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Thread: Braves News

  1. #166
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    A good read on how what mark bradley says about our rotation.

  2. #167
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    Notes: Andruw not making excuses
    Braves center fielder enduring tough season at the plate




    ATLANTA - While Andruw Jones continues to contend the career-low offensive numbers he's produced this season aren't a product of him stressing about his future in Atlanta, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton understands how this may have been a problem throughout this year.
    One year before coming to the Braves to enjoy his 1991 National League MVP season, Pendleton endured the worst season of his career. As he looks back on that '90 campaign, he knows he was undone by the stress created by the fact that he knew he was in his final season with the Cardinals, who had drafted and developed him into a big leaguer.

    "After that last game that season, I remember that walk up that tunnel being longer than ever before," Pendleton said. "That was the only organization that I knew. I don't know how [Jones] feels. But I remember how tough it was."

    When Jones looks at his .222 batting average and the fact that he may not hit 30 homers or eclipse 100 RBIs, he's not making any excuses. The veteran center fielder has battled soreness in his knees and the discomfort that has been present since he hyperextended his left elbow on May 27.

    At the same time, he's never been able to escape the possibility that this will be his final season in Atlanta. Even with these disappointing statistics, his agent Scott Boras is confident that he'll land the nine-time Gold Glover and five-time All-Star a highly lucrative contract on the free-agent market. The asking price in terms of both dollars and longevity might prove far steeper than the Braves are willing to offer.

    "I'm just struggling," Jones said. "I'm not going to make excuses about the injuries that I had. I just didn't play on a high level."

    Jones' fifth-inning, three-run homer in Monday's win over the Marlins provided him his first home run since Aug. 22 (20 games) and his first three-RBI performance since July 19 (50 games). This isn't the type of drought one would expect from a 30-year-old athlete, who produced career-best totals in homers (51) and RBIs (128) just two years ago.

    But even with all of his struggles, Monday's homer -- his 25th of the season -- also allowed Jones to join a select group. According to SABR's David Vincent, he's just the 14th player in Major League history to register 10 consecutive seasons with at least 25 homers.

    Jones believes a strong finish over the final two weeks of the season will enhance his stock on the free-agent market. It certainly didn't hurt Carlos Beltran to flourish in the 2004 postseason after hitting just .246 in the final 84 games that he played with the Astros that year.

    Boras parlayed that stellar October into a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets. He'll be hoping to land Jones a similar contract when this offseason arrives.

    "If you go out and hit three home runs in the last game, people are going to remember that even if you hit .220," Jones said. "You just want to stay positive. Anything can happen."

    One for Skip: After reaching first base with his fifth-inning single on Monday, John Smoltz pointed toward the press box in the direction of legendary broadcaster Skip Caray, who has been battling some health problems that caused him to be hospitalized earlier this month.

    When Caray returned to work on Monday, Smoltz told his longtime friend that he'd dedicate a base hit to him.

    "I said the remedy for him would be a base hit," a playful Smoltz said. "He thought it would help his metabolism if I got a base hit."
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

  3. #168
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    The main Pro Sports Daily page talking about the players Carlos Guillen would move from shortstop for... Edgar's apparently on his list.

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    Notes: Francoeur displays discipline
    More patient approach helps Braves right fielder raise average




    ATLANTA -- As the regular season heads into its final week and the Braves' postseason hopes grow dimmer, Jeff Francoeur knows that at least one goal will likely go unfulfilled. But from a personal standpoint, he's already lived up to his promise to prove his critics wrong.
    "A lot of people just thought I'd be a .260 hitter all my life," Francoeur said. "Last year, I was just 22 [years old]. I was kind of like, 'Let me make some adjustments and let me learn the game a little bit.'"

    When Francoeur hit .260 with a .293 on-base percentage, 29 home runs and 103 RBIs last season, many simply assumed that he would remain a free swinger who had the power to occasionally hurt opposing pitchers.

    Francoeur admits that rush to judgment bothered him and motivated him to make the adjustments that have allowed him to become a more complete offensive threat this year. Entering Saturday, the 23-year-old right fielder was hitting .292 with a .337 on-base percentage, 17 homers and 101 RBIs.

    "I didn't think he was able to make some of the adjustments that he's made -- not in one year," veteran right-hander John Smoltz said. "He's only going to get better. He's only going to get stronger. He's got a bright future."

