Tag:Atlanta Braves
Posted on: February 4, 2008 11:58 pm

Braves pitching is back in 2008!

Hudson looks, sounds serious: Tim Hudson is in excellent physical condition — but that shouldn’t be surprising, considering the man always looks more like an 800-meter runner or Olympic swimmer than a baseball player. Fit, fit, fit.

What you should care about most is how motivated Hudson seems, how much he wants to get the Braves back to the postseason after a two-year absence, and how Johan Santana going to the Mets only seems to have him more fired up.

“I feel good about our team, top to bottom,” Hudson said. “I like where were are, as a team and a [pitching] staff.

“We can’t be consumed by what other teams are doing. I think we’re pretty good ourselves. I feel real good about our team. I don’t care what other teams are getting.”

As for Santana, with whom he’s quite familiar from his American League years, Hudson said, “He’s pretty good, but he’s not unbeatable. He got hit around a little bit last year.”

When the two pitchers squared off June 14 at Minnesota, Hudson threw seven shutout innings of two-hit ball, while Santana allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts, including a Brian McCann home run.

Bob Wickman blew that game by allowing three runs in the ninth, not the first or last game the later-released Braves closer blew for Hudson last season.

Hudson is coming off his first truly “normal” offseason as a Brave, the first in which he wasn’t either concerned about living up to a new contract, or trying to strengthen troublesome abdominal muscles, or hearing trade rumors, etc.

And with Tom Glavine added to a rotation that leaned far too heavily on Smoltz and Hudson last year, both Smoltz and Hudson say they’re eager and optimistic about the Braves’ chances in 2008.

— Glavine has settled in: The first month or so were a whirlwind for Glavine in his return to the Braves. But 41-year-old lefty said he’s gotten back into a routine, has no health issues, and feels better about spring training and the upcoming season than he’s been in a long time.

“I’ve been looking forward to spring training, and this [pitching camp] is a little bit of an appetizer,” said Glavine, who didn’t have any early pitching camps in five seasons with the Mets. “It’s always nice to get a jump on things, so you can start working on things from Day 1 when you get to spring training.”

He made it clear that his improved attitude about the upcoming season wasn’t a reflection of the Mets or how he was treated. He liked the team and the city.

He just hated being away from his family for such long stretches. As he prepared for spring training the the past five seasons, he did so knowing that when the Mets went north, he’d be flying over his family and their Alpharetta home and to New York or wherever the Mets were opening the season.

This time, Glavine knows he’ll be coming home after we’re done in Florida.

“It’s a different feeling,” he said. “Not that I didn’t look forward to spring training when I was with the Mets. But there was a bittersweet feeling, knowing that I was going to be away from my family. Now it’s six weeks of spring training, and knowing I’m going to come back home after it’s over. It feels good.”

“It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.”

I didn’t ask him about trading Port St. Lousy (he didn’t call it that) for Dark Star (and he didn’t call it that), but I’m sure he’d say the restaurants are a lot better in the greater Orlando area.

Oh, and the Massachusetts native picks the Patriots on Sunday, 30-17.

Oh, one more thing about Johan: Before I forget, how many out there in Braves Nation still think the Braves should or could have traded for Santana?

Great pitcher, but in my view the price tag is simply too enormous for any team that doesn’t have the deep revenue streams that come with things like a new, Citibank-sponsored ballpark, a huge market, and your own cable network.

But unless the price tag goes over $20 mill a year for Mark Teixeira, I can already hear Braves fans howling about the team’s mistake if they don’t sign him. And on that one, I’ll probably be in agreement with the fans.

Need to get it done.

And yes, they really should get a Jeff Francoeur deal done before the season. And you know what? I get a feeling the Braves will.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss contract negotiations that may or may not be taking pace,” GM Frank Wren said rather coyly.

— Speaking of Frenchy: He’s bigger. Francoeur’s arms and shoulders are more muscular after an offseason working out with a trainer and football players in one of those serious, high-tech programs designed for high-level sports.

