Results tagged ‘ Mike Minor ’

Beachy wins fifth spot

The Braves have optioned Mike Minor to Triple-A Gwinnett and informed him that Brandon Beachy will begin the season as their fifth starter.   Minor was informed of the decision Thursday morning. <p> 

“We just feel Brandon gives us a better chance to win right now,”  Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “It was a tough decision to make.”

Beachy began receiving congratulatory messages from his teammates shortly after arriving at the clubhouse Thursday morning.   

“Obviously I’m happy about it,” Beachy said.  “I’m excited about the opportunity.  Hopefully we can a few wins and I can be a big contributor to help us reach our goal.”   <p> 

Minor, the seventh overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has compiled just 175 innings in pro ball.  The 23-year-old left-hander has tremendous upside, but could seemingly benefit from having a chance to spend more time refining his curveball and changeup.

“We just told him to go down and stay ready because you never know when you’re going to be needed,” Wren said.

Minor said he was simply happy a decision had been made.  Last week, he seemed to be preparing himself to the possibility he would begin the year in the Minors.

“It’s going to be a good,” Minor said. “I just wanted an answer and today I got it. Now I can focus on getting ready for the season at Triple-A. It’s going to be good for me to work on my curveball and hopefully go back up when I have all three of my pitches going and be able to spot them up.”   <p>    

Beachy, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008,  has made a meteoric rise after beginning last year in Double-A Mississippi’s bullpen.  He made three strong starts for Atlanta at the end of last year and has shown great command during Spring Training.

“To be in this situation to break with the team, it’s awesome,” Beachy said.  <p>  

Roster battles still being waged

Welcome to the final full week of Grapefruit League action.  Or as those who came to camp hoping to win a roster spot might say, welcome to the one week that truly matters during Spring Training. 

The past month has certainly been important to both Chipper Jones, who has gained confidence in his knee, and Nate McLouth who has simply proven that he does once again have confidence in himself.

The early weeks of the exhibition season have also proven beneficial to Wilkin Ramirez, the extremely athletic 25-year-old outfielder who went from being a respected prospect in the Tigers organization to a player that they were willing to part with for a little cash. 

Those who have only had a chance to evaluate Ramirez based on what they’ve seen in the box scores this year are understandably excited about the 25-year-old outfielder.  But is there really any reason to put much difference in the .310 batting average he’s compiled and the .207 mark Matt Young has recorded.

Both players have compiled 29 at-bats.  Ramirez has just been fortunate to tally three more hits during this short span.

Most of you were already well aware of the fact that there is no reason to put stock in exhibition season stats.  With this being said, I do recognize that the Braves would have certainly liked to have have seen Joe Mather tally more than the four hits he has compiled in his first 36 at-bats.

But because he’s already on the 40-man roster and out of options, I still feel it’s a foregone conclusion that he will be on the roster.  

In the exhibition season-setting, you have little control over which pitchers the batters face.  Once the regular season begins, Mather will be in a position to draw most of his at-bats against the left-handed pitchers that have been much friendlier to him than right-handed pitchers in the past.

I’m also still thinking Brooks Conrad will get one of the final available bench spots.  The Braves need his bat off the bench and they can get by with using Mather in center field if necessary. 

Conrad is beloved in the clubhouse and respected by members of upper management.  If there was legitimately a better alternative, it would be much easier to send Conrad to Gwinnett to begin the season.

But even with Ramirez impressing with his great athleticism and having the ability to serve as  legit backup option in center, I still expect Conrad to get the nod simply based on the fact he proved productive in the role last year. 

Meanwhile Ramirez combined to hit .234 for three different Minor League clubs last year.  This is not to say he doesn’t have tremendous upside and could possibly be in the Majors within the first couple of months.

But Ramriez seems to be in a position where he could benefit from a little more time in the Minors.  When the Braves acquired him last year, scouts labeled him as an extremely talented player who has had trouble hitting the breaking ball. 

While I’m still thinking Conrad will get one of the two final bench spots, I really don’t know whether it will be Ed Lucas or Diory Hernandez who gets the other one. 

