Tag: Orlando

Atlanta Braves Spring Training 2011: Weekly Update for March 7-12, 2011

Throughout the process of Spring Training, I intend to bring you a weekly update on the progress of key Atlanta Braves‘ players and of the team as a whole.  As we all know, Spring Training is a situation in flux, so the status quo changes every day, much less every week.  So, in an attempt to better inform the reader and the fan, I’ll be bringing you week by week updates on the progress of players, coaches thoughts and more!  So, stay tuned and you might just learn something.

Nate McLouth enjoying hot Spring Training session

Coming into this season, there was a plethora of talk about the status of Nate McLouth.  McLouth, the former All-Star and Gold Glove winner who shined in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates but has disappointed as of late and finished 2010 batting under .200, is experiencing a resurgence again.  If spring training is any indication and it seems to provide a trend in McLouth’s case, McLouth is off to a fantastic start this year.  Last year, the worst of his career, saw him hit .118 with one home run and four RBI’s through the course of Spring Training.  Out of 51 at-bats, he only had six hits.  This year is proving to be much different.  In the course of 15 Spring Training at-bats, McLouth has seven hits, two doubles, one home run, three RBI’s and is hitting .467.  Yet, there seems to be a tell-tale stat that provides a difference from last year.  In Spring Training 2010, McLouth struck out 16 times; the year before, he fanned 14 times.  This season?  None.  Absolutely no strikeouts to this point.  Plus, his walks (5) almost match the total for all of Spring Training each year in 2009 and 2010 (he walked 7 times each year).  Maybe we are seeing a revitalized Nate McLouth who is ready to reclaim his spot in center field and silence the naysayers.  I certainly hope he can return to his 2008 form and take this Braves squad to a ring.

Jordan Schafer heating up

If anyone has followed the saga of Jordan Schafer, you have to be rooting for this kid.  Drafted in the third round of the 2005 MLB draft, Schafer came with a world of promise and was a “toolsy” kid.  Then, in April 2008, Schafer was suspended 50 games for supposedly taking Human Growth Hormone (HGH), an allegation that was never proven; Schafer was tested but didn’t test positive and there was never any proof of him possessing HGH.  For a time, Schafer seemed to rebound, being named the starting centerfielder for the Braves in 2009; he sealed the deal with a first at-bat home run on April 5, 2009, against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Brett Myers.  Yet, not two months later, Schafer was demoted to AAA Gwinnett after only batting .204 with 63 strikeouts in 167 major league at-bats.  To put the icing on the cake, he was demoted from AAA to AA Mississippi in July 2010 and subsequently placed on the DL with a season ending injury.  Schafer was about as low as a player can get.  Flash forward to Spring Training 2011.  After struggling this spring training, Schafer is starting to heat up.  Yesterday, against the split-squad Yankees, Schafer went 2-4 with a home run and a strikeout.  Schafer is good defensively, but his hitting needs to show some improvement to make it into camp.  Hopefully, Jordan Schafer will keep plugging away and get back to the glory he reveled in after being drafted. 

Luis Salazar improving following near-fatal on-field accident

If you have been under a rock for a week or so, you would be wondering what in the world happened.  While Brian McCann was batting, Luis Salazar was getting a little experience in a big league dugout before assuming his role as the manager of Class A Advanced Lynchburg.  Brian McCann pulled a pitch foul into the first base dugout that struck Salazar in the left eye, knocking him unconscious and shattering the socket around his eye.  While doctors say that his injury had the potential to be life-threatening, they credited the quick actions of medical staff with stabilizing Salazar prior to transporting him to the local hospital.  Only three days after this scare, Salazar is alert and speaking with family again.  There is no word as to whether or not Salazar will start his duties with Lynchburg on time.  Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers; this incident makes one think of what happened to Mike Coolbaugh prior to the 2007 season when he was struck in the head with a line drive and subsequently lost his life. 

Notable Player Update

For a roundup of notable players, we’ll look at the guys expected to make a major contribution this year.

HOT: Chipper Jones is having a decent Spring coming off of knee surgery.  He’s hitting .276 (8-29) with 2 doubles, a home run, and 4 RBI.  He is also feeling more and more comfortable on that knee and feels that it won’t be a distraction this season.  Freddie Freeman is also having a good spring, batting .364 (12-33) with three doubles and four RBI.  One guy that is seeing the ball in a major way is Jason Heyward, who is batting .417 (10-24) with two doubles, an RBI, and a .517 on base percentage. 

