02/22/11 5:13 PM EST
Braves keeping rotation order options open
Jurrjens to start Grapefruit opener, but no word on Opening Day
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
"A lot of things can happen between now and the beginning of the year," Gonzalez said. "You can always tinker. So that's why I'm not naming who is the Opening Day starter or who is No. 2 or No. 3."
Coming off a frustrating injury-marred season, Jair Jurrjens will start Saturday afternoon's Grapefruit League season opener against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., at 1:10 p.m. ET. When the Mets travel to Disney to play Sunday at 1:05 p.m., they will face the three candidates vying to begin the season as Gonzalez's fifth starter.
Rodrigo Lopez, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are all scheduled to throw two innings during Sunday's game. A split-squad game scheduled five days later will allow Gonzalez to give these starters their necessary innings without having to do so at the expense of the innings his relievers need to complete.
The candidates for the fifth spot are also in line to pitch when the Braves have split squads playing on March 19. When they are scheduled to pitch on days that don't include a split-squad game, at least one will be asked to pitch in a Minor League game.
Derek Lowe will make his exhibition season debut when he starts Monday at 1:05 p.m. against the Astros. Tommy Hanson will take the hill the next day at 1:05 p.m. when the Braves travel across town to face the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla.
Tim Hudson's debut will come March 2, when the Braves travel to Fort Myers, Fla., to face the Red Sox.
If the Braves were going to keep their pitchers on a strict schedule where they pitched every five days, Lowe would be scheduled to pitch the March 31 Opening Day game in Washington.
But before assuming the Braves will give the sinkerballer his third straight Opening Day start, it should be remembered that pitching coach Roger McDowell likes to give his starters at least one extra day of rest heading into their first regular-season start.
Gonzalez also said he hasn't determined how the scheduled March 22 off-day will affect his rotation plans. Once the pitchers make three starts, he said he could tinker with the rotation.
Heyward among young Braves to earn raise
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jason Heyward's strong rookie season has been rewarded with a nice raise.
The Braves announced Tuesday afternoon they have agreed to terms of one-year contracts with Heyward and 20 other members of their 40-man roster who have at least three years of service and aren't eligible for salary arbitration.
Heyward will make $496,500 for the upcoming season. That's the highest salary the Braves have ever awarded a player with just one full year of service time. This distinction was previously owned by Jair Jurrjens, who made $450,000 in 2009.
Heyward finished second in balloting for NL Rookie of the Year after hitting .277 with 18 homers and an .849 OPS in 142 games last year. In the process, he earned $400,000, which then stood as the Major League minimum salary.
The Braves also reached an agreement with Jonny Venters, who was in line to get a raise after posting a 1.95 ERA and limiting opponents to a .204 batting average in 79 appearances as a rookie last year. His salary for the upcoming season will be $429,500.
Freddie Freeman, who will appear with Heyward on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, will make the Major League minimum of $414,000.
Financial figures weren't revealed for any of the other non-arbitration eligible players signed by the Braves.
Other members of this group include right-handed pitchers Jairo Asencio, Juan Abreu, Brandon Beachy, Erik Cordier, Randall Delgado, Cory Gearrin, Craig Kimbrel, Stephen Marek, Kris Medlen and Anthony Varvaro. Left-handed pitchers Lee Hyde, Mike Minor and Jose Ortegano also fit in the category.
Rounding out the group are infielders Brooks Conrad and Brandon Hicks and outfielders Joe Mather, Jordan Schafer and Matt Young.
Lopez schools young catcher Bethancourt
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While serving as a special instructor in Braves camp last week, Javy Lopez delivered a strong message to top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, who has occasionally irked members of the organization with his body language and actions that could be perceived as lackadaisical.
"Javy talked to him a lot and helped him a lot," former Braves catcher and current bullpen coach Eddie Perez said. "Javy told him, 'I was stupid just like you.' When he asked what he meant, Javy explained to him that he didn't always carry himself the right way because he knew he was good and thought people should just adore him. Then he told him that he had to start working harder. And you know what, he's looked better the past three days."
Bethancourt certainly had reason to be humbled last year, when he hit .251 with just a .607 OPS in 108 games with Class A Rome. But there were times the then-18-year-old prospect showed some signs of laziness and cockiness.
Despite his troubles, there are many people in the Braves' organization who are still quite high on Bethancourt. The young Panamanian catcher has a strong arm and lanky frame that could certainly yield more consistent power as he ages.
"He's a good kid," Perez said. "Everybody knows that he's really good and he knows it. But he's OK. I really like him."
Delta, Braves help fans with parking
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will now have an opportunity to park directly across the street from the main gate at Turner Field.
Delta Air Lines and the Braves announced Tuesday that Medallion members will be able to park in the Delta SkyMiles Medallion Lot. It is located in the Green Lot at the corner of Hank Aaron Dr. and Ralph David Abernathy Dr.
Members of the SkyMiles Medallion program can show their membership cards to gain entrance to the lot. But they will still be responsible to pay the normal rate for parking in the Green Lot.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Andres Galarraga, Dale Murphy, Gene Garber and Tom Glavine are expected to serve as guest coaches in camp this year. Javy Lopez and Phil Niekro have handled this role during the camp's first week. ... Six-foot, four-inch Joe Mather's locker is located directly next to Matt Young, who is generously listed as 5-foot-8 by the Braves. When informed of this, former Atlanta manager Bobby Cox laughed and said, "They had to have done that on purpose."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.