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is-the-roster-set-2 | April | 2004 Articles

2004 Archives

Is the Roster Set?

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The roster appears to be all but set, with only a light trim remaining to bring it down to 25. ESPN's Atlanta Braves roster lists 14 pitchers (including the injured Paul Byrd, two catchers, six infielders (including both Wilson Betemit and Jesse Garcia), and five outfielders (including Mike Hessman). (The roster on the official Braves web site lists the same players, but the position slots are a bit screwy.) Oddly, neither site's roster includes Julio Franco, who is almost certainly going to be with the team on Monday, so this leaves 26 players (excluding Byrd) and 24 available roster spots. Who's in and who's out? We'll know by Monday, but here's my analysis (and opinion) on who should make the cut, beginning with the starting lineup and starting rotation: Lineup SS Rafael Furcal 2B Marcus Giles LF Chipper Jones CF Andruw Jones RF J.D. Drew C Johnny Estrada 1B Adam LaRoche 3B Mark Derosa Rotation Russ Ortiz Mike Hampton Horacio Ramirez John Thomson Jaret Wright Closer John Smoltz is a lock, as are six of the seven pitchers available for bullpen duty. In my last post, I stated that Chris Reitsma, C.J. Nitkowski, Trey Hodges, Antonio Alfonseca, Armando Almanza, and Will Cunnane are the likely six to get the job(s), but Nitkowski has apparently already been demoted. Assuming that my other five choices are good, that leaves Juan Cruz and Kevin Gryboski to fight for the last spot, and I honestly have no preference between the two. Neither excited me this spring, and while I think Cruz has better stuff, I think he might need some time in Richmond first. But I see Cruz staying in Atlanta just because we traded some decent guys for him. Either choice suits me well enough, because I would have kept Nitkowski instead for the extra lefty arm. Vying for the four remaining bench spots are backup catcher Eddie Perez, utility man and backup catcher Eli Marrero, young infielders Wilson Betemit and Jesse Garcia, and young outfielder Mike Hessman, who can also play first base. One of them has to be cut unless the excessively experienced Julio Franco gets the boot. Ordinarily, I would send the golden oldie packing and welcome the fresh, young talent, but Julio is a special case. At 40-something (pick a number between 43 and 50), he is probably in better (natural) shape than any player in the big leagues. He is limited in other ways due to his age, but his dedication to constantly being on top of his game both mentally and physically is a good example to set for some of our younger players. (Comparing Julio to Terry Pendleton might not be such a bad idea.) Because no one is sure how good Derosa will be at third and one utility infielder isn't enough, Betemit and Garcia are safe. Assuming Franco is with them, then the 26th man is either Perez, Marrero, or Hessman. Both Perez and Marrero qualify as backup catchers, so one of them is safe. My money is on Perez, because Marrero will occasionally (and more often) be called to play the outfield, but Cox will still want Eli around because a third catcher is just a good idea. Hessman, after suffering a rough spring with the major league club, needs another year at AAA. Who's Cut? Most likely, Mike Hessman is going to AAA Richmond to start the season as a starter, and either Juan Cruz or Kevin Gryboski is going with him (my money would be on Gryboski, but it's too close to call). This is assuming, of course, that Julio Franco is promoted from the minors by opening day.

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