Horacio Ramirez has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. John Thomson moved from the bullpen to take Ramirez\’s spot in the rotation. To fill the bullpen vacancy, the Braves purchased the contract of Ken Ray, a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year. The 31-year-old right-handed pitcher impressed with his fastball while giving up only 1 run and recording 7 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched during Spring Training.
Blaine Boyer was optioned to Triple-A Richmond after struggling during the first series of the season for the Braves. His shoulder could not handle pitching on consecutive days. Joey Devine, who narrowly missed making the Opening Day roster, was recalled from Richmond to fill the bullpen spot. The 22-year-old right-handed reliever struck out 18 batters in 11 innings of work during Spring Training.
The Braves finalized their 25-man roster on March 31st when they optioned right-handed pitcher Joey Devine and first baseman James Jurries to Triple-A Richmond. Right-handed pitcher Brad Baker was outrighted to Richmond. Left-handed pitchers John Foster (who may require Tommy John surgery), Macay McBride, and Mike Hampton were placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 24th) along with outfielder Kelly Johnson. The team purchased the contracts of outfielder-turned-first-baseman Brian Jordan and left-handed pitcher Mike Remlinger to complete their major league roster. The move to retain the veteran Jordan for his leadership over the youngster Jurries, who had a very productive spring training, was the most surprising to followers of the club.
The Braves reduced their spring training major league roster to 33 players on March 28th when they optioned catcher Brayan Pena and shortstop Tony Pena, Jr. to Triple-A Richmond.
The Braves reached a formal development agreement with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese League. Braves international scouts have worked informally with the Hanshin club for years. With the closer partnership, the Tigers will further assist the Braves in scouting and signing Japanese baseball talent.
Anthony Lerew will start the season with Triple-A Richmond as the Braves optioned him to their top farm club on March 23rd. At the same time the club reassigned right-handed pitchers Chad Paronto & Wes Obermueller & Travis Smith, infielder Cesar Crespo, and outfielders David Kelton & Michael Ryan to Richmond\’s minor league camp. Right-handed pitcher Sean White and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were assigned to the minor league camp of Double-A Mississippi. Catcher Steve Pyzik was reassigned to the minor league camp of Class A Myrtle Beach.
In mid-March the Braves signed right-handed Australian pitcher Peter Moylan to a minor league contract for $30,000. The 27-year old sidearmer hasn\’t pitched in the minor leagues since a 1997 stint with the Twins\’ rookie-level team. He endured major back surgeries in 2001 and 2003 but appears to have fully recovered. He turned a lot of heads with a 96 mph fastball while pitching for Team Australia in the World Baseball Classic.
At the same time, left-handed pitcher Damian Moss returned to the Braves organization when he signed a minor league contract. After an impressive 2002 season, during which he went 12-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 179 innings pitched, Moss struggled during stints with the Giants, Orioles, and Devil Rays the following 2 seasons. Last season, he enjoyed a solid season for the Mariners\’ Triple-A club.
On March 15th, the Braves trimmed their spring training roster by 9. Right-handed pitcher Brad Baker, a free agent pick-up during the offseason, and infielder Scott Thorman were optioned to Triple-A Richmond. Infielders Luis Hernandez & Martin Prado and outfielder Josh Burrus were optioned to Double-A Mississippi. Right-handed pitcher Jose Ascanio was optioned to the Class-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Meanwhile, right-handed pitcher Kevin Barry, catcher Clint Sammons, and infielder Jonathan Schuerholz, son of Braves GM John Schuerholz, were reassigned to the Braves\’ minor league camp.
In March it was announced Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz had each signed one-year contract extensions to serve as the Braves\’ manager and general manager, respectively, through the 2007 season. Since teaming up at the start of the 1991 season the duo has overseen a string of 14 consecutive Braves division titles. Cox, who earns a salary of approximately $2 million a year, ranks 7th on the all-time wins list for managers. He is on pace to finish the year 5th on the all-time managerial victories list and is 102 wins behind Sparky Anderson for 4th all-time.
On February 23rd, the Braves agreed to terms on one-year contracts with Jose Ascanio, Brad Baker, Blaine Boyer, Josh Burrus, Lance Cormier, Joey Devine, Jeff Francoeur, Luis Hernandez, Chuck James, James Jurries, Anthony Lerew, Macay McBride, Pete Orr, Brayan Pena, Tony Pena, Martin Prado and Scott Thorman. One-year deals inked with Adam LaRoche, Wilson Betemit, Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson, Matt Diaz, Brian McCann, John Foster and Kyle Davies on March 4th, brought all 38 players on the 40-man roster at the time under contract.
The Braves signed right-handed relief pitcher Carlos Almanzar to a minor league contract in February. The team hopes that he will be ready to return in May or June from the Tommy John surgery he had last May. The strategy bears similarities to the team\’s signing of Jay Powell last season. Hopefully Almanzar won\’t blow his arm out like Powell did… The 32-year-old veteran went 7-3 with a 3.72 ERA playing for the Rangers in 2004.
At the same time, the Braves voided the minor league contract right-handed relief pitcher Jeff Bennett had signed with the club a month earlier. A pre-existing medical condition, an elbow injury he suffered while pitching for a minor league affiliate of the Brewers last season, was grounds for the team to nullify the agreement.