    Francoeur's significant improvement can be attributed to his enhanced sense of patience at the plate. Entering this season, he had drawn just 34 walks in 960 career plate appearances. In 665 plate appearances this year, he has drawn 40 walks, and 20 of those have come in the 288 plate appearances that he's totaled since the All-Star break.

    "I think the thing I'm most excited about is the fact that I was able to, for the most part, change pitchers' mindsets about what kind of hitter I am," Francoeur said. "They still know I'm an aggressive hitter, but I think they respect the fact that I'm willing to go to right field, take my walks and be a better hitter."


    While becoming a more consistent offensive threat, Francoeur has also continued to prove that he has one of the game's best outfield arms. During the eighth inning of Friday night's loss to the Brewers, Francoeur registered his National League-best 19th outfield assist, moving to within one of the Braves record that Andruw Jones set in 1998.

    Minor Leaguers honored: Before Saturday afternoon's game against the Brewers, the Braves honored the Players and Pitchers of the Year from each of their Minor League affiliates. While on the field during batting practice, many of the Minor Leaguers gained a better sense of what it would be like if they realize their dreams of being a Major Leaguer.

    "It makes me realize that I feel like I should be here," Triple-A Richmond Player of the Year Brent Lillibridge said. "I feel like you get a visual image of where you're supposed to be. Hopefully, next year, I can come in and do whatever it takes to be here."

    Lillibridge, whose athleticism allows him to be a candidate as an infielder and outfielder, hit .287 with 10 homers and 28 stolen bases in the 87 games he played after being promoted to Richmond in June. The 24-year-old shortstop, who was acquired from the Pirates in the Adam LaRoche trade in January, battled discomfort in his left wrist during the final few weeks of the regular season.

    After Richmond's season concluded on Tuesday, Lillibridge received a cortisone shot that he hopes will provide the relief needed for him to play in this year's Arizona Fall League.

    Below is a list of the organization's Players and Pitchers of the Year:

    Triple-A Richmond: Manny Acosta (Pitcher) and Lillibridge (Player)
    Double-A Mississippi: Joey Devine (Pitcher) and Brandon Jones (Player)
    High-A Myrtle Beach: Sung Ki Jung (Pitcher) and Jordan Schafer (Player)
    Class A Rome: Tommy Hanson (Pitcher) and Cole Flowers (Player)
    Rookie Level Danville: Jeff Locke (Pitcher) and Cody Johnson (Player)
    Gulf Coast League:
    Eric Barrett (Pitcher) and Samuel Sine (Player)
    Dominican Summer League: Dimasther Delgado (Pitcher) and Anthony Feliz (Player)

    Braves bits: MLB officials will listen to Rafael Soriano's appeal on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Soriano is appealing a four-game suspension he was given after hitting Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla with a pitch on Monday. ... The Braves awarded grants totaling $98,250 to a number of Atlanta-area non-profit organizations before Saturday's game.
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

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    Notes: Devine makes positive step
    Reliever shows promise by escaping jam against Brewers




    ATLANTA -- When the Braves took Joey Devine with their first selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, some wondered if he'd be Atlanta's closer by the end of that same year.
    Unfortunately, by the time that season concluded, there was only reason to wonder if Devine's introduction to Major League Baseball had left mental scars that would never heal.

    Since becoming the only pitcher to surrender grand slams in his first two big league appearances and ending the 2005 season with the pitch that he threw Houston's Chris Burke in the 18th inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Devine has verbally expressed confidence.

    But it wasn't until he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the 11th inning of Saturday's win over the Brewers that Devine truly showed the Braves and himself that he can be an asset in those pressure situations that any reliever is going to encounter.

    "It was fun getting out of that situation," said Devine, whose escape act earned him his first career Major League victory. "I had a blast doing it."

    When Devine fell behind with a 3-0 count to Damian Miller, it looked like he might add another chapter to his frustrating career. But the right-handed reliever, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Wednesday, battled back and got Miller to end the inning with a lazy infield pop fly.

    "It's a different game and the ability to throw quality strikes in certain situations is of the utmost importance," Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "It's a learning process for any young pitcher. The more you learn and the more positive steps that you have will determine how quickly you have success."

    Based simply on his stuff, Devine certainly had what it took to make the Major League roster out of Spring Training. But knowing what he'd endured when he was fast-tracked to Atlanta in 2005 and that injuries had basically ruined his 2006 season, the Braves wanted him to spend most of this season finding success at the Minor League level.

