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Russell Released

Mar 29, 2015 -- 9:56am

Lake Buena Vista, FL – On Sunday morning, the Braves trimmed their roster yet again as lefty reliever James Russell was given his unconditional release. Russell’s spring got off to a slow start as he was dealing with a bout of turf toe, but once he got back on the mound, things didn’t go according to plan. In three appearances this Spring, Russell allowed nine earned runs over seven innings, including three home runs (two to lefties). As camp enters its final week, the Braves must now decide which southpaws will make the final cut.

With Russell out of the picture, an opportunity has arisen for young Brady Feigl. The 24 year old went undrafted coming out of Mount St Mary’s and hasn’t pitched higher than A-Ball. But this Spring, Feigl has opened eyes with Fredi Gonzalez and Roger McDowell. Feigl has appeared in seven games, allowing just one run on six hits with zero walks and six strikeouts. On Saturday, he helped get Juan Jaime out of ninth inning trouble, inducing a game ending double play ball to seal the victory for Atlanta.

While it still may be a longshot for Feigl to break camp with the club, he’s left a strong impression. Yesterday, Fredi compared Feigl’s spring to that of Alex Wood from two seasons ago. “A couple years ago, you’ll remember it was Woody. He didn’t break camp with us right away but at least he impressed us” Fredi said on Saturday in Dunedin. Six weeks ago, Feigl probably didn’t realistically think he’d have a chance at the Opening Day roster. But as in years past, the Braves have never shyed away from giving a young player an opportunity to make an impact at the Big League level. Will Feigl be the next to get a shot? With six days left in camp, he’s still very much in the conversation.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Julio Gets The Call

Mar 28, 2015 -- 9:21am

Dunedin, FL – Friday afternoon, the Braves won a rain shortened contest against the Red Sox at Disney. Julio Teheran was making his second-to-last start of the Spring, and afterwards, got the news he had been hoping for since camp opened. Fredi Gonzalez all but named Teheran the Opening Day starter a month ago, prior to games even starting. But Friday, it became official that the 24 year old would get the nod for his second consecutive Opening Day start. In 2014, Teheran took the hill in Milwaukee and allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings, but was a hard luck loser as the Braves dropped their lid lifter 2-0 against the Brewers. In 33 starts last season, Teheran posted a 2.89 ERA with 186 strikeouts over 221 innings pitched. Coming into the season, he was the most logical candidate to get the start, but was all smiles once the news became official.

“I didn’t know before the game, but now I feel a great honor like it was last year” Teheran said on Friday afternoon. “It’s something I’ve been working for. That’s the place you want to be and you don’t want anybody to take it from you” he added. In 67 career starts, Teheran has a 3.16 ERA and has averaged almost seven and a half strikeouts per nine. In 2014, Teheran was also honored with a trip to the All-Star Game in Minnesota. While he didn’t get a chance to pitch, the experience he gained being around the best in the game will certainly pay off for years to come.

Knowing the strides Julio has made over the past three seasons, the future looks extremely bright for the young righty. There’s a reason Atlanta decided to lock him up long term, but Teheran isn’t taking things for granted. He will only get stronger and gain more confidence each time he toes the rubber. If last season is any indication, Teheran could really be primed for a breakout season in 2015. Now, all the offense needs to do is give him a little support.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Braves Trim Roster By Three

Mar 28, 2015 -- 9:11am

Lake Buena Vista, FL – As camp heads into its final week, the Opening Day roster is slowly coming into picture. On Friday morning, the Braves trimmed the Spring roster by three, optioning outfielder Eury Perez, right handed pitcher Williams Perez and southpaw Manny Banuelos to Triple-A Gwinnett. Williams Perez and Banuelos weren’t surprises. However, some thought Eury Perez would be a serviceable fifth outfielder/bat off the bench.

With the roster down to 39 active players in camp, the focus shifts to guys like Phil Gosselin, Kelly Johnson and Todd Cunningham. Gosselin got his first crack at starting in center field Friday against the Red Sox, and of course, he had a deep fly ball hit to him in the first inning. The bases were loaded with two outs, and Rusney Castillo sent a deep drive to right center. Gosselin had to turn around and run a long way, but he made the grab, getting Julio Teheran out of big trouble early.

