Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chips and Salsa for the Season

Figuratively I've got my chips, salsa and my Dr. Pepper just waiting for the season to start. Literally I've got my MLB.TV premium package ready I won't have to miss a single game. OK let me retract that last statement. I'll probably miss at least half of the 164 games or I may not have a wife by the end of the season.

Since most of you don't have a job that allows you to peruse the internet machine for Braves tidbits during the off season, I have decided to put together a brief rundown of what you missed. This should bring those of you coming out of baseball hibernation up to date.

Troy Glaus: Glaus is a power hitting first baseman who is coming off of some shoulder problems. If he can overcome his injuries he will be a more than adequate first baseman who can hold down the fort until prospect Freddie Freeman is ready to take the job. We need Glaus to show some power and take some of the pressure off of Chipper and McCann.

Eric Hinske: A bench player who has some big shoes to fill as a pinch hitter. Everyone knows how well Norton did as Bobby's go to guy. Hinske will really have to pick up his game if he expects to come anywhere near Greg "Mr. Automatic Strike-out" Norton's impressive 20 Strike outs in 76 at bats. Seriously though, Hinske is a proven winner that should turn out to be a very good pinch hitter/bench player.

Melky Cabrera: Not too excited about this guy. We picked him up from the Yankees in the Vasquez trade and if Heyward does as he is expected then Cabrera looks to split time with Diaz in Left and maybe play right field if the Braves are facing a tough left handed pitcher.

Takashi Saito: Japanese relief pitcher that should take over the job as set-up man. He posted a 2.43 ERA last year with the Bo-Sox in 55 innings. He is one of the guys that we picked up this year that make our bullpen extremely deep.

Billy Wagner: This guy doesn't really need any introduction. What I will say is this: Close your eyes for a minute and imagine any one of our starting pitchers get through six innings. Peter Moylen can take over the 7th then Saito in the 8th and Wagner in the 9th. Having these guys in the bullpen gives Bobby Cox a lot of leyway in later innings. If he wants he can save Moylen and just bring him in when he needs a double play.

So those are the guys that we gained, so who did we lose?

Javier Vasquez: Huge loss, we're really going to miss this guy. Chipper made comment that he was still holding out hope that the Braves will be able to sign Vasquez at the end of 2010. Here's to hoping.

Soriano and Gonzalez: Tough to take the loss of these guys but I think overall our bullpen was significantly upgraded even with the losses of our 8th and 9th inning guys.

Adam Laroche: Man I really like this guy and I wish he could have ended up in a Braves uniform. He was fun to watch and I wish him all the success in the world next season. The Braves would have had to pay him around 4 Million for a 1 year deal (which is what the D-backs got him for) if they would have wanted to keep him. For a comparison they are paying Glaus half that for a 1 year deal.

What to watch for?

Jason Heyward: Most of you have probably heard about the net that they put up at the Braves' spring training complex to protect the cars while Heyward is batting. That should get you excited enough to tune into a spring training game or two to watch this kid. Most people don't want to mention Albert Pujols when making comparisons with Heyward, but he has the ability to make that kind of an impact.

Tommy Hanson: Hanson looked good in his first spring game today and will look to avoid a sophomore slump this year. I'm going to make an early prediction and say that he will be in the Cy Young conversation at years end.

Kris Medlen: Medlen has some really good stuff and I'll look for him to be a go to guy for Cox in late innings this year.

Jair Jurrjens: He was experiencing some discomfort in his throwing shoulder but all indications are that he'll make his first start of the season when he is supposed to. I don't think there is anything to worry about and I expect him to have another stellar year.

Lastly this is Bobby Cox's last season as manager. He has had a wonderful career and he will be missed. I've got to believe that Braves' players will be giving a little extra each day to make sure their beloved manager goes out on a high note.

Here's a little something to keep your tongue wet until opening day:

So with the bases loaded, two out, and the season on the line, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox called on little-used Francisco Cabrerato pinch-hit for Jeff Reardon. With only 10 at-bats all season to prepare for this moment, Cabrera slapped a single to left. The first run scored easily to tie the game. Then Bream, the former Pirate, came lumbering toward the plate from second. The game came down to the injury-riddled legs of Bream vs. the Gold Glove arm of left fielder Barry Bonds.

Bonds fired home to catcher Mike "Spanky" Lavalliere, who grabbed it and applied the tag. Not in time. Bream slid in safely, sending the Braves back to the World Series. Atlanta would miss the playoffs only once the rest of the decade. The Pirates haven't been back since.