    While he made a number of brief trips to Atlanta, Devine took advantage of this opportunity to enhance his confidence in the Minors. In 50 combined appearances with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Richmond, he posted a 1.89 ERA, limited opponents to a .202 batting average and registered 20 saves.

    "It was important for him to have some success and some continued success," McDowell said. "Every positive step is a building block for the next step. The next step is to have another good outing."

    Pleasantly surprised: When Octavio Dotel took the mound in the 10th inning of Saturday's game with the bases loaded and two outs, he didn't know what to expect. It was his first appearance since Aug. 7, and the veteran right-hander wasn't sure what to expect from his previously strained right shoulder.

    But while registering an inning-ending strikeout of Geoff Jenkins, Dotel was pleased to produce fastballs that were clocked at 93 and 94 mph.

    "I was surprised with the velocity that I had," said Dotel, who'd made just five previous appearances for the Braves since being acquired from Kansas City at the trade deadline.

    With his recent health concerns and a $5.5 million option for next year, there's a good chance Dotel won't return to Atlanta next year. Thus, he feels it's necessary for him to make a positive impression during the final week in order to show other teams that he's healthy.

    Wanting to return: Before hitting his game-tying homer with two outs in Saturday's 10th inning, Scott Thorman had become a forgotten member of the Braves' roster. His early-season disappointments eventually led Atlanta to acquire Mark Teixeira at the trade deadline.

    Thorman hasn't started at first base since July 26 and with Teixeira returning to Atlanta, he would find himself in the same position next year. But the 25-year-old Canadian first baseman says he wants to remain with the Braves.

    "All I can say is that I want to be here," said Thorman, who has hit just .202 since the beginning of May.

    Thorman, whose homer on Saturday was his first since July 29, will play with Brandon Jones in the Mexican Winter League this year. Having compiled just 49 plate appearances since the All-Star break, he has to make up for lost time.
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

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    Mailbag: Will Renteria be back in '08?
    Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions




    How many years does Edgar Renteria have on his contract? Do you think the Braves would trade him even though Bobby Cox likes him so much?
    --Justin G., Abbeville, SC



    Obviously there are some players -- Bob Wickman and John Rocker come to mind -- who will write their own ticket out of town. But you've got to remember a player isn't traded simply because the manager or the organization has grown to dislike them.

    Most are simply traded because they have a contract and talents desired by another organization that would be able to compensate their trade partner with a piece that improves their roster. Renteria is well aware of this business reality and that is why he's spent the past few months wondering if this will be his final season in Atlanta.

    Renteria's contract includes a $9 million salary for next year and an $11 million option for the 2009 season. When the Red Sox traded Renteria to the Braves, they agreed to pay $11 million of the $29 million remaining on the final three guaranteed years of his contract. In addition, they're responsible for the $3 million buyout for the option in 2009.

    Break this down and it's determined that the Braves or whoever owns Renteria's services next year is responsible for just $6 million. This is obviously a bargain for an All-Star caliber, veteran shortstop who has lived up to expectations of being a great teammate.

    When the Braves begin searching for starting pitching on the trade market this winter, many teams are going to be asking about Renteria. Because of Yunel Escobar's emergence this year, the Braves would be in position to use the veteran shortstop in an attempt to fill their biggest need.

    Renteria's value to the Braves was certainly realized while he missed more than a month after spraining his right ankle on Aug. 2. But because they have depth at the middle infield positions, they are certainly in position to utilize him in their attempt to add a proven veteran starter to their rotation.

    Some might wonder why the Braves wouldn't just trade the oft-injured Chipper Jones and move Escobar to third base. While this move would nearly double the savings that would be realized by trading Renteria, it's one that's not going to be made.

    Jones has full trade veto privileges and when healthy is undoubtedly one of the game's finest offensive performers.

    There's no doubt that Jones infuriated many when he missed the three-game series against the Mets two weeks ago with a sore right oblique and then returned at the end of the same week for the start of a three-game series in Washington D.C.

    I'll admit I was among those who wondered how an oblique that usually requires a few weeks of rest could miraculously heal in just a matter of three or four days. In fact, I just figured he should go ahead and sit the rest of the season after not being able to contribute to such a crucial series.

