Spring Training Notes

The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has some news and notes from spring training.

- The Braves have made Van Pope, a former minor league third baseman, a pitcher. I watched Van in a bullpen session on Monday. He's got a great fastball, and coaches say the command is not bad for a new pitcher. He's always had a great arm, so we'll see how he does in this transition. The Braves are going to be very patient with him. Pope is under no pressure to break camp with a club. The Braves just want to see if he has a chance at becoming a prospect.

- Watching Billy Wagner in the clubhouse yesterday was really something. He was comfortable, which is not always the case for a new player. But he just fits in so perfectly on this club. And everyone is talking about his leadership in the bullpen. He was a great addition.

- There is a buzz about Jo Jo Reyes's work this spring. He had two more solid innings on Monday in Lakeland. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we shouldn't count Jo Jo out for that last bullpen spot. He may be a perfect long reliever, especially if Chavez continues to wet the bed. Jo Jo's velocity is back up, and the Braves think he really is being more aggressive than before. That was always a key for him. When Jo Jo was aggressive, he was effective.

- Believe it or not, coaches are saying Gregor Blanco is looking good. They think he's matured a bit, and if he's called upon this year could be productive. They like his attitude, which is a big change for him.

- While Troy Glaus is obviously showing he could be very important to this team, coaches are now convinced that Freddie Freeman is no more than a year away. He's doing well down here, and while his buddy is getting all the attention, Freeman is showing he's not a bad prospect himself. Freeman is going to be pushed by Heyward being in Atlanta, and that'll give him even more incentive to be ready for Opening Day 2011.

- Jason Heyward sucks. Just another overhyped Braves prospect!

- Julio Teheran has gotten taller. He's still not filled out, and Julio will probably never be a very big guy. But he can throw. There is no doubt this kid is special.

- I saw Arodys Vizcaino throw Sunday in front of the entire Atlanta brass. He's taller and leaner than Teheran, kinda built like Neftali Feliz. But he throws with an effortless motion that to me is smoother than Teheran's delievery. The Rome rotation is going to be very good this year.

- Cory Gearrin made an impression on Bobby Cox Sunday. Gearrin has really improved his command in the last two years. He's also bigger, up from 185 pounds when he was drafted to around 220. Craig Kimbrel may be the future closer, but Gearrin, another sidearmer, has got a chance to be right there with him.

- Christian Bethancourt is a baby. This kid looks like he's 14. I haven't seen him play much, only catch a bullpen or two. I'm anxious to watch him hit. But man, is he a young-looking kid.

- Cole Rohrbough threw the ball well Monday in a bullpen session. The Braves really need Cole to have a good season in 2010. He struggled a bit last year, but there is no doubt the stuff is still there. You don't see many lefties with his size and his stuff.



Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.


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