especially considering Hanson's dominance at Triple-A thus far.

Through nine starts for Gwinnett, Hanson boasts a 1.51 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 15 walks in 53 2/3 innings. He tossed seven scoreless frames of two-hit ball against Lehigh Valley on Saturday and has not allowed a run since giving up a season high-tying three to Durham on May 10.

"[Making the Majors] has been the goal from Day 1," Hanson said. "But if I keep doing what I'm doing, when they need somebody I feel confident. When that day comes, I'm definitely going to be excited." braves.com

05-23-2009, 12:50 PM
Chipper sits; Braves make bullpen move

The Braves had to make do again Friday night without Chipper Jones, whose sprained big toe kept him out of the lineup for the series opener against Toronto and ace Roy Halladay.

The 37-year-old third baseman doubted he would return to the lineup before Sunday and a glance at his banged-up right foot indicated even that projection might have been optimistic.

There was severe bruising around a bunion protruding inward from his big toe, where the injury “bled out” overnight.

“It’s black and blue,” manager Bobby Cox said. “Probably going to be a day or two. It’s too bad. We’re in interleague [play] now and we need Chipper.”

Utility infielder Martin Prado started at third base in Jones spot.

Jones got hurt when he short-stepped first base running out a grounder in the sixth inning Thursday. The toe hit against the base.

It might have been a harmless misstep for most players, but not the oft-injured star with the problematic feet.

“I’ve got bad dogs to begin with,” said Jones, who has dealt with aches and injuries related to bunions on both feet for years.

He had a ligament injury in his left foot kept him on the disabled list for six weeks in 2005.

Jones said this toe sprain didn’t feel anything like that injury and he didn’t anticipate being out long. He said he could pinch-hit Friday, but didn’t know if he could run if he hit the ball.

“It was tender to the touch,” he said. “I couldn’t put a dress shoe on today.”

He has missed eight starts, seven for injuries — a bruised thumb, sore elbow and now the toe. Before Friday, the Braves were 2-5 in starts he missed.

Facing Halladay under any circumstances can be difficult, but doing it without Jones seemed particularly daunting for the Braves.

“The guy’s as good as it gets,” Jones said of the right-hander. “If it was the seventh of the World Series, it’s probably a flip of the coin who I would want — him or Johan Santana.”

When the Braves faced the Mets’ Santana on May 11, Jones missed the game with a sore elbow.

The Braves made a bullpen swap of right-handers Friday, sending James Parr to Gwinnett and recalling Manny Acosta. Parr gave up a grand slam to Todd Helton on Thursday after inheriting a bases-loaded situation from rookie starter Kris Medlen.

Cox said he needed a fresh arm in the bullpen after Parr pitched four innings following Medlen’s fourth-inning exit.

Acosta, 28, was 1-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 15 appearances for Gwinnett, with 18 strikeouts in 22 innings.

Cox said he had not yet decided whether Medlen, who gave up three hits, five runs and five walks in three-plus innings Thursday, would pitch Tuesday against San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum, or if someone else would get the start for the Braves.

Cox wants to see how Medlen does in a side session Saturday in the bullpen, to see if he can pinpoint what caused his severe loss of control in the fourth inning Thursday.

Parr pitched 12 scoreless innings in his first two major league starts in 2008. In 11 games (three starts) since, he has a 7.77 ERA and .355 opponents’ average, with 39 hits (five homers) and 11 walks allowed in 24-1/3 innings.

Infante injury update

Utility infielder Omar Infante had what was termed successful surgery Friday to repair the fracture in his left hand. A plate was inserted over the break of the fifth metacarpal. No time frame was announced for his return, but Cox said previously that Infante was expected to miss at least 6-8 weeks.AJC

so circles gets to see Acosta in the pen.

05-23-2009, 12:59 PM
chipper passes art of hitting to younger teammates

from one end of the visiting clubhouse of the florida marlins to the other, chipper jones made the call:


that was his cue to rookie center fielder jordan schafer that it was time to go to work.