    But I've since come to wonder, what would he have gained by simply missing those three games? The only thing he subjected himself to was further health-related scrutiny. Although he did the same thing by missing the final two games of this weekend's series against the Padres with a sore oblique, Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday won't be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny.

    Because he has missed so much time over the course of the past three seasons, Jones has become an easy target. But at the same time, until I walk in his shoes and experience the physical rigors of playing on an everyday basis, I have to remind myself that I'm not in position to question his manhood.




    What does the Braves bullpen look like for next year?
    -- Matt I., Waverly, Va.


    Much better than it has heading into any offseason in recent memory. Rafael Soriano will return as the closer and Mike Gonzalez will hopefully be healthy enough to return in June. Throw in the fact that Peter Moylan has legitimized himself as a lethal reliever and this bullpen certainly has the makings for success next year.

    Manny Acosta has certainly earned Cox's favor and at times Tyler Yates has proven to be a highly reliable reliever. If Joey Devine builds upon the Minor League success he realized this year and Royce Ring continues to be an effective left-handed specialist this could prove to be a special group.

    What is the chance that the Braves will sign both Matt Diaz and Jeff Francoeur to long term contracts this offseason?
    -- Chancey C., Mableton, Ga.


    Diaz is going to have go the natural route and wait at least one more year before getting rich through arbitration. Such might be the case for Francoeur if he's not able to reach agreement on a deal that would provide him financial security and save the Braves some money during his arbitration-eligible years.

    When the Braves locked Brian McCann up this past offseason, they were hoping to do the same with Francoeur. Now that he's proven that his game consists of both power and consistency, his asking price might be even higher. At the same time, this might be enough for the Braves to feel confident in giving him the dollars that he seeks.
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

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    Notes: Teixeira enjoying being a Brave
    First baseman had a great two months after coming to Atlanta


    ATLANTA -- As the regular season came to a close, Mark Teixeira shared a sense of disappointment with his Braves teammates. But at the same time, the switch-hitting first baseman also expressed that he'd just experienced the most enjoyable two months of his young and still-blossoming career.
    "This has been the best two months of my career from an enjoyment standpoint," Teixeira said. "We didn't make the playoffs this year. But I'm so proud of this team. This team has so much talent and we're going to be in a great position next year. Instead of looking at all the negatives, I look at all the positives. That's why I'm very optimistic."

    When the Braves acquired Teixeira from the Rangers at the July 31 trade deadline, there was an overwhelming sense of optimism. The expectation was that they'd gained the piece that would deliver them to at least two postseason runs and quite possibly the World Series.

    While the expectations from the team's perspective went unfulfilled, it's safe to say Teixeira exceeded any and all of the tremendous expectations from a personal standpoint. Simply looking at the fact that he hit .317 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs in just 54 games with the Braves is impressive. But it only provides a glimpse of why it can be argued that he was the best cleanup hitter in the Majors during the season's final two months.

    Teixeira's Major League-best 56 RBIs in the final two months were a product of him seemingly taking advantage of every run-producing opportunity. The .509 (27-for-53) batting average he compiled with runners in scoring position ranked second in the Majors after July.

    But the .620 on-base percentage and 1.057 slugging percentage he registered in this situation during this span both stood as the best marks in the Majors by a significant margin.

    The next-best on-base percentage compiled under these parameters was the .576 mark produced by Milwaukee's Prince Fielder. The second-best slugging percentage with RISP, during this span, was the .839 mark compiled by Alex Rodriguez. The National League's runner-up in this category was Rick Ankiel with an .818 mark.

    "We've got him for one [more] year for sure and we'll do everything we can to re-sign him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's not only a good hitter. He's a great defensive player and he's a great guy. He's a true professional ballplayer who is really organized and knows how to play the game. You want to keep guys like that if possible. It's not always possible."

    With Teixeira's agent Scott Boras already making it known his client's longevity in Atlanta could hinge on whether the Braves end their policy of never granting no-trade clauses, there's obviously a possibility the powerful first baseman might leave the Braves via free agency at the end of the 2008 season.

    But as long as he's around, the Braves will have legitimate reason to believe they'll return to the postseason. When Teixeira thanked John Schuerholz and told him how much he'd enjoyed these past two months, the Braves general manager reminded him that he hadn't yet experienced ultimate jubilation.

