Well, well, well… I’m finally back, just in time for the season to start. I graduate from the University of Tampa next month and I have been caught up in all the pregraduation work. Then I expect to move in July, likely out of my lifelong hometown of Tampa, for graduate school and possible employment. So updates here will likely be even more sporadic than they were last season
Back to baseball, we are just about in full swing. The Braves debut with most other teams on Monday and the Rays host their opener Tuesday night. (The night I happen to have a late can’tmiss class.)
I checked out Braves Spring Training on March 13 when they hosted the Blue Jays. Ricky Romero owned the Braves and Toronto won 30 behind untimely errors against Tim Hudson. The slightlyimproved Champion Stadium looked great as usual, and we sat in the lower level for the first time. I was about four rows behind Frank Wren, right behind the plate. It was a bit hotter than expected due to the concrete and steel, but nothing like it would be today. That didn’t stop me from having chicken noodle soup catered to my seat. It was good too.
After the game we stayed at the Best Western Lakeside (my first night ever in a hotel room all to myself) and ate at Colorado House of Beef. I recommend the Colorado’s Best, a 14ounce centercut portion of New York strip steak. We may go back again next year.
Now on to the regular season. The Rays added both Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac to the Opening Day roster. I like the idea because both men are versatile and did very well this spring. Rodriguez particularly killed the ball. Hopefully Rodriguez carries it over into the regular season and earns some playing time. It seems like Brignac will get most of the second base appearances while Ben Zobrist will play right field. These three should get all the time they can because they are all better than Gabe Kapler. Nothing personal against the Jewish muscleman, he’s just past his prime.
Mike Ekstrom narrowly beat Joaquin Benoit for the final bullpen spot. This surprised me quite a bit; I see Benoit as the better pitcher. But Ekstrom was said to have better fastball command and he didn’t just miss a season injured. So he should hold over in a mopup role until J.P. Howell comes back. I also like Andy Sonnanstine in the long relief spot, and I love former Brave Rafael Soriano as the closer.
The Rays are expected to possibly drop their payroll by $20 million next season. That’s quite sad for this market. As Tom Verducci said, we “failed the litmus test” last year when our attendance only rose by less than 1,000 fans per game. I’m as guilty as all of us, only having gone to two games. In our defense, the economy in this area sucks and only nine teams saw any increase in attendance in 2009 ours was the sixthbest increase. In terms of cutting payroll, if we get Pena, Soriano and Burrell off the books, that’s about $25 million right there. If Crawford decides to unfortunately depart, that’s more than $10 million extra. We could actually sign one or two good players next offseason. Combine that with the rise of Desmond Jennings and other prospects, and we can still contend. Don’t count us out.
I wrote a spring recap/season preview for the Rays for my school newspaper. I basically talk about everybody there, and it would clog a lot of space on this blog, so the link is here.
On to the Braves, their starting rotation looks like the 1990s, chock full of stars: Lowe, Jurrjens, Hanson, Hudson, Kawakami. When Tim Hudson is the fourth starter on an underrated staff, you know you have something special. Tommy Hanson could win a Cy Young Award soon, and so could Jair Jurrjens. If they just keep up the pace and Derek Lowe stays in shape, the Braves could sneak into the postseason.
The talk of Braves camp is Jason Heyward. What an amazing talent. He has rocket power, a great batting eye, good speed and a cannon arm. He can be the next Ken Griffey, Jr., hopefully without the injuries and slowing down. He can make Braves baseball its most exciting since the late 1990s. Now if only Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus can rebound and Nate McLouth starts to hit.
The Yankees and Red Sox begin the season tonight. I’ll be cheering for the weather and the medical staff. Now we wait impatiently for our teams to begin the 2010 season. Every team OK, maybe about 25 out of 30 has hope for a championship. Let’s bring one down south.
Until next time, go Rays and Braves.
Well, for the first time in my second decade of MLBlogging, I’m back. And just as it began in the previous two years, the 2010 Rays season kicked off with FanFest on February 20.
I arrived at around 8:30 at Tropicana Field, much later than that 7:00 arrival last year. The line was still short, maybe just a few dozen people. FOX 13 interviewed the first people who got there (they couldn’t do this last year?), then the doors finally opened around 10:10. It felt good to escape the cold winds, and just as good to escape into center field. I promptly gathered my cards for the autograph lines as I checked the schedule. My brother went out to FanFest for the first time since 2001, so we could double our autograph intake. I noticed that Table 2 featured Desmond Jennings and Dan Johnson at noon, then Carlos Pena at 1:00. I had both Jennings’ and Pena’s cards, so Table 2 it was. My brother headed off to Table 5 with a Matt Joyce card. Table 1 with Evan Longoria was not happening by the time we reached the lines.
