Results tagged ‘ Nate McLouth ’

Odds and ends from Day 2 in Braves camp

Before the Braves begin their workouts on this sunny Sunday morning in ESPN land, I figured I’d provide you a couple of light-hearted notes that have been gathered during the early days of this camp that is still awaiting the arrivals of Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus, Jason Heyward and a handful of other position players, who aren’t required to report until Monday.

When Derek Lowe called the Braves this winter to express interest in changing his number to 24, he was told the number had already been claimed by Nate McLouth, who was forced to change his to appease Billy Wagner’s request to wear number 13. 

“The only reason that I took 24 is because it’s my favorite TV show and Lost isn’t a number,” said McLouth, who wasn’t willing to divulge what kind of compensation was provided by Wagner.

Lowe said he last wore 24 in high school and has since been unable to claim it in the Majors. When he played for the Mariners, some guy named Ken Griffey Jr. was wearing it and he’s unsure of why it was unavailable during his days in Boston.  Then when he signed with the Dodgers, he learned the number had been retired for Walter Alston.

Wagner’s redneck football:  Wagner is big believer in the benefits a pitcher can gain by throwing a football and he’s spent some time the past couple of days gripping the pigskin while sitting at his locker. 

“It strengthens the arm, but also helps your grip,” Wagner said.  “You’ve got to have strong fingers to throw a football correctly.” 

While sitting at his locker this morning, Wagner tossed the football across the room to Takashi Saito and quickly learned that the Japanese hurler certainly hasn’t had much previous experience throwing one. 

After Saito’s ugly unorthodox throwing motion produced a few wobblers acrosss the room, Wagner said, “He’s going to teach me Japanese and I’m going to teach him redneck football.”

Bye-bye Yankees paraphernalia: When hard-throwing left-handed reliever Mike Dunn learned that he had been traded to the Braves that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees, he gained the sense that he’d been provided a better opportunity to reach the Majors.

“I’m excited to come here and play,” Dunn said. “It’s a good chance for me.  I’m not saying anything bad about the Yankees. They took care of me and I love them, but I think I have a better opportunity outside of the Yankees organization.”

As for Dunn’s family members, who pull for a range of teams located in the western portion of the country, they welcomed the opportunity to end their days of pulling for the Yankees. 

“I tell you the family was pretty happy to get rid of the Yankees stuff,” Dunn said. “No matter what team I’m on, they’re going to cheer for them and that’s going to be their new team.   But they were pretty happy to get rid of their Yankees stuff and drop the YES Network immediately.”

Wagner, who grew up within a family and rural Virginia community that includes plenty of Braves fans, also seemed to draw a positive reaction from friends and family members when he opted to sign with Atlanta in December.

“It’s funny because now everybody back home says, ‘now I can truly root for you,'”  Wagner said.

  

 

       

    

Braves still not actively pursuing Damon

Well it looks like National Signing Day will conclude without Johnny Damon knowing where he’s going to be playing this year.  But it still certainly appears that Atlanta isn’t in his immediate future. 

Instead of taking the negligent route of saying there is absolutely no way the Braves eventually sign Damon, I will acknowledge that this landscape could be quickly altered if one of Atlanta’s outfielders were to suffer an injury during the early days or weeks of camp.

Or maybe there will come a time when Damon would be willing to accept the $1-2 million the Braves might be willing to offer. But this seems doubtful given the likelihood that the Blue Jays or Tigers would seemingly be willing to provide something greater.

After a brief exchange with a team source again this morning, it was evident that the Braves still aren’t actively pursuing Damon. 

Placed in the same situation two years ago, when the 36-year-old Damon still had the youthful legs that provided him great range in center and the ability to sweep bags with regularity, the Braves might have shown some interest. 

Of course the price tag wouldn’t have been the same either. 

At the end of the day, the only reason the Braves would have interest in Damon is to allow him to serve as the leadoff hitter that they lack.  But while hitting .284 with a .349 on-base percentage and .446 slugging percentage on the road last year, did he really provide the confidence that he will be productive in this role. 

Another alarming stat comes from the fact that he attempted to steal just 12 bases last year. Over the course of the previous three seasons, he had averaged 34 attempts.  Was this a sign of age or just a product of the fact that he had been dropped down one spot, out of the leadoff role in a Yankees lineup that had plenty of middle-of-the-lineup power? 