Last week, I thought they might go with Lucas and I will stick with that belief because he could be used in the outfield if necessary.  This becomes even more important with the assumption that Conrad will be on the roster instead of Ramirez or Matt Young.

I’ll take a closer look at the final available pitching spots over the next couple of days.  But if pressed for a guess right now, I’ll stick with Brandon Beachy winning the fifth spot.  

My reasoning for Beachy hasn’t changed. The Braves paid Mike Minor a big bonus and his upside is tremendous.  Thus with just 134 career Minor League innings under his belt, the Braves need to maximize their investment by giving Minor another month or two in the Minors to work on his secondary pitches. 

Some of you will say the Braves need a left-hander in their rotation to start the season.  That’s fine, but I think it’s more important to do whatever necessary to increase the odds that you will get the most you can from Minor. 

As for that final bullpen spot, I think Cristhian Martinez is the clear favorite.  Scott Proctor struggled Thursday night and simply isn’t able to provide as much as Martinez, whose value rests in his ability to serve as both a middle man and long reliever.

The Braves will likely trade to Proctor over the next week.  If they are unable to move him, they could release him by March 28 and only have to pay a fraction of his one-year, $750,000 contract.  



Freeman impressing with bat and glove

As we prepare to watch Derek Lowe face the Astros in the third game of this exhibition season, it’s time to throw out some thoughts and observations gathered this past weekend.

Those who have followed Freddie Freeman knew he was quite capable of doing what he did Saturday, when he produced three doubles (one to each field) in Saturday’s opener against the Mets.  Thus, I would have to say it was even more impressive watching him begin a double play in Sunday afternoon’s contest. 

Freeman ranged to his right, regained his balance and used his strong right arm to fire a pinpoint throw to shortstop Alex Gonzalez who then threw to Rodrigo Lopez at first base to complete the twin killing. 

It’s a play you would expect to see at least a handful of Major League first baseman make.  But it’s still impressive to see a 6-foot-4, 242-pound frame start this turn with relative ease. 

Just to give you a sense about how much Freeman’s offseason conditioning program altered his frame, a National League scout very familiar with the Braves first baseman showed up this morning and said, “Wow! Freddie really got big.”

Mike Minor breezed through his 17-pitch, two-inning performance Sunday afternoon in very efficient manner. I’m among those who believe he could benefit from some additional time (a month or two) at the Minor League level. 

But if Brandon Beachy doesn’t give the Braves complete confidence that he will be reliable in the role, then they might not have any other choice but to have Minor start the year in the Majors. 

Yeah, Rodrigo Lopez is around for insurance.  But for now, I think we should just assume that the Braves have learned from the Mark Redman experiment. 

The Braves were given further reason to be encouraged about Chipper Jones when he returned to the park today and said his knee was sound enough for him to once again serve as the designated hitter this afternoon. 

As said before, the left knee is going to continue providing problems as camp continues.  The Braves and Jones are just hoping it becomes less and less of a problem as the days and weeks pass in March. 

Jones might serve as the designated hitter again on Tuesday and then take a break Wednesday when the Braves make the three-hour trek to Ft. Myers to play the Red Sox. Nice  veteran, perk huh? 

By the way, Tim Hudson wasn’t afforded this perk.  He’ll make the three-hour drive to Ft. Myers to make his two-inning exhibition season debut and then make his second start next Monday, when the Braves drive 2 1/2 hours to play the Marlins in Jupiter. 

I haven’t mapped out the rest of his scheduled.  But Huddy said, the rest of his starts are scheduled to be made at Disney.

Scott Proctor wasn’t guaranteed the last available bullpen spot coming into camp and while allowing Russ Adams a three-run homer in Sunday’s loss to the Braves he certainly didn’t aid his cause. 

There’s obviously still plenty of time for Proctor to make many more positive impressions before camp concludes. But if he continues to struggle, that last spot could be grabbed by Cristhian Martinez, who made some contributions in Atlanta last year. 

Martinez is just an early guess.  Don’t forget Fredi Gonzalez didn’t like him enough to find a spot for him in the Marlins bullpen at the beginning of last season.

With this in mind, I’ll say that Stephen Marek and Anthony Varvaro are the two other top candidates. 