Soon, jones and schafer were perched in front of a laptop, watching video, first of jones’ at-bats from the braves’ previous series against the mets.

“see my head is still?” jones said, pointing at a side view of his stance, one of three angles they could see play out on the screen at once. “that (ball) is a centimeter from being gone.”

then they pulled up film of schafer, who had struck out three times in three consecutive games before striking out once the night before against the mets.

“this is a little more about staying inside the ball,” said jones, pointing. “at that point, right there. It’s like you’re coming just a hair underneath, instead of keeping your hands up a little higher.”

schafer asked if he should start his hands up high, prompting jones to lean back in his chair, throw his hands back, kick his front leg out, and go into a demonstration of his swing.

It’s a swing that won jones the national league batting title last year and has carried him to a career .310 batting average. It also makes him a tremendous resource to teammates.

“kid” could have been a number of teammates in recent years, such as jeff francoeur, kelly johnson, brian mccann, or matt diaz. Jones has become a de facto hitting coach of sorts.

“i love teaching what i know about hitting,” jones said. “and there’s nothing more gratifying to me than to sit down with a kid or mac or kelly and have them apply it during the course of a game and get results out of it.”

for diaz, that happened in philadelphia in 2006, his first year in atlanta.

He’d been up and down in kansas city the year before and was hitting only .200 (6-for-30) so far as a brave. He struck up a conversation with jones in the dugout, asking how he kept from rolling over pitches and grounding out.

They went in the batting cage the next day. That night diaz tripled on a line drive up the middle. He got hits in eight of his next 11 at-bats, including a 5-for-5 game in florida. He hit .476 for the month of may and .327 for the year.

Diaz had problems keeping his back foot planted, and jones had given him a constructive way to think about changing it.

“i’ve heard it said many times, keep your back leg on the ground, but just the verbiage he used,” diaz said. “he said, ‘just try to think keep your back leg bent through the whole swing.’ for some reason, that locked.”

jones grew up learning the verbiage from his father, larry wayne jones sr., who coached at stetson university in deland, fla.

These days, jones is a chip off the old block for more than just his looks.

“what i try and give these guys is an extension of everything my dad taught me,” said jones, who also credits his braves hitting coaches. “everything that terry (pendleton) and don baylor and merv rettenmund and clarence jones have all taught me through the years. Sometimes it comes across better from a player better than it does from a coach or an instructor. I think that my track record gives me instant credibility, and i love it when those guys come to me and want to talk hitting.”

what makes it work is the mutual respect between jones and hitting coach terry pendleton.

Jones gets pendleton to go with him into the cage with schafer. And pendleton gives jones the freedom to take charge.

“i don’t mind because chipper may see something that i didn’t pick up with one of the guys,” pendleton said. “i don’t profess to know everything, and these kids can probably teach me something out here at different times.”

pendleton said jones kids that when pendleton is a manager some day, jones will be his hitting coach. Pendleton isn’t sure how serious he is.

But he is.

Jones sees helping now as part of his duty as a teammate. But he can visualize being a hitting coach some day.

“i don’t think there’s any doubt that at some point i would like to,” jones said. “everybody always asks me ‘do you want to manage?’ i never want to manage in the big leagues, but i wouldn’t mind being a hitting instructor.”ajc

05-24-2009, 01:54 AM
Glavine pleased with rehab outing
Veteran says shoulder feels good after three-inning start

Tom Glavine completed a three-inning rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday, allowing three earned runs on five hits, including a home run. Glavine threw 33 of his 56 pitches for strikes, walking one hitter and striking out another.

After pitching two scoreless innings, Glavine ran into trouble in the third. He retired the first hitter of the inning then issued a walk to Jeff Frazier. Wilkin Ramirez tripled in Frazier and was followed by a Ryan Roberson home run. Glavine escaped the inning without further damage.

Glavine underwent surgery last August to repair the flexor tendon in his pitching elbow and clear some debris out of his left shoulder. Since then, the elbow hasn't given him any problems. However, he aggravated the shoulder on April 12 while taking a swing during a rehab assignment at Double-A Mississippi. The veteran had been scheduled to make his first start for Atlanta on April 18.

