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  1. #1
    RamsFan16 Guest

    The "Official" Atlanta Braves thread

    Saltalamacchia relishes role as hero

    Catching prospect excited after belting walk-off homer
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It took everybody in the Braves' clubhouse less time to claim they had predicted the walk-off homer than it did for them to actually complete the pronunciation of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's name.

    As a still-enthralled Saltalamacchia stood by his locker, just minutes after hitting a walk-off three-run homer in the Braves' 8-7 win over the Dodgers at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Friday afternoon, bullpen catcher Alan Butts walked by the day's hero and proclaimed that he had predicted the shot.

    Within the next 10 minutes, both manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz were declaring they had done the same.

    "When Salty walks up there, that's the way you feel, like he's going to turn the game around," Cox said. "He just looks good."

    Right now, Saltalamacchia looks like a certain future star at the big-league level. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 220 pounds, he has the imposing stature that you wouldn't expect somebody who is just 20 years old to have.

    But as most in baseball have come to understand, this isn't your normal 20-year-old prospect. While playing half his games at the pitcher-friendly environment provided at Class A Myrtle Beach last year, Saltalamacchia hit .314, produced a .519 slugging percentage, drilled 19 homers and contributed 81 RBIs.

    Since being taken by the Braves as their first selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Saltalamacchia has greatly improved his defensive skills and proven to be highly skilled from both sides of the plate as a switch-hitter.

    "That's why he's classified as one of the big young hitters in the entire Minor League system," Cox said. "They tagged him right, that's for sure."

    When Saltalamacchia came to the plate with nobody out in the ninth inning to face Dodgers right-hander Jonathan Broxton, his intentions were to simply put the ball in play. Swinging from the left side, he fouled a rocket toward each dugout before drilling the game-winner to the opposite field, over the left-field fence.

    "I just said, 'Swing hard in case you hit it,'" said Saltalamacchia, who doesn't believe he had hit a walk-off homer previously in his career.

    Obviously, the legend of Saltalamacchia will grow with this blast. But it must be remembered he's played just two full professional seasons and needs a little more seasoning before being ready for the Majors.

    "He's a good young player, and he's going to have a fine career," Schuerholz said. "He'll develop like all of our young guys have developed, at his natural pace. It will happen when it happens."

    With 22-year-old Brian McCann in place as Atlanta's starting catcher, there may come a time when Saltalamacchia is asked to learn another position. He played first base in high school and bought a first baseman's mitt this winter, which allowed him to take grounders and improve his hand-eye coordination.

    "I'm willing to do whatever it takes," Saltalamacchia said. "I think that if I play my game, I'm going to be up there somewhere. Hopefully, it's with the Braves. I'm just down here doing what I can."

    Including Wednesday's exhibition against the University of Georgia, Saltalamacchia has recorded three hits, including a homer, triple and double, in six at-bats this spring. Not bad for a non-roster invitee who is getting his first experience in a big-league camp.

    "Honestly, I just wanted to come in here and impress [Cox], because that's who I need to impress," Saltalamacchia said. "I had a good offseason. I worked hard. I came up here wanting to impress them and I've just been playing as hard as I can.

    "This is just a dream come true. I'm just trying to take it all in."

    Only when reminded that the best part of his dream was broadcast nationally on ESPN, did Saltalamacchia display an expected youthful excitement that you would expect from most any kid who was privileged enough to have experienced such a moment.

    "I'll be glued [Friday night] to ESPN," Saltalamacchia said. "It sounds bush league, but whatever, this is my first big-league Spring Training."

    Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


  2. #2
    RamsFan16 Guest

    Re: The "Official" Atlanta Braves thread

    Notes: Giles tending to family
    Health of second baseman's newborn daughter has improved
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Marcus Giles has been away from Braves camp for eight days tending to his wife and their newborn daughter, who was born five weeks premature.

    Braves general manager John Schuerholz has spoken with Giles and learned that the baby's health has improved. But Schuerholz told the veteran second baseman to take as much time as necessary to take care of his family.

    "We wanted to let him know that we are with him, and we've communicated that to him," Schuerholz said. "We told him whatever amount of time it would take for him to deal with that circumstance, we're behind him 100 percent."

    Giles' wife, Tracy, gave birth to their daughter last week. The baby weighed five and a half pounds, but there were immediate complications with her breathing. As time has passed, doctors have become more encouraged.

    While Giles will be entering this season potentially learning a new role as the club's leadoff hitter, as well as getting used to his new double-play partner Edgar Renteria, the Braves understand that he still has plenty of time to prepare, and more importantly, that his family issues are much more important.

    "The most important timetable is how soon the baby gets healthy enough that they can feel comfortable enough that the baby has its health, and they can look forward and be positive about that," Schuerholz said.

    This is the couple's third child. They have a 2-year-old daughter named Arringtun Mae. Their first child, Lundyn, was born three months premature and died just 16 days after her birth on June 3, 2002.