So after playing the waiting game, during which time I pulled up several pieces of the field as souvenirs, it was time to approach the tables. Of course, they didn’t start right at noon, which I’m sure angered people in the Longoria and B.J. Upton lines. I had a good spot in line, about halfway up from the end where the line curves around. Plus it just so happened that many of those ahead of me were there to see Pena, while I was comfortable with Jennings. So I jumped ahead and took my shot. I talked to Johnson first, asking him how Japan treated him.
“They treated me well,” Johnson told me. “But I did more work there in two weeks than I did in a year here.”
We also agreed that Japan (where Johnson hit .215 with 24 home runs for Yokohama in 2009) promotes a vastly different culture. After he signed my program and I thanked him for the 2008 home run in Boston, I moved on to Jennings. I didn’t have many words, but he did sign my 2007 Bowman Sterling card. That will be money in the bank many years down the road at least as long as Jennings himself cashes in on his potential.
After eating (expensive) Checkers food in the right field seats, I returned to the field and caught up with Jennings again. This time I visited the Metro PCS Call a Friend booth, where I had Jennings call my dad. They talked for a minute about everything Rays, and it made their days. Well, at least Dad’s.
At 2:00, it was town hall meeting time. This is always one of my favorite events, being able to listen to broadcasters and other notable names discuss the game and the team, plus asking them questions. The first round starred Dewayne Staats and Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts. Roberts may be 83 years old, but his baseball memory remains perfectly clear. Plus he signed my program. A Hall of Famer’s signature is worth every dollar and every minute I spent at FanFest. Anyway, Roberts spent a lot of time on the differences between his era and today, and the dynamics of pitching. I asked him how far he thought baseball went to protect the hitter in today’s game. His first sentence spoke volumes.
“When I started, hitters didn’t even wear helmets.”
Then he made it a point to discuss the controversy over hitters wearing body armor at the plate, which never happened 50 years ago. He told a few more stories, littered with details this guy knows the count on which he gave up a home run in a memorable game in 1954. And, of course, pitch count was a major point of contention. Roberts suggested that a pitcher’s mechanics determine injury risk more than the amount of throwing. He has a point.
After they wrapped up, 3:00 meant time for round two. Radio broadcasters Dave Wills and Andy Freed (whom I had spoken to earlier in the day) made their way up on stage at the Batter’s Eye Restaurant. Joining them was the man who will hopefully turn the Rays’ strikeoutprone, foulbunting woes around: new hitting coach Derek Shelton. His focus is on situational hitting, which I think is essential to any championship team. In discussing this topic, Shelton made a valid argument.
“If Carlos Pena is up with a runner on third base, less than two outs in the eighth inning of a tie game, I want him putting the ball on the ground. If it’s two outs and nobody on base in the same situation, I want him taking his three swings and trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
Shelton’s main points were that it’s not striking out often, but striking out at the wrong times, that kills run production, and that they just needed to play to win the game. He also mentioned his work with most of the team’s hitters during the offseason, notably with B.J. Upton. He says Upton needs to cut down on the “moving parts” in his swing, and his extremely fast hands could do the work. He added that it could take as long as 18 months to recover from the shoulder surgery Upton went through in November 2008, which would explain his epic fail 2009 season. Speaking of which, Pat Burrell is also in shape and ready to hit under Shelton’s guidance.
Shelton answered my question about which young player would break out by explaining Upton’s progress and saying he would be that guy. Dave Wills told me this last year too, so maybe it’s not a lock. My brother asked Shelton about Kelly Shoppach, with whom he worked with the Cleveland Indians. He said Shoppach was “closer to 2008” than his injuryriddled 2009 season. 2008 was when he hit 21 home runs and rendered Victor Martinez nearly irrelevant. He also loves Tropicana Field, a rarity in this league.
That ended my 2010 Rays FanFest on a high note. The autographs were an automatic win for us, and of course talking to these people up close and personally is a rare treat that should always be capitalized upon. The only problems: the people running the show had little sense of timeliness, and there is no possible way to do everything one can do in seven hours. They need to make this a twoday event. Overall, I would say FanFest hit the line between B+ and A.
