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Paging Doctor Andrews

Mar 06, 2015 -- 8:24am

If you’re a Major League pitcher, the three words you dread most in the same sentence are “doctor”, “James” and “Andrews.” Typically, a visit to either Pensacola or Birmingham results in two other words pitchers dread, “Tommy” and “John.” With Mike Minor being scratched from his Spring debut this Sunday, it’s likely he will visit Dr. Andrews early next week. But, in this case, the fact that he’s experiencing the discomfort in his shoulder and not his elbow should ease some of the concern.

Minor is coming off a season that, with the exception of six starts in late August and early September, was one of the most disappointing of his career. The southpaw was 6-12 with a 4.77 ERA in 25 starts, but struggled to find the consistency he showed in 2013. Having turned 27 in December, Minor has shown that when he’s healthy, he can be as effective as anyone in Atlanta’s rotation. But the recurrence of shoulder issues has many in the organization scratching their heads. While John Hart wouldn’t admit it on Wednesday, it’s likely Minor won’t be ready by Opening Day.

Over the last few years, injuries to the pitching staff have underlined the importance of depth in the organization. While some of the moves this offseason may have left fans wondering what direction the club was heading, John Hart has done a tremendous job moving pieces that likely would have walked in free agency, providing the team with a fresh supply of both budding stars and seasoned veterans. Who will emerge as this years Aaron Harang? Could it be Wandy Rodriguez or Chien-Ming Wang? What about Eric Stults? Or will youngsters like Mike Foltynewicz or Manny Banuelos show that they’re ready to take the next step? Those five will battle it out over the coming five weeks for at least one spot in the rotation, and possibly a second if Minor does infact need a little extra time. Depth is important, and this goes to show the importance of the offseason acquisitions and free agent signings.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Mets 8 Braves 2

Mar 04, 2015 -- 9:01pm

 

Lake Buena Vista, FL - The Braves were defeated by the New York Mets today in what was the first Grapefruit

League game of 2015. The Braves lost 8-2 and didn't score after the 1st inning. New players, Jonny Gomes and

AJ Pierzynski, drove in the only runs of the game for the Braves.

 

Wandy Rodriguez had a rough time, as he loaded the bases, walked two batters and gave up a run. Luis Avilan 

sat down the side in order in the 2nd inning, and Chien-Ming Wang worked two scoreless frames. Jose Veras 

gave up five runs in in two-thirds of an inning.

 

Tomorrow, the Braves are back at it tomorrow at 1:05 against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, FL. Julio Teheran will

make his first start of the spring. 

 

Ben Ingram covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Ben on Twitter @IngramRadio

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Minor Setback?

Mar 04, 2015 -- 7:03pm

Lake Buena Vista, FL – The Braves dropped their Grapefruit League opener to the Mets by a score of 8-2 this afternoon, but that’s not the big story coming out of Braves camp. Mike Minor, who came to Orlando healthy, has been scratched from his first scheduled start with tightness in his pitching shoulder. John Hart said the team would be aggressive in seeking further evaluation on his southpaws left shoulder to determine the extent of the injury.

While it certainly raises red flags that Minor is a similar setback to the one he experienced at the end of the 2014 season, his injury further shows the importance of the depth the Braves brought in this offseason. If last season showed us anything, it’s the fact you can never have too much starting pitching. Today, Wandy Rodriguez and Chien-Ming Wang showed some rust, while veteran like Eric Stults makes his Atlanta debut tomorrow against the Tigers in Lakeland as he’s set to piggyback after Julio Teheran.

Meanwhile, a few observations from today’s game at Disney: Eric Young Jr had a strong showing as he walked twice, stole a base and made a couple fine defensive plays. Also impressing the skipper on Wednesday afternoon was newcomer Jace Peterson (acquired from San Diego in the Justin Upton trade). Peterson had a ground rule double and looked smooth a shortstop while Andrelton Simmons recovers from a slight oblique strain. While Rodriguez and Wang struggled, lefty relievers Donnie Veal and Brady Fiegl put up zeroes from the Atlanta pen.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Final Day of Workouts

Mar 03, 2015 -- 11:56am

 

Lake Buena Vista, FL - Spring Training started almost two weeks ago. For the last thirteen days, the team has 

been going through drill after drill, running, live batting-practice, etc. Now the fun begins. 

 

Tomorrow, the Braves get to play an actual baseball game against another team, and that's when the team will 

really begin to take shape. I've heard countless players say that the only real way to get in shape for the season is

by actually playing games. Over the next thirty-two days, the Braves will play a total of thirty-four games. Most 

postion players feel like they only need about fifteen to twenty games to feel like they're ready for the rigors of a

new season. It's the pitchers that need more time. Thus, spring training lumbers on. Postiion players often feel like

spring training is far too long.

 

Pitchers need time to ramp up thier endurance. You can't just send out a pitcher on opening day and have him 

throw 90 plus pitches if he hasn't thrown more than 50 in a spring game. Pitchers will generally get four or 

five spring training appearances. The first outing, they'll stop after an inning or two. The next go 'round, it'll be three

to four innings. Ultimately, the goal is to reach six innings, or ninety pitches by their final spring outing. 

 

For the Braves, they'll need as much time as they can get to determine who their fifth starter will be to begin the 

season. Fredi Gonzalez will not be in a rush to crown a winner. Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez, Chien-Ming Wang,

Mike Foltynewicz and Manny Banuelos will all get their shot at winning the job. Even by the end of spring training,

the Braves won't necessarily need to crown a winner, due to the fact that with an off-day on April 9th, they 

technically won't need a fifth starter until April 15th, which is the ninth game of the season. 

