Spring Training Report: 2/27

Hello from frigid Central Florida where the high temperature of 52 was logged at 1:00am this morning. The temp went downhill from there. It was cloudy and windy and pretty miserable for the first day of spring training for the Braves minor leaguers.

The day started out with all members of big league camp participating in Picture Day at Cracker Jack Stadium. Around 10 still photographers were on hand as the players moved from different locations in the stadium taking photos.

It's very obvious from watching Adam LaRoche that he is fitting in well as the Braves new starting first baseman. LaRoche told me that he was "counting down the days" until Opening Day when he can start his major league career.

Then a normal day of camp with batting practice and several pitchers getting work in pitching live BP. Russ Ortiz looks to have slimmed down a bit. Jaret Wright was throwing some gas in his turn. John Smoltz was throwing smooth and easy and there was no cringing going on. Jung Bong also saw time on the mound in live BP.

Bubba Nelson and Jose Capellan impressed Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone in bullpen sessions. Mazzone helped "Cappy" on an offspeed pitch. When "Cappy" got it down, Mazzone was noticeably pleased. Then Jose pitched live BP on a back field. I was right behind the cage and I can promise you that this guy throws hard. You couldn't pay me enough to step in there. Cappy told me he definitely wants to be a closer!

It's obvious that the veteran pitchers have taken some of the kids under their wing. Blaine Boyer and Bubba Nelson both said the older guys (particularly Smoltz and Byrd) have been great to them.

Mike Hessman was lofting balls out of the stadium in batting practice. Hessman is battling Russ Branyan for a reserve role on the club.

Andruw Jones looks to be in better shape. I wouldn't say he looks really slimmed down, but he's lighter than he was last season. Mark DeRosa is in great shape. He looks ready to go as the Braves starting third baseman.

Today was the first day for the first group of minor leaguers on the back fields at Disney. Just over 60 players were on hand to work out. This was my first opportunity to see Sean White pitch. He was the Braves 8th round pick in last year's draft out of the University of Washington. White has an easy motion - it's nice to see pitchers throw free and easy. White could battle with Kyle Bakker, last year's 20th round pick, for a spot in Myrtle Beach's rotation. Bakker has slimmed down from the Instructional League.

Nothing has changed with Bryan Digby; he's still throwing gas. Macay McBride said he's been working on his breaking stuff. He was around the plate with most of his pitches and looked good.

Dan Meyer, Zach Miner, Chris Waters, Matt Coenen, Anthony Lerew, Kyle Davies, Matt Wright, Gonzalo Lopez, Matt Merricks, Chuck James, Steve Russell, Charlie Morton, and Jo Jo Reyes all had bullpen sessions today.

But it was the first day of camp for the kids, and truthfully on the first day everybody looks pretty good! Despite the weather, everyone was just glad baseball is back!

Bill Shanks hosts "The Braves Show" during the baseball season. He can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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