The most hilarious thing in Braves Country over the past few days has been reporters who cover the team acting as if it was a big mystery as to whether or not Jeff Francoeur would make the roster. Today was the deadline for the Braves to decide what to do with him — he was due a roster bonus at noon that they would not have wanted to pay if they planned to cut him — and as late as 9am there was some “will he or won’t he” afoot in the Atlanta media. Then, a few minutes ago, the Braves announced that he was going to be on the Opening Day roster. Congratulations, Frenchy.
In reality this was never in doubt. Barring injury, Francoeur was going to make this team. He’s popular in Atlanta and he’s one of the few guys casual Braves fans might actually be able to pick out of a lineup. And hey, he’s a nice guy and a good clubhouse presence who, unlike the Jeff Francoeur of a decade ago, knows where he stands in the universe. As I said when he made the Phillies last year, a team going nowhere is well-served to have dudes like Francoeur around. Limited rewards but no risk and, heck, he’ll throw an inning of relief for you. Better him than some injury prone dude or a two-year commitment to a guy who, while a bit better, wouldn’t be significantly better.
Last year I vowed to buy a Jeff Francoeur Phillies shirsey if he made their team. He did and I did. Now I have to buy a Braves Francoeur shirsey. I’m going to wait until Opening Day because there’s a slight chance his number changes between now and then, but it’ll be in-transit to me soon.
If he wasn’t 44 years-old we’d just call it a slump, but the way Bartolo Colon is pitching right now makes you wonder if the end is nigh.
Colon was shelled this afternoon, giving up seven runs on ten hits and walking three in five innings of work to take the loss against the Pirates. That brings his ERA up to 6.96 on the year. He’s allowed five or more runs in five of his ten starts and opposing batters are hitting .320 against him. One of the big reasons he had been so effective into his 40s had been his low walk rate — he led the NL in this category for the past two seasons — but he’s walking more guys this year than last.
The Braves picked up Colon for the reasons a lot of rebuilding teams pick up veteran starters: to provide innings and stability until the younger arms of the future can mature. Colon, however, has been the weakest link of the Braves rotation.
At some point, every baseball player reaches the end. Almost all of them do it before the age of 44. One hopes, given his history and popularity that Colon is just experiencing a rough patch and that, by mid season, he’ll be reliably pumping strikes into the zone the way he has the past few seasons. But with each bad start he registers this year, that’s seeming like more and more of a stretch.
Last night Braves reliever Josh Collmenter surrendered three homers and seven runs in the 10th inning of a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came into the game when it was tied 5-5 so, yeah, ouch. Today Collmenter is on his way to no longer being a Braves reliever as he has been designated for assignment.
Collmenter made 11 appearances for the Braves, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 17 innings. If he doesn’t latch on someplace else he can take heart that his final act in the big leagues was striking out former MVP Andrew McCutchen. If only he hadn’t surrendered consecutive homers to David Freese, Jose Osuna and Jordy Mercer just before that. Oh well. Take the good with the bad.
Right-hander Matt Wisler, who has been no great shakes in the bigs himself, was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett before today’s series finale against the Pirates. He’s currently throwing mopup duty for Bartolo Colon, who got shelled for seven runs in four innings.
Given how Colon is going, maybe the Braves will be thinking about some more transactions soon.