NOT:  Brian McCann is having a rough time this spring, hitting just .182 (4-22) with 3 RBI and 4 strikeouts.  McCann was also the source of the ball that struck Luis Salazar, so we’ll look to see if that has any psychological impact on McCann as the season progresses.

What To Watch For Next Week

On Wednesday the 16th, Boston comes to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for a little spring fun with the Braves.  This will give us our first look at the retooled Red Sox, featuring Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and former Braves Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the new starting catcher. 

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Carl Crawford Signs With the Boston Red Sox: Another Evil Empire?

Just moments ago it was announced Theo Epstein pulled another fast one on Red Sox Nation by signing Carl Crawford to a seven year, $142 million deal.  The deal comes as a relative surprise since, even though the Red Sox loved what Crawford brings to the table, they already acquired the big time left handed bat (Adrian Gonzalez) and historically do not go on these Yankee-like spending sprees.  Regardless the Red Sox front office has responded to last seasons disappointing third place finish, much like the New York Yankees prior to the 2009 season, by making some franchise altering moves.

Prior to last weekend many in Red Sox fans were sensing doom and gloom, especially when it became known the Yankees could be going after Cliff Lee AND Carl Crawford.  However, after the trade for Adrian Gonzalez the fans’ appetite for off season drama was filled, at least for a day.  It seemed like mere minutes after Gonzalez press conference that everyone wanted to know what Theo Epstein had planned next.  Many were looking at the bullpen (including myself), a cheaper right handed leftfielder, such as Magglio Ordonez or Josh Willingham, but no one really expected this.  Carl Crawford signing was merely an awesome idea to many Red Sox fans, considering what his price would be after Jayson Werth literally was signed for twice his worth, but never the less, Theo Epstein delivered.  

Some may say this deal is not smart for a player whose game is predicated  on speed but the front office has proven it is willing to spend on a marquee free agent (John Lackey does not count) and stay competitive in an ever improving division.  Regardless of how Crawford and Gonzalez perform this season no one can say the Red Sox did not try to become a World Series contender for years to come.

However, let’s just assume Crawford and Gonzalez perform as they are expected to and imagine a lineup like this:

1. Ellsbury

2. Pedroia


4. Youkilis

5. Crawford

6. Ortiz

7. Scutaro/Lowrie 

8. Saltalamacchia

9. Drew


That is a lineup with 105 wins written on it.  Obviously the pitching will have a lot to say about that any wins, but the point is it is an extremely potent lineup.  

Some may wonder as to why Crawford, known for his speed, is in a power slot like the fifth spot, but it seems fitting since he does not want to lead off, Pedroia is the number two hitter, period, and Gonzalez and Youkilis have more power.  Plus with Drew batting ninth, the Red Sox could have three lead off type hitters (Drew is considered a lead off hitter because of his on-base percentage abilities) in each third of the lineup.  

Does Carl Crawford signing instantly mean this team should be pre-ordering rings?  Absolutely not.  I still maintain the biggest key to this team’s success is the bullpen, specifically Jonathan Papelbon having a bounce back year, and if Josh Beckett and John Lackey gain regain at least a shadow of themselves.  Either way Theo Epstein and the Red Sox brass have provided the most anticipation for Opening Day since 2004. 

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Carl Crawford and the Boston Red Sox Agree To 7-Year, $142 Million Deal

Just three days after completing the trade for Adrian Gonzalez, the Boston Red Sox have pulled off an even bigger stunner— agreeing to terms with 29-year-old outfielder Carl Crawford on a 7-year, $142 million mega-deal that is almost certain to propel the Sox into the front-runners to win it all in 2011.

The news broke just hours after multiple reports indicated Crawford was leaning toward signing with the Los Angeles Angels, which, until now, were considered the favorites to land the 4-time All-Star.

Crawford was regarded as the top position player available this winter, and news of his arrival in Boston is especially ominous to their American League East rival New York Yankees, who were also seriously targeting the star.

Crawford, a career .296 hitter with over 400 steals, 100 triples, and 100 homers, has been one of the most dynamic players in baseball over the better part of this decade. Debuting in 2002, he has spent his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays, leading them to the World Series in 2008 and the AL East crown this past season.

