LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL
First impressions from my first day at spring training…
When I first walked into the major league dugout, there was Bobby Cox in street clothes. Weird. Very weird...
I got a chance to watch new Braves second baseman Dan Uggla work extensively with shortstop Alex Gonzalez Friday. They worked on the double play pivot, throws, etc. They seemed to do well and looked like two veterans, which is pretty good to have in the middle of the diamond.
So much has been speculated about Uggla's defensive issues, but we probably need six weeks or so to see for ourselves what kind of second baseman he can be for this team. Plus, don't discount how important it might be to have sure-handed Freddie Freeman at first base. Freeman made another great play Friday and continues to show great defense. He can help Uggla be better, particularly with his ability to scoop out throws at first base.
Plus, the addition of Uggla and Freeman in the lineup is certain to make it stronger. Those are two power hitters that should help Brian McCann, Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward in the lineup…
As I ventured back to the minor league fields, the player that stood out was not Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado or even Arodys Vizcaino. Those are considered the top three pitching prospects, but don't forget about left-hander Carlos Perez.
He was named the best prospect in the Appalachian League last year, and now Perez is set to join the Rome rotation. Perez is noticeably bigger, filling out his frame. He's now close to 6'3" or so, and has put on more weight as well. He is recovered from a rib injury that halted his season a bit earlier than expected, and coaches are anxious to see what Perez can do this season.
Perez was a big get on the international market a couple of years ago when Johnny Almaraz signed him out of the Dominican. Perez has great arm action and the stuff is above average, with an outstanding fastball. He could easily join the other three as a top prospect before the year is out…
While Perez stood out, there is no doubt that Vizcaino is the talk of camp. He just got to minor league camp today, after he was sent over from big league camp. But coaches were talking about the scouts comparing the readings on the radar gun when he hit 101 mph. The stadium gun said 97, but scouts all clocked him at 101.
Vizcaino will start the season in the Lynchburg rotation, and the Braves will allow him to continue to work on his pitches with additional innings. For me, Vizcaino is a future relief prospect. That blazing fastball coming out of the bullpen? Whew. It could be scary. He's kind of like Neftali Feliz, with a better breaking ball…
Met Dave Trembley today. He's the new field coordinator for the Braves, which means he runs spring training on the minor league side. The former Baltimore Orioles manager seems like a great guy, and he's getting positive reviews so far from some of the staff. Pretty good to have a guy run your minor league spring training who a year ago was a major league manager.
Then it was off to Tampa to see the big league team play the Yankees. Tommy Hanson looked good again. He gave up only a home run to Jorge Posada, but then later Hanson struck Posada out on a great curveball.
Hanson said later he was still working on his changeup, but that his breaking balls have been doing well so far in spring training.
Hanson has obviously worked out a bit on his upper body strength this offseason. That was one of the reasons he picked Scott Boras as his agent - to work out at Boras's complex in California…
Kenshin Kawakami was unspectacular in his one inning of work. With now less than three weeks before the start of the season, you really wonder if the Braves can get rid of Kawakami. There is no room in the rotation, with Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Rodrigo Lopez battling it out for the fifth starter's job. It was interesting Kawakami pitched against the Yankees, who are still scouting around for another starting pitcher…
Scott Proctor hit 93 mph on the radar gun in his inning of work. His stuff was a little erratic, and right now it looks like Proctor is behind Cristhian Martinez in the battle for the long reliever's job. Proctor has not looked the same since he had Tommy John surgery two years ago.
Jordan Schafer had a home run and a great bunt down the first base line. Schafer looks like he's making a strong push for a roster spot with a great spring…
It was interesting to see Ed Lucas play. I look forward to seeing more of Lucas, who came over from the Royals as a minor league free agent. Lucas is battling for a backup infield job on the Atlanta roster…
Yankees camp is always fun to visit, with the history of the franchise and all. Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez were walking around in the tunnel. Then it was interesting to watch Alex Rodriguez work out on a minor league field after his day was over on the minor league side. Rodriquez spent time taking additional grounders and worked on his base running. Rodriguez does put in the time to be a great player, and you have to respect that…
By the way, just to make you feel old… Dale Murphy turns 55 on Saturday.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and The Atlanta Baseball Talk Show. Shanks writes columns for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
Spring Training Notes - Friday, March 11
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