While hitting in the leadoff spot last year, Nate McLouth hit .260 with a .354 OBP and .426 SLG.  In his 82 plate appearances as hit team’s first batter, McLouth hit .173 with a .244 OBP and .320 SLG.  In 183 PAs leading off an inning, he hit .204/.273/.365.  

These numbers don’t provide reason to believe McLouth is capable of serving as a consistently reliable table setter.  But the gritty outfielder serves as the club’s best source of speed.  Without the hamstring problems he battled during the final two months of the season, he would have likely swiped more than 25 bags. 

Because of his speed, it makes sense to keep McLouth in the leadoff spot.  Likewise, because of his ability to hit in clutch situations, it makes sense to continue providing Yunel Escobar an opportunity to hit in the fifth or sixth spots of the order.

But I think you can also argue that it makes the most sense to put Escobar in the leadoff role. Remember this argument proved futile over the course of the past two years, when Kelly Johnson’s name was being placed in the leadoff role. 

In 75 career starts as a leadoff hitter, Escobar has batted .309 with a .371 OBP and .428 SLG.  In the 75 PAs he’s totaled as his club’s first batter of the game, these stats are .411/.427/ .616.   In 360 PAs leading off an inning, these numbers are .312/.364/.423. 

Given that Escobar has hit .337 in his career with runners in scoring position, it would be tough to put him in a spot where he’d often come to the plate with the bases empty.  But at the same time, he provides reason to wonder if he would be the club’s best catalyst at the top of the lineup.

My Projected Lineup w/ Escobar in the leadoff spot:

Escobar
McLouth
Chipper
Glaus
McCann
Prado
Diaz/Cabrera 
Heyward

Separated at birth?
  A few years ago, I asked Frank Wren if anybody had ever told him he looked and sounded like ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.   At that time, he told me they both sent their kids to suburban Atlanta’s Landmark Christian Academy.

Wren.jpg 

Since then, I’ve seen fewer physical resemblences.  But when I awoke this morning with the television on, I could have sworn I heard Frank talking to me about something that Peyton Manning or Drew Brees was going to do this weekend. 

chris Mortensen.jpg

Listen to Mort as this week progresses and tell me if I need to get my ears checked.  Here’s a clip of  Frank’s voice.

 

Wren heading to Indy with a shorter shopping list

Now that we know that Tiger Woods wasn’t slipping out in the middle of the night to take advantage of one of last week’s door-buster sales, it’s time to focus on the remaining shopping list that Braves general manager Frank Wren will take to next week’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.
  
Would it have been more appropriate to refer to them as window-busting sales?

Regardless, it’s safe to say Wren certainly came out swinging during the early stages of this offseason.  While bidding adieu to a pair of Type A free agent relievers (Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano) who could net him four picks in next year’s Draft, Wren grabbed a pair of Type A free agent relievers (Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito) while losing just one draft pick.   

Saito would have been labeled a Type A free agent had the Red Sox not dropped them from their 40-man roster in October.  This was simply a procedural move that provided them the opportunity to pursue the Japanese right-hander at a cost cheaper than the option (worth at least $6 million) that was in his contract.

Wren certainly took a small risk by offering arbitration to both Gonzalez and Soriano when he had a good sense that in the next 48 hours he would sign both Saito and Wagner.  But it was a calculated one primarily based on the fact that Gonzalez and Soriano now arguably stand as the two best relief options on a free-agent market that grew thinner this week when the Braves reconstructed the back-end of their bullpen. 

There’s very little reason to believe Gonzalez would align himself with Scott Boras and then opt to take the one-year contract that would come via accepting the arbitration offer.  He’s going to get some of the same attractive multi-year deals that will be offered to Soriano, whose health history provides even more reason for him to find the security provided by a multi-year offer.  

Soriano and Gonzalez have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday to accept these arbitration offers.  It’s hard to imagine them doing this and ignoring the opportunity to field the offers that will be made by those teams that may have seen their wish lists shortened this week by the signings of Wagner and Saito. 

With his bullpen needs filled, Wren will head to Indianapolis with the opportunity to focus his attention on finding at least one bat and a suitor that is willing to deal for either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. 

The Braves still seem hopeful that they’ll be able to move Lowe instead of Vazquez.  My feeling has been that John Lackey, the top starter available on this year’s free-agent market, will sign before the Braves are able to move one of these two hurlers. 