I will end here by announcing my annual journey to Champion Stadium in Kissimmee to see the Braves. It is happening March 13 when the Braves face the Blue Jays, who I saw there in 2007. Hopefully Jason Heyward gets some playing time. He’s rated the numberone prospect, ahead of Stephen Strasburg, and has already sent shockwaves around Braves camp. Hopefully he and Jennings become the game’s two most dominant outfielders.
Until next time, go Rays.
Two major roster moves have shaken up the Tampa Bay Rays and my other favorite team, the Atlanta Braves.
First, Gregg Zaun signed a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this week. This is unfortunate for the Rays, who hoped to keep him to back up Kelly Shoppach. There is still Shawn Riggans if he returns in good health, or even Dioner Navarro if necessary. The Brewers had virtually no catching game, so Zaun is a good pickup for them. Good luck to Gregg in this endeavor.
Today came the big announcement that the Rays and the Braves had made a big deal. The Braves, who gave the Rays Willy Aybar before the 2008 season, sent closer Rafael Soriano to Tampa Bay for middle reliever Jesse Chavez.
Soriano had just surprisingly accepted arbitration with Atlanta, signing for one year and $6.5$7 million. The Braves recently signed former Red Sox (boo) pitchers Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito for the back end of the bullpen, so Soriano was available on the trading block.
Soriano shared closing duties with Mike Gonzalez in 2009 and posted a 2.97 ERA with 27 saves out of 31 opportunities. He walked 27 hitters along with 102 strikeouts. His closing experience gives the Rays a huge bullpen boost. They could no longer trust J.P. Howell’s onagain, offagain finishing of games. Soriano turns 30 years old on December 19 and thus is in his prime, and while he has been injury prone, he made a careerhigh 77 appearances last year.
Chavez gives the Braves a reliable middle reliever. He was previously acquired by the Rays in the Akinori Iwamura trade with the Pirates. The 26yearold made a teamhigh 73 appearances in 2009, totaling a 4.01 ERA, ballooned by a 5.10 ERA in his final 30 appearances. He can help bolster the front end of an overhauled Atlanta bullpen, the way he would have in Tampa Bay.
Essentially, the Rays dumped Iwamura’s salary and got Soriano through that move, while the Braves kept their bullpen strong and freed up Soriano’s salary to acquire a powerful first baseman or outfielder. Great job by Andrew Friedman and Frank Wren, and best of luck to both Soriano and Chavez.
Until next time, go Rays and Braves.
Hello everyone, it’s time for my one and only AllStar break update. I have to sandwich this between a ThursdaySunday vacation I just took in which I had no Internet access and a flight to San Diego tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. So I’ll do what I can in talking about my teams and their headlines.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously?
- Carlos Pena competed in last night’s Home Run Derby, where he narrowly missed advancement to the second round. Albert Pujols would like to thank the fan who brought an out over the wall and turned it into a home run. Pena had a bad pitcher, Scott McNulty, who threw the ball outside 90% of the time. And he’s an assistant baseball coach at my school. Maybe I should interview him about the experience. I’ll leave out the “bad pitcher” part.
- Speaking of the Home Run Derby, I thought Nelson Cruz, who lost in the finals to Prince Fielder, was quite impressive. Looking at him, I can see that he’s a good allaround player with an easy power swing. I would like to see him go on to big things. He has already shot up from “FourA” journeyman to AllStar.
- Despite my approximately 3,300 votes for Pena, he did not win the Final Vote. I also voted against Shane Victorino because he’s a Phillie, but he won anyway. I would like to thank Dustin Pedroia for opening up a spot for Pena, though I’m surprised Ian Kinsler isn’t there. He should be, he deserves it.
- The Rays stand at 4841, 3.5 games behind the Yankees and six games back of the Red Sox. They have started slowly making their move lately, though the last place Oakland A’s have inexplicably given them a lot of trouble. At least here there was no long losing streak prior to the AllStar break. The Braves are 4345, a half game ahead of the Mets, which is hilarious. I hope the Mets crash and burn for the rest of this season. And beyond.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously? He was sent packing for Ryan Church in Thursday night’s trade, the first between the Braves and Mets in more than 15 years. Francoeur had been on the chopping block for several weeks as the Braves had run out of patience, but I never thought they could send him to the enemy. Church didn’t think he would be a Brave either, but here he is. He’s been the better player since last year, and his lefthanded bat gives the Braves options between him and righthander Matt Diaz. This may be a good deal.
