LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Here’s a postcard to commemorate Day 5 of FOXSportsSouth.com’s embedded coverage from Braves camp, a day that started with an honor for Chipper Jones and ended with some pitcher-fueled clarity for the first five exhibition games.
Four Workout Observations
1. Catching prospect Christian Bethancourt might have the most raw power of any Braves hitter. He has a powerful hip turn, quick hands and a natural uppercut swing.
2. Outfielders and infielders have begun working together on relay drills. Today’s primary emphasis: Delivering clean relays from balls hit into the power alleys or outfield corners. Which begs the question: At some point in spring training, will the coaches be timing the relays to third base or home plate with a stopwatch?
3. Third baseman Juan Francisco bashed an opposite-field homer early in batting practice, a credit to his knack for getting good leverage on outside pitches.
4. I got a true understanding of Andrelton Simmons’ arm strength this morning. During infield practice, he scooted to his left, snagged a ball, executed a three-quarters spin and fired a pinpoint bullet to the catcher.
One Hall Of A Player
Before their Wednesday workout, the Braves officially announced that newly retired Chipper Jones — whose 19-year career with Atlanta ended last October — would have his number retired in a June 28 ceremony at Turner Field, before the Braves-Diamondbacks game.
Jones is the 10th Brave to earn this high honor, joining greats like Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox, among others.
By most accounts, Jones (468 HR, 2,726 RBI, .303 lifetime batting average) stands as the third-greatest switch hitter in baseball history, trailing only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. And as one of the seven greatest third basemen of all time, Jones seems destined for the Baseball Hall of Fame in either 2018 or ’19.
For more on Jones’ grand tribute, click here for Cory McCartney’s excellent piece.
Huddy’s The One
On Tuesday afternoon, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced the club’s rotation order for the first five games of spring training (Feb. 22-26): Tim Hudson (vs. Tigers), Paul Maholm (vs. Yankees), Julio Teheran (at Pirates), Kris Medlen (vs. Marlins) and Mike Minor (vs. Nationals).
Gonzalez didn’t go into specifics regarding the length of the outings; but like most MLB teams playing in February, starting pitchers rarely go more than two innings in their first go-round of Grapefruit League action.
Last year, the Braves went 10-18 overall in spring training, taking 13th place out of 15 teams, finishing ahead of the Mets and Pirates.
Of its 28 Grapefruit games, Atlanta scored 125 total runs, for a per-outing average of 4.7 runs. However, the pitching and defense surrendered 163 total runs, for a per-outing average of 5.8 runs.
The Start Of Something Big
On May 2 last year, the baseball world was shocked to see Roy Halladay exhibit the traits of a mortal pitcher, surrendering eight runs and 12 hits in the Phillies’ hellacious 15-13 loss to the Braves.
That night essentially marked the beginning of the end of a Halladay season plagued by shoulder problems and his worst ERA (4.49) since 2000 (10.64 with the Blue Jays). It also sparked the renewal of Atlanta’s Kris Medlen — at least after allowing three runs in one inning that May evening.
From that point forward, Medlen would allow a grand total of 19 earned runs the rest of the season — spanning 12 starts, 33 appearances and 122 innings … with absurd marks of a 10-1 record, 1.40 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 121/19 K-BB ratio.
No Harm, No Foul
During a simulation drill at first base, Freddie Freeman snagged a ball to his right, spun and then air-mailed a throw toward home plate, which smashed against the wall near the visiting dugout. As a fortuitous response, the wayward ball essentially caromed right back to the catcher.
Rumor Has It …
… that Braves closer Craig Kimbrel belted a hole-in-one Monday at the Tim Hudson/Chipper Jones charity golf outing that benefits patients at the AFLAC Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Childrenís Healthcare of Atlanta. (No visual evidence to confirm it.)
Kimbrel’s miracle shot occurred at the ChampionsGate Orlando golf center, specifically the No. 2 hole at the National course, from 177 yards out … although Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez jokingly said Kimbrel estimated his hole-in-one at more than 200 yards.