    Perez to play in WBC? Eddie Perez left Braves camp around 3 p.m. ET on Friday to drive to Clearwater and be present for the Venezuelan national team's first meeting in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

    Perez's surgically repaired shoulder still prevents him from throwing, but if the Venezuelan team is interested, he said he may choose to play and serve as a designated hitter.

    "This is a big thing in Venezuela," Perez said. "All my family called me last night just going crazy. I told them I'm probably not going to play, but I could be part of the team."

    Perez, who spent all but six weeks of last season on the disabled list, was invited to Braves camp to give him an opportunity to rehab and possibly show other teams he could play for them.

    Braves manager Bobby Cox gave Perez his blessing to at least go talk to Venezuelan team officials and see what they planned for him. Cox is still planning to use the veteran catcher as his designated hitter in Sunday's exhibition game against The Netherlands.

    In all likelihood, Perez may simply provide some leadership for a Venezuelan team that will play its first-round games at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. If the Venezuelans were to advance, and they are certainly expected to, he likely wouldn't follow them to their second-round games in Puerto Rico.

    Vet pitchers making preparations: John Thomson and Mike Remlinger weren't too impressive in Friday's 8-7 win over the Dodgers, but they both were in early exhibition season form, working on pitches and mechanics.

    Thomson, who allowed four runs and six hits in two innings, needed 32 pitches to escape Los Angeles' four-run first inning. He bounced back with a 10-pitch second inning, in which he allowed two singles.

    While talking with pitching coach Roger McDowell earlier this week, the right-handed Thomson came to the realization that he was falling toward the third-base side during his delivery. He has since adjusted his foot placement on the mound. It may take some time before he gets used to the change.

    Remlinger, who is fighting to prove he can still pitch at the big-league level, allowed three earned runs and four hits in just two-thirds of an inning. He's been working on a curveball that he tried to use often against Dodgers hitters.

    Braves bits: Andruw Jones played six innings in Friday's game against the Dodgers and then went to one of the back fields to spend some time with his teammates from The Netherlands. He'll practice with the national team on Saturday and then play with them when they face the Braves on Sunday. ... Renteria made his Braves debut on Friday and recorded a single in two at-bats. ... Chuck James allowed two hits and issued three walks in just 1 1/3 innings against the Dodgers, but he didn't allow a run.

    Coming up: The Braves will travel to play the Astros at Osceola County Stadium on Saturday. Tim Hudson will make his first start of the spring and be followed by John Foster, Travis Smith and Chad Paronto.

    Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

  3. #3
    RamsFan16 Guest

    Re: The "Official" Atlanta Braves thread

    Schuerholz continues to silence critics
    Son of Braves general manager homers in win over Dodgers
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Jonathan Schuerholz made his way out of the Braves' clubhouse at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Friday afternoon, he jokingly said, "Way to go, Salty, way to steal my thunder."

    Before Jarrod Saltalamacchia drilled a three-run walk-off home run in the Braves' 8-7 win over the Dodgers, the spotlight was on Schuerholz, whose father is also his boss in the business world.

    While being the son of Atlanta's general manager made the accomplishment interesting, it's not the only reason Schuerholz's fifth-inning solo homer was newsworthy. More interesting is the fact that every time he's had to prove himself to his critics, the kid has found a way to silence them.

    When it was announced that he was one of the Braves' non-roster invitees this year, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's story mentioned that he wasn't a prospect. While the 25-year-old infielder might not be a top prospect, he's certainly fueled by those who doubt he'll ever find a steady spot on a big-league roster.

    "It's fun," Schuerholz said. "You've got to play this game with a chip on your shoulder. Everybody is going to say you can't do this or you can't do that. I think I've got to go out every day and prove I can play at the big-league level. Hopefully I'll get a shot to do that every day."

    It still remains to be seen whether Schuerholz will realize that dream. After a late-season promotion to Triple-A Richmond last year, he hit just .175 in 143 at-bats. But holding true to his form, the gritty infielder rebounded and hit .310 in the Arizona Fall League.

    "Jonathan has come a long way since he was a little teenager," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's made himself into a real nice player."

    Schuerholz, who has hit a total of five home runs in 1,479 career Minor League at-bats, has been in big-league clubhouses since he was a small child. When his father was the Royals' GM, he remembers the tounge-lashing he received when he pulled a chair out from under Kurt Stillwell, who was a Kansas City infielder from 1988-91.

    During his high school years, Cox often allowed him the opportunity to take batting practice during Spring Training. But this year is different in the fact that Schuerholz actually has chance to prove he can play at the game's highest level.

    "It's different being on the team, actually having a locker in this locker room," Schuerholz said. "You feel like part of the team."

    This is something that is also very different for his proud father, who had the pleasure of seeing his son hit the memorable homer off Franquelis Osoria, who appeared in 24 games for Los Angeles last year.

    "It was a great thrill for me to see him to do that," the elder Schuerholz said. "I'm happy for Jonathan and happy for our team that we won with Salty's home run."

