Shanks' Braves Blog

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks offers his latest thoughts on the Braves' organization. This is a free preview of our premium content.

* The collapse by Dan Kolb Sunday was the last straw. The team gave him every chance to prove he belonged on the playoff roster, if they get there, and Kolb has continually blown his shots. He was pitiful in the clubhouse Sunday. The media really didn't want to ask him any questions, but felt obligated to do so.

* Blaine Boyer is a closer waiting to happen. He wants the role right now. It might not happen until sometime next season, but there's little doubt he's got a chance to be really good. As Dan Kolb has proven this season, not everyone can be a closer. So it's good to have someone who wants the role - badly.

* My plan for the bullpen in the postseason? Kyle Farnsworth is the closer, followed by Chris Reitsma, Boyer, and then Kyle Davies. Yes, Kyle Davies. I know he's going to be a great starting pitcher. But this guy is a big-game pitcher. He won three deciding games for Rome two years ago and got Richmond into the playoffs last season. If he gets a few more opportunities out of the bullpen this month, Davies might convince Bobby Cox that he should be a viable option out of the bullpen in October.

* As for the lefties, John Foster is doing great. He was really pumped up Sunday when he came in to pitch. Macay McBride did an awesome job, and he is proving he'll be in there next season. But for the rest of this season, won't it be interesting to see if Mike Hampton can be a solid lefty reliever? Funny, you might have thought Hampton the starter would be the key to us winning in October, but it might be Hampton the reliever instead. Give Hampton credit for suggesting a move. If he can be effective for one or two innings, there's no reason the Braves shouldn't use him out there.

* Marcus Giles had a remarkable game Sunday. A lot is said about Marcus's offense, but if he doesn't win a Gold Glove this year something's wrong. Giles has developed into a spectacular defensive player. He made two great plays Sunday, and has really solidified the middle of the diamond defense.

* Adam LaRoche needs to take a few days off. He's just not in any zone whatsoever. We need him for the postseason, so let's hope he can get hot in late September and into October.

* Chipper Jones says he's close to being at 100% - yet another thing that this team has to have to be dangerous in the playoffs. Chipper's playing great defense as well at third base.

* Anthony Lerew was really excited on Sunday for his big league debut. He told me after Sunday's game that it only took him eight warm up pitches before he got the call to go into the game to relieve Dan Kolb. On his way out there, his longtime teammate Jeff Francoeur told him to ‘calm down, relax, and have fun.' Lerew said he was so focused, he really didn't look around too much. But he thought he'd have trouble breathing and be a bit more nervous. This kid could be really good, but as with many others, the Braves have got to figure out where he fits in.

* It must have been fun for Wes Timmons, Carlos Duran, Josh Burrus, Ryan Basner, Brian O'Connor, and Glenn Tucker to finish the season in AAA. All were on the Mississippi team that had to cancel the rest of its season due to Hurricane Katrina.

* Joey Devine is in Atlanta with the Braves. He told me that he first hurt his hip in the second inning of his major league debut, August 20th against the Padres. His velocity immediately went down and that helped contribute to giving up the grand slam. Devine really didn't tell anyone, since he thought that would be used as an excuse for giving up so many runs. Then he gave up another grand slam three days later and was sent to AAA Richmond. It was in Richmond where he finally admitted he had hurt himself in his big league debut. Devine says the doctors have told him he could be out for either a week or a month. It doesn't help that his sidearm delivery aggravates the hip area anyway. Don't be surprised if the Braves shut him down for the rest of the season.

* It will be interesting to see if the Braves bring up Chuck James after Richmond's season ends today. James has been remarkable all season, with impressive numbers in Myrtle Beach, Mississippi, and in AAA. But if they do bring him up, the Braves would have to make more room on their 40-man roster, which is currently full.

* I'm sure that James Jurries, Scott Thorman, and Jorge Vasquez feel like they should also get the call. They can all make a solid case for a September promotion. However, Jurries has finished his season on Richmond's disabled list.

* Here are just a few of the players that will be heading to Orlando in a few weeks for the Instructional League: Matt Esquivel, Brandon Jones, Mark Jurich, Diory Hernandez, Van Pope, Jake Stevens, Kelvin Villa, Manny Acosta, and Bryan Digby.

* Esquivel will be playing at first base and third base in Instructs, which shows you how confident the organization is that they have found their outfielders for the long-term. Also, Jones hopes to come back from his hand injury, which he aggravated late in the season in Myrtle Beach.

* A few Braves' farmhands have been playing in Baseball's World Cup competition. Glen Richards and Dean White of Rome are playing for Australia, while Rico Rodriquez of Myrtle Beach is playing for Spain.

* Forget his stats. Kelvin Villa has shot up the prospect list this season. Bruce Dal Canton has really raved about Villa's talent, despite his poor record. Last year at this time Jose Ascanio created a buzz within the system, and this year it's Villa.

* And Pedro Rayo certainly has been impressive. He rolled through the Gulf Coast League and the Braves felt so good about his ability that they sent him to finish out the season in Myrtle Beach. This 21-year-old from Nicaragua is one to watch for next season.

* Finally, it's always great to see a player improve. On July 19th, Kevin Barry was struggling in AAA Richmond. He was 2-3 with a 4.69 ERA in 25 games. He had allowed 41 hits in 40.1 innings pitched, 24 runs allowed, 21 earned runs allowed, 27 walks, and 34 strikeouts. Then the Braves sent him to AA Mississippi. Barry worked with pitching coach Kent Willis, whom he had never worked with before. Barry did great in his three AA appearances, allowing only one run on three hits over 7.1 innings. Then, on August 3rd, the Braves sent him back to AAA Richmond to start in order to get some quality innings. Well, Barry has been remarkable ever since. He had one relief appearance, on August 3rd, but since then has made six starts. Barry went 3-0 in those six starts with an ERA of 1.00. He allowed only 16 hits in 36 innings of work, 4 earned runs, 15 walks, and 37 strikeouts. Now, after watching Barry pitch his fifth straight start of going at least six innings on Saturday, Richmond Manager Pat Kelly admitted the organization may have to re-think Barry's future. More than likely, he'll still be a reliever. But Barry has definitely opened the eyes of the Braves' executives, and he should be considered as a wildcard for next spring. Once again, the Braves coaches, in this case Kent Willis, have helped a kid get better to the point where he might be close to being ready for the major leagues.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. Bill can be reached at

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