The Atlanta Braves(45-35 as of June 28th) continue to play solid ball overall in 2011 and are about to receive a big shot in the arm- literally and figuratively- with the return RHSP Tommy Hanson(8-4,2.48, 89 strike outs in 83.1 innings) Tuesday(June 28th) at the Seattle Mariners. Hanson experienced inflammation of the rotator cuff in his right throwing shoulder after striking out a career high 14 against the Astros June 12th. He was placed on the DL but built up strength in the joint without discomfort or a rehab assignment. Hanson is 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA in his last 10 starts.
BIG BEACHY: 2nd year RH SP Brandon Beachy has been good all season but lately he has really stepped up. In the month of June, he is 2-0 with 1.50 in 2 starts as well as 20 Ks in 12 innings! When you can get that type of production out of a 5th starter, you will win a ton of games and maybe even a pennant!
ANOTHER ROY?: A season after RF Jason Heyward won the NL rookie of the year, 1B Freddie Freeman appears a leading candidate to win consecutive trophies for the Braves organization . The 21 year old continues to play solid defense and is almost always in the middle of any Atlanta rallies. He is hitting .268 with 9 home runs and 32 rbi in 76 games. When you consider Freeman hit .225 in April, those stats become more impressive. Have some fun when you have a minute and look at how Boston Red Sox star 2B(and future MVP) Dustin Pedroia started out his 1st month in the majors! Patience is often required and needed in this game. The good ones have it.
BRAVES NOTES: Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez has received good medical reports on LF Martin Prado(Staph infection in cut on right calf) and is hopeful he will return before the All Star break(July 10-12th) . Prado has taken some swings of a tee and is now working out with medicine balls. Gonzalez is hopeful that his left fielder will be cleared to run and do more baseball related activities later this week… In move more about giving rookie OF Jordan Schafer a break(and rookie right handed hitter Wilkin Ramirez at bats) , Gonzalez placed Heyward in the lead off spot for the 1st time in his career Monday June 27th . Seattle started LH Erik Bedard and Schafer has batted just .118 vs. South paws in 34 at bats… LH RP Jonny Venters has to draw some serious consideration for the NL All Star team. He has 15 holds and leads NL relievers in innings with 49. His ERA is 1.29((4th among NL firemen) and he has limited batters to a .171 batting average while he tops the NL with a .195 slugging percentage allowed!
Atlanta Braves 3B Chipper Jones left Thursday’s(June 16th) game with a strained right adductor(groin) and will not return to the lineup until Sunday(6/19) or Monday(6/20). The 39 year old future hall of famer was sore when hitting in the batting cage this weekend and the team is being cautious with the veteran, who blew out his left knee late in the 2010 season. INF Brooks Conrad is receiving most of the playing time at the hot corner in Jones’ absence. Chipper has posted a .266 batting average with 7 home runs and 40 rbi in 63 games(233 at bats) in his 18th season with Atlanta.
MCLOUTH SET TO RETURN,PRADO UPDATE: Braves OF Nate McLouth(Right oblique strain) is set to come off the DL Sunday and will more than likely play left field with Jordan Schafer playing well in center and regular LF Martin Prado on the DL with strange staph infection injury in his right leg . Regular RF Jason Heyward recently rejoined the starting lineup after battling a shoulder problem all season. Prado has been confined to his home and the doctors office until returning to the Turner Field for treatment this weekend. The Braves are waiting for the wound to close and lessen the chance of infection before clearing Prado for baseball activities. It would wise to not count on seeing the Atlanta spark plug until the end of June.
The Atlanta Braves received a big boost June 15 with the return of the 2010 National League rookie of the year, RF Jason Heyward. Heyward has battled a right shoulder injury all season and went on the disabled list May 22nd. Batting 7th in the lineup, he went 0 for 2 with a walk in a 4-0 defeat. The good news is he experienced no new problems with the shoulder but in a funny side note, Heyward returned to the team on his own Bobblehead doll night!
1B Freddie Freeman(Mild right oblique strain) was held out of the lineup by Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez Wednesday(June 15th) after suffering the injury in batting practice Tuesday(June 14th). The Braves medical staff gave the rookie a sodium shot to ease the pain and he should return the lineup for the series finale vs the Mets, Thursday June 16th.
The 2011 Atlanta Braves have ridden an early season formula of outstanding pitching and just enough offense to a 38-28 mark while winning 6 straight games. The constant has been the pitching- in all areas- but when you can throw out a great starter almost nightly, things tend to take care of themselves. The Braves staff ranks among the 30 ML teams say it all: 1st in ERA, WHIP and Batting average against! They really slip hard to #2 in quality starts! The rotation features 4 starters with sub 4.20 ERAs, led by RH Jair Jurrjens(8-2,1.82 ERA, 11 Quality starts in 11 games) and Sunday’s hero with 14 strikeouts (June 12), RH Tommy Hanson(8-4,2.48, 7 QS in 14 games). Veterans Derek Lowe(3-4,3.73, 9 in 14) and Tim Hudson(5-5,4.06, 8 in 13) have also pitched well. Recently, the offense has started to come around with youngsters like 1B Freddie Freeman(.225 in April, .312 in May, .333 in June) and CF Jordan Schafer(.222 average but 7 steals on speed deprived team) contributing .