Glavine will pitch again for Gwinnett on Thursday, when the club hosts Indianapolis, and on June 2 at Double-A Rome. Despite the runs in the third, Glavine was pleased with the outing. The radar gun at Gwinnett Stadium had his fastball clocked around 85 mph. Whether or not that reading was accurate, Glavine was encouraged by the strength he felt in his shoulder. In Spring Training, his fastball stayed in the low 80s.

"I was real happy with my stuff," Glavine said. "It's the best that I've had. My location was off, but everything felt good."braves.com

05-24-2009, 05:50 PM
Rookie makes adjustments, ready for next start Tuesday

ATLANTA -- Kris Medlen has been ready to put Thursday night's fourth inning behind him since ... well, since he left the game with the bases loaded and none out in the inning.

Sunday afternoon's bullpen session should allow him to do that.

Medlen threw a normal session prior to the start of the Braves' series finale with the Blue Jays and came out of it ready to move forward.

"I think it was all internal, mental-type stuff. Today I made some adjustments," Medlen said.

He then added with a laugh: "And I definitely would not like to talk about the other day ever again."

Just to recap one last time, Medlen got through the first three innings of his Major League debut against the Rockies allowing only one run on two hits, walking three and getting through a 1-2-3 third. But suddenly, the 23-year-old missed the strike zone with 15 of his next 18 pitches.

The rookie described it as "the wheels falling off." Braves manager Bobby Cox was more concerned with the sudden fall-off in velocity.

"I didn't know if his arm was bothering him," recalled Cox early Sunday afternoon. "That's what concerned me. His velocity went down really low, and I thought there was something wrong."

After a look at some film, the problem appears to have been straightened out and Medlen expects to be under control again -- the kind of control that saw him walk only 10 batters in 37 2/3 innings, while going 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA at Triple-A Gwinnett.

"When I got in trouble, it was something on the film that I could see," Medlen said. "I was just pulling off, getting out too early -- adrenaline, nerves, whatever you want to call it. [I was] just really anxious just getting out way too early, and my arm wasn't catching up and then I tried to adjust and I was cutting the ball. It was just a snowball effect. Today, it was good, everything was down, everything was located."

With all questions about what happened satisfactorily answered, the next question is what happens next.

That will be a Tuesday night start in San Francisco's AT&T Park against 2008 National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

"That's going to be pretty cool," said Medlen, who expects to have friends and family in both San Francisco and Arizona on the Braves' road trip. "I'm just looking forward to getting back out there and getting back to what I was doing down in Gwinnett, just being successful throwing strikes." braves.com

05-25-2009, 12:06 PM
are hanson & medlen the next smoltz & glavine?
Braves’ pitching prospects lean on each other

for much of the last three years, tommy hanson and kris medlen have shared the same apartment, the same dream and the same marquee as two of the braves brightest pitching prospects.

Their stories are joined at the shoulder, not always a comfortable arrangement.

There was thursday night, for instance.

Even as medlen made his major league debut, a breakthrough turned breakdown, hanson was mowing ‘em down back on the gwinnett farm. Across 30 miles of interstate they still were being measured one against the other.

Medlen, inexplicably losing all sight of the strike zone, walked half as many batters in three innings (five) as he had in two months of triple-a starts. Two pitches were more than wild, they were feral. His night was over with no outs in the fourth, after plunking the colorado pitcher with the bases loaded.

Hanson meanwhile strong-armed the toledo mud hens, giving up one hit and striking out nine in six scoreless innings.

All the while you could almost hear the muttering of those unmoved by the team’s reasoning for calling up medlen first: Why not hanson instead?

Or you could read them on the ajc’s braves blog, just moments after bobby cox took the ball from medlen.

“who else comes up before hanson and chokes?” wrote one particularly impatient contributor.

as general manager frank wren has said, when the braves are sure the spot in the rotation is more than temporary, they will look to hanson. And much of that depends upon tom glavine’s recovery.

