Spring Training Blog - March 19

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks has the latest from spring training, including some news on some of the Braves' international players.

Sunday, March 19 - 5:28 pm

The Braves single-A teams hosted the Washington Nationals' single-A teams at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

In the Low-A game, Beau Jones had a nice spring debut with two shutout innings of work. Jones really looks good. His fastball pops the glove pretty well, and he's got a nice assortment of breaking stuff for a kid. Jones was followed by Jairo Cuevas, who gave up on run in two innings. Cuevas was the Appy League's pitcher of the year last season. He's a big right-hander with a fastball in the mid-90s. I'm anxious to see him in Rome this year. Marcus Covington, Donavan Hendricks, and Jose Santiago also pitched for Rome today.

The High-A game featured a good lineup of some of the Braves' best pitching prospects. Right-hander Chris Vines went two scoreless innings. Then James Parr looked fantastic with three scoreless innings. Lefty Jo Jo Reyes went one inning, followed by Tyler Bullock, David Williams, and Johnnie Wiggins. Williams was the only one of the four to give up a run, as two Nationals crossed the plate. Reyes continues to look like he's back after all his injuries. This was the first time I've seen Bullock pitch in a game, and this guy is good.

Billy McCarthy and Jamie Romak both homered for Myrtle Beach. McCarthy's ankle has acted up a bit this week, so they had him in there as the DH so he wouldn't have to run in the outfield. But Billy's going to be good to go come Opening Day. His bat looks good. And Romak's just got to stay healthy, and he's got a chance to be one of our better prospects. Romak's strong as an ox.

Dean White had a RBI single, and catcher Junior Guerra had two hard hit balls, including a double off the batter's eye in center field. Robert Marcial, signed last July as a non-drafted free agent out of the University of Nevada, made a spectacular play at shortstop diving to his left.

Scratch off Alonzo Ruelas, the catcher taken in the 8th round of the 2001 draft. He's evidently retired. Ruelas had a .249 career average in 734 at bats as mainly a backup catcher. The Braves thought he was a candidate to become a good backup catcher one day, but Ruelas did not develop.

Some international news. First off, I talked with a scout today about Elvis. The comparisons are now leaning toward Derek Jeter. I've heard A-Rod and Miguel Tejada, but the Jeter comparisons seem more accurate. I'd hate to compare anyone to A-Rod, and Elvis is going to be bigger than Tejada. I think that's why the scouts are now saying Derek Jeter. He's going to be lean like Jeter, but even smoother at shortstop.

One thing about Elvis. As he moves up the ladder, he should be able to handle the pressure of being a top prospect due to his older brother Erold, who is in the Twins' organization. Coaches say Erold has been a big influence on Elvis and will keep him grounded as he matures and has more attention on him.

I asked one of his coaches what Elvis needs to work on. He said the only thing he needs to improve on in how the ball comes out of his hand on throws. He curls the ball a bit when he throws, but they have been working with him on that this spring. They are not worried about it being a problem, since he's got a great arm. Other than just needing to get more experience, there's not much the coaches feel he needs to do. He's just got to continue to develop, which he will, in time.

Oh, and Andrus is pronounced like Andrews.

One name to watch for the GCL or Danville this year is outfielder Concepcion Rodriguez, an 18-year-old signed out of Panama in 2003. Rodriguez is six-foot-two, 170 pounds. He won't turn 19 until after the season in September. He's been the MVP in the DSL the last two seasons. Rodriguez hit .281 with 5 home runs and 32 RBI last year, along with 35 walks, in only 196 at bats. The Braves feel he's going to be a hitter, as he's got good eye recognition of the pitches coming his way. If he continues to impress this spring, and in Extended Spring Training, Rodriguez might even push himself to Danville.

Another Panamanian, right-hander Eliezer Murillo, will have surgery Monday in Atlanta. Murillo was injured in a serious car accident when he was on his way to the airport to leave for Spring Training several weeks ago. His right hand went through the glass on the sunroof. He will miss the entire 2006 season. Murillo is a six-foot-four, 200 pound righty who won't turn 18 until this October. The Braves still believe he'll completely recover, and since he's so young, he'll still have time to fully develop. He could be 6'6", 240 by the time he's finished growing.

I told you on Friday that one of my newest favorite pitchers around here is Yeliar Castro, the 18-year-old Panamanian that has a lightning arm. Well, the coaches are raving about him as well. He'll probably be in Danville this season.

And while I haven't seen him yet, I've been told to keep an eye on Neftali Feliz, a seventeen-year-old right-hander from the Dominican. He's a six-foot-three, 170 pounder who pitched ten games in relief for the DSL Braves last year (3.60 ERA, 11 walks, 8 K's, 7 hits in 10 innings). Those were not great stats, especially the walks, but coaches say he has great stuff.

The media guide is out. Here are a few notes on some of the international players coming over this year:

Ricardo Almanzar - INF - 6'3", 200 - Bats L, Throws L - must be a 1B - Just turned 17 - will play in DSL this year

Luis Avilan - LHP - 6'2", 165 - Turns 17 in July - will be in DSL this year

Yoel Campusano - 5'11", 175 - just turned 19 - We've discussed him on here.

Matt Kennelly - C - 6'1", 180 - turns 17 this week - from Australia - will be here for the Instructional League

Angel Lebron - RHP - 6'2", 170 - from Dominican - turns 17 in July - will be in DSL

Jose Maldonado - INF - 5'10", 160 - Just turned 17 - right-handed hitter - will be in DSL

Edwin Nunez - RHP - 6'2", 145 - Just turned 17 - from Dominican - will be in DSL

Marcos Reyes - RHP - 6'0", 160 - just turned 17 - from Dominican - will be in DSL

So Joey Devine gave up a few runs today, huh? Well, I guess it was about time. He'll be okay.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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