Today, at 8 p.m. on ESPN2, the Braves baseball season will officially begin. New ace Derek Lowe will take on the Phillies and their second-stringer Brett Myers -- Cole Hamels got a cortisone shot for some elbow troubles, and is being held out for the moment. I certainly don't mind missing him. Myers is maddening, and he's a terrific pitcher when he's on, but he has his share of off days, and he has a 4.60 ERA in 26 games and 123 1/3 innings against the Braves. (4-8 record, 110 K and 43 BB, but the real killer is the 19 homers we hit off him.)
Lowe, of course, you know all about already. I don't do spring training stats, but his have been quite good: a 3.81 ERA in 6 starts, and 26 K against only 2 BB (!) in 26 innings, with no homers allowed. Lowe's a sinkerballer, so the lack of homers is no surprise, but he's not usually that much of a strikeout pitcher, with just 5.9 K/9 for his career. Still, Lowe's the guy I wanted
all offseason, the one free agent I wanted at the top of our shopping list, and I'm thrilled we signed him.
The team we're putting on the field tonight is not the team we'll end the season with. Tim Hudson will be back before the end of the year, and Tommy Hanson will probably be a fixture in the rotation before too long. Jordan Schafer begins the year as our starting center fielder, but the corners are still an open question. Tonight, Jeff Francoeur will get a chance to prove his spring training numbers were no fluke, and Casey Kotchman will get to show why he was such a highly regarded prospect in Anaheim. Brandon Jones will try to show that he deserves regular at-bats, and Gregor Blanco, Jo-Jo Reyes, Jorge Campillo, and Charlie Morton will all try to reclaim the roster spots they had last year.
Tonight, baseball begins. I can't wait.