He’s added upper-body strength without getting any bulkier. If anything he looks a little more lean everwhere except the arms and shoulders.

Another who is noticeably more muscular: Brandon Jones. Initially I didn’t even recognize the rookie outfielder when I stepped into the room that houses the indoor batting cages and saw him in there taking swings Friday.

The shoulder that Jones hurt in winter ball? No problem. “We call it a stateside wound,” Wren joked, and by that he meant the type of injury a player sometimes gets when he’s ready to come home.

Blaine Boyer looks, sounds ready: He’s healthy, he’s out of minor league options, and he’s excited for a chance to show and remind everyone what he’s got.

Whether it’s with the Braves or another major league team, I’m gonna predict that Boyer will make an impact this season. He’s nearly two years removed from shoulder surgery and spent the offseason strengthening his legs, a smart move that should help the power pitcher take some stress off that arm.

Boyer told me that he’s getting more extension with his pitching arm than he ever got before, that he didn’t realize before how he was “cutting off” his follow-through, probably because of the discomfort he’d get in his arm.

He said he’s noticed a big difference in how the ball “explodes” from his hand.

Hey, this Braves bullpen is deeper than before, and he’s going to have to earn a spot, not get one just because he’s out of options. But Boyer looks fully capable of doing that. He was popping the catcher’s mitt Friday, throwing hard with an easy delivery on the first day of pitching camp.

— Infante stops by clubhouse: Omar Infante had hoped to get the pin removed Friday from his surgically repaired left hand, but he’s going to have to wait another couple of weeks.

It’s only been two weeks since the veteran utility man had surgery to repair a broken bone after he was hit by a pitch in Venezuelan winter league game.

Infante seems like a real good guy, a friendly sort who apologized for not speaking better English when he answered a couple of reporters’ questions Friday. We explained to him that we’re always grateful when guys try to communicate like he did, and besides, his English really isn’t that bad.

(Certainly it’s a lot better than my Spanish, which is basically non-existent. Hardly a day goes by when I’m not reminded what a wise decision that was by me, taking French instead of Spanish in college. Bonehead. Where’s the guidance counselor when you need one….)

Anyway, Infante still is expected to be ready no later than mid-April, and the Braves aren’t ruling out the possibility of him opening the season with them. Either way, Wren told me he’s satisfied with the bench and isn’t looking to add.

— Thoughts on Lillibridge, Thorman: I asked if Scott Thorman is still considered the backup first baseman, and was told he was. Bobby Cox said the Braves will also play him some in the outfield during spring training.

Wren said the Braves have several ways they could go filling out their bench with what they have now, and that he doesn’t expect those decisions to be finalized until late in spring training. He didn’t get into specifics.

As for Brent Lillibridge, I relayed the question to Wren that someone had for me here last week: Do the Braves consider him a future every-day player or a super-utility type guy?

The GM confirmed what I said last week: Braves believe Lillibridge could end up being either type of player.

“He can do a lot of different things,” Wren said. “No doubt he can be a frontline shortstop.”

But he can also play a lot of different positions, and Wren noted that Lillibridge is more than willing to give that role a go if that’s where he’s needed.

— OK, gotta cut it off here: There was other stuff, but we’re going on forever. Waay long. Sorry about that. Hope I didn’t bog you down with stuff…. John Smoltz wasn’t there today but is expected to show up after he gets back from the Super Bowl…. Mike Hampton may or may not come to the camp, but Braves said it’s perfectly fine if he wants to keep throwing on his own in Orlando, where he has a home (he also has one in Phoenix)…. Oh, and Moylan is working on a changeup that he thinks will really help him against lefty hitters. He’s in great shape, too, by the way, after a winter of swimming workouts in the ocean.

— Just one stat before we leave: Glavine went 18-27 with a 4.03 ERA in his first 62 starts for the Mets from opening day 2003 to Sept. 18, 2004. After making big adjustments in his approach, including pitching inside a lot more, he went 43-29 with a 3.93 ERA in his final 102 starts with the Mets, including those bad three at end of last season.

Category: MLB
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