Spring Training Notes

With the trade of Nick Green and the acquisition of Jorge Sosa, the Atlanta roster is shaping up. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks files his last report before he leaves Orlando and heads north for the start of the season.

  • The Nick Green rumor broke out about Tuesday as the players started hearing rumblings that Tampa Bay was interested in the Braves' reserve infielder. Green was a little shocked, much like Charles Thomas was last December. But if he starts in Tampa Bay, it could be worth leaving a perennial winner for a last-place club.

  • Bobby Seay was (and is) a player that the Braves had (have) interest in. The Tampa Bay lefty might be waived this weekend and he is out of options. So he still could be acquired in a waiver deal. However, the Braves believed Sosa had more value in a deal for Green.

  • There are still rumblings about the health of Kevin Gryboski. But for now, he seems to have convinced his biggest fan, Bobby Cox that he is able to go for the start of the season. But like last year at this time, Gryboski's shoulder is very shaky.

  • Adam Bernero has been told that he will be the long man out of the Atlanta bullpen. Despite his recent shaky outings, Bernero convinced Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone that he was the man for the job with a strong start to his month of March.

  • While the Braves do have to pay Tom Martin $900,000 this season, don't expect them to stick with him if he continues to pitch wretched baseball in April and May. While there's not a lefty reliever ready to go in AAA, the Braves will be aggressive in keeping the bullpen productive. They do not want to blow leads for this starting rotation.

  • Even though neither Buddy Hernandez nor Kevin Barry is likely to make the team out of spring training, they have both showed that they are very capable of helping the Atlanta club out this season if needed. The Braves still believe Barry has the higher ceiling as a reliever, but you can't ignore Hernandez's numbers from this spring.

  • Horacio Ramirez told me Thursday that he never could have dreamed his recovery from shoulder surgery would have gone so well this spring. "Ho" is ready to go and feels stronger than he has in years. His first start will come next Saturday against the Mets in Atlanta.

  • Wilson Betemit's time has come. He's going to be a big leaguer and he's going to be an Atlanta Brave. Over the past several years, that didn't seem like a likely possibility. But Betemit has played stellar defense and shown flashes of productivity at the plate. If he can fulfill his promise and become an effective player, he might easily become the Braves starter at shortstop next season should Rafael Furcal leave via free agency.

  • Another player that might benefit from Thursday's trade of Nick Green is Kelly Johnson, slated to start the year in Richmond's outfield. Johnson spent time this spring at second base, and Braves coaches were thrilled by the way he played there. If Orr or Betemit go down with an injury and Johnson is playing well, he could very well be recalled to Atlanta.

  • The Richmond starting rotation looks like it will be led by Kyle Davies, the Braves' top pitching prospect. While the team still has to be finalized on Friday, right now it looks like the rotation will also include Seth Greisinger, Sam McConnell, Andy Van Hekken, and Brian O'Connor.

  • Barry and Hernandez will be the kids in the Richmond bullpen, with minor league veterans Hector Almonte and Alex Herrera available as strong options for the closer's role. John Foster may not break with the team right out of camp, but he's close to being ready to go to either Richmond or Mississippi.

  • James Jurries will start at first in Richmond, with Jason Bourgeois at second, Tony Pena, Jr. at short, and Andy Marte at third. Kelly Johnson and Billy McCarthy will be in the outfield, with either Esix Snead or John Barnes there as well.

  • Mississippi's roster looks mighty talented. The rotation will include Macay McBride, Anthony Lerew, Matt Wright, Zach Miner, and Blaine Boyer.

  • Glenn Tucker could get a look-see as the AA closer, with Jorge Vasquez also an option. Matt Coenen, Casey DeHeart, and Brian Langen could be the three lefty relievers in Mississippi, with Ryan Basner, Jeremy Ward, and Jason Richardson also on board.

  • The AA lineup will look real similar to last year's Myrtle Beach group with Jeff Francoeur, Onil Joseph, and Gregor Blanco getting most of the work in the outfield. The infield will be the same with Scott Thorman at first base, Jonathan Schuerholz at second, Luis Hernandez at short, and Wes Timmons at third base.

  • Myrtle Beach will have a six-man starting rotation with Brady Endl and Juan Alvarez splitting time and piggybacking. Jake Stevens, Chuck James, and Sean White will also be in the rotation. The Braves plan to allow Jose Ascanio to get some innings by starting in Myrtle Beach's rotation.

  • Endl was one of the surprises of the spring, showing an excellent fastball and well-developed breaking stuff. He was the Braves 10th round pick last June, and the Braves believe he is a very mature pitcher from the college level that could rise quickly.

  • While Ascanio moves to the rotation, Bryan Digby goes back into the bullpen after starting last year in Rome. The Pelicans' bullpen will also have Jake Blakeney, Paul Bush, Rico Rodriquez, Wes Letson, and Ralph Roberts.

  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be Myrtle Beach's top prospect to watch this summer. He'll be joined by Carlos Guzman at first base (at least until Mark Jurich is ready later in the summer), Martin Prado at second, Diory Hernandez at short, and a duo at third base of Ben Thomas and Scott Schade. Josh Burrus, Matt Esquivel, Carlos Duran, and Ardley Jansen will be in the outfield.

  • Like last season, Rome's rotation will start the year with seven members. Expect Chris Vines, Luis Atilano, and Charlie Morton to be regular starters, with Matt Harrison, James Parr, Kelvin Villa, and Jonny Venters piggybacking. Morton is not a surprise returnee to Rome, but he might not stay there for long if he dominates, as most players the Braves return to their previous level do in that situation.

  • One arm to watch is Zach Schreiber, the Braves' 16th round pick out of Duke last spring. Schreiber did have some shoulder trouble late last summer, but he's done well and shown an outstanding fastball in camp. He'll be in Rome's bullpen with Dan Smith, Nelson Payano, Rodny Jiminez, and Johnnie Wiggins.

  • The fans in Rome will see a bit older team, with college players like catcher Clint Sammons, first baseman Keith Eichas, second baseman J.C. Holt, shortstop Mike Rozema, third baseman Van Pope, and outfielders Brandon Jones and Steve Doetsch featured in the lineup. Doetsch is another player the Braves hope can do well in his return to last year's level. The Braves want him to shorten that stride a bit so the strikeouts will decrease from last year.

  • Van Pope is a player that could get a promotion to Myrtle Beach with a strong start. He had a good spring, but the Braves didn't want to challenge him that much by allowing him to skip Rome. If he goes up, the Braves could promote last year's top pick, Eric Campbell. The coaches felt Campbell was just too raw to go to Rome out of camp, but he'll be in the Sally League eventually this summer.

  • The Pelicans break camp today, while Richmond and Mississippi leave Saturday, followed by Rome on Sunday.

Bill Shanks has a new book out later this month on the Braves scouting and player development philosophies called Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. He can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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