Atlanta Braves: Bad Omens from 2012 Spring Training
The Atlanta Braves spent the offseason wavering between embracing change after a disastrous September and standing pat with a roster that was top five among Major League baseball in wins through the end of August.
General manager Fran Wren ultimately decided to play it close to the vest and use in-house options to fill the few roster needs the Braves had.
What this column features is some spring training happenings that can be perceived as just plain bad luck or unfortunately, a collection of bad omens for what is to come this season.
Hanson Reports to Camp in a Tow Truck
Tommy Hanson was excited to get spring training underway after spending the offseason rehabbing a shoulder that caused him to miss the majority of the second half of last season.
He has also been reworking his delivery in order to be quicker to the plate and hopefully ease some of the stress on the injured shoulder.
Ready to test the newly revamped delivery against live batters, he had to put all that on hold once his tire blew out while reporting to camp and he was involved in one-car accident.
As a result of the crash, Hanson hit his head on either the windshield or steering wheel which caused him to suffer a mild concussion.
After taking and re-taking the ImPACT concussion test, he was eventually cleared for game action.
In what should be no surprise to anyone at this point, luck was not on Hanson’s side as his first spring outing was cut short due to a rain delay.
Fielding Drills Are Never Routine
Freddie Freeman continued the injury related headlines in Braves camp when he suffered a partially dislocated knee cap during infield drills.
His time among the injured was limited to only seven days after he was originally expected to miss up to a couple weeks.
The only real cause for concern is that it he suffered a similar injury in 2010 while playing for Triple-A Gwinnett.
Since it was such a minor setback, the Braves aren’t expecting this to hinder the progress he showed during a rookie season in which he finished second to teammate Craig Kimbrel in Rookie of the Year voting.
Soreness Already Benching Chipper
After going hitless in his first four spring games, Chipper Jones missed five consecutive games due to leg soreness.
If the aging legs of the future Hall of Fame third baseman are already effecting his time on the field, it is a likely sign that his already sparse playing time over the past couple years could become less this season.
If that comes to be, Atlanta may be forced to pull the trigger on a deal that includes one of their young minor league arms to acquire a power bat to fill the vacancy.
Not to mention his comments earlier this spring that he may not be able to make it through the entire season.
Someone Told Teheran that Chicks Dig the Long Ball
Highly touted prospect Julio Teheran finds himself atop the “home runs allowed” category this spring.
Teheran was tagged for six home runs in his spring debut against the Detroit Tigers on a day when many Braves players and coaches described the ball as being wind aided.
Although he didn’t allow a home run during his second outing, he was hit hard on multiple occasions.
Cruising through three scoreless innings in his third appearance, Teheran gave up a pair home runs in the fourth inning.
During his latest outing on Monday afternoon, he surrendered a sixth inning home run to St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran.
That brought Teheran’s spring tally of home runs allowed to nine in only 13 innings of work.
His performances to this point have undoubtedly put him behind fellow prospect Randall Delgado in the race to replace Tim Hudson on an interim basis for the month of April.
Three Words That End a Pitcher’s Season … Dr. James Andrews
The list of pitchers on the Braves staff that have not been recently injured is quickly becoming shorter than the list of those that are injury-free.
Arodys Vizcaino is the latest to be tagged with the injured label.
David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that after visiting with renowned sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews that Vizcaino will miss the 2012 season.
He had Tommy John surgery after the diagnosis on Tuesday in hopes of returning prior to spring training next season.
It appears to be the same ulnar collateral ligament he tore in 2010 which was allowed to heal without surgery.
Heyward’s New Swing Producing Same Results
Along with the inability to make the proper adjustments regarding how pitchers were attacking him last season, Jason Heyward was also derailed by a nagging shoulder injury.
He spent most of the offseason retooling his swing in an effort to take a more direct path to the ball.
According to his teammates, all that hard work has spilled over to the batting cages, yet the game results have been more of the same.
Heyward is 50 at-bats into spring camp, and he has only managed a line of .200/.231/.360.
As bad as it was early, it would be remiss not to mention he has hit two home runs in the past few games, including one off Stephen Strasburg and a grand slam against the Houston Astros.
Spring Training Games Don’t Matter … Do They?
It’s made clear multiple times each season that spring training games don’t matter.
That seems obvious since all records and stats are wiped clean with the arrival of Opening Day.
With that said, for a team coming off a September collapse that cost them a spot in the playoffs it might be good for morale not to start with only one win in the first 11 games.
Atlanta has played better of late, but after Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers they are still only 5-13 this spring.
Spring training or not, manager Fredi Gonzalez would like to see a few more victories before Opening Day gets here so there is less lingering doubt in the minds of his players that last season is behind them.