Prado 7
McLouth 8
Chipper DH
McCann 2
Uggla 4
Heyward 9
Gonzalez 6
Hinske 3
Hicks 5  



Infante improving odds of winning a batting title

Here’s the shortened version of an earlier entry that disappeared like Luis Valdez.

Omar Infante learned this afternoon that his three-homer performance during this past weekend’s series in Chicago allowed him to earn National League Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career. 

Infante’s bid to win his first career batting title will be influenced by the fact that he didn’t become an everyday part of the Braves lineup until the early portion of July. 

With 333 plate appearances entering Monday, Infante would need to compile 169 plate appearances (4.4 per game) over the Braves final 38 games to raise his season total to  502, the mark that allows a player to qualify for the batting title without penalty. 

If a player falls short of this mark, his candidacy for the batting title would be based on where his batting average would stand after accounting for him going hitless over the number of at-bats that would raise his season plate appearance total to 502.

The .370 batting average Infante has compiled since June arrived has been bettered only by the .410 mark posted by top American League MVP candidate Josh Hamilton.  Buster Posey (.333) and Joey Votto (.331) are the only NL players to hit better than .330 during this span.

Entering Monday, Votto led the NL with a .323 batting average.   If Infante is able to keep his batting average above .340, this might be the year that he could win a batting title even if he comes up shy of the necessary plate appearances.  

Minor rest:  Bobby Cox confirmed that he will utilize the benefits of Thursday’s scheduled offday and give Mike Minor a few extra days of rest before his next start.  Minor, who matched a franchise rookie record with 12 strikeouts Sunday in Chicago, will make his next start next Tuesday against the Mets.

Instead of assigning him a certain number of innings, the Braves believe they can protect Minor’s workload by giving him extra days of rest when possible.   Basically Cox wants the rookie right-hander as a part of his rotation for the remainder of this season.

Sorry for keeping it brief.  Let’s just say that my computer had visa issues.  Oh wait, I forgot that was Valdez’s excuse.


Infante 4
Heyward 9
Prado 5
Lee 3
McCann 2
Hinske 7
Gonzalez 6
Ankiel 8
Hudson 1




Minor will make Major League debut Monday

Mike Minor will make his Major League debut Monday night in Houston.  Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed Thursday afternoon that Minor will fill rotation spot vacated by Kris Medlen. 

An MRI exam performed Thursday revealed that Medlen has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.  Following standard protocol, the Braves will monitor him for a few weeks before determining whether he will need to undergo the Tommy John ligament transplant surgical process that would sideline him for close to a calendar year.

Wren also revealed that Kenshin Kawakami has agreed to spend the next few weeks with Triple-A Gwinnett.  Kawakami will be attempting to rebuild the endurance he’s lost while pitching just one inning since losing his rotation spot after his June 26 win over the Tigers. 

Minor will pitch two innings for Gwinnett during tonight’s game at Lehigh Valley.  The 21-year-old, who was the seventh overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has gone 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in the five starts he’s made since being promoted to Gwinnett.

Showing respect to Kawakami has proven costly

Recognizing that he would be embarrassed in his native land and protecting their future interests in bringing other Japanese players to Atlanta, the Braves never aggressively persuaded Kenshin Kawakami to go to the Minors to continue serving as a starting pitcher.

Consequently they find themselves in a position where Mike Minor appears to be the only sensible option to fill the rotation spot that was opened when Kris Medlen suffered a potentially serious right elbow injury.

Once the MRI results are reviewed, we’ll learn whether Medlen will indeed need to undergo Tommy John surgery and be lost for a year. If that’s the case, then the Braves may have no other choice but to get Minor’s service clock rolling and throw him into the heat of a pennant race.  

If the Braves still had the seven-game advantage that they possessed over the Phillies two weeks ago, then maybe they could send Kawakami to the mound Monday night with the hope that he could work at least three or four innings. 

But if there was even an inkling to do this, you’d have to think they would have at least allowed him to pitch the final two innings of last night’s win against the Mets.   Yet with a four-run eighth-inning advantage, they provided further indication that have little confidence in his ability to be a reliable contributor to their pitching staff. 