    "I told him, wait until you have somebody pour champagne on your head," Schuerholz said. "That is really fun."
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

    I can't wait to see what Tex can do a full year in ATL
    "Some people live an entire lifetime wondering if they've made a difference in the world, Marines don't have that problem." ~ President Ronald Regan

  9. #174
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    Financial outlook: The Braves haven't revealed where next year's payroll will stand. Chairman and team president Terry McGuirk has provided assurance that it won't drop and hinted that this year's attendance increase could have a positive effect on next year's budget.

    What is known is the reality that many players are going to enjoy salary raises next year. As an arbitration-eligible player, Teixeira could gain a salary in the $13 million neighborhood.

    John Smoltz's salary jumps from $8 million to $14 million. Tim Hudson's back-loaded contract calls for his salary to rise from $6 million to $13 million.

    Simply looking at these three players provides a better picture of why the Braves chose not to even enter into contractual negotiations with Andruw Jones.

    The Braves' other notable arbitration-eligible players are Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Tyler Yates, Lance Cormier, Oscar Villarreal, Willie Harris and Matt Diaz. Some of these guys will be granted raises and others may be non-tendered because it's deemed their price exceeds their value.

    Diaz gains arbitration-eligible status because he is a Super Two, which means he ranks among the top 17 percent in total service in the class of players who have at least two but fewer than three years of Major League service. There's a chance Kelly Johnson will also fall into this category.
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
    "Some people live an entire lifetime wondering if they've made a difference in the world, Marines don't have that problem." ~ President Ronald Regan

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    Mailbag: Will Glavine return to Atlanta?
    Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
    Now that Tom Glavine has chosen not to exercise his contract option with the Mets, what are the chances that the Braves might sign him?
    -- Tyler B., Hendersonville, Tenn.
    It's obvious that Glavine wants to be reunited with the Braves and that the Braves certainly would benefit from his return to their organization. What remains to be seen is whether the Braves will be able to create the payroll flexibility that would allow them to take whatever discount Glavine is willing to offer.

    Glavine's willingness to decline the $13 million option the Mets didn't come as a surprise to anybody who understands his desire to finish his career in Atlanta. As great as he's been, no other team is going to provide him this kind of free-agent offer.

    Then again, if he truly was simply looking for top dollar through free agency, he wouldn't have erased leverage power during both of these past two offseasons by making it known that he'd only play for the Braves or Mets. Now that he's captured his 300th career victory, his other option would be to return to Atlanta to begin enjoying retirement life with his wife and children.

    My guess is that those final two weeks of this regular season combined with the disastrous start he made on the season's final day erased any desire to return to the Mets next year. In addition, the fact that he retired just one of the final nine batters he faced during that season finale will only fuel his competitive desire and lead him to decide he wants to continue pitching.

    Some have said Glavine would've pitched for the Braves for $6 million last year. Given that he signed with the Mets for $7.5 million plus a $3 million buyout, this seems to be a good estimate and provides reason to believe he might be willing to pitch in Atlanta next year at a cost of around $7-8 million.

    With John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Mark Teixeira all set to receive raises that combined outweigh the funds saved by cutting ties with Andruw Jones, the Braves may have to make another significant move. With Edgar Renteria, they have a trade piece that could garner them a talented young starter and at the same time provide some financial relief. The Braves owe Renteria $6 million next year.

    When evaluating whether it's wise to sign Glavine, the Braves will look at the fact that during his final three starts, he totaled 10 1/3 innings, surrendered 25 hits and was charged with 17 earned runs. At the same time they'll look at the 10 starts that preceded these struggles, during which he went 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA. He completed 200 innings and his 23 quality starts ranked fifth in the National League.

    All numbers aside, this also just seems like the right thing to do. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Smoltz-Glavine friendship that began when Cox, who was then the Braves GM, first put them in the same Atlanta starting rotation.

    If next year is Cox's final one in his historic managerial career, then wouldn't it be fitting for him to at least enjoy one more ride with both Glavine and Smoltz? It would create great storylines and possibly increase attendance. But most important, it would significantly upgrade the rotation and make the Braves a legitimate postseason contender.

    How is Mike Hampton doing with his rehab? And does he fit into the Braves' plans for next season?
    -- Terry W., Ocean Springs, Miss.

    While Hampton is certainly in the Braves' plans for next year, he can currently only be viewed as a possible bonus. Two elbow surgeries have prevented him from pitching since he made 12 starts in 2005. Nobody is saying he's forgotten how to pitch. But at the same time, it doesn't take a medical genius to realize there's a chance the elbow could be a problem next year.

