The Braves Kawakami Conundrum

I am highly suspicious of Kenshin Kawakami's absence from spring training. The best explanation of the official response from the Atlanta Braves comes from Mark Bowman:

After removing Kawakami from their 40-man roster in November, the Braves debated whether they would bring him to their big league camp if they were unable to trade him by the time Spring Training arrived.

The wait led them to apply for the visa later than normal.

Of course, I love the positive spin that Frank Wren puts on it:

"He's in great shape," Wren said. "He'll be fine when he gets here. We're not worried about that."

Right... You're not worried about a pitcher whose mantra when he starts games seems to be "four and no more."

The Braves so wanted to get rid of KK that they seriously considered not even inviting him to spring training if they hadn't sold him to another team by that time. On the surface it sounds like they're trying to force Kawakami to stay in Japan and accept a trade to a Japanese team or else risk not pitching at all in 2011. And if that's not what they're currently doing, then it certainly seems like that was a tactic they used at some point during the off-season.

There have been several mentions around the interwebs about how Kawakami was actually not all that bad last year. The 1-and-10 record looks bad, but he had the lowest run support on the Braves staff (if you don't count the three Brandon Beachy starts). His quality start percentage last year was pretty much exactly the same as Rodrigo Lopez and Derek Lowe. Do the Braves just not like Kawakami? Is he one of those clubhouse problems the team tries to rid themselves of?

Whatever it is I will be surprised if he steps one foot in the Braves locker room this spring. The Braves are treating Kawakami like a girlfriend they're trying to break up with, but don't have the guts to just come right out and say it, so they're dropping all these not so subtle hints that they don't want her around. "Hey Kenshin, it's not you, it's me."

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