Optimism abounds in the Braves clubhouse

After losing the first three games of a four-game series at Turner Field last week, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that the Braves were the best team that he’d seen throughout the year.   Given that he’s already seen the  Dodgers nine times, that was certainly an encouraging compliment.  

Then while talking on Monday afternoon about the fact that he doesn’t see a glaring need to make a move before Friday’s Trade Deadline, Braves general manager Frank Wren said that he felt his club was playing better than it has in the past three or four years.  

These comments certainly weren’t expected to be heard on July 5, when the Braves lost a second straight game against the Nationals.  But while winning 12 of the 18 games that have followed, they have made believers out of a number of people, including Chipper Jones.  

“It doesn’t matter which pitcher we use, we are capable of beating any team that is going to make the playoffs this year,” Jones said before the Braves opened a three-game series against the Marlins on Tuesday night at Land Shark Stadium.  

While Jones wasn’t specifically asked if this comment pertained to Wednesday’s pitching matchup which pits Josh Johnson against Kenshin Kawakami,  it’s easy to deduce that there’s a sense of confidence that wasn’t present in the Braves clubhouse during the first three months of this season or last year, when Kawakami would have spent the final two months as the number one or two starter.  

Like every other Major League club, the Braves certainly have flaws.  But with a starting rotation that has produced a Major League-best 3.62 ERA, they possess the one area of strength that the Phillies, Dodgers, Yankees  and some of the game’s other top powers are still looking to improve.  

While we don’t know exactly what to expect when Tim Hudson returns, the Braves feel like his return in August will give them the same kind of benefit they would receive from making a blockbuster trade before this week’s  deadline.

Making his third Minor League rehab start on Monday night, Hudson allowed four hits over four scoreless innings against Triple-A Lehigh Valley.   After the 41-pitch effort, the veteran right-hander once again said that he was encouraged about the progress of his arm strength.   
Hudson, who is attempting to return from Tommy John surgery, is essentially in Spring Training mode and thus will need to make at least six starts before being deemed ready to be placed in the Atlanta rotation.  

Braves manager Bobby Cox confirmed that Hudson will need at least three more starts and possibly a fourth.   If he is deemed ready after three starts, the 34-year-old right-hander could be ready by Aug. 16, which is nine days earlier than he was projecting before he began this rehab process.  

“We’re just looking at his next start to see how he progresses and then we’ll see where he is after that,” Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said.  “Looking down the line, based on what we’ve been through with other guys, we’re not putting the cart before the horse.  We’ll just see how he is after his next start.”  

Once Hudson returns, the most likely move would be to place Kawakami in the bullpen.  But for now, the Braves are simply addressing this question with the familiar adage, “these things always work themselves out.”
 
Other injury related notes:

Omar Infante has still been feeling some expected discomfort while taking batting practice the past few days.  But Infante, who has been out since May with a broken left hand, has shown enough progress to allow the Braves to believe he could begin a Minor League rehab assignment within the next week.  

When Eric O’Flaherty issued three walks during Saturday’s loss to the Brewers, he was fighting some of the discomfort created by the unfamiliarity of pitching with a taped ankle.  The left-handed reliever turned his ankle when he stepped on a ball during batting practice on Friday night.   The ailment isn’t believed to be serious and he was available to pitch on Tuesday night.

Ryan Church hyper-extended his right elbow when he attempted to avoid a collision with Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard earlier this month.  He aggravated the ailment earlier in Milwaukee earlier this weekend, when he swung and missed a pitch.
 
When Cox asked his right fielder if he was healthy enough to play on Tuesday night, Church responded, “Yeah, I just have to make sure that I don’t swing and miss.”   

60 Comments

ok i just read on a blog on yahoo sports that the rays are willing to trade pena crawford and kazmir to open up space. Now i am not saying going after all three but the braves need 2 of those players in crawford and pena. If the Braves send them kj ck medlen and schafer for crawford pena and wheeler howell or shouse. then send anderson to the bench or trade him to the yankees for a single a player or something.

ok i just read on a blog on yahoo sports that the rays are willing to trade pena crawford and kazmir to open up space. Now i am not saying going after all three but the braves need 2 of those players in crawford and pena. If the Braves send them kj ck medlen and schafer for crawford pena and wheeler howell or shouse. then send anderson to the bench or trade him to the yankees for a single a player or something.

I’m not sure if KJ, CK, Medlen, and Schafer will get either Crawford or Pena alone. Maybe Pena. KJ had a good return but his complete body of work shows he is unreliable. Medlen still hasn’t shown the consistency that is needed to pitch at the major league level. Schafer has lost some value after showing he can’t hit a major league fastball. He can hit the off speed pitches but he was getting blown away on fastballs. You can thank the Mexican Winter League for that.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

Why would the Rays do that in the middle of two playoff races?
PWH – I played high school ball in Stockbridge, GA (with Kyle Davies). I moved here to Jacksonville to go to college. I am familiar with Terry Parker but probably don’t know your friend.