But Wren doesn’t believe this is necessarily true.   

“I think teams have to have some sense of what the market is,” Wren said. “It’s the unknown that makes it difficult for clubs.  The top guy doesn’t necessarily have to sign.  But the top guy has to have a market established.  That will obviously create some players and some non-players.” 

In other words, during next week’s meetings, when we start hearing what clubs are offering Lackey, we may gain a better sense about which teams will prove to be the most likely suitors for Lowe and Vazquez.

Whether the Braves deal Vazquez, who is set to make $11.5 million in the final year of his contract, or Lowe, who is owed $15 million during each of the next three seasons, they will still seemingly have a similar amount of fund to fill their offensive needs. 

If they are able to trade Lowe, it still seems like they will have to eat somewhere between $1-2 million per year.   Thus their potential cost savings made by dealing either of these two hurlers may be only differ by this same range.  

As he evaluates who will play first base and fill his final outfield void, Wren has his sights set on finding a right-handed bat.  Marlon Byrd’s agent, Seth Levinson, said earlier this week that the Braves have “strong interest” in his client. 

But it seems like Byrd, who hit 14 of his career-high 20 homers inside Texas’ offensively-friendly ballpark this year, stands as just one of many candidates that Braves are evaluating.   
Some of the Braves players are lobbying for the club to bring Mark DeRosa back.  DeRosa would certainly prove valuable in the fact that he could play a number of different positions and add some power potential to the roster. 

It’s believed that DeRosa would be willing to take a “hometown discount” from the Braves.  But it might take some time before his view of a discount corresponds with what the Braves are willing to offer.  

As the next week progresses, we’ll likely learn more about the interest being shown to these players and other free-agents like Jermaine Dye, Xavier Nady and Mike Cameron.  In addition, Wren has made it known that he could opt to fill his offensive needs via trade.

“Right now, there are a lot of different possibilities,” Wren said.
 
Odds and ends:  Don’t forget that you can help Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren  and Ernie Johnson, Sr. move one step closer to the Hall of Fame by voting for this year’s Ford C. Frick Award.  Click here for the ballot.
 
You may have noticed that Wagner will wear the No. 13 jersey that was adorned by Nate McLouth last year.  Wagner said that he knows he may have to provide McLouth a portion of his new $7 million contract to show appreciation for the opportunity to continue wearing this number that he has sported dating back to his childhood days in Virginia. 
 
Wagner said the number has gained more sentimental value since his now-deceased grandfather provided him a medal that was engraved with the No. 13.   The medal was one of the ID pieces that his grandfather wore while working in the coal mines.
 
Tim Hudson invited Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen to join him for last week’s Iron Bowl in Auburn, Ala.  As a sign of appreciation the two comical hurlers arrived on Hudson’s former campus and asked where they might be able to buy some Alabama gear.  

Barton clears waivers to make room for Hudson

Tim Hudson has been activated from the 60-day disabled list and the Braves made room for him on their 40-man roster by placing outfielder Brian Barton on waivers.  Barton cleared waivers on Monday and was outrighted to the Triple-A Gwinnett roster. 

Hudson’s start against the Marlins tonight will be his first Major League appearance since July 23, 2008.  The veteran right-hander is coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery.

Barton has hit .261 in 108 games for Gwinnett this season.  His three-hit performance against Durham on Monday night aided the club’s postseason push. 

Gwinnett is one game behind Durham in the International League’s South Division and they currently lead the Wild Card race with a 3 1/2-game advantage over Syracuse. 

Monday night’s victory was also aided by the five-hit performance provided by center fielder Gregor Blanco, who could possibly be added to the Atlanta roster later this month. 

But with the defensive range he’s displayed over the past couple of days, Omar Infante has provided the Braves more confidence in his ability to man the center field position until Ryan Church or Nate McLouth prove healthy enough to play on a consistent basis. 

As mentioned last night, infielder Brooks Conrad, right-handed pitcher Luis Valdez and catcher Clint Sammons have been promoted from Gwinnett and will join Atlanta’s expanded roster today. 

Braves once again attempt to break free from Marlins

Covering a Sunday night baseball game in Philadelphia and then experiencing the majority of your sleep on the flight to Ft. Lauderdale isn’t exactly pleasurable.  But arriving in your hotel room and gaining the joy created from the sight of Rich Rodriguez fighting back tears made this a great day to be a West Virginian.