Thursday night was sure to add to the hanson groundswell, inevitably at medlen’s expense. But strangely enough, as the two young pitchers deal with the fickle gusts of expectation, one of their biggest assets is the fact they have each other.

Shared vision

first impressions hardly foreshadowed the making of a baseball buddy story.

Hanson and medlen have climbed the same rungs of the same treacherous ladder, sharing the bright lights of danville, va., and pearl, miss., along the way. They’ve pondered together the one great question facing all young males on their own: “what is it tonight, domino’s or papa john’s?”

but back in 2006, as they battled each other in southern california’s orange empire conference, they were at best snarky rivals.

“in junior college, when i first saw him, he wore long, tight pants, had that long hair, i thought he looked lame,” medlen recalled early last week. “like any rivalry, you say, ‘man that guy sucks’ — even if he doesn’t.”

they had grown up within an hour of each other in the los angeles sprawl, but never met until their college days. Medlen, a shortstop/closer at santa ana college, faced hanson, riverside college’s ace, a couple times that ‘06 season. According to various accounts, there was no clear winner.

“you got to give kris a little bit of grief,” hanson said. “i struck him out a couple times. He couldn’t get a hit off me any other way, so he started bunting on me.”

“had to take advantage of the big, slow, non-athletic, red-headed dude,” medlen responded.

signed by the same scout in the same year from the same lower left-hand corner of the country, hanson and medlen were thrown together from the day they reported to rookie camp in orlando. From neighboring lockers, they began a dialogue. It has continued almost non-stop during their rapid ascent through the braves system.

“kris is kind of like another son of mine,” said hanson’s father, tom. “every time we visited and went out with tommy, it was tommy and kris.”

by the time they got to triple-a gwinnett this season, the arrangement was routine. They’d room together — now in an apartment near the new gwinnett stadium. As usual, hanson had a car, medlen would ride shotgun.

Not alike, yet alike

recognized as one of the best prospects in baseball, hanson pretty much vacuums up the publicity. He is the prototype pitcher, 6-foot-6, possessing poise and leverage and statistical backing.

Though medlen actually built some superior numbers at gwinnett this season (5-0, 1.19 era), the comparative weight of their press clippings may never even out.

“he always jokes around, says i get the publicity because i’m tall,” hanson said.

they are nothing alike physically. Medlen, generously listed as 5-10, is the one most likely to get carded, even though at 23 he is a year older. Nor are they on the same personality page. “tommy is kind of a quiet, mellow kid,” said medlen’s father, ray. “kristopher is to a point, but can go to the other side of the line, according to the situation.”

off the field, they still are sharing a simple, if not exactly monastic, existence. Only last week, when the braves called him up and faced the commute to atlanta, did medlen rent a car. The two didn’t even have a tv in their apartment until medlen’s girlfriend recently gave them an older model. Next step, cable.

It is generally conceded that medlen is the sloppier of the two, the one least concerned with appearances. Hanson, he jokes, is “the pretty boy who cares more what people think.”

you have to look a little deeper for the similarities that are the roots of their friendship.

They are both sons of the working class — medlen’s father a truck driver for fedex, hanson’s a retired iron worker who helped build california’s famous freeways. They both have inherited from them a certain seriousness of purpose.

“both of them are so zoned in on pitching and want to do so well,” said hanson’s father. “it has really helped being close the way they are.”

a ‘glavine-smoltz’ thing?

no matter how the pressures of making it to the majors — and sticking — may pull at them, they have been good for each other. They have been feeding their mutual ambition almost from the day they signed. And maybe even more so now.

“it’s cool talking baseball, we both feel like we can compete up there,” hanson said. “i’ve always wanted to pitch in the big leagues, but always felt like it was far away. Now … i feel like it’s really close. I feel like i could pitch there right now.

“that’s the weird thing, saying, ‘yeah, man, we could definitely do that, we could definitely pitch in the big leagues and get guys out.’ “

their final place in baseball is undetermined. Hanson is still the hot prospect in the wings. There are musings that medlen, a reliever for much of his career before blossoming as a starter, may be fated for the bullpen.