 

What to watch for:

 

Second Base - Alberto Callaspo, Jace Peterson, Phil Gosselin and Jose Peraza will all get plenty of opportunites

to win the job. When it comes to Major League experience, Callaspo has the upper hand. He's played nine 

seasons and almost one-thousand games in a big league uniform. While his strikout numbers are low, he hasn't 

hit higher than .258 over the last three years. He is certainly no lock to win the job. The Braves are impressed with 

what they've seen out of Jace Peterson, a 24-year old that came to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade. Peterson

has hit .303 and .307 over the last two years as a minor leaguer. Phil Gosselin played in forty-six games for the 

Braves last season, and Jose Peraza is viewed as the second baseman of the future in Atlanta. A future that could

begin this season.

 

Center Field - Now that Melvin Upton Jr. is injured and unavailable till early May, the postion of center field is wide

open. Eric Young Jr., Eury Perez, Todd Cunningham and Zoilo Almonte are your top contenders. Not only have 

the Braves not gotten valuable return on their Melvin Upton Jr. investment, they've also been void of a true leadoff

hitter since the departure of MIchael Bourn. Perhaps the best thing any of these contenders can do to win the job

would be to become a solid, reliable leadoff hitter. All of these guys can play center field and have the speed to 

make a difference, but if one were to light the fire at the top of the order, not only would he win the job, the Braves

would have a hard time removing said center fielder even when Melvin Upton Jr. returns. The Braves NEED a true

leadoff man. Becoming that is the best way to win the job in center. 

 

Left Fielder - Jonny Gomes, Eric Young Jr., Todd Cunningham, Dian Toscano and Zoilo Almonte are the most 

likely candidates. Some of these guys are also in the running for center field. In all likelyhood, Gomes will be your 

left fielder, but you can also expect some sort of a platoon that is based on matchups vs. that day's opposing 

pitcher. 

 

Fifth starter - As I mentioned earlier, this is the battle that could take all of spring training, as well as the first

few days of the season to determine. I'm excited about these young pitchers and how they push the vets that are 

going for the same position. Most expect Rodriguez or Stults to win the job, but I won't be shocked at all if 

Foltynewicz shines the brightest in Florida. 

 

So, there you have it. That's the breakdown of how things will be sorted out over the next six weeks. The common

question of "who are these guys?" should have some legitiment answeres come April 6th. 

 

 

Ben Ingram covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Ben on Twitter @IngramRadio

 

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Let The Games Begin

Mar 03, 2015 -- 9:41am

Lake Buena Visa, FL – Last Wednesday was the official report date for Braves position players, but that doesn’t mean it’s when everyone showed up. 2015 marks my fourth season covering the team, and in each of those four seasons, the majority of players are in camp well ahead of the deadline. So, while there’s only been a weeks worth of full squad workouts, guys are chomping at the bit to get back to game speed.

Atlanta will open Grapefruit League play on Wednesday at Disney against the visiting Metropolitans. It’ll be our first chance to watch both Wandy Rodriguez and Chien-Ming Wang audition for the fifth spot in the rotation. Rodriguez has struggled to stay healthy the last two seasons, making a total of 18 starts over that span. Meanwhile, Wang has also had injury issues of his own, which have limited him to a total of 22 trips to the hill since the end of the 2009 season.

Rodriguez and Wang will each likely go two innings a piece, while Eric Stults will make his Braves debut on Thursday as the team travels to take on the Tigers in Lakeland as he’ll piggyback off of Julio Teheran. One name you won’t hear in the lineup, atleast for the first few days is Andrelton Simmons. The two time Gold Glove shortstop is slowly recovering from a slight left oblique injury, and Fredi Gonzalez said Monday that he doesn’t expect Simmons to play in the first couple games. The competition, especially for the starting rotation should be fierce and entertaining. Make sure you tune in on Wednesday as Ben Ingram and myself will have the call of the Braves Grapefruit League opener at 1:05pm on 1230am in Atlanta, on MLB.com and on the MLB At Bat App.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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5th starter competition begins Wednesday

Mar 02, 2015 -- 1:10pm

 

Lake Buena Vista, FL - This Wednesday, the Braves will play their first Spring Training game of 2015. With the 5th 

slot in the rotation up for grabs, we'll see two hurlers throw Wednesday that are hoping to earn the job. Left-handed

veteran, Wandy Rodriguez, will start the game vs. the Mets. He's scheduled to go two innings, and then the Braves 

will use Chein Ming Wang, a right-hander. 

 

On Thursday, Julio Teheran will start vs. the Tigers, and Eric Stults will follow him, with each of them pitching

two innings. Entering camp, most felt like Rodriguez was the leading candidate to win the job, but a pair of young 

hurlers may impress Braves brass enough to take the job. Manny Banuelos and Mike Foltynewicz are both pitchers

the Braves acquired via trade during the offseason. Both will get an opportunity to win the job this spring.

If Rodriguez ends up getting the call, expect Banuelos and/or Foltynewicz to begin the season in the bullpen. 

 

The Braves feel like the top four spots in their rotation are set with Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and 

Mike Minor. Those four guys are a combined 99 years old and have an average age of 24 years old. They're 

extremely young. The three vets aiming to win the final spot have a combined age of 106. Big difference. 

 

Wandy Rodriguez hasn't pitched a big league game since May of 2014, and Wang hasn't pitched in the big 

leagues since August of 2013. We haven't seen either throw in a game here yet, but given how long it's been since

either contributed to a big league team, it wouldn't shock me at all to see Foltynewicz win the job. He's 24 and 

pitched 16 games in the majors a year ago. None of those appearances were as a starter. He made 18 starts in 

AAA in 2014. Altogether, this thing is completely up for grabs. The competion will begin Wednesday. Place you

bets.

 

 

Ben Ingram covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Ben on Twitter @IngramRadio

 

 

 

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