    While he's been throwing off the mound for the past few weeks, he won't begin truly pushing himself until the end of this month. If he feels he's ready to pitch at that time, he'll either look to play in a Winter League or simulate game activity against collegiate players.

    For now, the Braves can't project Hampton to fill any of the first three spots of their rotation. They hope his competitive desire allows for a successful return. But for now, his future is simply an uncertainty.


    Do the Braves have the services of Willie Harris for next year?
    -- Matt I., Waverly, Va.

    Because he's an arbitration-eligible player, the Braves have a choice to tender Harris a contract. The fact that he hit .204 and compiled a .297 on-base percentage in his final 71 games with the Braves certainly clouds his return to Atlanta.

    Harris' struggles during the season's final three months were certainly unfortunate. His success in May and June made for a nice feel-good story. In addition, the Cairo, Ga., native, who always dreamed of playing for the Braves, remained a popular clubhouse figure throughout the season.

    But if the left-handed Brandon Jones is ready for the Majors, the Braves may choose to utilize him in the same left-field platoon role that Harris served with Matt Diaz this past season.

    With the exit of Andruw Jones, what is the chance of a long-term player, like a Carl Crawford, being brought in instead of a bridge player, like a Mike Cameron?

    With Jordan Schafer on the horizon, the Braves will likely look to find what you term to be a bridge player. With Cameron being a Georgia native who has told friends and relatives that he'd like to play for the Braves, he's certainly a good candidate to fill this role.

    Although he owns a .251 career batting average and hit just .242 with the Padres this past season, Cameron may still request more than a one-year deal with an option and attractive buyout clause.

    If the Braves are looking for a one-year solution to give Schafer another year to develop his skills in the Minors, their best option might be via a trade for somebody eligible for free agency at the end of the 2008 season. Jacque Jones, who is owed $5 million next year, is an example of somebody who would fall into this category. Of course, he also falls into the category of guys who hit 27 homers in 2006 and just five in 2007.

    Whatever the case, the Braves are very high on Schafer and hopeful that he'll be ready to play in Atlanta during the 2009 season. But the 21-year-old athletic outfielder still has plenty to learn and prove. He is playing in the Arizona Fall League, and next year will be his first above the Class A level.

    Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
    http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/a...=.jsp&c_id=atl

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    Johnson optimistic about right knee
    Second baseman held out of lineup, but expects quick return



    ATLANTA -- Kelly Johnson's strained right knee kept him out of Wednesday night's lineup against the Pirates. But the Braves second baseman believes he could return within the next two days.
    Johnson was forced to exit Monday night's home opener in the fourth inning. He has been battling discomfort in his knee over the course of the past year and believes that he aggravated it while running the bases, or possibly when sliding to catch a grounder.

    "We'll give him a day off and see if we can get it to calm down," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The good thing is we can use him anytime we want as a pinch-hitter."

    In Johnson's absence on Wednesday, Martin Prado served as the leadoff hitter and second baseman.

    Johnson described the discomfort by saying that it felt like somebody had stabbed his knee with a knife. Last year, when he felt similar pain, he was always able to bounce back quickly.

    But over the past few weeks, Johnson has been bothered by the discomfort for longer stretches. An MRI taken in January revealed no structural damage.
    Atlanta Braves.com

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    Johnson unable to shake sore knee
    Second baseman hoping to avoid trip to 15-day disabled list



    ATLANTA -- Kelly Johnson's frustration is growing, and he's starting to wonder what it will take for the pain in his right knee to disappear. For more than a year, he's had discomfort and no indication of the cause.
    Before missing his second straight start in Thursday night's series finale against the Pirates at Turner Field, Johnson said that he was hoping to avoid the disabled list. But at the same time, he knows missing the next two weeks could be better than being bothered by the knee throughout a second straight season.

    "I don't want to [go on the disabled list]," Johnson said. "I'd love to completely avoid it. But you'd rather miss a handful of games now instead of constantly missing games here and there throughout season.

    "Maybe the answer is rest. But I had a lot of rest when the [2007] season ended."

    When Johnson returned home at the conclusion of last season, he thought the offseason would provide some relief to the knee. But as Spring Training progressed this year, he continued to be bothered by a pain that he's describe by saying "feels like a knife in my knee."

    Johnson had an MRI on the knee in January and again on Tuesday. With both of these tests, no structural damage was found.