Anything is still possible. Anything.

“they have spent a lot of time together,” said medlen’s santa ana college coach, don sneddon. “they really know each other. Maybe it could be a glavine-smoltz kind of thing. I’m sure the braves are looking for something like that.”

bottom line: “we see each other pitching in the big leagues,” medlen said.

And that single shared vision is all that matters now.ajc

05-28-2009, 01:36 AM
April rest paying off for Hudson
Righty reports feeling 'awesome' after bullpen sessions

SAN FRANCISCO -- While throwing moderated short bullpen sessions the past two days, Tim Hudson has grown even more excited about the arm strength that he gained while resting throughout the month of April.

Throwing with an effort level that he approximated as a little more than 50 percent, Hudson completed a 15-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and a 20-pitch session Wednesday. His current schedule has him targeted to throw 75 pitches off the mound next week.

"It felt awesome," Hudson said. "I wasn't feeling this good when I was throwing bullpens and stuff like that before the surgery. That tells me that whatever was in there has been fixed."

Hudson's right elbow was repaired via the Tommy John ligament-transplant surgery that he underwent on Aug. 8. Based on the progress that he's realized since interrupting his rehab process by not throwing in April, the 33-year-old right-hander still believes that he'll be pitching in a Major League game in August.

Whether he returns during the early or latter portion of August depends on whether the Braves want him to return as a starter or a reliever. All current indications are that the former 20-game winner will be placed back in the rotation when he proves healthy enough to resume pitching.

Within the next couple of weeks, the Braves are expected to promote Tommy Hanson. But while there's a chance that Kris Medlen won't keep his rotation spot for Sunday's scheduled start, Hanson likely won't be utilized in his place.

If the Braves choose to go with somebody other than Medlen, the more likely choice might be Charlie Morton, who is 6-2 with a 2.91 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A Gwinnett this year. braves.com

05-28-2009, 01:38 AM
Braves play waiting game with Escobar
Team reluctant to put shortstop on DL with strained hip flexor

SAN FRANCISCO -- With Omar Infante sidelined until after the All-Star break, the Braves aren't in a position where they could comfortably place Yunel Escobar on the 15-day disabled list.

Escobar's strained right hip flexor has caused him to miss five straight starts and the Braves have been encouraged that he's at least shown some improvement. But if he's not healthy enough to return to action in a few days, they may have to take a longer look at their limited options at the shortstop position.

While Escobar has been able to take batting practice the past three days, the Braves have seen him show some hesitance with his swings. In addition, he still hasn't shown the kind of lateral movement that would suggest he'd be able to provide satisfactory agility while playing shortstop.

"He's getting better," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "But honestly, I don't know when he can go. We can go a few more days without him."

With Escobar unavailable, the right-handed lineup the Braves utilized against Randy Johnson and the Giants on Wednesday night at AT&T Park featured Diory Hernandez as the leadoff hitter. Hernandez, who was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett last week, entered the game with three hits in his first 16 career at-bats.

Infante, who broke his left hand last week, began this season as a super-utility player who was regarded as the primary backup option at shortstop. If the Braves are in a pinch, they could utilize Martin Prado at the shortstop position.

But if Escobar is forced to go on the disabled list, the Braves have limited resources to promote from their Minor League system.

Since Hernandez was promoted, Gwinnett has been utilizing Brooks Conrad at the shortstop position. Before this past week, the only 18 games he'd played at that position occurred last year, when he was with Oakland's Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento.

Conrad isn't currently on the 40-man roster. braves.com

05-28-2009, 08:48 PM
Glavine pleased with latest rehab start
Left-hander could return to Braves as soon as Tuesday

Tom Glavine threw well and felt good physically after his five-inning rehab stint for Triple-A Gwinnett, and he could pitch for Atlanta as soon as Tuesday against the Cubs.

The 43-year-old is coming back from an August surgery that repaired the flexor tendon in his pitching elbow and cleared debris from the same shoulder. His elbow has been fine since the surgery, but he aggravated the shoulder in April while swinging the bat and hasn't pitched for Atlanta this season.