He enjoyed arguably his most productive season in 2010, hitting .307 while setting career-highs in homers (19), RBI’s (90), and runs (110). He also added 47 stolen bases, 30 doubles, and 13 triples in 154 games.

Crawford’s signing arguably makes the Red Sox the best team in baseball on paper. Boston overcame an almost unprecedented wave of injuries in 2010— Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis among the key players who missed significant time— yet still managed to win 89 games. Considering that all those players will be back for opening day and the additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Boston seems primed for another championship run.

Here’s their 2011 projected opening day lineup:

1 Jacoby Ellsbury – CF

2 Dustin Pedroia – 2B

3 Carl Crawford – LF

4 Adrian Gonzalez – 1B

5 Kevin Youkilis – 3B

6 David Ortiz – DH

7 J.D. Drew – RF

8 Jarrod Saltalamacchia – C

9 Marco Scutaro – SS


Not bad, huh? The Red Sox now possess the fiercest offense in baseball. This lineup has longevity, too— their one through four hitters will all be in their 20’s on opening day.

With a top-flight rotation that already features Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and John Lackey, all that remains this offseason for Boston’s GM Theo Epstein is to shore up the middle of that bullpen. If that can be done, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon will be handed plenty of leads late in the game.

What a cap to the 2010 Winter Meetings. Happy Holidays, Boston.



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2010 MLB Winter Meeting: Donde Estas New York Yankees?

Hasn’t the New York Yankees brass put us fans through enough already?

So far, the 2010 offseason has been emotionally draining for those loyal to the pinstripes.

To be fair, we were warned the moment owner Hal Steinbrenner uttered the word “messy” pre-captain Derek Jeter’s negotiations.

After weeks of vandalizing Jeter, one of the most luminous Yankees ever, and seemingly giving Mariano Rivera the silent treatment, Yankee fans have had about 24 hours of peace.

That was Saturday, today is Tuesday and the Winter Meetings are in full swing.

The MLB Network has around-the-clock coverage, filled with interviews and introductions. The first 24 hours a majority of teams’ GMs and owners sat down to give their respective clubs plan for 2011. I learned a lot:

  • The West Coast, NL version of Yankees Mark Teixeira has left San Diego for Beantown, as Adrian Gonzalez is now with the Boston Red Sox. During his press conference, Gonzalez said he couldn’t wait to beat the Yankees. Boston gave up three coveted prospects and one player to be named later to the Padres for the All-Star. GM Theo Epstein said Kevin Youkilis would move to third-base, so Gonzalez can play at first. Gonzalez is described as a left-handed Manny Ramirez and hit .337 in 2010. Merry Christmas Red Sox fans!
  • Jayson Werth signed a monster contract for seven years and $126 million with the Washington Nationals. So, now you know Scott Boras is in attendance. As for Werth, he better hope rolling around in dollar bills will ease the pain of losing. Not to worry as no one watched the Nationals games and Stephen Strasburg won’t be back till 2012 so stash some of the green in your locker, too.
  • My love affair continues to grow stronger with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, as he once again told it like it is and it is so refreshing. Ozzie was elated about his team’s new addition of Adam Dunn from the Nationals. Ozzie said his White Sox are AL Central’s team to beat. Ozzie ended his talk by stating he wished he was Jayson Werth’s wife.
  • Also, heard from higher-ups of the Rangers, Mets, Braves, Padres, Phillies, Angels and others who took the time to inform us what they are up too. Also, the Red Sox have officially been labeled the favorites to win the 2011 World Series.

So, what news came out of Yankees camp?

Well, we were told that Andy Pettitte is leaning towards retiring, according to a friend of a friend. That is very reliable reporting.

Has anyone found the guy who heard this news from Pettitte’s buddy?

Obviously the answer is no, as no one even knows the “mole’s” name.

On to the Cliff Lee front, all I picked up from listening to this banter is that the Yankees are not the only club Lee’s camp is taking to.

This felt like some kind of polite warning.

Fact remains, sans the two southpaws spells trouble for Yankee universe.

One of the hosts said if this becomes the Yankees’ reality, that for sure the Royals’ Zach Greinke would be in pinstripes. I think this is a baaadddd idea.

I mean what’s next a press conference reintroducing Carl Pavano to New York?

I will happily put my foot in my mouth if GM Brian Cashman comes on TV with both Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee.

Only because that is the Yankees way….still?

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