    Braves manager Bobby Cox indicated that he might be able to put Johnson back in the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Mets. But if this isn't possible, Cox can at least feel good about filling these voids with Martin Prado, who capably handled his responsibilities as the second baseman and leadoff hitter during Wednesday night's win over the Pirates.

    Along with providing with a first-inning leadoff triple and scoring three runs, Prado also made a nifty turn during a pivotal sixth-inning double play. Cox was impressed with the way the 24-year-old second baseman was able to quickly avoid an oncoming slide and make a pinpoint throw to first base.

    "He's definitely a Major League player," Braves center fielder Mark Kotsay said. "He's put in his time at every level and proven that he can hit. He's accepted his role professionally and he's doing a good job."

    Despite hitting an even .300 in five Minor League seasons, Prado is often a forgotten figure. But during the occasional appearances he's made in the Majors the past two seasons, he's built his cast of supporters.

    "I'm so glad he's on this team," Chipper Jones said after Wednesday night's game. "He can help this team win a lot of ballgames, whatever his role may be."

    Hearing such things from an established veteran like Jones will only help Prado, who admits he put too much pressure on himself to stick on the Major League roster last year. Consequently, he says he didn't enjoy playing the game like he should have while playing for Triple-A Richmond.

    Even though he made the Opening Day roster this year as a utility player, Prado says he's still not satisfied and feels he's still putting some unnecessary pressure on himself. But at the same time, he's getting a sense that others are understanding the benefit he can bring in the Majors.

    "Whenever I get a chance to play, Bobby is putting me in there," Prado said. "So I'm getting confidence from the entire team and the manager. It definitely feels good right now."
    atlanta braves.com

    KJ on the disabled list? peachy, we need KJ bat.

  13. #178
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    Cox knew risks of switch on Thursday
    Manager moved pitcher Resop to outfield momentarily




    ATLANTA -- Back when Adam LaRoche was playing for the Braves, there were a couple of occasions when he nearly got a chance to move from his normal first-base position to the pitcher's mound.
    While it's rare to see a position player given a chance to pitch, it's even rarer to see a pitcher temporarily playing the part of a position player. But that's what happened at Turner Field on Thursday night, when Braves manager Bobby Cox needed a 10th-inning solution against the left-handed hitting LaRoche.

    Cox opted to move Chris Resop to left field while left-handed specialist Royce Ring recorded a strikeout of LaRoche. Then with the right-handed Xavier Nady coming to the plate, an unsuspecting Resop was brought back to the mound to finish the inning he had started.

    "I didn't know I was going back on the mound," said Resop, who was stunned when Gregor Blanco, on his way to assume his position in left field, provided him with his pitcher's glove.

    According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marked the first time since 1990 that a pitcher began an inning on the mound, moved to a position and then ended the inning as the pitcher. In 1993, Seattle's Jeff Nelson began an inning as a pitcher, moved to the outfield and then began the next inning back on the mound.

    But not since then had such a switch been made. This didn't come as a complete surprise to Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, who estimates he did something like this four times in his career.

    "There's always going to be some scrutiny involved," said McDowell, while pointing out a pitcher could easily get injured or botch a ball in the outfield.

    Knowing the risks, McDowell reminded Cox that Resop began his career as a position player. At the same time, the veteran skipper knew any ball LaRoche hit against the light throwing Ring would be pulled to the right side.

    In addition, Cox was giving Peter Moylan the night off and didn't have any more available relievers. Had he not given up the winning hit to Nady, Resop was going to pitch until the game was complete.

    "If it went 18 innings, he had to go another eight [innings]," Cox said. "That's just the way it was."
    Atlanta Braves.com

  14. #179
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    Hampton won't let setback deter him
    Left-hander receives encouragement from others in the game




    ATLANTA -- Physically, Mike Hampton believes he'll soon be healthy enough to finally make his return to the mound. Emotionally, it might take a while for him to cure the wounds that were created when he wasn't able to make his much-anticipated start on Thursday night at Turner Field.
    Instead of going home late on Thursday to celebrate with his father, brother and other friends who had come to town, Hampton returned home to experience a relatively sleepless night. It was impossible for him to erase the fact that he was within 10 minutes of making what would have been his first start since Aug. 19, 2005.

    Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was in the bullpen on Thursday, when Hampton threw one of his warmup pitches and felt a painful twinge in his left pectoral muscle. Immediately, McDowell could sense the devastation being felt by the 35-year-old southpaw, who has missed the past two seasons recovering from separate elbow surgeries.

    "It was like Christmas Day got cancelled," McDowell said.

    In the final year of his eight-year, $121 million contract, Hampton has become the target of ridicule from fans and media members who are frustrated by the fact that he's virtually been injured for three straight years. Along with a pair of season-preventing elbow surgeries, his health problems during this span have also included his hamstring, groin and back.

    "I wish there was a miracle cure," Hampton said. "But I just want to get this thing taken care of and get it ready. I want to be on the DL [disabled list] the least amount of time as possible and I want to be out there pitching as soon as possible."

    Hampton also still has plenty of supporters, many of whom sent him email and text messages over the past 24 hours. He was most impressed with the words of encouragement he received from former big league pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, who is currently battling colon cancer.

    "[Hampton] feels awful," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Mike is down and you can't blame him. I thought the way he threw in Spring Training that if we scored him runs, he'd win at least 15 or 17 games."

    Hampton has made just 12 starts since the start of the 2005 season and it looks like he'll be waiting at least three more weeks before he makes another one at the Major Leauge level.

    "I honestly don't know how long one of these tears takes to heal," Cox said. "I'm sure it takes a while and then he's going to have to go down [to the Minors] and pitch one ballgame and go six innings or so. So it will probably be at least three weeks before he can pitch up here."

    Hampton felt some discomfort during his side session on Monday, but thought he'd be fine to make his start. When he was unable to go, the Braves had to call upon Jeff Bennett, who had pitched the night before and twice in a span of the previous three nights.

    Bennett's ability to allow just two runs in four innings was praised by Cox, who now also has the ability to call upon Jo-Jo Reyes, who was promoted from Triple-A Richmond on Friday, as a long reliever. Chuck James will likely come off the disabled list to take Hampton's turn in the rotation.
    Atlanta Braves.com

    Same **** here, he is "optimistic" about returning but he is never going to return (I mean seriously this has gone to a whole different level, it is beyond ridiculous now). He is out 3 weeks probably more, and when he comes back he is going to stub his toe putting on his spikes, and he'll be out for the season. Might as well get use to james and jo-jo now.

  15. #180
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    James hadn't left town when Braves recalled him



    Chuck James has said since early March that his shoulder was fine and he was ready to pitch. He'll get his chance now that Mike Hampton is on the disabled list.

    The Braves plan to activate James from the DL to start Wednesday at Colorado in what would have been Hampton's next rotation turn.


    "I feel like I'm ready," said James, who was diagnosed with a slight rotator-cuff tear in his pitching shoulder in October and brought along slowly in spring training. Surgery was not deemed necessary.

    "It's felt fine all spring I haven't had a problem," said James, who pitched six simulated innings (90 pitches) on Tuesday at Class A Rome.

    He has had 11 wins each of his two full seasons in the majors, but last season he also had 10 losses and an alarming 32 homers allowed in 161 1/3 innings.

    The Braves had planned to keep the left-hander in the Class AAA Richmond rotation until they needed a starter. That need arose before James left Atlanta.

    Hampton strained a pectoral (chest) muscle and was scratched minutes before Thursday's game. The Braves called lefty Jo-Jo Reyes for temporary bullpen reinforcement but announced that James would move into Hampton's rotation spot.

    "You hate to get a starting spot for an injury, especially to Hammy," James said. "He's been battling that for so long."

    Provided James is healthy and effective, he'll probably get at least a few starts before Hampton might be healthy enough to try again. But there's obviously a chance that James could stick around for quite a while. Hampton hasn't pitched in a major-league game in 31 1/2 months because of injuries.



    Kelly in lineup

    Cox had two lineups prepared for Friday's game, one with Kelly Johnson at second base and the other with Martin Prado at the position.

    The plan was for Johnson to test his right knee in afternoon batting practice to determine if he was ready after missing two games with recurring soreness.

    Batting practice was rained out, and the lineup distributed to media before the game was postponed had Prado at second base and batting eighth, with Yunel Escobar leading off and Mark Kotsay hitting second.
    AJC

    Yunel Escobar leading off and Mark Kotsay hitting second
    Humm interesting, but I don't like it maybe b/c Esco is raking in his #2 spot, and Kotsay has been struggling.

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