03/25/11 10:30 PM ET
Lopez has no regrets about signing with Braves
By Mark Bowman and Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Ultimately, Lopez chose to sign with the Braves. And even though it didn't lead to him winning a spot in a Major League starting rotation, it's not a decision he regrets.
"They gave me a chance to make the team, they gave me the ball every five days pitching against big league clubs," Lopez said. "Anything can happen. Probably there are teams that are watching me and say, 'Hey, this guy can pitch in the big leagues.'"
Perhaps that was the case on Friday afternoon, when Lopez took the ball against the Phillies at Bright House Field for an outing that felt more like a showcase for him than anything else.
This was Lopez's fifth Grapefruit League appearance this spring. It was also his first since news came out that Brandon Beachy would be the Braves' fifth starter, leaving Lopez to wonder what his next move will be.
Lopez signed a Minor League deal with the Braves in late January, and came into camp as a long shot for the fifth-starter job -- a role young studs Beachy and Mike Minor were also competing for. The 35-year-old right-hander pitched respectably -- carrying a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings into Friday. But Beachy and Minor have much more upside, and were simply too good.
Prior to his start against the Phillies, when he gave up three runs in five innings in an eventual 3-1 loss, Lopez said he hadn't been told by the Braves that he's not making the team -- likely because the club had been on the road, and the news Beachy would be the fifth starter wasn't announced to the media before it went public.
If the Braves don't trade Lopez, he'll likely start the regular season at Triple-A Gwinnett.
"Once you're in the big leagues," Lopez said, "you don't want to go back to Triple-A. I don't know. I think once I talk to them, I will have a better idea what will be my future."
Lopez's only immediate route to the Braves' Opening Day roster would come if Jair Jurrjens' recent injury becomes serious, though it doesn't seem like that's the case right now. Jurrjens exited his Thursday start after one inning with discomfort in his right side, but the ailment has been considered minor, and Jurrjens is still expected to be ready for his first regular-season start.
Still, that could be enough of a scare for general manager Frank Wren to grow stubborn about dealing Lopez, leaving him to pitch in the Minors, just in case.
Because of their inexperience, Atlanta is hesitant about sporting a rotation with both Minor and Beachy in it. Lopez and Kenshin Kawakami -- owed $6.67 million in the final year of his contract -- are insurance policies if another starter is needed. But both have been mentioned in trade rumors, lately.
"I understand baseball," Lopez said. "I understand how things work. But I still think I belong in the big leagues."
A few teams may still need starting pitching. The question is whether they'd try to trade for Lopez, who led the National League in losses and earned runs last season -- but still pitched 200 innings and struck out more than twice as many hitters as he walked.
The Brewers acquired Sergio Mitre from the Yankees on Friday, but they're still looking for insurance in their rotation. The White Sox could use a stopgap until Jake Peavy is healthy, but GM Ken Williams has expressed that he'd rather keep his search in-house. The Rockies and Indians have also been rumored to be in the market for starters.
"I know there are teams that are interested in pitching," said Lopez, who's 75-82 with a 4.85 ERA in his nine-year career. "I don't know if they're interested in my services, but I think I can help any team right now."
Jurrjens doesn't need MRI for sore right side
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After evaluating Jair Jurrjens's sore right side on Friday morning, the Braves determined there was no need for him to undergo an MRI exam.
The Braves will continue to evaluate Jurrjens' progress over the next couple of days. It's unknown whether he will be able to make his next scheduled exhibition start on Tuesday at Turner Field. But there still seems to be reason to optimistically believe he could make his scheduled regular-season debut on April 4 in Milwaukee.
Jurrjens lasted just one inning during Thursday afternoon's start against the Blue Jays. The 25-year-old hurler said he exited as a precaution after feeling what felt like a cramp around his right rib cage.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said Jurrjens was still feeling some slight discomfort on Friday morning. But it doesn't appear the club currently feels reason to be overly concerned.
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Spring Training Info
A couple of hours before Jurrjens felt the discomfort on Thursday, the Braves announced Brandon Beachy had won the battle to begin the season as their fifth starter. This puts Beachy in line to make his regular-season debut on April 6 in Milwaukee.
If the Braves feel Jurrjens needs just a couple of extra days of rest, they could flip-flop him with Beachy in the rotation.
The Braves may have to re-evaluate their plans if Jurrjens is forced to miss a start. While Mike Minor would be the next available hurler on the depth chart, the Braves may instead have Rodrigo Lopez serve as a short-term replacement for Jurrjens in the rotation.
This would allow Minor to stick with the plan for him to spend at least the early portion of this season working on his secondary pitches -- curveball and changeup -- at the Minor League level.
Martinez vying with Proctor for final 'pen spot
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Braves right-hander Cristhian Martinez has gained more confidence in his sinker this spring, and it may help him make his first Opening Day roster.
When the Braves cut right-handers Juan Abreu and Jairo Asencio on Thursday, it essentially left Martinez and Scott Proctor as the lone competitors for the final bullpen spot.
Martinez -- who holds the advantage of being able to pitch in long and middle relief -- threw two scoreless innings in Friday's 3-1 loss to the Phillies, and now has a 2.08 ERA in 13 Grapefruit League innings this spring. Proctor has the better track record, but has struggled, posting a 5.06 ERA in 10 2/3 frames, and surrendering eight hits and four walks in his last 3 2/3 innings.
The 34-year-old Proctor and the 29-year-old Martinez were on the Marlins together in 2009 -- though Proctor missed the entire year and Martinez was mostly in the Minors -- while Fredi Gonzalez was their manager.
Now, Martinez is trying to beat him out.
"I worked hard this offseason to try and make the club out of Spring Training," Martinez said. "My arm felt strong coming in, I was in good shape. It's up to them, but I worked really hard for it. Hopefully, I make it."
Beachy impressive in extending scoreless string
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brandon Beachy learned on Thursday that he won the battle for the fifth spot in the Braves' rotation. He received official word from manager Fredi Gonzalez after allowing just two hits and tossing six scoreless innings against the Tigers at Champion Stadium on Friday night.
"Those are pretty good hitters," Gonzalez said. "You're not talking about chopped liver over there. You're talking about [Miguel] Cabrera, [Magglio] Ordonez and [Victor] Martinez. Those are some pretty good hitters. Whenever you can command a fastball and throw your breaking ball over for a strike, you can tell them what's coming and the hitters will have a tough time hitting."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland had some complimentary words after watching Beachy quiet his club's bats again.
"I doubt that there'll be many better fifth starters than that," Leyland said. "I don't have anything but glowing reports, from what I've seen. There may be some, but there won't be many guys that have a fifth starter like them. If they have four guys better than that -- which I'm sure they do, I guess -- they have a helluva rotation. He's been very impressive."
Beachy has tossed 16 consecutive scoreless innings, including 11 straight against this potent Tigers lineup. Armed with the slider he hadn't used since he left Indiana Wesleyan University, the 25-year-old left-hander has allowed just six hits in the past 19 innings that he's completed in Grapefruit League games.
Brandon Hicks has had some recent success at the plate and kept himself in the mix for one of the final two bench spots. Hicks is the best defensive option as a backup shortstop, and would seemingly handle the position if starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez was sidelined for a significant stretch. ... Manager Fredi Gonzalez was able to watch the entirety of Friday afternoon's game against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., and still get to the dugout before the start of Friday night's game against the Tigers. ... Since providing encouragement with a pair of scoreless innings last weekend, left-handed reliever George Sherrill has worked two innings and allowed five earned runs.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Alden Gonzalez also contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.