Glavine threw 41 of his 67 pitches for strikes, allowing six hits while striking out two and walking one in five scoreless innings against Indianapolis. Although his location was spotty at times, Glavine said he was thrilled with his stuff, especially his velocity. His fastball was typically around 83 MPH, but he threw as hard as 86 in certain situations.

"If I'm seeing 83, 84 and occasionally 86, that's where I want to be," Glavine said. "It's just a matter of getting my location to where I want it to be. The big thing for me now with my strength getting back to where I need it to be is I have to fight muscling up the ball a little bit. That's not my style of pitching."

After leaving far too many pitches over the plate on Saturday, Glavine's location was better on Thursday. He consistently attacked the inside corner against right-handed hitters and kept the ball down in the zone throughout his first four innings.

After cruising through the first four innings with little trouble, Glavine ran into a bit of trouble in the fifth when he gave up a leadoff double that hit off the top of the wall in left-center to Indians catcher Erik Kratz. He followed the double with a four-pitch walk to Brian Bixler, but induced a double play to end the threat.

"The last two innings, I was trying to make sure I kept my velocity where it was and test it a little bit to make sure I wasn't losing anything," Glavine said. "The good thing about today was when I got into some jams I made some decent pitches and the guys turned some good double plays behind me."

The big question for Glavine now is not when he will pitch next, but where. He could throw another rehab start on Tuesday, probably for Double-A Rome. He expects a call from Braves general manager Frank Wren or manager Bobby Cox either Thursday or Friday to discuss his next outing.

"In my mind, I certainly think it wouldn't hurt me to go out there one more time and work on my mechanics a little bit and try to get my location back," Glavine said. "On the other hand, with my velocity where it is right now, I would certainly feel good about pitching in the big leagues."

Glavine didn't swing the bat on Thursday, so it's unclear how his shoulder would react to hitting. He sacrifice bunted in his first at-bat and struck out without swinging in his second at-bat. After his outing, he said he wasn't worried about hitting and felt he could swing the bat if needed.

Despite his desire to return to his Atlanta teammates as soon as possible, Glavine isn't going to rush his return. He plans on evaluating his shoulder on Friday, then playing catch on Saturday. After a bullpen session on Sunday, he should have a much better idea of where he is both physically and location-wise.

"The sooner I get back to the big leagues the better," Glavine said. "At the same time, I want to go back when I'm ready to go back. I'm not 100 percent thrilled with my location right now, but I'm 100 percent thrilled with my stuff." braves.com

05-31-2009, 10:46 PM
Kotchman could miss a few games
Braves first baseman suffers shin contusion after hit by pitch

PHOENIX -- Braves first baseman Casey Kotchman could miss a few games with a contusion of his right shin, the result of being hit by a pitch from D-backs right-hander Max Scherzer during the course of Sunday's 9-3 Atlanta victory at Chase Field.

"Kotchman could miss three or four days," Braves manager Bobby Cox said after the game. "Right now he can't even walk on it."

The Braves open a 10-game homestand against the Cubs at Turner Field on Tuesday night.

Scherzer had already faced five batters in the fourth and had allowed four runs, including a three-run Garret Anderson homer, when Kotchman came to the plate. The pitch hit the lefty-swinging Kotchman in the lower right leg and he collapsed at home plate where he was attended to by the Atlanta medical staff.

Ultimately, Kotchman was helped off the field and into the trainers room. X-rays performed at the ballpark were deemed negative, showing that there was no fracture or chip of the bone.

"I didn't know if he got hit in the knee cap or not, but it was below the knee cap," Cox said. "It's still bothering him. He needs help, walking around."

Kotchman is a .277 hitter with two homers and 24 RBIs and has played in all 50 of Atlanta's games. His 16 doubles leads the team and is third in the National League behind Houston's Miguel Tejada (19)and Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez (18). For the Braves, he was the centerpiece in the three-player trade last July 29 that sent Mark Teixeira to the Angels. braves.com

that is just peachy.