Braves won't treat Howard like Bonds
Cox respects slugger, but doesn't plan to pitch around him
ATLANTA -- When looking back on how the Braves fared so well against the Phillies during the first half of the 2009 season, and then struggled against them during the second half, it's impossible to overlook the fact that most of the damage they incurred against the National League East champions came courtesy of Ryan Howard's powerful bat.
As Atlanta prepared to play its first game of this season against Philadelphia on Tuesday night at Turner Field, manager Bobby Cox acknowledged the danger that Howard presents. But at the same time, he said there is no reason to provide him the same kind of treatment that Barry Bonds received from many clubs during the early years of this century.
"Nothing is like Bonds, nothing in the history of baseball," Cox said. "[Howard] is one of the class RBI guys in the league. He's great. He's a better player now than he was. But there will never be another Bonds situation like that."
While winning seven of their first nine against the Phils last year, the Braves limited Howard to a .250 (9-for-36) batting average with seven strikeouts, zero walks and zero homers. While losing six of their past nine games against the NL East champs, they saw the Phillies' first baseman hit .438 (14-for-32) with eight homers, 14 RBIs, eight strikeouts and two walks (one intentional).
"The bottom line is when you're talking about guys like Howard, [Phillies second baseman Chase] Utley, the [Alex Rodriguez's] and [Albert] Pujols' of the world, when they're locked in, you're going to have a hard time getting them out," Atlanta righty Tim Hudson said. "I'm not quite sure how they've been swinging as a whole right now. Sometimes, they're easier to get out than others. Sometimes, you're better off pitching around them until you have to get them out."
Having struck out at least 186 times each of the past three seasons, Howard is obviously much different than Bonds, whose only 100-strikeout season occurred during his 1986 rookie season.
Still even though Bonds could provide damage in a number of ways, Cox's pitchers were always rather aggressive against him. When the Giants outfielder was producing ridiculous statistics from 2001-04, he homered once every 7.86 at-bats and walked once every 1.91 plate appearances.
Against the Braves during this span, Bonds homered once every 5.54 at-bats and walked once every 3.28 plate appearances.
Howard, who has homered once every 9.44 at-bats in his career against Atlanta, has drawn a total of 44 walks (14 intentional) in the 84 games that he had played against the Braves entering Tuesday night's series opener.
Heyward moves up spot in order to No. 6
ATLANTA -- As Spring Training progressed, there were already some Braves fans wondering when Jason Heyward would make his way toward the middle of the lineup. After the first two weeks of the season, manager Bobby Cox isn't ready to make any radical changes.
But Cox did position Heyward in the sixth spot of his lineup for Tuesday night's series opener against the Phillies. This marked the fourth time this season that Atlanta's 20-year-old right fielder batted sixth. But it marked the first time that Heyward was positioned this high in a lineup that included both Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.
"We'll just move him up one [spot]," Cox said. "He always comes up in some nice situations."
With his walk-off single with two outs in the ninth inning Sunday against the Rockies, Heyward once again showed his ability to be a solid run producer. In the process of producing a team-high 15 RBIs through his first 12 games, he has compiled a Major League-best .727 (8-for-11) batting average with runners in scoring position.
Yunel Escobar, who ranked second in the Majors with the .373 batting average he produced with runners in scoring position last year, flip-flopped batting order positions with Heyward on Tuesday night. Since producing five RBIs on Opening Day, Escobar has hit .209 and driven in just three runs.
Proctor may spend another week in Minors
ATLANTA -- The Braves are looking forward to adding Scott Proctor to their bullpen. But they may allow the veteran reliever to spend at least one more week at the Minor League level, strengthening his surgically repaired right arm.
Proctor was perfect in his first two appearances with Triple-A Gwinnett this year. But when asked to pitch on back-to-back days for just the second time this year (Spring Training included), he allowed four earned runs and recorded just two outs against Durham.
After bouncing back with a pair of scoreless appearances, Proctor returned to the mound Monday night and allowed two runs and three hits in one inning against Norfolk. The 33-year-old right-hander was scheduled to pitch for Gwinnett again on Tuesday night.
Proctor underwent Tommy John surgery May 5. Many pitchers are prescribed 12 months of rehab before returning from this surgical procedure.
Community college retires Hudson's number
ATLANTA -- When Tim Hudson ended his high school career, Chattahoochee Valley Community College offered him his only opportunity to continue playing baseball. The Braves pitcher showed his appreciation Monday by providing CVCC's baseball program a $200,000 donation.
"This means the entire world to us," CVCC head baseball coach Adam Thomas told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. "In one single moment, he's changed this program. It's an unbelievable gesture."
Thomas, who grew up with Hudson in Phenix City, Ala., and his players gathered for a ceremony at their home field Monday. After the donation, CVCC announced that it was honoring the veteran pitcher by retiring the jersey No. 18 that he wore while playing for its program in the 1994 and '95 seasons.
Hudson spent his final two college seasons at Auburn University.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.