    According to the Braves GM, "it was a thrilling day" and one in which his team followed the assigned script.

    "We wanted all the guys with long names to hit home runs today, so two guys jumped in," Schuerholz said.

    Mark Bowman
    is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

  4. #4
    RamsFan16 Guest

    Re: The "Official" Atlanta Braves thread

    Notes: Smoltz ready to face Andruw
    Righty to start Sunday as Braves face Team Netherlands
    By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

    Tim Hudson, who allowed one earned run in two innings on Saturday, felt good after his outing. (John Raoux/AP)
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    KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- John Smoltz's mind has been racing all week. But it appears he's come to a conclusion and decided exactly how he'll approach his first matchup against his longtime teammate, Andruw Jones.

    "After careful consideration of the numerous amount of fly balls that I do need caught, I think it would behoove me to throw a cookie right down the middle," Smoltz said.

    Smoltz will get his first opportunity to face his Gold Glove center fielder when the Braves host Team Netherlands, which features Jones, on Sunday afternoon at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.

    Jones and the rest of his teammates from the Netherlands will fly to Puerto Rico on Sunday night to prepare for the World Baseball Classic. They'll face Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panama in their first-round pool.

    With this being Smoltz's first start of the spring, he'll likely face Jones just once during his scheduled two-inning debut.

    "I hope I get him out so that I don't have to hear about it all year long," Smoltz said. "It's a one-time thing. That's a lot of pressure."

    Smoltz has entertained options of throwing Jones a first-pitch knuckleball. Having heard this, the Braves center fielder, who led the Majors with 51 homers last year, said he's also made plans for his one at-bat.

    "If I hit it out, I'm going to shake everybody in [the Braves] dugout's hand and then run the bases," Jones said.

    Jones will go to the plate knowing he might see anything ranging from a fastball to an eephus pitch.

    But there's no reason for Jones to worry about a bean ball, is there?

    "It's certainly possible," Smoltz said with a smile. "Andruw is definitely capable of taking one in the ribs. He's strong. He's a good-looking player, with whom bruising probably won't be an issue. He's got time to get over it. That would be only if it slipped. It would never be an intentional situation.

    spring training 2006
    News and features:
    • Braves notes: Smoltz to face Andruw
    • Braves get offensive in win over Astros
    • Braves' Saltalamacchia living a 'dream'
    • Saltalamacchia's homer lifts Braves
    • Braves notes: Giles tending to family
    • Schuerholz continues to silence critics
    Multimedia:
    • GM John Schuerholz on Braves' streak
    • Tim Hudson on the Braves' chances
    Spring Training info:
    • MLB.com coverage | Schedule | Ballpark | Tickets

    "Can you imagine getting suspended after hitting your own player?"

    Healthier Hudson: Misfortune tainted Tim Hudson's spring debut. But the most important thing is that he exited Saturday afternoon's 10-6 win over the Astros at Osceola County Stadium feeling much healthier than he did at this point last year.

    "All in all, I felt really good," Hudson said. "I kept the ball on the ground, and that's what I wanted."

    Hudson was charged with one earned run and five hits in two innings. Four of the hits were infield singles.

    "If he throws like that, he's got a chance to win 30 [games]," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

    The second-inning double he surrendered to Adam Everett was an infield chopper that stayed inside the third-base line and found its way into left field. Jeff Bagwell's fly out to center to end the second was the hardest ball hit against the right-hander.

    "I felt good with the swings they were taking," Hudson said. "They weren't taking very good swings."

    When Hudson reported to Spring Training last year, he was battling some soreness in his upper back. That, along with another left oblique strain that forced him to spend a month on the disabled list, prevented him from being in top form last season, during which he was 14-9 with a 3.52 ERA.

    "Last year at this time, I was in the trainer's room dealing with stuff," Hudson said. "This year, I told the trainers that I like them and everything, but it won't hurt my feelings if I don't see them too much this year."

    Jurries shines: James Jurries has a good shot to earn a roster spot and he's started the spring strong. In Saturday's game, the 26-year-old infielder registered three hits and scored four times.

    Jurries, who could share time at first base with Adam LaRoche, had an RBI single in a four-run fourth inning and put himself in position to score after hitting a double to begin the seventh. He has four hits, including two doubles, in his first six at-bats of the Grapefruit League season.

    Braves bits: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a walk-off homer on Friday, had one hit in five at-bats on Saturday. ... Before he left to join Team Canada, Pete Orr displayed some patriotic pride by hanging a Canadian T-shirt above his locker. ... LaRoche, Wilson Betemit, Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson, Matt Diaz, Brian McCann, John Foster and Kyle Davies have all come to terms on one-year deals. All 38 players on the 40-man roster are now under contract.

    Coming up: The Braves will play a split-squad game against Team Netherlands at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Sunday afternoon. Smoltz will be making his spring debut. The other squad will travel to Winter Haven and send Kyle Davies to the mound to face the Indians at 1:05 p.m. ET.

    Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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