It’s certainly not Kawakami’s fault that he has pitched just one inning since ending his days in the rotation with his victorious June 26 effort against the Tigers. Instead, this reality has now grown into an even greater problem for the Braves.

With the possibility that Medlen will be sidelined until at least August of next year, there may now be a need to put Kawakami in the 2011 rotation.  But with the assumption that Minor will be a part of it, the Braves may have to trade either Jair Jurrjens or Derek Lowe to open a spot for the Japanese right-hander, who is still owed a little more than $8 million through the end of next year.   

Given that Minor has gone 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in the five starts he’s made since being promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett, there’s certainly a chance he will prove to be a reliable fifth starter.  But he has made just 24 starts since leaving Vanderbilt last year and just 20 of those have been completed above the Class A level. 

While some of you have expressed concern about the fact that Minor went 2-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 15 starts for Double-A Mississippi this year, I don’t think this should be viewed in a negative manner.  From what I have been told, the defensive support at Mississippi was shoddy at best. 

Mike Leake, who was taken one selection after Minor in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has proven to be a key piece to the Reds resurgence this year. 

The Braves now may have to hope that Minor provides similar value.

Minor will start for Gwinnett at Lehigh Valley tonight.  If he throws just a couple of innings, he could still be in line to fill Medlen’s rotation spot Monday when the Braves open a three-game series in Houston.

The Braves have recalled Cristhian Martinez from Triple-A Gwinnett.  He could be asked to throw a couple of innings Monday night as a starter or reliever. 

If the Braves decide to give Minor at least one more start at Gwinnett, Martinez and Kawakami could piggy-back each other during that series opener in Houston.   

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman  


All is quiet on the Braves trade front

Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of TheJeff Francoeur Trade.  The Braves will  commemorate the event by spending this weekend playing against Francoeur and his Mets teammates at Citi Field.

Here at Bowman’s Blog, we chose to recognize the event Thursday, when we drew a steady wave of page hits courtesy of a player, who has previously drawn comparisons to Francoeur.

Once’s Peter Gammons mentioned Mike Minor and Corey Hart in the same tweet yesterday, Braves fans buzzed with curiosity.  From all indications, Frank Wren and his lieutenants simply sat back and recognized the fact that we are indeed in the middle of July’s rumor season. 

If there is a group of untouchables within the Braves organization, Minor ranks near the top of that list.  The 22-year-old hurler will likely be projected to be part of the 2011 Atlanta rotation. 

Yes, somebody will likely have to be moved to create a spot for Minor next year.  But for now, we should just focus on the belief that he will stay with the organization unless the Braves are blown away by the offer of a young affordable position player that they could control for at least three years. 

In other words, Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado will be sticking with the Braves unless another club is willing to offer a Jason Heyward-type player.  Last time I checked, the Marlins (Mike Stanton) and Tigers (Brennan Boesch) aren’t going to be willing to do this. 

The direction the Braves take leading up to the July 31 deadline will be heavily influenced by what Heyward shows when he returns from the disabled list after the All-Star break.  If he proves to be healthy and capable of being as productive as he was during the season’s first two months, there will be less need for Wren to pursue and everyday outfielder.

If Heyward provides confidence about what he could provide down the stretch, the Braves may simply look to add a bat to a bench that has been recently weakened while Eric Hinske and Omar Infante have been in the lineup much more often than originally projected. 

Matt Diaz’s return has already solidified the outfield mix.  If Nate McLouth is able to return from his concussion and provide some indication that he will be much more productive during the season’s second half, the Braves would then have the option of using either Melky Cabrera or Gregor Blanco as a trade chip. 

Blanco obviously has more trade value than the more-expensive Cabrera.  But more importantly, his performance over the past couple of weeks has given every reason to believe he can capably handle the center field position if McLouth isn’t able to regain his health or show the promise that was expected when the Braves acquired him last year.

If the Braves reach a point where they are seeking an outfielder to play on an everyday basis, Hart won’t be high on their wish list.  While producing a career-best season this year, Hart is setting himself up to earn $7-8 million via arbitration next year. 

The Braves would be hesitant making this kind of commitment to a player, who combined to hit .265 with 32 homers and a .757 OPS during the 2007 and ’08 seasons.  But the primary reason they wouldn’t offer the Brewers a highly attractive packages stems from the fact that Hart will be eligible for free agency at the end of the 2011 season. 