I’ll be watching the AllStar Game tonight as I pack for San Diego. I’ll be staying for six nights at a little family reunion in Escondido. We should be seeing about 30 of our relatives, including a few that I haven’t met. Hopefully we have some baseball fans in the house. News just broke that Evan Longoria, the first ever Rays starter in an AllStar Game, is out due to an infected ring finger. I hate that for him and the team. Good luck to the remaining Rays and Brave in the game tonight, and until I’m back, go Rays.
I’m back! With my class ending early tonight and big news from the Braves (and the Rays, who are beating Kansas City 90 behind Jeff Niemann), I thought it was time.
First, the Braves released future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, who was due a $1 million bonus once he joined the 25man roster. I thought I was reading The Onion when I saw this headline. Are they serious? Do they honestly think that throwing Kris Medlen to the wolves or bringing back JoJo “God, No” Reyes would be acceptable solutions? I know Tommy Hanson is ready, but why make Glavine the sacrificial lamb? He did everything the Braves requested of him and worked like hell to come back. The Braves made his career and they owed him something for all he had done.
And they let him go over one million dollars?
I wasn’t aware that when Liberty Media removed the team’s $80 million spending limit, they were looking to set the bar lower. This move is bogus, and may Glavine prove this team wrong.
Of course, Frank Wren brought back some of the goodwill with his trade for Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth. He was acquired for pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.
McLouth is one of my favorite players thanks to his allaround talents. He can hit for a good average, hit more home runs than the rest of the outfielders combined, steal bases like no other Brave and play a strong center field. And now to have him in Atlanta is a big relief, having seen the struggles of recently demoted Jordan Schafer.
Welcome to Atlanta, Nate. Though you may be out before you get a milion dollars.
The Atlanta Braves soundly defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the opening game of 2009 by a count of 41.
Derek Lowe pitched an absolute masterpiece, going eight innings allowing only two hits and no runs. He only had four strikeouts, but that’s just Lowe being Lowe. He allowed zero walks as well. Mike Gonzalez did allow a run before proving his worth with big strikeouts of Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with the tying run on base.
How about that Jordan Schafer? He came up against Brett Myers and hit a home run in his first Major League atbat! He became the 99th MLB player ever to accomplish this, and the first Brave since the one and only Jermaine Dye back in 1996. Not only did Schafer do it, he hit it to the opposite power alley in left center field. In Citizens Bank Park. It gets no better than that.
Brian McCann and the reformed Jeff Francoeur also hit early bombs in support of Lowe. McCann’s was an absolute cannon shot into the second deck that followed a great atbat from Chipper Jones. Francoeur tagged Myers on the first pitch of the second inning on a line drive into the left field seats. Sure enough, he was spraying the ball around all night.
Now the Rays will march right into Fenway Park and manhandle the Red Sox in similar fashion. That is, if I have anything to say about it. The Braves and Phillies meet again Tuesday night, weather permitting. Until next time, go Rays and Braves.
Today is the big day in baseball… almost. It’s the eve of Opening Night when the Braves
maul face the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. So before it’s too late, here are the probable lineups for our Tampa Bay Rays and my Atlanta Braves for the 2009 season:
1. B.J. Upton, CF Joe Maddon made the surprise announcement today that, upon his return, B.J. will be the Rays’ leadoff hitter. Even though he led the league in times caught stealing in 2008 with 16, he stole 44 bases and walked 97 times. Despite his 134 strikeouts last year, he still sees pitches and can be the guy to let his teammates gauge opposing pitchers. With his power likely to return after labrum surgery, he could be like our Bobby Bonds. Except hopefully he learns to run hard every play. He should be a very good tablesetter.
2. Carl Crawford, LF Crawford is the ultimate baserunner in the game today. Despite injuries slowing him down in 2008, he is back to hopefully steal 50 bases and hit .300 again. (I would also like at least 1015 home runs.) Predicted by Buster Olney to be the MVP of this division, he is ready for a huge comeback season. He and Upton will be running circles around the opposition.
3. Evan Longoria, 3B The 2008 American League Rookie of the Year should have no trouble hitting 30 home runs in season number two. This is a great spot for him to drive in some runs. What he needs to do the most is stay in shape, recognize pitches better and remain wise on the basepaths. His defense really can’t get that much better. We’re looking for some moon shots out of this spot.