Losing two of three to the Phillies obviously wasn’t the way the Braves wanted to end a week that was also damaged with the two losses they’d suffered against the Padres.  But at the conclusion of this past weekend’s series, I’d have to say I felt as optimistic about their postseason hopes as I had earlier this month, when they took three of four from the Dodgers.   
Mother Nature affected both clubs on Friday night.  But it seems obvious that the Braves were affected more by the fact that they had to remove Tommy Hanson after just two innings.  

During Saturday’s game, the Braves baffled Cliff Lee and captured an unexpected win.  Then while claiming Sunday night’s series finale, the Phillies took advantage of the events that followed Adam LaRoche’s decision to charge on Pedro Feliz’s surprise seventh-inning bunt that went to the third base side of the mound.  

Still Martin Prado got to first base in time and should have sacrificed his body while attempting to secure Chipper Jones’ catchable throw.   His decision not to do so created the error that put the Phillies in position to claim a victory that ended with Greg Norton concluding Brad Lidge’s perfect ninth with a strikeout.  

Norton has managed to produce a .419 on-base percentage since the All-Star break.  But he also has just one hit in his last 19 plate appearances and it’s not like he has the speed to potentially turn a walk into a double.  

Still with the benefit of having two middle infielders (Omar Infante and Kelly Johnson) on his bench, Braves manager Bobby Cox stuck went with Norton.    In Cox’s defense, Johnson is hitless with three strikeouts in five career at-bats against Lidge and Infante is 1-for-6.

As for Norton, he is 2-for-7 in his career against Lidge and he had drawn walks in each of his three previous plate appearances against the veteran closer this year.

While it was a questionable decision, it wasn’t as if Cox made the worst coaching mistake in sports history.   I mean, it’s not like he squandered  a chance to go to the national championship game by losing a home game to Pitt or anything.   Oh wait, did I mention that Rodriguez was seen fighting back tears this morning?  

For those of you who aren’t college football fans, West Virginia’s loss that night to Pitt  would be the equivalent of the Braves losing four straight to the Nationals to end the season and erase the three-game WC lead they’d possessed entering the series.   

Now back to the Braves postseason outlook.  For you Michigan fans not familiar with baseball, this would be like advancing to one of those bowl games that you used to visit during the pre-Rodriguez days.

Unfortunately time isn’t providing the Braves  the same margin of error that they possessed on Aug. 9, when they exited Los Angeles having used the series win over the Dodgers to move to within 3 games of the National League Wild Card lead.  

At that time, their challenge was to erase that deficit and leap frog four teams in a span of 50 games.  

Heading into tonight’s series opener against the Marlins, the Braves have just 32 games to erase this same 3 -game deficit that they  face in the Wild Card standings.  But  they now have just two teams in front of them and the opportunity this week to put the Marlins in their rear-view mirror.  

This is the third time since July 28 that the Braves and Marlins have started a series against each other with identical records and to further prove how evenly-matched these two clubs appear to be, they’ve split the previous six games played during this span.  

Once this series with the Marlins concludes, the Braves will play 19 of their final 28 games against teams that currently possess a losing record.   The Rockies will play 19 of their final 31 games at Coors Field, where they’ve gone 36-26 this year.
 
The Giants play 16 of their final 31 games at home might be more intriguing.  They’ve gone 44-21 in San Francisco and 28-38 on the road this year.  

CF update:   After examining the results of Nate McLouth’s MRI exam today, doctors once again determined that his left hamstring is simply strained and not torn.   The Braves will further discuss his status as the week progresses and determine whether he’ll continue to rehab with the big league club or in Minor League games.  

With his back feeling better on Tuesday, Ryan Church gained hope that he could return to the lineup on Tuesday.
 
Jordan Schafer underwent a surgical procedure to remove a bone spur from his left wrist on Monday.  The 22-year-old center fielder won’t be able to participate in Winter Ball.  But the Braves are confident that he’ll be ready for the start of Spring Training.  

McLouth aggravates his hamstring strain

Nate McLouth’s ailing left hamstring may prevent him from making his expected return to the Braves lineup this week.
  
McLouth removed himself during the fifth inning of Double-A Mississippi’s game against West Tennessee on Saturday night.  The 28-year-old center fielder exited after aggravating his hamstring while racing into the gap to catch a fly ball.