The Brewers have spent the past couple of years attempting to get the Braves to trade for Hart. Right now, it appears they’re still not ready to bite. 

Still the odds of Hart landing in Atlanta might actually be higher than those surrounding the possibility that Yunel Escobar will be traded before the trade deadline.   The Braves simply aren’t willing to sell low on a guy, who they still view as the game’s top defensive shortstop.

Manager Bobby Cox complimented Omar Infante the other day by saying he could be an everyday shortstop.  But it’s quite obvious that Infante wouldn’t bring the same defensive value as Escobar, whose presence strengthens the value of Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe, who both rank among the top three NL starters in groundball/flyball ratio. 

While the Braves may not currently be major players on the trade market, they could see one of their former hurlers influenced if the Yankees conclude their current negotiations to land Cliff Lee. 

If the Yankees do land Lee (and it appears they will), they will likely trade Javier Vazquez. One scout told me this morning that he was hearing Vazquez would be dealt to the Phillies in exchange for Jayson Werth. 

But with Chase Utley sidelined until at least the latter portion of August, I find it hard to believe that the Phillies would be willing to trade another key piece of their lineup to strengthen their shaky rotation. 

NOTES: Julio Teheran was scratched from his latest start with Class A Myrtle Beach to allow him to be ready to pitch in this weekend’s Futures Game. Mike Minor is also scheduled to pitch for the U.S. team. The game will be shown live by MLB.TV and ESPN 2 at 6 p.m. ET Sunday…Highly-regarded, 18-year-old shortstop Edward Salcedo has hit .269 with two doubles and two triples in his first 26 at-bats since being promoted to Class A Rome. 


Minor and Ortegano sent to Minor League camp

With a limited innings available to fill during games, the Braves have sent 10 pitchers back to Minor League camp. 

Left-handed pitchers Lee Hyde, Jose Ortegano and Mike Minor, who was taken with the seventh overall selection in last year’s First-Year Player Draft,  headlined the list of players who learned Monday that they were part of the club’s first round of cuts. At some point during the past couple of weeks, Braves manager Bobby Cox said that each of these young hurlers will pitch at the Major League level.

The most notable position player affected was outfielder Cody Johnson, who was the club’s first-round selection in the 2006 Draft.  

With today’s cuts, Steve Marek, James Parr, Todd Redmond and Hyde  were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.  Ortegano and right-handed pitchers Juan Abreu and Kyle Cofield were optioned to Double-A Mississippi.

As non-roster invitees, Johnson, Minor, right-handed pitcher Chris Resop and Erik Cordier and catchers Braeden Schlehuber and Jesus Sucre were all re-assigned to Minor League camp.

Here is the lineup for tonight’s game against the Nationals.

McLouth 8
Prado 4
Heyward 9
McCann 2
Escobar 6
Cabrera 7
Hinske 3
Infante 5
Lowe 1

Moylan working on change with Garber

Before traveling back to his Pennsylvania farm, Gene Garber had the opportunity to watch Peter Moylan unleash a healthy dose of changeups during the scoreless inning he completed against the Mets on Wednesday afternoon. 

During his 19-season big league career, Garber made a habit out of baffling opposing hitters with the changeup he was able to throw with his sidearm delivery.  As Bobby Cox remembers, this was the pitch the old sidewinder used to end Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak in 1978.

“He had one of the best changeups in the game and that’s a pitch that I’m missing,” Moylan said.  “Any kind of advice he can give me with different grips and different releases is great.”

As a former reliever who utilized the same sinker-slider repertoire as Moylan, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell has helped the Australian reliever with his mental approach and also been able to aid him with the mechanics of his delivery. 

But with traditional throwing motion, McDowell doesn’t the experiences that Garber has utilized the past two years in his attempt to help Moylan develop this changeup that he plans to utilize in an attempt to improve his success against left-handers. 

Last year Moylan limited right-handed hitters to a .211 batting average and .271 on-base percentage.  Left-handers batted .309 and produced a .436 OBP against him. 

