One of the nice things about being a young Atlanta Braves pitcher is that you have some pretty nice resources to go to when it comes to honing your craft, and Matt Wisler is taking advantage of it by reaching out to Hall of Famer and Braves legend Tom Glavine for advice on his changeup. Glavine's changeup was one of the many tools that helped propel him to Cooperstown, and Wisler is hoping that he can apply the advice from the legend and hopefully make his changeup nearly as formidable as Glavine's was.
As catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was behind the plate for [last year's September 29th game against the Nationals], said, "I remember talking to [Wisler], and for a long stretch of starts (the changeup) was too hard."
Wisler threw his changeup just 151 times last season, as the slider -- which he delivered 438 times -- became his most-used secondary pitch. Much of that had to do with its ineffectiveness; batters had a 97.1 contact rate in offerings inside the strike zone, the highest of his arsenal, and it also had the lowest swing rate in general at 42.4.
So when Glavine announced during that outing vs. Washington "I'm a phone call away," Wisler took him up on the offer.
During Saturday's Fan Fest at Turner Field, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez spoke to the media a little bit, and naturally, the topic eventually came to the Braves' offense and how he'd utilize some of the new players at his disposal. Gonzalez claimed that the offense should be improved from last season -- which won't be a monumentally difficult task considering how bad the offense was at times last season -- and that he's got a general idea of what the top 3 of his lineup should look like.
In a media session Saturday during FanFest at Turner Field, Gonzalez envisioned a lineup topped by newly-acquired center fielder Ender Inciarte, shortstop Erick Aybar and first baseman Freddie Freeman in the three hole.
"Fourth can be whoever’s hot or whoever we want to put behind Freeman," Gonzalez said. "It’s going to be a fun team offensively. I think it’s going to be a lot better than last year’s team."
Speaking of Ender Inciarte, CBS Sports recently ranked him as the 15th best outfielder in all of baseball, and 7th best in the NL.
With Hector Olivera moving to left field, the third base job is wide open with Adonis Garcia and Kelly Johnson figuring to be the two guys who get the most time at the position. However, utilityman Gordon Beckham has announced his intentions to become the everyday third baseman, and he'll be going into Spring Training with the idea of trying to earn the job. It's definitely a nice mentality to have going into Spring Training, and it would be a pretty cool story if the hometown kid was able to somehow earn the role.
After announcing last Summer that he'd be keeping his options open for a potential return to Major League Baseball, Andruw Jones has declared that he's ready to file retirement papers after it became clear that no team was interested in signing him for this upcoming season. Jones also stated that he wanted to stay around the game, which meas that the Braves could bring him into the fold in a role similar to what we've seen Chipper Jones and Fred McGriff take in the organization. Either way, the end of the line (as far as his active career as a player goes) has come for Andruw, and it's the end of what's been one of the more fascinating careers in Braves history.
The Chicago White Sox had a pretty underwhelming season last year, but one guy who didn't was Chris Sale, who had another fantastic individual campaign in 2015. Sale led all American League pitchers in strikeouts with 274, and that also broke the White Sox's franchise record for strikeouts in a single season. To commemorate the occasion, the White Sox presented Sale with a really big ring.
Despite the fact that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox played out their historic rivalry on national television approximately 3987568 times last season, it never really felt like a huge deal -- probably because both teams weren't battling for baseball supremacy like they were for most of the 2000s. However, with both teams figuring to be on the upswing again, the crew at Pinstripe Alley believes that we could be seeing a re-ignition of the Yanks-Sawx rivalry this season.
Overall, both teams seem like they'll be very competitive this season, vying for the division crown and the pennant. FanGraphs' projected 2016 standings rank the Red Sox and Yankees as the two best teams not only in their division, but the entire American League. They have the Red Sox going 91-71, and the Yanks at 86-76. If they perform up to expectations, not only will all the regular season games have added meaning, but there's a chance they could meet in the postseason for the first time in 12 years.
The great part is the rivalry isn't just set up well for this season, but years to come. Both organizations have a lot of young talent breaking into the majors that may be around for awhile. If their first Yankee-Red Sox experiences are as intense as they may be this season, it could create a new generation of rivals.