LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. _ Some belated notes and observations from Thursday's BravesPirates 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."
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I love the quote about the contact lenses. Thank you.
By referring to the Braves' prospect as "Justin Heyward," you have just outed yourself as a Moody Blues fan.
Got music on the brain as I'm driving the various highways of Florida. Of course, it's Jason.
Maybe without being called up as an emergency replacement Yo Yo Reyes can be comfortable. Seems like every time he makes a major league start he's trying to fill Tim Hudson's shoes in an important game, when they used him as a 5th starter replacing a Jeff Bennet or Buddy Carlyle he seemed to be reasonably useful. It wasn't too long ago that his minor league performance seemed to justify trading Matt Harris(on?) in the Tex trade.
I'm surprised they're talking about JoJo as the "6th starter" insted of Medlen. He looked good in the majors last year, and I'd trust him a lot more than Reyes. Then again, maybe it's a lefty/righty thing (the current rotation for Atlanta is "all right") and the fact that Medlen could be an important arm in the 'pen.
I guess I should chalk up Nate McLouth's "contact lens" story with all the other "best shape of my life" and "tweaked my swing" stories that come out of spring training. That said, I cannot help but be a bit excited. Nate McLouth's K% increased from about 15.5% in 2008 (when he put up an .853 OPS) to about 19.5% in 2009 (when his OPS dropped below .790). If his vision really has improved a reasonable degree with these new contacts contacts, isn't there a good chance he could take a pretty big step forward? Whatever the knocks on him for being a little overhyped (defensive metrics saying he didn't deserve his GG, etc.), he is a fun player to watch with balanced skills and decent athleticism -- good speed, pretty decent power bat, and he seems like a good guy. I enjoyed watching him play on television and had him in my fantasy outfield until recently. I happened to be in Atlanta watching the Cubs/Braves game the day in 2009 he got traded from Pittsburgh. They flashed his name and picture up on the jumbotron, and the crowd seemed a bit indifferent. I had a brief conversation with a jaded Braves fan sitting nearby who complained that adding McLouth was more like adding one of his little-league players than a real major-leaguer. I figured he hadn't followed McLouth much (as most Braves fans probably don't watch the last-place NL-Central teams regularly) and disagreed. I thought that Braves fans (I am not one) could look forward to having a balanced, productive player who is a lot of fun to watch in their outfield. I know what PECOTA thinks -- any other thoughts on McLouth's overall outlook for 2010 and beyond?