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Freddie Freeman Out...But For How Long?

Jun 26, 2015 -- 3:37pm

Washington, DC – For Freddie Freeman to come out of a game, you know he’s hurting. For him to miss a handful of games and eventually land on the disabled list, it must be much more. On Tuesday, prior to the opener against the Nationals, Freeman was placed on the DL with a right wrist contusion, retroactive to June 19. Over the weekend, prior to Sunday’s finale against New York, Freeman felt like the injury still wasn’t serious enough to cause him to miss more than just a few days. But, after he was unable to take swings in the cage, the move needed to be made.

Without Freeman, the Atlanta offense takes a serious hit. As Freeman goes, is typically how the Braves offense goes. After a three game sweep of New York over the weekend without Freddie, Atlanta came to Washington just two games behind the first place Nationals. On Thursday afternoon, behind a strong performance from Doug Fister, the Nationals completed a three game sweep, pushing Atlanta to five games back in the division, and three games under .500 (35-38). It also marked the eighth straight loss for the Braves against their rivals from the Nations Capitol.

Where do the Braves go from here? We’ve seen glimpses of the offense putting things together. We’ve also seen really strong pitching performances go for naught. In addition to the lack of Freeman’s big bat in the heart of the order, Jace Peterson and Cameron Maybin have also had a rough week. While Freeman is eligible to come off the DL on July 3rd, don’t expect to see Number 5 in the lineup that soon. After receiving a PRP injection this week, the hope is that Freeman will be able to return at some point between the 3rd and the All-Star Break. But one thing is clear…Atlanta won’t rush him back until he’s 100% ready. And that could take longer than anyone had originally anticipated.

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

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Maybin Becoming The Center Of Attention

Jun 14, 2015 -- 12:09pm

New York, NY – Fresh off a big come-from-behind win over the Mets on Saturday evening, the Braves wake up on June 14th just two and a half games out of first place. Not many experts could have imagined this club would have bene able to hang around as long as it has, but here we are, over a third of the way through the regular season, and this club is looking to prove some folks wrong. Can Atlanta sustain this for another 100 games? Perhaps. But the bigger question is, where would the Braves be without Cameron Maybin?

After being acquired on the eve of Opening Day, even the manager wasn’t exactly sure what Maybin’s role would be. Eric Young Jr. had won the job of starting center fielder coming out of Orlando. Young started 15 games in center and 7 more in left, but combined to hit just .180 with a .254 on base percentage. Fredi Gonzalez looked to Maybin to help spark the offense, and he’s done just that. Maybin enters Sunday’s series finale in New York with the best average with runners in scoring position (.444) and is hitting .365 over his last 26 games, dating to May 15th.

In addition, his five home runs is good for third on the club (Freeman 12; K Johnson 6). Between Maybin and fellow former Padre Jace Peterson, the Braves are getting more production from the top of the order than they have since 2012 with Michael Bourn and Martin Prado setting the table. Maybin also brings another veteran personality to a clubhouse that saw a big boost in vets this offseason. Can Maybin maintain the almost “video game like numbers” he’s putting up? Time will tell, but one thing is for certain, Atlanta wouldn’t be in this position had it not been for yet another brilliant trade by John Hart.

All offseason, fans questioned the direction the team was going. Most figured the Braves brass was ok with waving the white flag for the next two seasons, but all along, they reiterated how they felt this would be a fun, dynamic, entertaining club. Oh yeah, and competitive. Yes, they’re still below .500 but they find themselves just a couple games out of the top of the division.

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

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Braves Bullpen Blues

Jun 07, 2015 -- 10:18am

ATLANTA, GA – It’s no secret the last two weeks have been a house of horrors for the Braves relievers. Coming off the recent west coast trip, the bullpen had posted a 9.00 ERA. Yes, NINE. Keep in mind, this is the same relief corps that had posted the best ERA in all of baseball in the first two weeks of the regular season. Of course, there will be bumps along the road, and maintaining video game like numbers isn’t conceivable, but the Braves need to find a way to sure up the pen and find a way to get the ball to Jason Grilli.

