Braves and Jordan Walden avoid arbitration with one-year deal

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Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Braves and reliever Jordan Walden have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.49 million contract.

Walden was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. Acquired from the Angels for Tommy Hanson last November, the 26-year-old right-hander posted a 3.45 ERA and 54/14 K/BB ratio over 47 innings this past season. He was limited down the stretch due to groin and shoulder soreness, but made it back for the NLDS against the Dodgers.

With his swing-and-miss stuff and improved control, Walden will set up for Craig Kimbrel again in 2014. He remains under team control through 2016.

Joe Girardi steps down as manager of USA Baseball

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Baseball is an Olympic sport once again and USA Baseball begins the road to qualifying for the 2020 Games in just a couple of weeks. They’ll be doing it with a new manager, though, as current team USA manager Joe Girardi has stepped down from the role in order to concentrate on his quest to return to managing in the big leagues.

Girardi has interviewed for the Cubs job already and is candidate for the openings with the Mets and the Phillies. His stepping down from the Olympic job suggests that he thinks he stands a pretty good chance of getting one of the seven current openings around the game. Or, at the very least, that he wishes to show clubs with openings that he’s serious.

Girardi will be replaced by Scott Brosius, who was poised to be Girardi’s bench coach with Team USA.

The team begins training in Arizona on October 21. It begins playing qualifier games in early November in Mexico. Eventually, the 2020 Olympic Games will feature a six-nation field.