Due to a host substitution, I didn’t have my regular weekly radio spot on WUMP/730AM, so I have a whole bunch of newsy things in my notes. So let’s just use them to do an omnibus wrap up of Braves info to catch everyone up!
The Schedule is Working
The Braves are now a full week+ into the easiest stretch of scheduling they will have all year. So far, so good: 7 wins in the first 8 games – 6 of those on the road. Over this 31 game stretch, every series but one will be against teams in last place, or next-to-last. The exception is 4 games against the fading Marlins, whose huge home-field advantage has now evaporated: they are now 4 games over .500 at home (had been 20-8!) and 3-7 in their last 10.
Accordingly, many of the hitters are improving, getting on base better, and the team – particularly rookie Tommy La Stella – is cashing in the opportunities better. Nowhere was that more evident than during last night’s 8th inning… apparently no lead is safe while the Mets are on the field.
David Carpenter (right biceps strain, June 17) is slated to be back on Wednesday after two strong rehab outings with Gwinnett. Expect Ryan Buchter to be optioned back the other direction when Carp is activated.
Pedro Beato (the ominous-sounding “sore right elbow”, June 19) is still on the DL. He has been called up to replace Carpenter – don’t expect him back real soon.
Evan Gattis, as we learned last night, was placed on the DL due to a bulging disk between his shoulders. That stint will likely be back-dated to the 28th of June, but it won’t matter: despite Oso Blanco’s optimism, I would not expect him back until the end of July at the earliest. In researching the injury, a couple of pitchers have recently had it, and were out for 2 months. Let’s hope for the best, but I don’t expect a 15-day stint either.
Gavin Floyd had successful surgery to repair the olecranon bone in his elbow (the part that acts as the ‘socket’ for the lower arm bone). This will be interesting. While his repaired ligaments are intact, Floyd’s throwing arm now likely has the look of Atlanta’s ‘Spaghetti Junction’ with all the rerouting, securing, and hardware to hold his elbow together. Frankly, I will be thrilled if he can ever pitch again – for anybody. Since he is a free agent at years’ end, I will be surprised if he’s ever a Brave again, but would hate to see a talent like his have to retire early: hopefully he can fully recovery enough to continue his career, though we won’t know on that for at least a couple more weeks.
His loss is Christian Bethancourt‘s gain: the perennial top-5 catching prospect likely will be the full-time backstop for the Braves for a while, with Gerald Laird spelling him much in the same manner as he’s done for Gattis this year. Suddenly, the Braves have a much-improved defense as a result, since that’s Bethancourt’s forte. Gattis wasn’t bad at the position, it’s just that Bethancourt is so much better. Expect running games to slow down and wild pitches to become a bit less frequent. That will help… and it should provide fans with a nice preview for 2015. It’ll be very interesting to see how he takes to everyday play in the majors.
Minor League News
The biggest news of the week was the back-to-back no hitters thrown by the Lynchburg Hillcats against the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City Royals affiliate; High-A Carolina League). The first one was started by Lucas Sims, the Braves #1 prospect. The second one came from newcomer Cody Scarpetta, who was signed from the independent Atlantic League just two weeks prior. He’s a Tommy John surgery survivor himself (2012), and has obviously started with a bang at Lynchburg. Both starters went 7 of the 9 innings. Word-of-mouth research suggests that this crazy event has happened before: 9 times in all the annals of professional baseball – any league, any level.
‘Tis the Season. A bunch of minor league transactions happened over the past couple of weeks. This is the time at which new draft signees are added to the new rookie league teams, promotion awards are made, and some demotions, too. Here’s the highlights:
- Going to AA Mississippi: Jose Peraza and Kyle Wren. This team already had some speed on it. Now it’s just ridiculous. The two combined for 68 steals at Lynchburg in 76 games (Kyle tried to catch up since he had a few more days to work with). Now they join guys like Mycal Jones, Kyle Kubitza, and Matt Lipka – they have 40 steals between them. So far: Kyle has a .400 OBP/avg. with 2 steals at AA. Peraza has 5 with a .415 OBP/.367 avg. Watch out, Southern League!
- AAA Gwinnett picked up Texeira… RHP Kanekoa Texeira, that is (sorry about that: he’s a former Reds AAA farmhand – cup of coffee with the Royals in 2011). Meanwhile, RHP Aaron Northcraft has been rewarded for his fine first half with a promotion. Likewise RHP Terry Doyle, RHP James Hoyt, 3B Joe Leonard and RHP Jorge Reyes were called up. Lots of free agents have been signed and assigned around as well to fill out rosters
AA pitcher J.R. Graham was placed on the disabled list June 30th for what was described as “right triceps tendonitis”. Last season, Graham hurt a shoulder in May and was unable to continue. The extent of this injury has not been reported, though there are additional possible implications:
- Graham is what scouts call a “max effort” pitcher. He’s 6’0″/195, and the sheer physics of him throwing in the mid-90′s means that he is using his height to its fullest to generate that kind of power. Does that translate into arm/shoulder trouble? Perhaps. While this can only be described as speculation, this second injury for arm/shoulder reasons has to be concerning. It could be a simple, minor injury. We’ll have to keep watch.
- Graham’s position as a top-10 prospect included the promise that he would be “major league ready” sooner than later. He was drafted out of college and is already 24 years old. On top of this latest setback, his performance in 2014 has been nothing like his earlier seasons: 5.18 ERA vs. 4.04 (2013), 2.80 (2012), and 1.72 (2011). Two years ago, the Braves were probably expecting him to be knocking on Atlanta’s door at this point.
- There are possible trade implications as well. A hurt Graham could make for 2 problems: even less chance of having a shot for the 2015 rotation, plus the inability to consider using him as a trade chip to other clubs. Thus, the farm system is a little thinner.
So that’s the Report
Call it an ‘Afternoon Chop’ if you will – something to amaze your friends and co-worker with as you await the start of the US/Belgium soccer match – since none of you really understand that sport anyway.
5 wins in a row. Gotta love it.