Not all of the blame lies on the seven men that make up the Braves bullpen. It all begins with the rotation, which has seen its share of ups and downs over the first third of the 2015 campaign. For a week or so, Atlanta starters struggled to get through the sixth inning. However, the rotation has shown signs of turning things around, most recently with Julio Teheran’s strong outing on Saturday against Pittsburgh. Obviously, Shelby Miller has emerged as the ace of the Atlanta rotation, but Alex Wood has started to look like the guy we watched take the next step last year, and a few youngsters in Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez have also stepped up their game.

So what can be done about the pen? On Saturday, a few days after opting out of his contract with the Dodgers, David Aardsma inked a minor league deal with the Braves. Aardsma will start out at Triple-A Gwinnett. Speaking of the G-Braves, one guy who could make an impact here with the Big League club has been David Carpenter. The 27 year old righty has posted an 0.78 ERA in 17 appearances this season at Triple-A. Speaking of David Carpenter’s, the former Brave was recently DFA’d by the Yankees earlier this week when Masahiro Tanaka was activated from the DL. Over the previous two seasons, Carpenter was an integral part of the back end of the Atlanta pen. Things didn’t go as planned for him in the Bronx, but a reunion with Roger McDowell may be just what the doctor ordered.

Over two months into the regular season, Atlanta starts the day just three games out of first place. I’m not sure many of the experts could have predicted this team would be in the position it was when camp broke. But, I fully expect the Braves to continue to hang around, and if they do, don’t be surprised to see them emerge as buyers come the July 31st trade deadline. The East isn’t what we thought it would be as we’re a third of the way home. Washington is dealing with some big time injuries, the Marlins have been a disaster and the Mets have cooled after a red hot start. Overall, the 25 guys in the Braves clubhouse realize where they are in the standings, and while there’s still a very long way to go, the optimism levels are extremely high.

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

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A Wild Few Days In LA

May 28, 2015 -- 12:07am

Los Angeles, CA – What an interesting few days its been for the Braves here in the City of Angels. It started on Memorial Day Monday with Alberto Callaspo being a late scratch to the lineup, though no reason was given. Typically when players are scratched, especially so close to first pitch, there’s some sort of injury. However, we wouldn’t find out until after the game that the scratch was for a completely different reason altogether. Trade discussions were ongoing between the two clubs that were squaring off on the field, so Callaspo was removed from the lineup. However, things took a weird turn on Tuesday when Callaspo vetoed the trade. But, that’s not where this story ended, as talks picked up once again Tuesday afternoon, and yet again, Callaspo was a late scratch.

Now that the dust has settled, the Braves appear like the winners of this six player deal. Gone are Callaspo, Stults, Thomas and Jaime. In return, Atlanta added veteran infielder Juan Uribe and flame throwing righty Chris Withrow. Uribe made his Braves debut and received quite a warm welcome from the Dodger Stadium faithful, featuring a video tribute on the screen before first pitch. Uribe brings power from the right side, something the Atlanta lineup has lacked this season without guys like Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. Withrow could contribute from the bullpen as early as September, if his rehab from Tommy John goes smooth. During a conference call on Wednesday afternoon, Braves assistant GM John Coppolella said Withrow’s fastball has been clocked between 93 and 98, while he also features a “plus plus slider” which gives him the tools and weapons to be a late inning guy. Coppy added that in the future, Withrow could eventually evolve into the closers role, but that’s obviously down the road.

In talking to Uribe’s now former teammates in the Los Angeles clubhouse, one thing’s clear. Uribe was a fan favorite, and beloved by his teammates for the leadership he brings both on and off the field. Catcher AJ Ellis tweeted how much he will miss Uribe, while countless media members that cover the Dodgers told me “you’re going to love this guy.” Uribe already has relationships with a number of players in the Atlanta clubhouse, including AJ Pierzynski. Uribe was all smiles as he greeted the 24 other guys in the visiting clubhouse Wednesday, while there were plenty of hugs to go around.  On Tuesday, while it appeared trade talks had died down, Uribe told me he understood the business of baseball. He loved his time in LA, but he’ll certainly sleep well knowing there were a number of teams interested in his services. Only time will tell if I’m right in the fact that Atlanta got the better of this deal, but on the surface, it appears like John Hart has hit yet another home run.

