March 5, 2010
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. _ Some belated notes and observations from Thursday's Braves-Pirates exhibition, won 4-2 by Atlanta:
--I have never been around someone who has been just paroled from prison. However, I suspect they must feel like Braves center fielder Nate McLouth does after being traded from the Pirates last season.
"The whole atmosphere is so different," McLouth said. "Here, we're expected to win. All the emphasis is on winning. There, it always seemed to be next year and the whole atmosphere was always uptight because everyone was wondering who was going to be the next guy to get traded. It's just a different world, a better world."
McLouth's TAv dipped from .301 in 2008 to .287 last season. However, McLouth believes he is ready to have his best season now that he has started contact lenses.
"It makes a huge difference, like going from regular television to high-def," McLouth said.
--Braves rookie outfielder Jason Heyward went 0-for-2 but smoked a couple of more balls and has yet to swing and miss in his first three exhibition games. Braves management isn't saying Heyward will be their opening-day right fielder just yet but the probability of him beginning the season at Gwinnett is just slightly higher than me being crowned King of England next week. I keep wanting to call Heyward "Justin" and not just on Tuesday afternoons.
--Left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes seemingly had pitched his way out of the Braves' pitching plans. However, he was very sharp on Thursday, impressed manager Bobby Cox and seems to be putting himself in position to be the Braves' "sixth starter" should something happen to someone in their rotation.
--If you want a long-shot candidate to make the Braves' opening-day roster, there is left-hander Lee Hyde., who has not pitched above Class AA. Cox says he has been the biggest surprise of the spring.
--Pirates starter Charlie Morton walked three batters in two innings. Scouts love Morton's stuff but his performance in the major leagues or minor leagues has rarely matched the glowing reports. At 26, Morton seems to understand that now is the time to start realizing his potential.
"I'm getting a great opportunity here," said Morton, who is assured a spot in the Pirates' rotation. "I need to make the most of it."