While Crawford and Pena would be great additions to the Braves team, I don’t ever seeing any of those being a reality. I don’t see the need in mixing up a team that is hot right now.

At least you get to see them some of the time. I live in PA. I only get to see them when they play the Phillies, Pirates, and occasionally the Cubs and Yankees. Most of the time they get blacked out when its on ESPN. I would be pissed too if I was paying that and couldn’t seen them though.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

Well this sucks… The game is blacked out for me on the MLB package because I live in Florida and Comcast somehow thinks Jacksonville is in the Marlins viewing range… even though I’m geographically closer to Atlanta…. So naturally I turn it to FSN South because they usually cover the Fish. Not so much… Rays vs. Yanks tonight… So then I log onto MLB.com to watch it on MLBTV… and yet again because I’m in Northeast Florida, MLB has blacked me out online too.
It’s amazing that someone can pay over $300 a year to watch their favorite team and they STILL won’t let you watch every game.
Sorry guys – had to vent. Pull them through without me!

Do you get Sunshine Network?

I meant FSN Florida, not FSN South.

I meant FSN Florida, not FSN South.

Wow, Norton has been unbelievably horrible this season. I feel bad for the guy since he has made his career pinch hitting… but it pisses me off he’s taking up a spot on the roster. . . .

I thought the whole reason for MLB network/TV was being able to see ALL games, what’s up with that??

I think Norton’s spot will be taken by Infante when he comes back. He started off his stint with Atlanta really well but has just not produced. I understand Cox trying to get him at bats so he can potentially heat up but it just isn’t working.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

Nah crewsin – MLB will still black you out if you are in a specific geographic region… pretty lame.
Quick question – Since I’m watching the updates on MLB’s gameday I’m probably missing something… but if Nate McClouth leads off the 8th by reaching first and he steals over 95% of the bases when he attempts… why is he not running with Prado, Chipper, and BMac coming up? One would think we would need a runner in scoring position… what gives?

I live in Jacksonville area and the Sunshine Network is carrying the Braves game. I know its not really worth it to add it just for Braves games, but I usually catch them on there a couple of times a year. The Rays and Marlins alternate between FS Florida and SS.

All I can figure about Nate not running is he may have still been aching from being hit in the ribs by a pitch…Did seem like a good time to run though

I haven’t been able to see a bunch of Braves games this year, but I do have one question. I heard Boone Logan was a closer of the future for the Chi Sox but had a horrible 2nd half of the season last year. Well, has he had a chance to pitch in big time situations out of the ‘pen this year? We could definately use the extra arm to take the pressure off of Gonzo, Moylan, and the other Braves that seem to pitch every game….

… Wow, I have seen the full circle of Garret Anderson tonight. He has looked really shaky handling some outfield attempts, shown off a good arm, and put us ahead in the 9th with a home run after a great clutch at bat.

I have Sunshine Network but the game is not on… that’s weird that you have it on in Jax and I can’t get it… weird!

Soriano – 10 pitches and 3 strikes… really?

Well, I didn’t see the game, but that sucked. Maybe Wren turns up the search for a reliever or a power bat. We win that game with either. Actually, we probably win the game if McCann or Kotchman doesn’t go 0-4.

Mark Bowman, Is Wren making any moves toward Glaus?Baseballplya42 – I went on saturday only and sat in section 344.I can’t believe we lost. Soriano just made a mistake. Mid 90′s fastball right down broadway, In the “Fish Tank.” Ugh. And of course the Phillies win. People, were only a few games ahead of the Mets. The seasons not over, I don’t expect the Phillies to keep it up. They will hit a brick wall eventually. Damn first place sounds so good.

Ok, now that my Braves induced depression has gone down, I can think clearly. The Braves are 3 games out of the wild card. Optimism! I love it. (Anyone? No? ok.)

Looking at next year, anyone like Joey Gathright? I do. Next years outfield: Gathright, Schaffer, and McLouth. Lineup: Gathright – Leadoff, McLouth – 5th, Schaffer – I don’t know, 7th?
Heres his scouting report: Assets - Few human beings on the planet can out-run Gathright. He slaps the ball on the ground, making consistent contact. Flaws - Doesn’t walk enough to be the leadoff man he should be. He has no power at all and has a weak outfield arm. Career potential – Good leadoff man.

Gathright or Taveras would be nice pickups…

Well I don’t understand Cox trying to get Norton at bats in hopes he will heat up, I was always under the impression that the idea of playing a ball game was to WIN.

