* There is no doubt after Wednesday's performance in Winter Haven that Jair Jurrjens is the leading candidate for the fifth starter's job. Of course, it's still early in the month of March and we are assuming Mike Hampton is going to be the fourth starter. But Jurrjens was outstanding, no-hitting the Indians for three innings with great command of his fastball. The buzz around camp now is that Jurrjens would have to flop in his remaining four starts this month to not win the job.
* But where does that leave Chuck James? What happens if James shows he's okay this month? He'll pitch next Thursday for the first time and may even be moved up earlier than that. James believes he's healthy and is ready to be tested. The Braves will be careful, however, as there is still concern over James's shoulder. Chances are, at least right now, that James will begin the season on the disabled list to get more work in Florida. But what happens if Jurrjens wins the job and does well in April and then James shows he is healthy and wants his job back?
* Jeff Bennett finally got some work in Wednesday with a scoreless inning against the Indians. Bennett has been mentioned as a candidate for the rotation, but more likely is the leading option to be the new Oscar Villarreal. Bennett would love to start, but he has no problem with being the long reliever on this team.
* Buddy Carlyle is the one everyone is leaving out. He's pitched well so far and will go again Saturday in Sarasota against the Reds. Carlyle will perhaps challenge Bennett for that long relief role. Bennett and Carlyle both have options left, so that won't enter into the equation. But there's no doubt Carlyle must be considered if he continues to pitch well.
* Royce Ring and Jeff Ridgway both had scoreless outings on Wednesday against Cleveland. The Braves have used the lefties in the same games, which makes you wonder if the 'loser' of the competition between the two might be showcased for a trade. Both pitchers have been very inmpressive and may entice the Braves to carry a second lefty in the bullpen.
* There were a ton of scouts in the stands Wednesday at Chain of Lakes Park. Who knows who they were looking at (Martin Prado? Ring or Ridgway?), but it was obvious there were a number of scouts there to watch the Braves and Indians.
* Hampton will pitch again on Friday when the Tigers visit Champion Stadium. He pitched a side session Wednesday morning and looked very good. Catcher Brian McCann said Hampton's stuff was really sharp. The positive energy from Hampton's recovery is really something. Everyone can't wait to see him out there in April in real action. There is no doubt Hampton's return could be a huge boost to this team in more ways than one.
* It'll be a battle of lefties Thursday when Tom Glavine faces Tigers' southpaw Dontrelle Willis in Lakeland. Ryan Drese, Peter Moylan, Zach Schreiber, and Chris Resop are also expected to pitch for the Braves.
* Wednesday's game was on television back in Cleveland. They all got to see center fielder Jordan Schafer track down two fly balls that certainly made them think of Andruw Jones. Schafer is really winning a lot of people over with a strong spring.
* On the minor league side, the remaining pitchers showed up today in camp and had their first full workout. Also Wednesday the minor leaguers had a scrimmage. Third baseman Eric Campbell hit a bomb off young lefty Eric Barrett (whom the coaches love by the way) early in the game before I took off to watch the big leaguers in Winter Haven.
* Deunte Heath looked good in the scrimmage. It'll be interesting to see if Heath returns to Myrtle Beach or heads up to Double-A to start the season. Heath has very good talent. Don't be shocked if some other teams ask for Heath in a deal (if it hasn't happened already). He's got a real projectable arm and looks like a serious prospect.
* Speaking of players that look like a serious prospect, count Brandon Hicks in that group. The former Texas A&M star carries himself well and is a solid player. Hicks will probably start out in Myrtle Beach, but he'll be in Double-A before the end of the season. He's a very advanced college player, and after the trade of Elvis Andrus last July the Braves needed some depth at shortstop.
* Gorkys Hernandez is not as big as I thought he was, but there is no doubt this guy can run. He's fast as advertised and the coaches think he will develop more power as he goes along.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Shanks Report - March 5
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