The Atlanta Braves, a team that seems entrenched a top the National League wild card standings(63-46, 3.5 game lead as of July 31st) , added a much needed elite leadoff man, CF Michael Bourn, from the Houston Astros for OF Jordan Schafer(Currently on the DL with finger injury)and 3 minor league pitchers on trade deadline day, July 31st 2011. A key component in this transaction from an Atlanta stand point is that they did not have to include any of their elite pitching prospects(Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado to name a few) in the deal . Bourn, an excellent defensive player, is hitting .303 and leads the majors with 39 stolen bases. He is considered a major upgrade for a team that has injuries to 3 everyday players- C Brian McCann and OF Nate McLouth(Both placed on the DL) as well as 3B Chipper Jones- as well as down years from RF Jason Heyward and 2B Dan Uggla. Atlanta has struggled to replace former SS Rafael Furcal as a speed threat leading off since he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2005 season. Ironically, the Dodgers traded Furcal today pre-deadline as well! An outstanding day for Braves fans and players. Special side note: Bourn is on my fantasy team!
INJURY UPDATES: Jones continues to battle thru a strained right quadriceps and has been relegated to a pinch hitting role. He might not be able to play the field everyday for several weeks but could play 3B in spot duty. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says their are no plans to DL the future hall of famer. McLouth was placed on the DL Friday July 29th with a lower abdominal strain, that he has battled almost the entire season. He has played in pain but it become unbearable after a throw on July 27th. Gonzalez does not believe this injury is related to an oblique strain that placed Mclouth on the DL in May. No further update on McCann, who is battling the vaunted oblique strain as well. The team added defensive specialist C Will Nieves from the Brewers at Mid week.
UP UGGLA: Huge positives coming from Uggla, who has hit in 22 consecutive games, raising his average to .206. He has hit 8 homers while driving in 18 runs during the streak. Hate to say it but I told you so! Now if I could reverse that stupid mistake I made in fantasy when I cut him!
The Braves have placed two key components on the 15 day disabled list while their franchise icon is battling another leg injury.C Brian McCann(Strained left oblique) suffered his injury throwing in the 10th inning July 26th while CF Jordan Schafer(Chip fracture in left middle finger) attempted to play in pain for almost a week before the Atlanta medical shut him down. Both moves are effective July 27 and the team has recalled C J.C. Boscan and OF Wilkin Ramirez from Triple AAA Gwinnett to fill their roster spots. Look for veteran David Ross to be behind the plate most games while Nate McLouth will man center, his natural position.
If the news was not bad enough with the loss of both their Centerfielder and Catcher, future hall of fame 3B Chipper Jones is fighting another leg injury. After missing 12 games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery around the all star break, he now is battling a quad strain in the same leg(right). Chipper has significant swelling in a six inch area on his thigh and has treated it with ice and massage. Anyone who has ever experienced this type of injury knows it is both very painful and restrictive. He cannot play in the field(missed the July 26th game) but will be available to pinch hit. Tough, tough stretch for both the franchise AND the franchise icon.
The run to the post season continues for the 2011 Atlanta Braves as the team rides a strong top to bottom pitching staff and timely offense to a 59-44 record as of July 25th. The team has seen some positives in recent weeks with INF-OF Martin Prado back in the lineup and rookie 1B Freddie Freeman really stepping up. The pitching has been deep and dominant from day 1 and the Braves appear to have a surplus of starting pitching to deal from(More on this below). With the non waiver trade deadline July 31st at 4 pm, The next 6 days should be very interesting in Atlanta!
CHIPPER BACK: Future hall of Fame 3B Chipper Jones rejoined the team and played for the 1st time after undergoing July 9th knee surgery July 25th. Even more amazing was the fact that he homered for the Braves lone run of the contest,a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates!!!
TRADE RUMORS: Team could always use more offense and has been linked to NY Mets OF Carlos Beltran, who is an interesting name. I cover the Mets and he has not played CF at all this season. The Braves have two very good corner OFs in Prado and 2010 National League Rookie of the Year , RF Jason Heyward. I think the team should focus more on a OF who can play center as well, maybe a B.J. Upton from Tampa Bay as example? The team has been shopping some of their prospects from their elite farm system as bait. Ex Brave and current Kansas City Royal Melky Cabrera, anyone?
MEDICAL UPDATES ON SCHAFER, MOYLAN: CF Jordan Schafer jammed his left middle finger sliding into 2nd base on July 20th and was out til he pinch hit in the July 25th loss to Pittsburgh. He spark plug has a chip fracture in the finger but says he is feeling better and should be good in a couple of days. Meanwhile, RHRP Peter Moylan(Bulging disk in back) will throw off the mound sometime this week for the 1st time since undergoing surgery in May.
UGGLA UP: 2B Dan Uggla(.195,18 home runs, 40 rbi) appears to be coming out of his season long funk and has hit .268 in July with 6 homers and 12 rbi. He had the same power numbers in June but hit .179. This guy is an elite offensive player and will produce! I said that from day 1 and am sticking to my story!
The return of team spark plug INF-OF Martin Prado seemed to kick start the 2nd half as the Atlanta Braves continue to play inspired ball at 56-39 as of July 17th. Prado(Shin) DL-ed with a freak staph infection injury since June 7th made immediate impact in his first game back July 15th, going 2 for 5 with a home run,2 runs and 2 rbi in the 11-1 victory vs the Washington Nationals. With an abundance of OFs, the versatile 6th year man is now playing 3B due to injury. Prado’s bat is vital to a club that has struggled to score runs now that regular 3B Chipper Jones’(Knee surgery) stick is on the 15 day DL. Recent signs point to an offensive upturn with 1st year 1B Freddie Freeman on a tear and 2B Dan Uggla showing signs of life after being in a season long funk. The pitching has been outstanding throughout the year(Do not rank higher than 6th in all 4 major categories among the 30 ML teams: 2nd in ERA and Batting average against, 6th in quality starts, 3rd in WHIP) so any offensive improvement would be a key component to make a run at the post season.
