Players have been coming into the clubhouse at Turner Field for the last month, at least, but Jan. 30 marked the first official day of the traditional early throwing program.
It’s voluntary and open also to the organization’s minor-leaguers, who are always amazed that pitching coach Roger McDowell spends as much time with them as with the established pitchers.
Because right-handed prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado attract so much attention, it’s easy to forget that right-hander Brandon Beachy and left-hander Mike Minor are young pitchers, too.
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As are left-hander Jonny Venters, right-hander Craig Kimbrel and even, for that matter, right-handers Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
“It’s going to take some patience and some bumps in the road,” McDowell says.
Of Beachy and Minor, specifically, McDowell added: “They’re still young at their craft. The experience that they gained last year was a tremendous asset. You can’t replace that in the minor leagues. The atmosphere that they were in the last month of the season, they were able to contribute.”
Beachy doesn’t take a lot of consolation in that, of course, saying: “I pitched poorly in September. But it wasn’t because of anything conditioning-wise or being tired or anything I could have done in the weight room. I just didn’t execute.
“That’s going to be what I have to work out on the mound in those bullpen sessions. The consistency of throwing more and more.”
Meaning, hitting his spots. “Just being able to throw it outside when I want it outside and inside when I want it inside.”
When he didn’t do that last season, his pitch count soared and he didn’t last more than five or six innings. Going deeper in games is his goal, not only for himself but to save the bullpen.
But if any pitcher can’t make it out of the fifth inning, McDowell and manager Fredi Gonzalez are planning to send right-hander Kris Medlen into the breach, saving left-hander Eric O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel to wrap up the close games.
-3B Chipper Jones’ surgically repaired right knee was really sore after he played in C Brian McCann’s charity softball event in November. But after resting the knee until January, Jones feels great. He’s able to get down into his swing the way he is used to doing.
-1B Freddie Freeman says he’s put on only 10 pounds, but his shoulders are considerably larger than they were a year ago. He isn’t trying to turn himself into a power hitter, though. He wants to remain a gap-to-gap hitter.
-RHP Julio Teheran is working on not tipping his pitches, which involves not only keeping the same arm angle but also not moving his glove.
-LHP Jonny Venters wants to cut down on the number of walks he issues, so his focus this spring will be on attacking early in the count.
-RHP Buddy Carlyle has been signed to a minor league contract, but does not have an invitation to spring training. He pitched for the Braves from 2007-2009. He says he’s, “Keeping the dream alive,” but it’s hard to see why the Braves would need him, given the depth of pitching they have.
INF Brooks Conrad, who was non-tendered even though he was not arbitration eligible, signed a minor league contract with the Brewers. He joins free agent SS Alex Gonzalez, who signed a one-year deal with the Brewers on Dec. 12.
DEPARTURES: SS Alex Gonzalez (free agent, signed with Brewers), OF Nate McLouth (free agent, signed with Pirates), RHP Derek Lowe (traded to Indians), LHP George Sherrill (free agent, signed with Mariners), INF/OF Brooks Conrad (free agent, signed minor league deal with Mariners).
FREE AGENTS: RHP Kenshin Kawakami, RHP Scott Linebrink.
-RHP Tim Hudson (back surgery) underwent the procedure Nov. 28 after offseason workouts went awry, but he should be ready for spring training.
-3B Chipper Jones (two surgically repaired knees) should be good to go by spring training.
-RHP Jair Jurrjens (bone bruise in right knee) should have no problem getting ready for spring training.
-RHP Tommy Hanson (right shoulder tendinitis) planned to spend the offseason strengthening his shoulder and his lower back and was given permission in December to being playing catch.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I believe we’ve got the makings of a ball club that can win a world championship.” — First-base coach Terry Pendleton.