Because there wasn’t much discoloration and McLouth still possessed satisfactory strength in his leg, the Braves are hoping that this is just a mild aggravation of an injury that he originally suffered on Aug. 8.  
 
Even though McLouth is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, the Braves were contemplating the possibility of activating him on Tuesday, after the rosters have expanded.  It now appears they’ll have to wait a little longer for the return of their leadoff hitter and center fielder.  

Howard continues to destroy the Braves

Welcome back to Philadelphia, the home of Citizens Bank Park or what Brian McCann refers to as “a high school field.”  

McCann has used the offensively-friendly confines here in Philly to account for three of his 17 homers this year.  But this frustration-induced description he provided following Friday night’s loss came in response to watching Ryan Howard lunge over the plate and loop yet another homer the opposite way and over the left field wall.  

Off the bat, Howard’s second-inning homer off Tommy Hanson did indeed appear to be a pop fly that would have been caught at the warning track at most other ballparks.  

As for his fourth-inning, two-run shot off Kris Medlen, it initially appeared to be one that was destined to place another crack in the Liberty Bell.  

There’s obviously no reason for Howard to feel ashamed about the fact that he takes advantage of his power and the dimensions of his park by routinely flipping homers over the left field wall.  McCann just missed two homers while attempting to do the same during a couple of his four plate appearances last night.

Two weeks ago after watching his team hit a number of balls to the wall during a loss to the Phillies in Atlanta, Braves manager Bobby Cox said that the outcome of the game would have been different had they been playing in CBP.   

While that was an arguable statement, there is less reason to argue the possibility that the Braves would be in a much better place in the National League East standings had they recently been as successful  against Howard as they were while holding him homerless during his first 39 at-bats against them.   

In the 11 at-bats that have followed, Howard has damage them with five homers.   In fact, his fourth-inning shot off Medlen gave him four homers in a span of five at-bats against Cox’s pitchers.

Howard’s 29 career homers against the Braves are the most among all active players.  David Wright ranks second with 23.   

While 17 of these home runs produced by the Phillies first baseman have been hit at CBP, he’s also homered once every 11.75 at-bats at Turner Field.

How impressive is this 11.75 ratio?    The only other Major Leaguer to ever produce a better career  ratio against the Braves was Dave Kingman, who homered once every  11.2 at-bats against Atlanta pitchers.

Howard’s career ratio of one homer in every 9.76 at-bats against the Braves is easily the best ever produced.   Willie McCovey hit an all-time best 71 homers against the Braves and did so while hitting one every 12.7 at-bats.   

The next-best ratio was produced by Willie Stargell, who homered once every 13 at-bats against Braves pitchers.  

So the question is, why have the Braves continued to consistently provide Howard the opportunity to beat them?    

While it’s doubtful that Howard’s second-half surge will prove significant enough for him to move past Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez for National League MVP consideration, he has already solidified himself as the Most Destructive Force in relation to the Braves postseason hopes.
 
During the three wins the Phillies have tallied in four games against the Braves this month, they’ve scored 11 runs and eight of those have come courtesy of Howard’s five homers.
 
So why would the Braves continue to provide Howard the opportunity to beat them?   The obvious answer is that the two guys hitting behind him have already combined for 56 homers   —   Jayson Werth (29) and Raul Ibanez (27).
 
But it also has something to do with the fact that Adam Dunn is the only Major Leaguer who has struck out more often than Howard dating back to the beginning of the 2005 season.   And this year, the Phillies first baseman’s strikeout total has been topped by only by Arizona’s Mark Reynolds.  

Unfortunately for the Braves, they haven’t been able to find the hole in Howard’s swing as often as most other teams.   He has struck out once every 4.74 plate appearances in his career against Atlanta.  His combined ratio against every other big league club is once every 3.43 plate appearances.
 
And before concluding this Howard evaluation, it should be noted that the Braves have outhomered the Philles 12-8 this year at the high school field known as CBP.  

McLouth update:   Nate McLouth went 0-for-2 in three plate appearances with Double-A Mississippi on Friday night.  The center fielder, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, will continue playing with Mississippi through Sunday and then fly to meet the Braves in Miami.
 
But even though he is eligible for activation on Monday, the Braves may wait to activate him on Tuesday, after the rosters have been expanded. 
 