4. Carlos Pena, 1B Who better to clean the bases up than Pena? He rebounded from a horrendous start last year to hit 31 home runs, including a few gamewinners. As long as his timing is right, every outfielder better be prepared for some whiplash.
5. Pat Burrell, LF If Carlos can’t do it, then Pat can. Continuing the alternating leftrightleft batting order that will give opposing managers migraines is the powerful Pat Burrell, acquired during the offseason when the Phillies let him go. He, too, can hit about 35 home runs and draw about 100 walks to compensate for a low batting average. The 345 hitters will drive pitchers up walls.
6. Dioner Navarro, C The firsttime All Star was the best contact hitter for the 2008 Rays with a .295 average. Batting behind these guys, he will see good pitches for lacing line drives all over the field. This could be another big RBI spot.
7. Gabe Gross/Gabe Kapler, RF The lawfirm of Gabe & Gabe at your service. Gross will face righthanded pitching, Kapler left handers. Both are good for an occasional home run, and we all know Gross is always a prime candidate to win a game late.
8/9. Akinori Iwamura, 2B The former leadoff hitter will hit eighth against right handers, ninth against left handers. Since June 2007, Iwamura had been doing the little things to set the table for the Rays offense. He was in that spot over Jason Bartlett and Crawford because he sees more pitches (70 walks in 2008 to Bartlett’s 22 and Crawford’s 30), despite not being as good a base stealer and striking out over 100 times every year. If he very slightly improves his batting average, home runs and baserunning at the bottom of the order, as well as keeping up his great defense, I’ll be satisfied. The hitting eighth thing seemed to work well when he played with Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic, so he will be fine here.
9/8. Jason Bartlett, SS Rounding it out is last year’s team MVP. Bartlett rebounded with a .389 August and ended up hitting .286 for the season with 20 stolen bases. Maddon likes speed at the bottom of the order, and I think it’s a big plus. With him hidden down here, there are absolutely zero easy outs in the Rays lineup.
1. Yunel Escobar, SS Here is a guy who can be a big catalyst starting games off. He draws the occasional walk and does not strike out often, and has shown strong contact hitting ability during his first two MLB seasons. He can run, but needs to refine those baserunning skills (2for7 base stealing in 2008). He can at least hit doubledigit home runs, hopefully, bringing a little power to a team that needs it. Escobar is a good wellrounded player and the right choice to lead off.
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B The former leadoff hitter will settle for second now. Johnson is usually good for about 15 home runs and 1015 steals a year, so he is certainly multitalented. He runs up pitch counts too, though he runs into more frequent strikeouts. His tendency to swing at the first pitch occasionally ran him out of that leadoff spot, though he’ll be fine hitting between some very good players.
3. Chipper Jones, 3B No doubt about this one. He won last year’s batting title at an amazing .364. As long as he plays at least the vast majority of the season, he will be a huge run producer as he always has been. Best case scenario, he puts up more huge totals and locks up his Hall of Fame spot.
4. Brian McCann, C The best offensive catcher in the game throughout 2008, McCann is nearly guaranteed to hit .300 with 20 home runs. He and Chipper will have to consistently produce as they have proven they can to make the Braves winners. I see another big season from these guys.
5. Garret Anderson/Matt Diaz, LF Anderson will likely bat here when he plays, which will be more often than not. Diaz may be dropped one or two spots. Anderson can hit at about a 15 home run pace, especially against right handers. Diaz is coming off of an injury riddled season and could become a .300 hitter again. They might be overlooked, but they will burn those who don’t figure it out.
6/7. Jeff Francoeur, RF Bobby Cox looks to be experimenting with hitting either Francoeur or Casey Kotchman sixth. In Francoeur’s case, he needs to elevate his game now to get his reputation back. A horrible 2008 gave him a gravesite, but he need not dig into it yet. His new batting stance and renewed attitude have given him new life this Spring, as he hit .328 with seven walks and only six strikeouts, a miracle by his standards. He has been spraying line drives, two of which resulted in home runs. He can bounce back to at least 20 this year and earn some respect.
7/6. Casey Kotchman, 1B A solid contact hitter who rarely ever goes down on strikes, Kotchman hit turn almost any pitch into a hit. He has .300 potential and should reach 1520 home runs. Add that to very good defense at first base, and we have ourselves a competent replacement for Mark Teixeira.
