Not nearly as bad as it might have seemed

Simply looking at everything that has transpired dating back to the beginning of the two-game series in Arizona on May 18, it’s even harder to believe the Braves enter Tuesday night’s series opener against the Mets tied with the Brewers and Cardinals for the National League’s second-best winning percentage.

During the 23-game span dating back to May 18, the Braves have placed their entire Opening Day outfield —  Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and Martin Prado  — on the disabled list.  They have also seen both Scott Proctor and George Sherrill both record one more win than their Opening Day starter Derek Lowe, who has gone 0-2 with a 5.27 ERA during this span.

Before you start getting too concerned about Lowe, you should take account of the fact that Tim Hudson has gone 1-2 with a 7.32 ERA during this span.

Four Major League outfielders  (Matt Kemp, Mike Morse, Jay Bruce and Carlos Quentin) have tallied more RBIs than the combined total(22) of all of the Braves’ outfielders dating back to May 18.

And even though he has shown signs of life the past few days, it should be noted that Dan Uggla hit just .143 (11-for-77) with three RBIs during this 23-game stretch.

Still with Tommy Hanson and tonight’s starter Jair Jurrjens keeping the starting rotation solid and Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel anchoring the bullpen, the Braves managed to go 13-10 during this “rough” stretch.   They lost just one game to the Phillies in the National League East standings and gained one game in the Wild Card standings.

More importantly as they sit just 2 1/2 games behind the Phillies and are tied for the lead in the Wild Card race, the Braves suddenly find themselves nearing full strength.  Heyward began his Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett Monday night.

Heyward could return within the next couple days and McLouth seems to be nearing the start of what will likely be a rather short rehab assignment.  While Prado might miss another couple weeks, the Braves are at least nearing a point where they don’t have to rely so heavily on projected bench players like Eric Hinske and Joe Mather.

Hinske has delivered some clutch power and been invaluable while playing both left field and right field.  But as he has batted .213 with a .263 on-base percentage during this span, he has provided the reminder that he is best utilized when he is not playing an everyday role.

With that being said, the best bench players don’t simply deliver while coming off the bench.  Instead, they  make timely contributions like Hinske has when he has been forced to start on a regular basis during his two years in Atlanta.  The Braves have gone 19-10 when he’s in the lineup this year and 19-19 when he is not.

Super Jonny:  Jonny Venters leads all Major League relievers in ERA  (0.44), appearances (37), innings pitched (40 2/3) and opponents’ OPS  (.396).  He ranks second in WHIP (0.74), third in strikeouts (43) and fifth in both batting average allowed (.145) and opponents’ on-base percentage (.228).

There is no doubt in my mind that Venters should be a part of this year’s National League All-Star team. Heck if he keeps this up, I might at least entertain that thought shared by those of you who believe he should garner some Cy Young Award consideration.

But I’m still not sold on the belief that the Braves should use Venters as their closer and move Craig Kimbrel into the setup role.  From a financial standpoint, it stinks that Venters might not have a bunch of saves on his resume when it comes time for him to go through the arbitration process at the end of the 2012 season.

Right now, it appears Venters will steadily gain more save opportunities.  If Kimbrel were to continue to falter, there’s a chance he could be utilized more often in the eighth inning.

The Braves should just continue to  feel fortunate that they have Kimbrel and Venters around to take care of the eighth and ninth innings.  If the current mix doesn’t work, they have the luxury of giving Venters even more opportunities to close.

But for now, Kimbrel should be given every reason to believe the club still believes he has the potential to be one of the game’s top closers for many years to come.

Freeman joins Heyward:  As expected Freddie Freeman has followed Jason Heyward and left Career Sports Management to join forces with agent Casey Close, whose top clients include Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard.  Freeman and Heyward developed a bond with Victor Menocal, who left CSM to join Close.







The Braves are doing excellently considering they are missing an entire outfield. I just hope Uggla keeps it going and we add Prado and Heyward back in. It’s gonna be good.

Does that mean it will be harder to sign jason and freddie when they come to be FA then Mark? Seems like Jason is trying to market himself to get a big deal eventually. I doubt he will be a brave for that long

I still don’t understand the downside of KImbrel not filling the closer role at this point and time. The fact remains that the Braves need at least 2 runs (or more) in order for him not to blow the save. It’s also not a good thing when the Braves Live! commentators talk about having to hold their collective breath when he comes into these situations. More to the point, there seems to be a strange reasoning about Venters-as-closer. The argument above states that, “… I’m still not sold on the belief that the Braves should use Venters as their closer and move Craig Kimbrel into the setup role.” However, there isn’t a reason (convincing or otherwise) why. “Right now, it appears Venters will steadily gain more save opportunities. If Kimbrel were to continue to falter, there’s a chance he could be utilized more often in the eighth inning.” This basically means that if Kimbrel keeps not closing games as a closer then, maybe, Kimbrel will not be the closer (or maybe not). Or he may. I was looking for more of an explanation why Venters, who is older and has more experience, shouldn’t be the closer and more reason why Kimbrel should at this early point in his career. Better yet, what are the disadvantages of not having Kimbrel as the closer at this early point in his career? It was more than a little disconcerting to hear Joe Simpson talk about Carlos Lee just waiting for the pitch he knew was going to come. And it did. Surely everyone else does too at this point.

One of the reasons is that we have 5 RH SPers. If you flip flop Venters and Kimbrel you don’t force the opposing mgr to PH. Your 2nd sentence is just not true. Kimbrel has saved 18 games(2nd in MLB), almost all of them close. The problem he has is he is having to go out there with a 1 run lead every stinking night. The problem here isn’t Kimbrel, it’s the Braves offense.

BillyBobReefer you are a hoot! Of course Kimbel goes out there every night with a one run lead. Isn’t that the definition of a closer? Kimbrel has saved 18 games. How many has he blown?

Since Jordan is doing so well, do we really need to hurry Nate’s rehab assignment? I’m just sayin’…

No he needs a lot of time to make sure he is healthy, maybe another month or so at least.

Doesnt really matter who is our closer at the moment. This offence looks really bad. Just look at todays line up. Only Uggla and chipper (2 out of 8) would of been in the projected opening day side. And one of those (uggla) is hitting sub .200 in mid june, and the other (chipper) needs regular days off and isnt a middle of the order quality hitter anymore.

Damn, its Speedy Gonzalez.

Oh Yummy, Met’s BP and BMAC.

And that’s why Diory returns to AAA.

Because he didn’t get a hit in his bi-weekly plate appearance? If that logic made any sense, Brooks Conrad would be back in rookie ball.

Absolutly correct brandon. Dont worry though. We wont be carrying the giants post season MVP for much longer. He will be sent down soon

Way to go Danny. He is one MY boys.

Uggla is starting to turn around, at the time when we need him most. Let’s just hope that we can get Martin and Heyward back swinging well soon.

So close, yet so far.

Wow – Philly is ranked #2 in “dirtiest cities of America” – – No wonder they all crowd into a baseball stadium every night. It must be a nice release from living in a trash heap known as a city.

Does Georgia have any cities?.

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