Spring Training Report - March 10

The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has the latest from spring training.

LAKE BUENA VISTA

I started the morning on the minor league fields, watching some drills and some more live batting practice sessions. A couple of the WBC people were back, coach Luis Ortiz, the Braves GCL Manager and a bench coach for Panama, and outfielder Concepcion Rodriguez, who continues to impress those in and out of the organization.

I was finally able to see Erik Cordier on the mound. Acquired two years ago from Kansas City for Tony Pena, Jr., Cordier had Tommy John surgery that same year and is finally feeling 100%. He is a power pitcher that throws gas. I can't wait to see what he can do if he stays healthy. Cordier will be in Myrtle Beach's rotation this season.

Another Tommy John alum who is finally back at full strength is lefty Jonny Venters. I've always like Venters because he was a power lefty. Well, he doesn't throw as hard now as he use to (94 mph), but Venters is ready to have a healthy, full season. His curve is not as sharp as it was before, but Venters changeup is much improved. Venters will be in Double-A this season and could really be one to watch.

I mentioned the other day how much bigger Chad Rodgers is this year. Well, today I saw him close up throw a live batting practice. He was impressive. Chad had a wicked curve that was making his new pitching coach, Guy Hansen, smile. This kid is one who could have a breakout season.

Julio Teheran was on the mound today. There is no doubt this kid is special. You just don't see a 17-year old throw with the ease Teheran has on the mound. He didn't look like there were any lingering effects from his shoulder issues he had last summer. Teheran threw hard, with a great zip on the fastball, and had his normal impressive curve. He'll be in Rome to start the season, and we'll see how Julio does in his first full season.

Teheran will be joined by right-hander Randall Delgado, who may not be too far behind as far as talent. Delgado just turned 19 last month. He's a tall and growing kid who has a great downward plane and really uses his height well. Delgado perhaps throws easier than Teheran. The ball just flies out of his hand. And he had a pretty good changeup today. Delgado had 81 strikeouts in 69 innings last season in Danville, so it'll be fun to watch him in Rome as well. Some coaches today were saying how Delgado matched up well in talent to Neftali Feliz, who was traded to the Rangers and is now one of the top prospects in the game. Delgado might be right there after he finishes his first full season.

After watching the minor leaguers I took off down the Osceola Parkway to watch the big boys take on the Astros. It was my first chance to see Derek Lowe in a Braves uniform, and obviously I was impressed.

I watched him from the stands between first base and right field, so I was able to see Lowe's ball just drop. He was great. Lowe just goes out there and pitches. He doesn't overpower anyone, but he's just out there pitching. I think we're in for a treat to watch this guy every fifth day. He will rely on his infield defense, and the Braves have solid defenders at every position. Lowe is going to have a very successful season for the Braves.

After Lowe pitched today Rafael Soriano made his first spring appearance. From my vantage point, I was able to watch Soriano warm up. He's still got a zip on his ball, and considering it was his first outing Soriano looked very comfortable out on the mound. In the lockerroom afterwards Soriano said he expects to be ready on Opening Day, and there is no doubt that would greatly help the bullpen. Soriano said he expects to have six or seven more outings, and after that he should be ready to go.

Eric O'Flaherty got in an inning of work today and looked good. Remember, he's coming back after being shut down by the Mariners last June. O'Flaherty and Boone Logan are fighting it out for the second lefty spot in the bullpen. Who knows who is in the lead now, since both have been effective.

Stephen Marek pitched the ninth for the Braves. He's a power reliever, but his breaking ball looked like it could use more work. With the numbers being so tough, expect Marek to go to Triple-A Gwinnett to begin the season.

Jordan Schafer did not make the trip today to play the Astros. I'm not sure if that's a setback in his recovery from the shoulder issue he's had for the last week or so. I'll try to check tomorrow before I get out of town.

I was a little surprised about Anthony Lerew being released, but he didn't look great yesterday in the simulated game. Lerew was coming back from Tommy John surgery. I knew he was in jeopardy, but I thought the Braves might give him a shot in the bullpen in Gwinnett. I hope he'll get a chance with another team. I wouldn't be shocked if Kansas City signs him.

My five-day trip ends tomorrow, so I'll see a few more minor leaguers in the morning and then take off. We'll see how Jo Jo Reyes does against the Phillies in Clearwater. With Tom Glavine's status up in the air, another good performance by Reyes could give him the edge for the fifth starter's job.


Bill Shanks hosts The Braves Show Talk Show. He is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.



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