When the Braves activate Tim Hudson for his start on Monday, they  will have to make room for him on both the 25 and 40-man rosters.
  
Despite the fact that he’s hitting just .141, Greg Norton won’t be the roster casualty.   To make room for Hudson on the 25-man, the Braves could option Boone Logan or possibly choose to place Kenshin Kawakami on the 15-day disabled list.
   
It’s a little harder to project what the Braves will do to make room for Hudson on the 40-man roster.   But there’s a chance the club could choose to part ways with outfielder Brian Barton, who has fallen out of favor since joining the Triple-A Gwinnett club in April.    

Braves bats have recently slumbered at Turner Field

Had the Padres bullpen kept things relatively clean following Mat Latos’ exit on Tuesday night, it would have been a little easier for the Braves to simply tip their caps and accept the fact that they were on the wrong end of a one-run shutout loss.  

During Latos’ seven scoreless innings, the Braves recorded two hits and moved just one baserunner (Matt Diaz in the sixth) into scoring position.  During each of the next three innings that followed the 21-year-old hurler’s exit, they put a runner in scoring position with one out and still managed to register just one run.
 
While recording just one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position during those three innings, the Braves prolonged a troubling trend that has factored heavily in the that they’ve produced a pedestrian  7-6 record in their past 13 home games.   During this same span, which dates back to July 31, they’ve won seven of 10 road games.

Within their past 13 games at Turner Field, the Braves have compiled a .224 batting average and hit .223 (23-for-103) with runners in scoring position.  During their past 10 road games, they’ve batted .297 and been successful at a .397 (33-for-87) clip with runners in scoring position.

This glaring discrepancy comes within a small sample size.  But at the same time, it’s not as if the Braves possess the margin of error that will allow them to continue experience these kind of offensive struggles at Turner Field and still catch the Phillies or the Denver-based Rock-offs. 

With a second consecutive extra-inning, walk-off victory last night, the Rockies moved 5 games in front of both the Braves and Marlins, who are once again tied for third place in the National League Wild Card standings. 

Even with all of Colorado’s recent success,  it’s too early for the Braves to panic.  While they’re spending the next two nights facing a couple of Padres starters not named Latos, the Rockies will be facing the greater challenge presented by the Dodgers, who have the luxury of serving as the opposition when Josh Fogg makes his first big league start of the season tonight. 

If Fogg channels 2007 and once again becomes the “Dragon-Slayer”  that he was down the stretch that year, then Denver can prepare for another Rocktober and Atlanta can only hope the Dodgers continue to slide or that the Phillies send Brad Lidge to the mound to protect ninth-inning leads on a nightly basis.

Obviously before the Braves can make a serious push toward the postseason, they’ll need to get healthy.  With Ryan Church likely returning tonight and Nate McLouth confident that he’ll be ready when he’s eligible to come off the DL on Monday, they’re at least moving in the right direction.
 
While Martin Prado went hitless in six at-bats last night, it was at least encouraging to hear that he was able to complete a 12-inning game without dealing with any of the headaches or dizziness that had bothered him over the previous 10 days. 

The Braves also welcomed Garret Anderson back to the lineup on Tuesday night and watched him gut through a 1-for-5 performance.    Obviously outfield range isn’t one of Anderson’s assets.  But last night, it was apparent that he was still dealing with some of the lower back discomfort that has kept Church sidelined the past three games.
 
A healthy Anderson wasn’t going to get the game-winner that David Eckstein placed in the  left-center field gap.  But had Church or McLouth been in center, instead of Omar Infante, I think there’s a chance we might have at least seen a 13th inning.
 
Speaking of health, Chipper Jones certainly has said that he’s feeling some of the aches and pains that develop toward the end of a season for a 37-year-old man.  But it’s not as if his offensive struggles simply started over the course of the past nine games, during which he’s recorded one hit in 28 at-bats. 

This nine-game stretch doesn’t seem as concerning when he you account for the fact that he’s walked seven times in his past 18 plate appearances —  largely a product of the fact that the Marlins made it their mission not to let him hurt him this past weekend. 

Plus in the six games that preceded this nine-game slide, Chipper recorded 13 hits, including a pair of homers, in 23 at-bats. 

Concerns about Jones should focus on the fact that he’s hit just .241 with a .384 slugging percentage during his past 62 games.  Within this stretch, which dates back to June 10, he has seen his batting average drop from .335 to .281 and his slugging percentage drop from .565 to .462. 