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

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So Far So Good For Folty

May 13, 2015 -- 12:25pm

CINCINNATI, OH – Tuesday night, Mike Foltynewicz continued to show the progression we had seen from him towards the end of Spring Training. While he took a no decision, through three starts, we’ve seen Folty growing up in front of our eyes. The big issue he had to overcome had nothing to do with his electric stuff. He threw nearly 70% fastballs last night against a Reds team that likes to hit the heater, in a ballpark that’s known for producing a large amount of home runs. Looking back at last night, two things stood out most to me. In the bottom of the first, Folty had Votto buried in an 0-2 count and ended up walking him. Frazier followed and made him pay, crushing a 2 run homer to right. Then, later in the game, he attempted to turn a double play on a bunt, but the throw sailed into center, and the Reds eventually tied the game. “I had Votto 0-2 there and I think I just tried to overthrow a couple things to get him and swing and miss. And then Frazier came up and hit the home run and then the throwing error. Two mistakes, cost you the game but that’s baseball. Just got to go out there and get ‘em next time” Foltynewicz said at his locker on Tuesday night.

Each of these instances are learning opportunities. But, already we’ve seen Folty grow and mature since his first outing in Orlando. He’s pounded the strike zone, and really seems much more comfortable when he takes the mound. Overall, there’s a lot of positives to take from his first handful of starts. “Folty was outstanding. All those situations you can put him in and the more you can put him in, the better he’s going to be” said Fredi Gonzalez.

In the end, I think the future is extremely bright for Mike. He’s grown leaps and bounds from the first time we saw him take the mound in Grapefruit League play two months ago and is certainly trending in the right direction. With guys like Matt Wisler and Manny Banuelos continuing to progress at Gwinnett, and Tyrell Jenkins having a strong month of May with Mississippi, the future is extremely bright when it comes to rotation young rotation pieces that could end up contributing in Atlanta sooner, rather than later.

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

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On The Road Again...

May 08, 2015 -- 6:17pm

WASHINGTON, DC – If it seems like a while since the Braves won back-to-back games…that’s because it has been. After dropping the series opener to the Phillies on Monday, Atlanta posted consecutive wins for the first time since April 10th & 11th as they took the series from the last place Phillies. Despite their early season struggles and inconsistent play, the Braves enter Friday’s opener in the Nation’s Capital at .500 on the season (14-14). So after one month of play, let’s take a look the highs and lows through the first 28…

The Highs: The offense has done a very nice job in the first 28 games. Entering play, the Braves are averaging over four-and-a-half runs per contest, which is right in the middle of the pack in the Majors (15th). Atlanta has gotten key contributions from newcomers like Kelly Johnson, AJ Pierzynski and Jonny Gomes. KJ enters Friday’s opener with the team lead in homers with six. I don’t think any of us in our wildest dreams could have imagined him to get off to the start he has. AJ Pierzynski has also gotten much more playing time than he expected when he signed in the offseason. AJ was primarily brought in to serve as a backup/mentor to Christian Bethancourt, but his hot bat has been hard to keep out of the lineup.

The Lows: One month in, Fredi Gonzalez and Roger McDowell continue to search for reliable arms that can help them in the pen. Atlanta has already utilized 19 different pitchers. 19! But, the message has clearly been sent to the staff. Throw strikes, or go back to Gwinnett and fine tune your craft. The bullpen got a much needed night off on Tuesday when Shelby Miller tossed a gem, going the distance in a shutout against the Phils. Overall, the bullpen has held its own, even with so many new names and faces coming and going. The starting rotation certainly needs to focus on going deeper into games however, to prevent those guys from being overworked too early in the season.

All things considered, for the Braves to be a .500 ball club after one month is encouraging. Home runs are down, on base percentage is up. Strikeouts are down, moving runners is up. And defensively, after a rough week, Atlanta has been as sound as ever with the glove.

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

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