Are the Braves finally poised to make a run at the Phillies? Plus, updates on Josh Johnson's health and a pair of Mets making noise in camp.
Atlanta Braves – There were all kinds of questions about Chipper Jones’ health, but the 38-year-old has used this spring to demonstrate that he’s just fine. In 53 plate appearances, Jones is .420/.463/.740 with 10 of his 21 hits going for extra bases. Whether he’ll be able to stay healthy for the duration is still questionable but as of right now, he’s swinging the stick like the same old Chipper. After missing some at-bats with a sore back, Jason Heyward has returned without missing a beat. Heyward is hitting .419 this spring with a homer and four doubles in 39 plate appearances. As far as injuries are concerned, the Braves are in pretty good shape. Kris Medlen, a 25-year-old righty who made 16 starts last season, is their only serious concern. He is out indefinitely after Tommy John surgery.
Florida Marlins – There is some concern in Florida that Josh Johnson hasn’t fully recovered from the strained back muscle that ended his 2010 campaign prematurely. In 15 innings this spring, Johnson has a 6.60 ERA, allowing 21 hits and striking out just nine. Gaby Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez look to be in midseason form. Sanchez is hitting .400 on the spring, while Ramirez’s average sits at .357. Mike Stanton has been out longer than expected with a strained right quad. He is expected to DH in a minor-league game today and could be back with the big club by March 24. Lastly, Phils fans probably haven’t seen the last of Greg Dobbs, who is establishing himself as Florida’s top bench bat. In 30 plate appearances this spring, Dobbs is hitting .400 with one homer, five RBIs and just two Ks.
New York Mets – The Mets released the enigmatic Oliver Perez on Monday. After 9 2-3 innings of work including a failed bullpen audition, Perez had posted an 8.38 ERA with eight walks and 21 hits allowed. Carlos Beltran, who has been battling tendinitis in his left knee, is expected to be ready by opening day. The 33-year-old outfielder ran sprints on Sunday with minimal discomfort. Offensively, the Mets have been pleasantly surprised by two players who entered the spring under the radar. With two homers, seven RBIs and a .425 average this spring, Scott Hairston is legitimately pushing Jason Bay in left field. And Josh Thole has cemented himself as the opening day starter behind the dish thanks to his .400/.442/.625 spring.
Washington Nationals – Ryan Zimmerman is making D.C. fans nervous with his strained groin. He resumed baseball activities on Sunday, but the Nats are still taking his game participation day-to-day. Drew Storen has had an equally unnerving effect on the Washington faithful with his performance this spring. In 7 2/3 innings, the Nats’ “closer of the future” has allowed 12 runs on 16 hits. On the bright side, Mike Morse is tearing the cover off the ball. With five homers, 11 RBIs and a .333 average, Morse looks like a lock to start in left field for Washington on opening day.
- Written for Beerleaguer by Matt Grassie