Making this stretch even more maddening for Jones is the fact that he’s struggled from both sides of the plate and whether at home or on the road. 

Here are some of Jones’ splits during this 62-game stretch:
Vs. LHP   .235 (18-for-91) batting average, .330 on-base percentage, .395 slugging percentage
Vs. RHP  .244 (33-for-135) BA, .384 OBP, .378 SLG
Home:   .239 (28-for-117) BA, .343 OBP, .385 SLG
Road:    .242 (24-for-99) BA, .389 OBP, .384 SLG

Now that the Braves are returning to health, Jones might be given more opportunities to benefit from the rest provided by a day off.   But at the same time, this wouldn’t guarantee an immediate revival.  After straining his left oblique muscle on Aug. 7, he missed three games and didn’t return to the lineup until Aug. 11.
 
If Jones feels that he needs a day off, Braves manager Bobby Cox will likely be more apt to give him one during one of these final two games against the Padres. 

With the Braves heading to Philadelphia this weekend knowing just how significant it would be to exit with a three-game sweep, they’ll need Jones in the lineup  for each of those three games against the Phillies. 

 

Gorecki enjoys an unforgettable Monday

What was supposed to be a day off after what had been a long grind in the Minors turned into a day that Reid Gorecki will never forget.  

After catching the ceremonial first pitch for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves on Monday afternoon, Gorecki found himself summoned into manager Dave Brundage’s office, where he was told that he had less than two hours to pack his bags and arrive at Turner Field to enjoy his first day as a Major Leaguer.    

“This is a dream come true right here,” said Gorecki,  a Long Island native who will have the opportunity to reunite with friends and family members while the Braves spend the next three days playing against the Mets at Citi Field.
 
When the Braves decided they needed to place Nate McLouth on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, they immediately placed a call to Gwinnett.  Gorecki received word around 1:40 p.m. ET and then made the short trip down I-85 quick enough to arrive at Turner Field at approximately 3 p.m., one hour before Tommy Hanson threw his first pitch against the D-backs.  

“I was trying to stay as close to the speed limit as possible, but excitement took over a little bit,” said Gorecki, who had packed his suitcase on Monday morning with the thought that he’d be spending the next couple of days in Norfolk, Va.  

After arriving at The Ted and getting a quick introduction to the Major League setting, Gorecki was once again selected to catch the ceremonial first pitch.  

Two ceremonial first pitches within a span of approximately two hours at two different stadiums on the same day of a Major League debut .   That’s a first that the Elias Sports Bureau likely could never verify. 

Gorecki’s day became even more meaningful when the Braves inserted him into Thursday’s game in the top of the  eighth inning.  While he didn’t record a plate appearance, he did record an out with a ninth-inning catch.  

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Gorecki said.  ” I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.  It felt good just to get out there, even just to catch a pop-up.   That’s all I needed to get my feet wet…I hope.” 

Gorecki, who hit .286 with nine homers and 14 stolen bases in 106 games with Gwinnett this year, will serve as Ryan Church’s backup while McLouth is on the disabled list.   The 28-year-old right-handed hitter could find himself in the starting lineup if an opposing team is starting a tough left-handed pitcher. 

“I’m just going to wait for my opportunity,” Gorecki said.  “If something comes my way, I’m going to try to make the most of it.”  

Braves place McLouth on the 15-day DL

The  Braves have placed Nate McLouth on the 15-day disabled list and purchased Reid Gorecki’s contract from Triple-A Gwinnett.
 
Gorecki received word around 2 p.m. ET  on Monday and immediately packed his bags in an attempt to join the Braves in time for their 4 p.m. makeup game against the Diamondbacks at Turner Field.
  
McLouth experienced some more discomfort while testing his strained left hamstring on Monday morning.  The 28-year-old center fielder strained the hamstring on Aug. 8 and then noticeably favored his left leg when he returned and attempted to play against the Phillies on Friday and Saturday.
 
With Martin Prado limited to pinch-hit duties until he determines what caused the dizziness and headaches he experienced this past weekend, the Braves were going to be severely short-handed if they’d waited a few more days to see if McLouth’s hamstring improved.
  
Gorecki has hit .286 with nine homers and 14 stolen bases in 106 games with Gwinnett this year.  The 28-year-old outfielder has never previously played in the Majors.   

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