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Cox tabs Lowe to start Opening Day


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Cox tabs Lowe to start opening day

5:45 pm February 28, 2010, by David O'Brien

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Ten weeks after the Braves gave up trying to trade Derek Lowe, manager Bobby Cox named him their opening day starter.

The surprising announcement that Lowe would start the April 4 opener at Turner Field against the Chicago Cubs was made on Sunday, weeks before Cox has named an opening day starter in previous years.

“I wanted to do a good job with the reporters in my last year,” quipped Cox, who plans to retire from managing after the 2010 season.

Jair Jurrjens’ sore shoulder and the team’s plan to get extra rest for Tim Hudson in the early season played in the decision. But it was also a vote of confidence in Lowe, the focus of trade rumors for much of the offseason.

“He was our winningest pitcher,” Cox said of the 36-year-old right-hander. “Last year against Philadelphia [on opening day] he pitched eight shutout innings and gave up two hits. And he’s a veteran.”

Lowe went 15-10 in the first year of a four-year, $60 million contract, but his 4.67 ERA was far and away the highest among regular Braves starters. His .301 opponents’ batting average tied for the second-worst among National League starters.

The Braves plan to start Jurrjens in the second game April 7 against Chicago, after an off day in the schedule in case of an opening-day rainout. Tommy Hanson is scheduled to start the April 8 series finale against the Cubs, and Hudson would make his season debut in the April 9 series opener at San Francisco.

The plan is to bring back Lowe on regular rest for Game 5 at San Francisco before Kenshin Kawakami makes his first start April 11 in the sixth game of the season.

Jurrjens was 14-10 with a staff-best 2.60 ERA last season, but he’s been slowed in spring training by shoulder inflammation. Jurrjens is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session Monday and could be ready to pitch in a Grapefruit League game next week.

Cox indicated that if Jurrjens had been healthy, he would have been considered for the opening start. “But I like Lowe right now,” Cox said. “We think we match up with anybody, that [the order] doesn’t really matter.”

Hudson went 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA in seven late-season starts after returning from a year-long recovery for ligament-transplant elbow surgery. Cox said Hudson would get an extra day of rest before each of his final two Grapefruit League starts and his first two starts in the regular season.

“We’re trying to take care of Hudson in the first part of the season, to keep him strong and ready for the stretch drive,” Cox said. “And we can give Hanson and Jurrjens more days [rest] in the second half. That’s the theory. There’s that madness behind it.”

Cox stressed that the plan was tentative and might have to be adjusted if Jurrjens has any setbacks in his recovery from shoulder inflammation. But for now, the Braves believe Jurrjens has plenty of time to get ready for the regular season.

This will be the fifth opening-day start in six years for Lowe, who was charged with four hits, two runs and no walks in eight innings of a 4-1 win at Philadelphia last opening day. He had been 0-3 with an 8.44 ERA in three previous opening-day starts.

“There’s an honor to it,” Cox said of being named to start on opening day. “Lot of first-game jitters, excitement. You’ve got to have the right makeup to handle that. He can pitch big games, that’s for sure.”

The Braves sought to trade a starter this winter to open a spot and clear up some payroll after signing Hudson to a three-year extension. But they couldn’t trade Lowe without eating a large portion of the $45 million he’s still owed.

They traded Javier Vazquez instead, after he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young Award balloting. Vazquez had one year at $11.5 million left on his contract.

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I hope Cox acts like a douch3bag his last year. If he were coaching the Yankees or Red Sox he would still be considered the best coach in the league. Screw our ownership and screw all of you who hate on Bobby. It isn't his fault our hitters couldn't step up in the playoffs back in the 90's, they just weren't that good.

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I hope Cox acts like a douch3bag his last year. If he were coaching the Yankees or Red Sox he would still be considered the best coach in the league. Screw our ownership and screw all of you who hate on Bobby. It isn't his fault our hitters couldn't step up in the playoffs back in the 90's, they just weren't that good.

So you want him to "act like a *********"?

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So you want him to "act like a *********"?

**** yes. I want him to be completely honest and sarcastic all year. I want him to get tossed from no less than 20 home games, especially once we start falling away from the Phillies in the standings. I hope he gives the owners ****, they deserve it.

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So you wouldn't put your best pitcher out there on opening day? Sure you would even if you are a jughead named K26dp you would.

I would. K26 probably would. But clearly the Braves aren't this season. JJ and Hudson are certainly better than Lowe and Hanson looks like he is as well. Sometimes you have to soothe egos.

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So you wouldn't put your best pitcher out there on opening day? Sure you would even if you are a jughead named K26dp you would.

Being a jughead named K26dp, I know the following:

1. Jurrjens is a better pitcher than Lowe. He's also coming back from tendenitis, and may not be ready for an opening day assignment.

2. Hudson is also a better pitcher than Lowe. He's also 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery, and could probably stand with a little extra rest early in the season.

3. Hanson is also a better pitcher than Lowe. He's also young and may not be ready for the pressure of being the opening day guy. Starting him in Game 2 still will give him 35 starts in the regular season, which it what matters the most.

4. Medlen may be a better pitcher than Lowe, but he's slated to start in the bullpen.

5. Kawakami may or may not be a better pitcher than Lowe. When in doubt, go with the vet that's been there before.

I also know that by the end of the season, it really doesn't matter who starts opening day. Naming Lowe the opening day starting pitcher doesn't proclaim him "the best we got".

So yes, it makes sense for Lowe to start opening day.

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