Braves hitting coach Greg Walker was interviewed by DOB on Friday and he expressed encouragement with how B.J. Upton & Dan Uggla improved over the offseason, but made sure to note that it's still very early in Spring Training. However, any improvement would be positive for these two, as both are coming off of absolutely abject seasons in 2013.
We get a video clip of just over 90 seconds from Dave O'Brien as he talks about Braves happenings from what appears to be a not-so-sunny Lake Buena Vista. The coolest thing about this video is that we actually get to see the Braves players in action so if you're excited to see even just a snippet of the team preparing for 2014 (as opposed to just looking at photos and longing for the sound of bats cracking and balls hitting gloves), then this is the link for you.
Brian McCann's departure to the Bronx was bound to leave a bit of a void when it came to leadership for the guys behind the plate. However, according to mlb.com's Joe Morgan, Braves veteran Gerald Laird appears more than ready to fill that void and be able to help guide younger catchers Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt to success. In other news, Jason Heyward revealed that Laird's nickname is G-Money. No word on when G-Money is gonna drop his mixtape.
Braves reliever Jonny Venters will hit two milestones this week in his continuing recovery from a 2nd Tommy John Surgery. The first milestone will be when he throws from flat ground this morning, and the second will come on March 5th, which is when he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session. Needless to say, this is very good news, especially if Venters can manage to return to the good form that resulted in the formation of a formidable 1-2 punch with closer Craig Kimbrel.
As we all know, baseball will be using instant replay and a challenge system going forward. Naturally, the best time to get a feel for using that system would be during exhibition when the stakes are significantly lower, and that is exactly what manager Fredi Gonzalez plans on doing during this Spring. Word on the street is that the fans are already figuring out new and interesting ways to excoriate the manager following an inevitable blown challenge.
League Wide News
33-year-old Nelson Cruz has finally found a home for the 2014 season, and that home will be in Baltimore as he signed a 1 year, $8 million deal (with up to $750,000 in incentives) with the Orioles. This was after turning down a 1 year, $14 million qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers earlier this winter. Cruz hit for .266/.327/.506 last season with a wRC+ of 122 & 27 home runs. Cruz will fill the DH spot for the O's.
The Yankees are reportedly on the verge of signing bullpen arm Andrew Bailey to a minor league contract which would come laden with incentives should he make the Major League squad. Bailey has had laundry list of injuries in his career but if he can manage to stay healthy, then this serves as a very high-risk/high-reward deal for the Yanks.
Rangers C Geovany Soto will have a bit of a roadblock to maneuver on his road to opening day, as he recently underwent surgery on his foot. Hardball Times is reporting that Soto expects to be ready for opening day. Soto is currently expected to be the starting catcher for the Rangers this season, and hit for .245/.328/.466 and 9 HRs in 54 appearances for Texas as the backup catcher.
After experiencing shoulder soreness, Cardinals SP Jaime Garcia will be leaving camp for St. Louis, which is where he will undergo examinations on his shoulder. This is bad news for the Cardinals and especially for Garcia, who was looking to rebound from injury woes in 2013 which resulted in the 27-year-old only making 9 starts last season.
Padres 3B Chase Headley has suffered an injury in Spring Training for the 2nd season in a row, and this time it's a calf strain that should keep him out for 2 weeks, pending the results of an MRI. It would be unfair to say that last season's Spring Training injury resulted in the precipitous drop in fWAR (among other stats) from 7.2 in 2012 to 3.6 in 2013, but it's safe to say that the Padres are hoping that this injury doesn't contribute to another season of regression.
Free Agent pitcher Ervin Santana has clearly been affected by the fact that signing him means having to deal with draft pick compensation as well. Now, the former All-Star reliever who pitched last season for the Kansas City Royals has made it known that he is willing to sit out until after the draft (which is when you can make signings without draft pick compensation) in order to avoid ending up like Nelson Cruz, who lost out on $6 million.
The 2014 MLB season will actually kick off on March 22nd at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia where the Diamondbacks will take on the Dodgers in a 2-game series. While Tampa Bay reliever and Australian Grant Balfour is excited about baseball going to his home country, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher and "Guy Who Actually Gets To Travel Across The World To Play 2 Major League Baseball Games" Zack Grienke has "zero excitement" about starting the season in Australia.