Jurrjens4NLCY, next years outfield will most probably have Jason Heyward in RF. He is hitting .443 over 70 ABs in AA Mississippi, and he is clearly a man amongst boys there. The next 5 weeks should be interesting for him if he keeps it up.
Willy Taveras gets the bat knocked out of his hands consistently, and thus he hasn’t stuck with anybody despite his speed, so he is a lousy alternative in CF.
Gathright is now an Oriole, so let’s see if they even let him show them anything in September before we get too excited about a minor leaguer we would have to trade for, who has to be coming to Spring Training next season out of options. If Schafer is ready, he is much more in the mold that the Braves look for than any speed only guy would be, and an OF of McLouth, Schafer, Heyward would be awesome defensively if both kids are ready offensively.

rother, I don’t know about Heyward next year. He’d be the youngest player in the Majors. But you are the one on the development of people in the minors. I just don’t want to rush him. Gathright has the ability to put the barrel on the ball, not just a speedster. He’d also be a nice late inning pinch runner. And I hope your right about Schafer. My god do I hope he’s got a big future. Someone mentioned Logan being the future ChiSox closer, right? I have not heard that. I was told that he’s very streaky and is a future loogy though. Luis Valdez is supposedly the future set-up/closer of this organization. Him and, uhh, DeVall.

Btw, I predicted a Josh Fields trade: http://capitolavenueclub.com/?p=611&cpage=1#comment-430

Craig Kimbrel is supposedly our future closer. He started the year at Myrtle Beach, got shelled (10.97 ERA in his first 10 and 2/3 innings), got demoted to Rome, struck out 38 (!) batters in 20 innings with a 0.90 ERA and walked only 6, and got promoted to Myrtle Beach (again). He seems to have adjusted to the Carolina League this time, posting a 0.68 ERA in 13 and 1/3 innings this month and a 28-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

I find that, often, people like Logan are projected to be closers and end up being set-up men or garbage relievers because pitching in AAA, high pressure, it isn’t so bad, but when you pitch at the end of every important game for a team, it’s a little different. I think Valdez has the stuff, but he has made some mental mistakes this year in AAA.

I bet Feliz with the Rangers will not do amazing as a closer, either. K/bb will be too high.

But then again, maybe I’m talking out my ***. We need a win tonight!

As I heard it, Boone Logan was pulled from the minor league field to the major league field at Spring Training fairly abruptly by the CHISOX as a kid who hadn’t been above A ball. That would indicate scary good potential stuff. He got shaky late in the year last season, and Thornton, another 98-100 lefty appeared in Chicago, so he became plan B and trade bait. He surely has the live arm if he can find the plate consistently. It wouldn’t hurt for him to grow a little “nasty mound attitude” while he’s at it. Gonzo’s best trait is his “get off MY plate” attitude that he takes to the mound each day.
Logan is still pretty young and we know he is better than Bennett, Acosta and probably Carlyle, so let’s see what we have.

OK, so Jeff Bennett gave up 2 more runs in his second rehab appearance last night. His ERA is sitting at a cool 18.00 at Triple-A. At least he didn’t walk anyone this time……

Yep, Pete, we (G-Braves fans) have all decided that Bennett needs to continue his rehab in Rome or Myrtle Beach. Gwinnett is in a playoff run and really doesn’t have room for him anymore. He spots the other team a quick two runs and they have no momentum left. Now that he has done it twice, I can only assume the G-Braves will be expecting the implosion next time and probably “can’t wait” for his next appearance. “Here we go again” is a lousy battle cry for a playoff team.

Trust me when I tell you this, Heyward is WAYYYYYYYY older than Schafer where it counts. Birth Certificates only tell chronological age. Heyward is going to be the youngest guy out there this year or next, and it would be a crying shame to waste a year in Gwinnett for a guy who is already better than most of the current Braves ever dreamed of being. Nobody at AAA is anywhere near his talent level, and all but Gorecki have been in the Majors already.
Think a young Cliff Floyd with two good knees. The ball just sings off his bat.

rother, maybe a call up to Gwinnett in August, then a MLB one in mid september (of course because of the G-Braves postseason.) He could be a playoff king if he helps Gwinnett go to the postseason, and then the Braves, MAN I like to dream…

I’m with you. We’re hoping he hits Gwinnett in time to help get them in the playoffs. Then we’ll see how it goes.
They walked Hicks last night ( all 98K’s of him) to load the bases for Heyward in the bottom of the 7th (last inning in a AA double header game) in a 0-0 tie, not good execution on West Tennessee’s part. Heyward was already 2 for 2 with a walk. He ended the game with a walk off hit a couple pitches later.