In February, Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur were honored with spots on Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic tournament. John Smoltz and Tim Hudson were also invited to take part in the tournament but both declined the offer in order to focus on preparing for the upcoming major league season. Other Braves players participating in the tournament representing their home countries were Andruw Jones (Netherlands), Pete Orr (Canada), Chris Reitsma (Canada), Jorge Sosa (Dominican Republic), Scott Thorman (Canada), and Oscar Villareal (Mexico).
Their stats in the tournament were as follows:
After a forgettable 2005 campaign Mike Remlinger returned to Atlanta by signing a minor league contact with the Braves in January. The left-hander was invited to Spring Training where he has a chance to make the major league club. The 40-year-old reliever has battled shoulder problems the past 2 seasons after having shoulder surgery after the 2003 season. Despite starting out the 2005 season strong, Remlinger ended the year with a cumulative 6.58 ERA while with the Cubs and Red Sox.
The Braves avoided arbitration with 4 key players in mid-January when they signed Marcus Giles, Horacio Ramirez, Oscar Villareal and Jorge Sosa to 1-year contracts. Those signings saved the club from enduring arbitration hearings with any of their players. Giles signed for $2.35 million (a $1.5 million raise over his 2005 salary) after batting .291 with 15 homers, 45 doubles and 63 RBIs last year. Horacio Ramirez agreed to a $2.2 million salary for the 2006 season after making just $370,000 in 2005. He managed only a 11-9 record with a 4.63 ERA last season. Meanwhile, Jorge Sosa agreed to a $2.2 million contract with the team. As a starter last season, Sosa went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA. He will be awarded a $50,000 bonus if he pitches at least 205 innings this year.
The Braves signed Jeff Bennett to a one-year minor league contract in January. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The 25-year-old reliever was invited to Spring Training with the team. The right-hander tallied 13 saves and a 2-3 record with a 3.03 ERA in 62 1/3 innings with the Brewers\’ Triple-A Nashville affiliate last season.
The Braves released their 2006 Spring Training roster which included 38 players that are already on the 40-man roster. 14 more players are attending camp as non-roster invitees:
Pitchers Kevin Barry, Wes Obermueller, Chad Paronto, Travis Smith and Sean White
Catchers Eddie Perez, Steve Pyzik, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Clint Sammons
Infielders Cesar Crespo and Jonathan Schuerholz
Outfielders Brian Jordan, David Kelton and Michael Ryan
Brian Jordan and Eddie Perez have signed minor league contracts with the Braves. Both have been invited to spring training with the club and will try to prove they\’re healthy and can be productive at the major league level once again. Jordan stands a better chance of making the club out of spring training as doctors repaired the completely-torn meniscus in his surgically-repaired left knee on November 15th. He hopes to see it return to full strength in the coming months. Perez, on the other hand, had arthroscopic surgery on his injured right shoulder in October but still hasn\’t been able to throw with it since. He will likely rehab in the minor leagues until he is capable of contributing at the major league level, either with the Braves or another club (Brian McCann and Todd Pratt have likely nailed down the Braves\’ catching spots barring injury). If he is unable to recover the Braves have promised Perez a coaching spot on one of their minor league teams.
Chris Reitsma avoided arbitration when he agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves. He will earn at least $2.75 million during the 2006 season. He also has the potential to pocket an additional $50,000 in incentives based on the number of games he closes ($25,000 for 40 games and an additional $25,000 if he finishes 45 games). Reitsma was 3-6 with a 3.93 ERA and 15 saves during the 2005 season. He sported a 3.04 ERA until he suffered a hyperextended right leg injury in early August. After that, his effectiveness deteriorated and he finished the campaign with a 3.93 ERA.
The Braves have acquired outfielder Matt Diaz through a trade with the Royals. Minor league pitcher Ricardo F. Rodriguez was sent to the Royals in exchange for the outfielder. The 27-year-old Diaz hit .371 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 65 games at Triple-A Omaha last season. He then batted .281 in 34 games upon being recalled to the majors by the Royals. Diaz will likely platoon with Kelly Johnson and/or Ryan Langerhans in the outfield next season. Rodriguez was 3-9 with a 5.34 ERA and 80 strikeouts at Class A Myrtle Beach in 2005. He was also suspended for using steroids. The team removed outfielder Onil Joseph from the 40-man roster by outrighting him to Double-A Mississippi a few days before the trade. Diaz has taken his place on that roster.
Brian Jordan and Eddie Perez, who each endured injury-riddled seasons in 2005, rejected their respective arbitration offers from the Braves, as was expected. Jordan may sign a minor league contract with the team and compete for a backup outfield spot. There looks to be no room for Perez on the Braves\’ major league roster given last year\’s emergence of youngster Brian McCann and the offseason signing of veteran backstop Todd Pratt.
Meanwhile, the team offered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible unsigned players except Jim Brower and Wes Obermueller. The team will likely look to recently-acquired relievers such as Oscar Villareal and Lance Cormier in addition to those in its deep farm system to give them better performance than Brower did last season (and at a cheaper price). Obermueller might also be signed to a minor league contract and provide added bullpen depth from the right side. Marcus Giles, Chris Reitsma, Horacio Ramirez, Jorge Sosa, and Oscar Villareal were tendered contracts by the Braves. Each of those players will either agree to a contract with the team or else have a salary assigned through arbitration hearings that will take place between February 1st and 20th.