PRADO DL-ED: Not all tea and crumpets for the Braves though as the team lost both an offensive spark plug and team leader to the DL when LF Martin Prado(.277,8 home runs, 33 rbi) was put on the 15 day June 10th after a freak in game injury. Prado was hit in the right calf by a ball while stealing 2b Tuesday June 7th and developed an infection in the wound. The Atlanta medical people treated the injury but have no time table for Prado’s return. INF Brando Hicks was recalled to fill the roster spot.
BRAVES NOTES: Mild controversy created earlier this week(June 7th) when 3B Chipper Jones was quoted saying (to paraphrase) that RF Jason Heyward(Sore right shoulder) needs to understand that 80% of him is good enough to have an impact and he brings value to the club with his presence. Heyward did not respond and continues to rehab the injured wing at the Braves Spring Training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida… LHSP Mike Minor continues to fill in admirably for the injured RH Brandon Beachy, having thrown 2 straight quality starts(6 innings, 3 earned runs or less). Beachy and CF Nate McLouth(Both DL-ed with strained right obliques) are rehabbing together in Florid and appear close to returning. Heyward also is making progress, hitting balls of the a tee for the first time since going on the DL May 22nd. Manager Fredi Gonzalez is being cautious with the 2010 Rookie of the Year and will not bring the RF back until he is 100%… Atlanta took LHP Sean Gilmartin from Florida State with the 28th overall pick in the 1st rd of the MLB draft Monday June 6th. The staff ace for the Seminoles, Gilmartin was 12-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 17 games(16 starts).
The 2011 Atlanta Braves continue to play a bit over .500(32-28 as of June 5th) and the constant continues to be the pitching. Unfortunately, the offense has been equally as consistent but consistently BAD! Stats usually do not lie and on this team, that is very true. Here are the Braves batting and pitching ranks among the 30 Major League teams.
A saving grace? The team is 9th in Home runs.
Batting avg against(1st)
Several factors have hurt this team offensively. Having 2010 NL Rookie of the Year RF Jason Heyward(Right shoulder) has not been 100% almost from Day 1 while slugging 2B Dan Uggla(.172,7 home runs, 16 rbi) appears at times to be in such a funk that he could not hit water if he fell out of a boat. This is a guy I rave about 24-7 but he has been awful and is killing this team. How bad is it you ask? I cut Uggla from my fantasy team this week! I have had Dan on my team for the last 4 years! I almost had a funeral for when the moment I released him, this guy won me titles and I even named another team after him! Amazing how this game works, Dan Uggla has put up historic numbers at 2nd Base(Look it up!) yet he looks lost at the plate now. Tough, tough thing these guys do, hitting a round ball with a round bat.
OTHER BRAVES NEWS:
SCARE FOR SHAFER: Braves leadoff man and CF Jordan Schafer returned to the lineup Sunday night(June 5th) after escaping serious injury when he fouled a ball into his face on a bunt attempt June 3rd. The play looked horrible live but the youngster came out of the incident with only a minor sinus fracture. Any facial injury involving the Atlanta organization has taken a different tone after the tragic accident involving minor league manager Luis Salazar and Braves all star catcher Brian McCann this spring.
KILLER KIMBREL: Cannot say enough about Atlanta’s rookie closer Craig Kimbrel, who tied the NL record for saves by a first year player prior to the all star break on June 1st with #16. The righty is 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA and has converted 17 of 21 save opportunities. Amazing power stats as well: 43 Ks in 29 innings(13 walks) and only 1 home run allowed!
BEACHY UPDATE: RHSP Brandon Beachy(1-1,3.45 ERA in 8 starts) threw a bullpen session June 4th and reported no pain in his strained left oblique muscle. Atlanta Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the next step is to have Beachy throw live batting practice this week before moving him into a rehab assignment that would involve 3 minor league starts. Beachy’s target return date looks to be around the end of the month of June.
BRAVES NOTES: Statistics wise, RH Jair Jurrjens(7-2,1.75 ERA, 10 starts) had the worst outing of the season June 4th at the Mets, allowing 3 earned over 6 and a third innings… If you think the hitting is bad on this team take away do it all INF-OF Eric Hinske’s bat(.298,6 home runs,15 rbi in 114 at bats). This guy is a winner and every team he joins becomes instantly better… No further medical updates on Heyward(Right, non throwing shoulder) but the major issue appears to be only inflammation in the joint as opposed to a broken bone or so forth. However as someone who has battled shoulder problems for over 20 years he is dealing with some severe pain and discomfort.
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