MASSIVE MCCANN: Braves all star C Brian McCann is having an incredible season, leading the club in all 5 major categories!!! He is hitting .308 with 16 home runs, 53 rbi and 93 hits as well as a .379 OBP. This man has to draw major MVP consideration among National League players. Quite simply, this team would be done without him.
BRAVES NOTES: Freeman continued his strong freshman season with a game winning 9th inning single July 17th and is now hitting .273 with 13 homers and 47 rbi after hitting .231 in April. A great addition with plus defense as well, Freeman has to be a major candidate to win the 2011 National League Rookie of the Year award…. Jones(Knee) swung a bat Saturday July 16th and felt good. He hopes to begin a rehab assignment this Thursday(July 21st) and rejoin the club when he is eligible July 25th… Both RHRP’s Peter Moylan(Back surgery) and Kris Medlen(Tommy John Surgery) are progressing well in rehab and hope to return sometime in August….Atlanta became the 3rd franchise in major league history to win 10,000 games with the 11-1 win over the Nationals July 15th. The Braves joined the Giants and Cubs in achieving the feat.
Braves closer RH Craig Kimbrel(2-2,2.35,28 saves) was added to the National League All Star team Sunday night July 10th, replacing San Francisco Giants RHSP Matt Cain, who pitched in that evenings game. The rookie reliever joins C Brian McCann, RHSP Jair Jurrjens, 3B Chipper Jones(Pulled out due to knee surgery) and his set up man, LHP Jonny Venters in the July 12th Mid Summer Classic in Arizona.
Atlanta Braves future hall of fame Third Baseman Chipper Jones was placed on the 15 day disabled list July 9th with a torn meniscus in his right knee. The Atlanta icon has been playing with the tear since it was discovered May 15th and went thru two separate cortisone injections in an attempt to get thru the season without surgery. But after recently meeting with Braves team doctors and seeing little improvement with both treatment and rest , they advised having a procedure done. Atlanta physician Dr Marvin Royster performed the surgery Saturday afternoon July 9th in Georgia. With the all star break kicking of next week(3 o off days, July 11-13) and INF-OF Martin Prado(staph infection in right calf), the team hopes Prado’s return as well as outfield depth will help offset the loss of the Braves franchise player. When Prado comes off the DL(Should be on July 15th), he will start at 3B with OF Nate McLouth staying in left field and Jordan Schafer in center. Additionally, the club recalled Brandon Hicks from Triple AAA Gwinnett, where he was hitting .267 with 14 home runs and a .529 slugging percentage in 187 at bats. The 39 year old Jones was picked for his 7th all star game last Sunday(July 3rd) while hitting .259 with 8 home runs and 46 rbi in 290 at bats for Atlanta.
You would expect a team that is 49-36(As of July 2nd) to have several players bound for the all star game July 12th in Arizona and your Atlanta Braves have 4 players headed to the contest. C Brian McCann(.311,14 home runs, 47 rbi) won the fan vote and is participating in his 6th(1st start) straight summer classic while RHSP Jair Jurrjens, 3B Chipper Jones and LHRP Jonny Venters were all voted in by National League players . The 39 year old Jones, coming back from a late 2010 major knee injury, is hitting .257 with 7 home runs and 44 rbi(tops in the NL among 3b) and has been playing with a torn meniscus in his right knee. Jurrjens(11-3,1.89 in 15 starts) is a potential candidate to start the game for the National League and as well as the CY Young award. Venters has Nintendo like numbers, even after this weeks rough patch. Prior to the June 24th game vs the Padres, he had allowed 3 runs in 48 and a third innings. The slinging southpaw allowed four two out runs that night then allowed only his 2nd career home run 3 days later. These poor outings(LOL) have done little damage to the 2nd year man’s stats: 4-1,1.59 ERA, 54 Ks in 51 innings with 16 holds. You could also make a strong case for Venters’ flame throwing tag team partner closer Craig Kimbrel(2-2,2.57, 24 saves in 29 chances) as well as RHSP Tommy Hanson(9-4,2.62, 97 Ks in 15 starts, 89 and a third innings) to join the four but every year some deserving players do not make the team. 2011 is no different.
PRADO UPDATE: LF Martin Prado continues to progress well from his staph infection injury and will begin a rebab assignment this week after working out with his teammates this Friday July 1st and Saturday July 2nd. He took batting practice for the first time in 3 weeks Friday and did some cardio and leg strengthening exercises Saturday as he tries rejoin the big club this weekend in Philadelphia. He is sporting heavily tapped gauze over the previously infected area near his right calf but otherwise appears healthy and normal.
BRAVES NOTES: Jones might need another cortisone shot to deal with the pain in his right knee. He is trying to avoid arthroscopic surgery, which would sideline him for a couple of weeks. Chipper took some small dose shots in the joint on May 15th and could take another to stay out of the operating room. Many believed Jones would not be able take another shot(cortisone injections are very taxing on the bone and should be limited) but the dosage was so small he can afford another round…. Jurrjens allowed 1 hit July 1 vs the Orioles to complete the 9th 1 hit shutout in Braves history since 1966… Veteran RHSP Derek Lowe won for the first time since May 6th on June 29th when the Braves defeated the Mariners in Seattle,5-3. Lowe allowed 4 hits and 1 run over 6 innings to earn the victory, over his last 10 starts he is 1-3 with a4.89 ERA.
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