With this in mind, Cox was pleased that Moylan was able to face four left-handed hitters (including the switch-hitting Angel Pagan) on Wednesdy. 

“He threw some dandies,” Cox said, referring obviously to the changeups. 


Should it surprise you that Cox once again sent praise in the direction of Jason Heyward during Wednesday’s postgame session?  The 20-year-old showed good range going back and coming forward on two fly balls during the first inning.  Then after slipping in the outfield grass the next inning, he kept his poise and snared a Fernando Tatis flyball while still on the ground.

“He’s getting great jumps,” Cox said. “It’s the little fundamental things that we’ve talked about. Instinctively, at 20-years-old, he’s way ahead of the game.”

Cox also had nothing but good things to say about Mike Minor, who worked a perfect eighth, and Jeff Lyman, a 22-year-old right-hander who recorded a pair of strikeouts in a perfect ninth.

“The two young kids, Minor and Lyman, pretty darn impressive,” Cox said. “Really impressive.  I was impressed so much with Minor and then here comes Lyman and he did just as well.   Those are two really good looking kids.”

Kenshin Kawakami will be making his Grapefruit League season debut on Thursday afternoon against the Pirates.  He’ll be opposed by our old friend Charlie Morton, who was traded to Pittsburgh last year in the deal that brought Nate McLouth to Atlanta.

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman 

No reason to panic about Jurrjens yet

While we wait to learn Jair Jurrjens’ MRI results, it’s still too early for Braves fans to panic. But it’s quite obviously not a news angle the Braves wanted surrounding them as their players start filtering into their Spring Training camp.

As much as the Braves might want to hope that Jurrjens is simply dealing with normal soreness, there’s little normal about the fact that his right shoulder discomfort has proven significant enough for him to fly back to Atlanta to see the team’s doctors.  

Jurrjens is tough, but he’s also smart. Given that it is still just Feb. 16, maybe it does make the most sense for him to take whatever precautions to attempt to prevent this shoulder discomfort from lingering throughout the season. 

Seeing how you are now saying, “I told you the Braves never should have traded Vazquez”, I’ll remind you that Javier Vazquez was sent back to Atlanta to be evaluated when he felt some discomfort during his final start before the All-Star break. 

These kinds of things happen to pitchers.  You just have to hope that when they do occur, you don’t find yourself worrying about the arm of young pitcher as talented as Jurrjens.

While the best-case scenario would be for doctors to give him a clean bill of health and allow him to resume all throwing activities immediately, you have to think that the best thing Jurrjens will learn is that he just needs to rest his arm for a few weeks. 

This obviously would put him behind schedule and in position to miss the beginning of the regular season.  Unfortunately for the Braves, this year’s schedule forces them to utilize each member of their five-man rotation before the first weekend is complete. 

As you might remember, last year’s schedule was aligned in a way that would have provided Tom Glavine just two starts in April, with the first coming on April 20.

If Jurrjens is forced to miss more an extended amount of time, there’s no doubt that it would be a big blow to the club’s chances of sending Bobby Cox out as a winner.  But as long as Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe pitch live up to the expectations set by their successful pasts, this Atlanta rotation would still be strong enough to help the team become a postseason contender. 

It seems like Cox is really looking forward to seeing Kris Medlen in the bullpen this year.  But the 24-year-old right-hander, who recorded 72 strikeouts and issued 30 walks in 67 2/3 innings last year, would likely start the season in the rotation if Jurrjens is unable to do so. 

Another name you’ll hear often over the next couple of weeks is Jose Ortegano, who Eddie Perez has labeled the best pitcher he’s seen in the Venezuelan Winter League the past two years.  Ortegano caught upper management’s attention last year when he went 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA in eight starts for Double-A Mississippi.

The 22-year-old Ortegano and Mike Minor, the club’s top selection in last year’s Draft, seemingly need to gain some more seasoning in the Minors.  But either of them could find their way into the rotation at some point this season.

Within the next couple days, there might no longer be a need to speculate about who could fill Jurrjens’ spot in the rotation. 

But for now, the Braves are going to deal with the fact that regardless of the MRI results, they will be spending the early days of camp with a lot of attention placed in the direction of Jurrjens’ shoulder.

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