Both Gosselin and Kelly Johnson have had strong Springs. They each provide Fredi Gonzalez options at multiple positions in both the infield and outfield. Braves fans are certainly familiar with Kelly, who homered for the second time on Friday against the Red Sox. Since a dreadful 2-for-20 start to Grapefruit League play, he now has seven hits in his last 18 at bats, including four extra base hits. While Fredi Gonzalez hasn’t made anything official as far as filling out his roster, it does appear as though Kelly Johnson will find himself part of the club as it heads South to Miami.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Buck Bids Adieu

Mar 26, 2015 -- 1:45pm

Bradenton, FL - The grind of a Major League Baseball season is unlike any of the other four major sports. Football players practice a few times a week and have one game per week for twenty weeks. Basketball and hockey players will typically play no more than three or four times in a seven day span. But for baseball players, between early March and October, nearly every day is a game day. So, when players decide they need to hang up the cleats and spend more time with family, it’s no real surprise.

On Thursday morning, John Buck, in camp on a Minor League deal announced his retirement at the age of 34. Buck was having a nice spring, but wasn’t likely to make the Opening Day roster. Fredi Gonzalez said as much a few weeks ago when he announced that he wasn’t thinking of carrying three catchers. With Christian Bethancourt taking over behind the dish, and AJ Pierzynski here as his backup/mentor, Buck was the odd man out. While other clubs could probably use a veteran backup like Buck, he decided that it was time to start his new life, post baseball.

Buck has nothing to be ashamed of. Over 11 Major League seasons, Buck played for seven different clubs. He posted a .234 lifetime batting average with 134 career homers in nearly 1,100 games. Buck’s best season came back in 2010 when he clubbed 20 homers and drove in 66 runs in 118 games. The grind of a Major League season takes its toll on both player and family. It’s not an easy schedule, and anyone who works in this business knows you need a great support system at home as well. While his time in Atlanta was short, it was certainly a pleasure getting to know John over the last month-and-a-half, and we all wish him well as he rides off into the sunset and begins his life as a retired Big Leaguer.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Braves Support Hawks On Lone Off Day

Mar 26, 2015 -- 8:31am

Lake Buena Vista, FL - For baseball players, days off are few and far between from the middle of February through the end of September. During Spring Training, the team typically gets one day where both the Major and Minor League sides shut down completely. After a loss to the Phillies on Tuesday, the team enjoyed a complete day off on Wednesday. Some likely enjoyed a round of golf, and others with families in town possibly took in a day at Disney. But there was a large majority who showed their support for a fellow Atlanta squad last night.

As fate would have it, the Hawks were in town taking on the Magic. Over the offseason, guys like Chris Johnson have been spotted a number of times at Philips Arena. However, the Braves presence was strong, supporting the best team in the East. Courtside, Freddie Freeman, Jace Peterson and Jonny Gomes could be seen across from the Hawks bench. Tyrell Jenkins and Eric Young Jr were also in the house, as was last years first round pick Braxton Davidson.

To me, it’s great to see fellow Atlanta athletes showing support for one another. The Hawks are having a breakout season, and many in the Braves clubhouse have hopped on for the ride. Meanwhile, baseball returns as the Braves travel to Bradenton to take on the Pirates this afternoon. Nick Markakis is expected to stay back in Orlando and take part in a Minor League game where he could get up to seven ABs.

Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons is currently fifth in all of Major League Baseball with 12 RBI in his first 10 games after being slowed by a slight left oblique strain. It appears as though Simmons is set to have a breakthrough season at the plate, and his teammates will certainly need him. For a team that finished second-to-last in runs scored in 2014, Simmons will be a much larger piece of the offensive puzzle with Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward all gone from a year ago.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Familiar Faces Around Braves Camp

Mar 24, 2015 -- 4:06pm

For fans who make the trip from Atlanta to take in Spring Training, you never know who you may bump into at Disney. From Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, to his former ace southpaw Tom Glavine, you certainly have to keep your eyes peeled. One thing the Braves do extremely well is get their alumni involved as guest instructors throughout the course of camp. A few weeks back, I caught up with Dale Murphy who was here working with some of the young outfielders. Murph told me what a thrill it was to get a chance to “unretire” the jersey for a few days, and get back into the dugout for a few games.

This Spring, the list of former greats has been extensive. From Steve Avery to Ralph Garr…from Ryan Klesko to Fred McGriff, it’s been a ‘whos who’ of fan favorites roaming the complex at Disney. Over the last six weeks, I’ve had the chance to chat with many young players who find it a thrill to get a chance to work with guys they grew up idolizing.

The enjoyment is shared by both parties however, as you can see smiles on the guest instructors faces when they get back out on the field and start sharing their knowledge. While many will never become coaches at the Big League level, the stories and experiences they can share with the current crop of players is priceless.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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