AL: New York Yankees 3B Alex Rodriquez
NL: St Louis Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols
AL: Boston Red Sox LH Jon Lester
NL: Philadelphia Phillies RH Roy Halladay
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
AL: Chicago White Sox LHP Chris Sale
NL: Atlanta Braves 1B Freddie Freeman
MANAGERS OF THE YEAR
AL: Oakland A’s Bob Geren
NL: Milwaukee Brewers Ron Roenicke
AL PLAYOFF TEAMS:
Boston, Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago(Wild Card)
NL PLAYOFF TEAMS:
Atlanta, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Philadelphia(Wild Card)
ATLANTA BRAVES 2011 SEASON PREVIEW
Prediction: 1st in NL East
Team strengths: Balanced team with solid rotation and line-up as well as a good blend of youth and experience… Elite C in Brian McCann…. Excellent young talent in 2010 Rookie of the Year RF Jason Heyward and 1B Freddie Freeman…. Added the most underrated player in the NL, 2B Dan Uggla… Deep, versatile bullpen
Team weaknesses: All time great Manager Bobby Cox(Braves manager 1978-81,90-2010) has retired, replaced by one of his proteges ex Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez. As good as I think Gonzalez is, Bobby Cox is on the Mount Rushmore of Major League managers. Huge shoes to fill!!!….Future Hall of Famer 3b Chipper Jones is coming back from a late season ACL tear and on the wrong side of 35. That man is VITAL to Atlanta’s hopes!!!…CF Nate McLouth, once one of the better Centerfielders in the game, must bounce back after a disastrous 2010(.198 average)…Might be short a starting pitcher
SS Alex Gonzalez
LF Martin Prado
RH Derek Lowe
RH Tommy Hanson
RH Tim Hudson
RH Jair Jurrjens
LH Mike Minor
Closer RH Craig Kimbrel
Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar returned to camp Wednesday(March 23rd) for the first time since a horrific accident claimed his left eye March 9th. The popular former ML infielder appeared in great spirits, thanking god “That I’m talking to you guys and that I’m alive, God gave me a second chance in this world, and I’m going to take advantage of it. I really appreciate it.” The 54 year old was struck in the face by a line drive from Atlanta all star catcher Brian McCann and knocked unconscious. While he still has some minor medical issues to clear(Facial fractures to heal) , Salazar appears ready to resume his role as manager of the Braves class A advanced club Lynchburg in about 2 weeks. Great, great story, we are all praying and cheering for Luis!
Other camp notes: Braves 3B and future hall of famer Chipper Jones(ACL surgery, left knee) proclaimed himself good to go last week and is eager to start the 2011 campaign. In his last 25 at bats, Jones is hitting .407 with 14 hits including 6 doubles and 2 home runs… RF Jayson Heyward(Sore back) returned to the line-up March 17th after missing 6 days. An MRI revealed a back condition that he has dealt with since high school. The 2010 Rookie of the Year lacks cartilage between his spine and one of his disks. The problem can be corrected by frequent stretching…. Co-closers LH Jonny Venters(0.00 ERA, 9 innings pitched, 2 hits,7 ks) and RH Craig Kimbrel(3.86,10,7,12) have both looked awesome in camp and should help 1st year Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez rest easy at night
Braves Minor League manager Luis Salazar lost his left eye Wednesday(March 16th) after doctors determined it was in his best interest medically. Salazar was struck in the face by a line drive in spring game last week and knocked unconscious. Many feared for his life but he escaped brain damage and it appears he will be healthy enough to manage in 4-6 weeks according to Atlanta GM Frank Wren. “As the doctor told us from the very beginning, in the big picture, this is a really good outcome.” Wren said. Salazar , 54, is a former ML utility player and in his first year in the Braves organization, he is scheduled to manage Class A advanced Lynchburg. Get well, Luis!
Other Braves news: Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced the first four in his rotation Wednesday. Veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe will draw the opening day assignment at the Nationals March 31st. Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson will follow before Jair Jurrjens will toss the home opener vs the Brewers April 4th…. 2010 Rookie of the Year and RF Jason Heyward has missed 4 straight games with a sore back. Wren dismisses it as a wear and tear, spring training type thing, nothing serious…. Hanson has looked especially strong this spring and after Wednesday’s strong outing vs the AL Favorite Boston Red Sox he has allowed only 2 earned runs over 14 innings
Atlanta Braves all star C Brian McCann is breathing a sigh of relief today(Thursday March 10th) after a line drive of his bat struck the organization’s new class A Minor league manager in the face. 54 year old former long time major league infielder Luis Salazar escaped a potentially fatal situation but did not leave unscarred, suffering multiple facial fractures and could also have damage to his left eye. McCann hit a liner into the 1st base dugout in Wednesday’s game(March 9th) and was unaware of the damage until he returned to the dugout. He returned to find Salazar unconscious with his face covered in blood. Paramedics rushed to the scene with the injuries magnified by Salazar being knocked out by the ball and further trauma caused by a subsequent fall. A visibly shaken McCann finished the at bat with a weak swing quickly turning his attention to the stricken Salazar, who was rushed to the hospital . The Atlanta backstop waited at the hospital, speaking to both Salazar’s wife and 31 year old son. Reports early Thursday have Luis’ escaping brain damage. Say a prayer for both Salazar, his family and McCann. Awful, awful scene.
Other notes: Braves CF Nate McLouth received a cortisone injection in his right shoulder after falling on his arm in a spring game Monday(March 7th). The injury bothered him only when he extended his arm to throw, he hopes to be back in game action Friday(March 11th)… 3B Chipper Jones appears to be making great progress with his injured left knee(Torn ACL) and has had no setbacks. The future hall of famer has played in 8 games, 3 at 3B as of March 8th while getting 23 at bats.
The Atlanta Braves continued to get solid outings from starting pitchers to open spring training. Sunday(March 6th) Tommy Hanson allowed one hit in 3 innings vs the Washington Nationals with one walk and strike out. The righty follows veterans Derek Lowe(3 no hit innings March 5th vs New York Mets)and Jair Jurrjens( 5 innings, 2 runs) out of the box. All 3 looked good and should be ready to roll from game 1.
Rookie 1B Freddie Freeman looks to be every bit as good as the hype early in camp. Already major league ready defensively, he has hit .381(8 for 21) in the first 7 Grapefruit league games. I took a peak at some Braves spring games this week and happened to come across two Freeman at bats. Not to put pressure on the young man but he reminds me of ex Brave(and current NY Yankee) Mark Teixeira. Last year’s NL rookie of the year Jason Heyward appears fine after tweaking his left groin early in camp. The Braves rightfielder was thrown out at the plate trying to score on gap shot but ran full speed without any pain Sunday(March 6th). “It all felt good,” Heyward said. “I didn’t hold anything back.”
3B-OF Chipper Jones tested his knee(Torn left ACL) in the field Thursday(March 3rd) and made some plays defensively with little issue at the hot corner. The arm is fine, the future hall of famer just needs to get reps and work. “Everything is a test at this point,” Jones said. “Little by little, I keep passing them. I really wanted somebody to hit a bullet at me.” He plans to alternate between third and DH until his knee is ready to play the stated goal of 130 games in 2011. They key medically? No fluid build up in the joint. Amazing recovery for someone who turns 39 this year from a major knee injury 7 months ago.
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