8. Jordan Schafer, CF Yes, it is official. Bobby Cox and Frank Wren have announced that 22yearold Jordan Schafer will start the 2009 season in center field for the Braves. The fivetool star of the future, he will start as the eighth hitter as he learns on the big stage. Schafer hit incredibly well this Spring and led the team in stolen bases. If he can just make contact more often, he will be a dynamic player here very soon. Good luck, Jordan. And
sympathies to Gregor Blanco, who was surprisingly sent to AAA Gwinnett.
9. Pitcher’s Spot Self explanatory
Rays Pitching Rotation:
1. James Shields Big Game James set the world on fire last season, winning 14 games with a 3.56 ERA and coming up big in the postseason with their only World Series game victory. Having pitched 215 innings in each of the last two seasons, he can save the bullpen for late or even give them a rare night off. That deadly changeup will be back in full force and beating everyone else’s aces.
2. Scott Kazmir Despite his inability to pitch after the sixth inning, Kazmir was reliable with his 3.49 ERA last season. He can do better, as he proved in 200607. As his prime years hit, he will finally figure everything out and potentially become a Cy Young Award winner.
3. Matt Garza The savior against the Red Sox in last year’s postseason, Garza is back in the third spot this year. He put up a perfectly good 3.70 ERA and finally learned something about controlling his anger on the mound. A more level Garza can bring himself up to an elite status. Any upgrade from last year would be good for now.
4. Andy Sonnanstine The ultimate contact pitcher, Sonnanstine bumped himself up significantly last season and managed to win 13 games. He does not throw very hard, but this prevents the 460foot home run from coming out of his arm. His good offspeed pitches throw hitters off. This guy can be another hidden surprise.
5. Jeff Niemann The Rays are slow about deciding this spot officially, so I’m making that choice here and now. I selected Niemann over Jason Hammel because he was more of an investment (fourth overall Draft pick in 2004), he is more unique (6’9″, 280 pounds, big overhand delivery) and he was dominant for the majority of the Spring. I think Niemann has more potential than the similarlytalented Hammel. So he should take this spot and, hopefully, hold onto it serviceably until David Price shows up within the next few months.
Bullpen: Troy Percival (Closer), Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, J.P. Howell, Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse (plus Chad Bradford and Jason Isringhausen once injuries are healed)
Braves Pitching Rotation:
1. Derek Lowe Without Tim Hudson for most of the season, Lowe assumes the official ace role in Atlanta. He was the prized acquisition of the offseason, stolen right out from under the Mets. He had a 3.24 ERA in 2008 and has pitched consistently well for each of the last few seasons. The big sinkerballer should prove to be a major upgrade and help make the Braves strong contenders again.
2. Javier Vasquez This was another offseason gem from the mind of Frank Wren. Vasquez had a mediocre 2008 with his ERA at 4.67 while losing an amazing total of 16 games. Pushed away by the White Sox after this, he has something to prove and has been better before, so he can likely return to older form. Hopefully that ERA is under 4.00 and he wins 16 games this time around.
3. Kenshin Kawakami Yet another newcomer joins the rotation. He went 95 with a great 2.30 ERA last year in Japan, and even hit eight home runs there during his career. He usually has good control and gets hitters out through bad contact. We shouldn’t see too many baseballs flying over his head.
4. Jair Jurrjens Well, there is at least one constant. Jurrjens broke out last season with a 3.68 ERA while winning 13 games. He also doesn’t like to give up home runs and makes hitters chop the ball into outs. At his age, he can easily step his game up to another level.
5. Tom Glavine The wise man is back and he better be improved from 2008. But that’s not too much to ask. In 13 starts, he went just 24 with a 5.54 ERA, his worst since his 1987 call-up stint, which also read 24, 5.54 (nine starts). This Spring he has looked like the vintage Glavine the Braves need, throwing strikes all the time and getting quality outs. If he even steps back 23 years, it’s an upgrade. We will need him to be the Hall of Famer we know he is one more time and hold the fort down until Tommy Hanson debuts.
Bullpen: Mike Gonzalez (Closer), Rafael Soriano, Peter Moylan, Jeff Bennett, Blaine Boyer, Jorge Campillo, Buddy Carlyle, Eric O’Flaherty (What, no Boone Logan or Manny Acosta?)
The season starts tomorrow and Monday, so be there or be excommunicated. Permanently. Until next time, go Rays and go Braves.