Braves can overcome this rash of injuries
Anything interesting happen since I was last with the team. Everything seemed quite peachy when Brian McCann hit a couple clutch homers just before I began last week’s short break. Well I guess this past week has reaffirmed the fact that momentum is a fickle thing in the baseball world.
As you know the Braves have lost much more than simply four of the first five games of this road trip. Over the past few days they have disabled two-thirds of their starting outfield (Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth) and revealed that Mike Minor will start Wednesday afternoon in place of Tim Hudson, who can only hope his back discomfort does not linger.
Things seemed much simpler last week, when the primary concerns were Chipper Jones’ right knee and the possibility that the primary relievers would be overburdened.
Now as the Phillies are getting healthy, the Braves have to simply hope they can essentially do what the Phillies have done the past seven weeks, while playing without Chase Utley and some of their other top contributors.
If Hudson’s back discomfort lingers and he is not able to make next Monday’s start against the Padres, there will be greater reason for concern in Atlanta. Brandon Beachy has been cleared to begin playing catch again. But he still could be sidelined for three more weeks.
With Minor, Julio Teheran and Rodrigo Lopez, the Braves have depth in the starting pitching department. But they would rather not go a couple weeks with two of their regular starters sidelined.
More importantly, they certainly would like to soon get a sense that Hudson’s back won’t prove to be a lingering problem throughout the season.
While the Braves would certainly be hurt if Hudson misses significant time, they can seemingly get by for a few weeks without both McLouth and Heyward. In fact, these two outfielders have been nothing but a burden to the lineup over the past couple weeks.
McLouth has shown promise and glimpses that he has escaped last year’s horrific struggles. But in the 16 games played before straining his left oblique muscle Sunday, he hit .143 with a .226 on-base percentage. Now that he has been given the opportunitiy Jordan Schafer is certainly capable of providing more consistency at the plate and more speed on the base paths.
The Braves have placed Heyward on the disabled list because of the sore right shoulder he says has bothered him dating back to Spring Training. Fortunately everything in his shoulder appears structurally sound, or at least more sound than his swing and approach at the plate.
When the Braves ended their first homestand in mid-April, scouts were talking about the holes in Heyward’s swing. This was mentioned in this blog after the 21-year-old right fielder went hitless in his next 14 at-bats in Los Angeles.
Then when the Giants and Padres pitchers gave him opportunities to extend his arms and hit some pitches out over the plate, he hit .419 with three homers over the next six games. That short successful stint led Heyward to continue keeping his shoulder discomfort a relative secret.
In addition, it simply halted the struggles that displayed as he has hit .098 with a .229 on-base percentage and one extra-base hit (a double) in the 17 games played this month. He struck out in 15 of his past 41 at-bats.
Heyward may need a couple days to rest his ailing shoulder. But once it starts proving less bothersome, he is seemingly more in need of spending time with the club’s hitting guru Lee Elia. It may benefit the club to allow them to spend some time together at the Spring Training complex, where Heyward could get as much attention as necessary in a relatively stress-free environment.
Without Heyward and McLouth, the Braves will provide opportunities to Schafer, Wilkin Ramirez and Joe Mather, who has certainly shown his value while recording 11 hits, including three doubles and a homer, in his past 21 at-bats.
With Schafer and Ramirez, the Braves have a pair of talented athletes who can run. Of course this will only help if they prove that they can also consistently get on base.
I do apologize that this blog had not been updated since Wednesday afternoon. This marked the first time in the past 10 years that I was not present for five consecutive Braves games. Still I wouldn’t have traded the opportunity that I had this past weekend to proudly watch my stepdaughter graduate from Norcross’ Wesleyan School.