Spring Training Blog - March 28

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks has some notes from Kissimmee, Florida, where the Braves beat the Astros Tuesday 5-4.

Kissimmee, Florida

First some thoughts on John Thomson. I was told Monday afternoon by someone in the organization that Thomson had felt a twinge in his elbow during a side session over the weekend. I trusted that source 100%, but before I was going to even put anything in my premium blog, I decided to check with another source. I wasn't comfortable with putting potentially damaging info about a player the Braves were trying to trade on the Internet without a complete confirmation. Well, that second source had not heard about anything being wrong with Thomson, so I decided to wait until today to see if he made his scheduled start this afternoon against the Astros.

So then on my way to Kissimmee I got two calls from two of our moderators about Thomson being scratched from his start. Bingo - it was true.

It's a bit peculiar, though. The media notes claimed Thomson has "spring training elbow tenderness." Okay, why would they put "spring training" into that title? Well, to be honest, pitchers can come up with what I've always called "spring trainingitus" during the month of March. It's pretty much expected that several pitchers are going to go through some pains after not pitching the entire winter and then throwing regularly again.

Is that what this is with Thomson? Well, he has not had a MRI yet, and you'd think if they believed there was anything tremendously serious about Thomson's elbow, he would have already had a MRI. So you have to believe them when they say that this situation is day-to-day. They've just got to wait and see how he's going to feel tomorrow.

But Thomson's elbow tenderness has got to be serious enough to even announce that he is, indeed, having discomfort. This is a player they are trying to trade, and they certainly didn't want to decrease his value. Now, no matter how serious it really is, there's no way they can trade Thomson. Why would any team take a chance on the guy that missed so much time last year and now has another injury concern? I wouldn't. Would you?

In the short-term, this answers the question of how the rotation could shake out. His elbow problem will probably keep Thomson out of action, for at least the start of the season, allowing Kyle Davies, Jorge Sosa, and Horacio Ramirez to fill out the last three spots in the rotation. If Thomson is healthy, then they're stuck with him until he can prove he's healthy to other teams, which might take a few starts.

So how serious is Thomson? Well, again, we're just going to have to wait til tomorrow to see. But even if he's not terribly hurt, would they just put him on the DL anyway to take care of the situation of what to do with six people for five rotation spots? Well, that would be silly. The best thing to do if Thomson is healthy is to get him back into the rotation so he can show everyone he is healthy, and put Sosa in the pen for at least a few weeks (as he said he would do). By late April, some team will need a starter, and by then the Braves will also have a better read on how their bullpen will shake out, and whether or not Blaine Boyer, John Foster, and Macay McBride can be counted on for the enitre season.

McBride to start season on DL

Braves' Manager Bobby Cox confirmed after Wednesday's game that left-handed reliever Macay McBride will not be ready in time for the start of the season on Monday.

McBride has not pitched since March 6th after having blood build up in his left wrist area. The blood has cleared up, and Cox was encouraged by the latest reports after McBride played catch on the side Monday.

"Real good," Cox said. "He has no chance to open. I don't know when they're going to let him off the mound hard. But he has no effects of it all right now. He feels good. He was set so far back; he just can't catch up."

McBride will either stay behind in Extended Spring Training or go pitch for one of the minor league teams for a few days to start the season.

Cox happy with report on Reitsma

Braves' closer Chris Reitsma left Monday's game in the ninth inning against the Yankees with a strained left hamstring. Rumors were flying through the Braves' clubhouse that Reitsma might miss significant time, but Cox said the team was encouraged with how Retisma felt this morning.

"Better than we thought," Cox said. "We'll see. We don't know yet. We don't know. We've got to be a little careful. That's the same one he pulled a couple of years ago. Maybe it was scar tissue that came off because it didn't bleed. That's a good sign."

Like Thomson, the Braves have Reitsma listed as day-to-day.

Boyer to pitch Wednesday

Right-hander Blaine Boyer will pitch tomorrow when the Braves have their last home spring training game at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

Boyer had a great debut Sunday when he pitched a perfect inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. If he has another solid outing Wednesday, it will improve his chances of starting the season in Atlanta.

Ken Ray becomes an option

Right-hander Ken Ray pitched another perfect inning Tuesday for his fourth straight solid outing.

The six-foot-three right-hander was not even a non-roster player invited to camp. Ray has simply been called over to pitch four games, and now Cox says he's still considering Ray for the Atlanta bullpen.

"He's capable of striking guys out," Cox said. "The power stuff - the changeup, the breaking ball, the fastball. I thought he threw good today, not probably as good as last time, but real good. Good stuff. He's good. He's got a great idea, and he's going to throw strikes it looks like, for sure. And he knows how to pitch."

If there are any concerns about placing Boyer on the Opening Day roster, Ray might have a chance at making Atlanta's roster. But count on him starting the season in the Richmond bullpen.

Jordan and Jurries battling it out for roster spot

Brian Jordan and James Jurries continued their heated battle Tuesday afternoon as both continue to push for the backup first baseman's job.

Jordan has his average at .343 after his RBI double Tuesday, while Jurries was 1-for-2 to improve his average to .419. Jordan now has 5 RBI, while Jurries leads the team in camp with 14.

Davies continues to shine in camp

If you had any question about whether or not Kyle Davis will be in the Atlanta roation, he answered it Tuesday with another five solid innings of work.

Davies allowed three runs on eight hits and struck out five to pick up his second win of the season. He now has an ERA of 1.89.

Braves send down two Penas

The Braves optioned catcher Brayan Pena and shortstop Tony Pena, Jr. to AAA Richmond before today's game. Brayan Pena hit .333 this spring in eight games. He battled shoulder soreness the last few weeks.

And Tony Pena, Jr. had one of his best springs in an Atlanta uniform. He only hit .255, but coaches believe he has improved offensively.

Coverage coming up

BravesCenter interviewed Barbaro Canizares and Manny Acosta Tuesday. We'll have Elvis at some time this week. We've also interviewed Lance Comrier and Joey Devine.

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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