Amazing! Jason Heyward: 80% Griffey, 20% Magic. The Philles are close to getting Lee, they made an offer without Drebek and Happ: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/07/cliff-lee-update.html

Braves front office has apparently been calling teams about relievers for the past “48 hours.” That is a shame, I’d rother (little joke) see Glaus in a Bravo uniform. My last 5 hours involved cleaning and refreshing MLBTR. I love my life.

Andruw was Minor League Player of the Year twice, and did the A, AA, AAA, MLB move all in one season as well, hitting 40 homers in the process that year. He was considered the next Willie Mays as far as hype goes. So it was pretty similar. Heyward is supposed to be even more mature, and his parent live 15 miles down the road in McDonough. All things point to giving him a shot.

Heyward does intrigue me because everyone had pegged him as a starter in 2011, but with his recent success in the Minors you have to wonder how the Braves will handle him and whether or not we’ll see him sooner. Yes, you can rush talent and do more harm than good, but sometimes some people are talented enough to where that jump isn’t all that big of a deal, and provides more growth than harm. Andruw Jones made his debut as a 19 year old, although I can’t remember if he was as highly touted as Heyward when he was coming through the farm.
The economy of baseball has changed since then, however; teams seem more inclined to bring up their talent only when they know they can maximize their returns, rather than bring them up just so they can waste a year getting mediocre results.

What the hell is up with the out of place order?

The time stamps are wrong. Your last one was posted as 1:20 PM when I had already read it by 1:16. Then I replied at 1:20 and it got put in front of yours. Yesterday mine were doing the same thing yours are today. We’ll piece it together one way or another. Sending 1:25 PM.

Jurrjens4NLCY, I wonder how Chipper would react to a legit 3B in the organization, let alone on the team. That would be interesting.

I like Chipper, every time I think he sucks, he hits a HR. Glaus should play first. And it wouldn’t take a lot to get him. James Parr and Barbaro Canizares should do it. Maybe a little too much. Prehaps James Parr and Jo Jo. Cardinals really want someone to take him. Idk. Mark, any word of Glaus, are the Braves in pursuit?

That Lee deal sucks for Atlanta. I think Jason Heyward has an outside shot at making the team next year. He is playing great so far at Mississippi but it’s only a small sample. Andruw Jones shot threw the minors as did Rafael Furcal. I think Furcal went right from A to Atlanta and won ROY. A big jump didn’t work out with Schafer but Heyward is a completely different prospect.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

Moneyball, It sucks, but not as much as it could have. Roy Halladay would’ve killed us. Cliff Lee is defeatable. Yes I just made up a word. Halladay with the offensive support of the Phils is a guaranteed win. Lee can be beat. Especially by the Braves. I hope Wren reacts to this.

Lee probably adds 3 wins to the Phillies total this season, guessing they’ll win 9 of his 12 starts vs. the 6 of 12 they get from the guy that gets bumped.
To give the deal any more credit than that would be assuming the other guy doesn’t win at all, and/or Lee wins all the time, neither of which is true.
Lee does give them a bump in the playoffs though.

Doesn’t matter if it is Cliff Lee or Vivian Lee–Norton will hit into a double play with the game on the line. GET CONRAD BACK TO ATLANTA!!!

One problem is Lee is left-handed. Philly’s pitching staff matches up well with Atlanta’s offense. The left-handed heavy pitching staff could give them problems down the stretch though.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

Worth noting that our pitching staff matches up with Philly very well too. Vazquez and Jurrjens best pitches this year have been their change-up (tougher on lefties). Lowe has shown he can own the Phillies as well. And we’ve got two very good left-handed relievers.

What am I missing here,
the Braves are 20-15 against lefties and 31-34 against righties.
Bring on the lefties this year!!!
And we’re 7-2 against the Phillies, bring on the Phillies AND their lefties!!!!!!!!!

And, the Phillies have only scored more than 2 runs against the Braves twice this season in 9 games. That is big time pitching right there. We’ve scored 4 or more in EVERY game against them.

YEAH, Screw the Phillies!!!

Is it me or did we give up more to get Nate McLouth than the Phillies did to get Cliff Lee?

And that doesn’t mean I was down on the McLouth deal, just that the Phillies basically stole Lee from the Indians.

Cleveland basically gave away Lee. There is a good write up about it on FanGraphs. Cleveland really blew this one.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

Did Cleveland get any of the players the Blue Jays wanted? I can’t believe they didn’t get Happ. Lee, Hamels, Happ is a pretty strong front end.

Happ is pitching out of his mind right now. No way he’s able to sustain this. Just not good enough. His xFIP is 4.71. Expect his ERA to be closer to that than what it is right now.

Happ isn’t an overpowering pitcher so once the scouting reports get a little more accurate he will probably get knocked around. I think that is one thing that Hanson has going for him. His fastball is overpowering enough that he can make a mistake or two and get away with it. Happ doesn’t have that luxury.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

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