May 2012

G-Braves Sweep IL Player of the Week Awards

For the second and third time this season, a Gwinnett Brave has been awarded the International League Player of the Week. Presently for the week of May 14-20, Ernesto Mejia takes home the IL Batter of the Week and his teammate, pitcher Todd Redmond earned himself the IL Pitcher of the Week. Both men followed after Stefan Gartrell, the first Gwinnett player of the 2012 season to win a weekly award when he did so for the week of May 1-6.

Redmond went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his two starts on the week, yielding just one run over 13.0 innings.  The Florida native blanked Buffalo over six innings in a 6-1 victory on May 15, then followed it up with a win at Rochester on May 20 in which he allowed a run over a season-high seven frames.  The Gwinnett starter won the IL Pitcher of the Week award on May 23, 2011 and has also won on July 4, 2010 and August 29, 2010.  For the season, he’s 4-3 with a 2.63 ERA in nine games, all starts for the G-Braves.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Watts

Mejia becomes the second Gwinnett Braves hitter to win the IL Batter of the Week award this season. The slugging first baseman recorded a hit in every game on the week, batting a league-best .464 (13-for-28) with four doubles, a triple, a home run, seven runs scored and seven RBI.  Mejia slugged .786 and posted a 1.250 OPS in seven games played.  For the season, he’s hitting .306 with six home runs and 31 RBI in 39 games.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

The IL Weekly Award sweep by Redmond and Mejia is the first in Gwinnett Braves history.  The club has boasted nine previous IL Pitchers of the Week and seven previous IL Batters of the Week since 2009.  According to the IL’s official release, the last time the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate swept the weekly awards was August 24, 2008 when Corky Miller and James Parr did so representing the Richmond Braves.  Redmond, meanwhile, is one of just 11 pitchers to win the weekly award four times in International League history.

The Gwinnett Braves (26-19, 1st in IL South) conclude the four-game series and eight-game road trip today against the Rochester Red Wings (19-25, 6th in IL North).  First pitch at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY is scheduled for 11:05 AM.  Right-hander Julio Teheran (3-2, 3.31) will make the start for the G-Braves, while the Red Wings counter with right-hander Daryl Thompson (1-4, 4.42).  Tuesday’s game will be broadcast live on the MLB Network, alongside the G-Braves regularly scheduled broadcast on 1240 ESPN Radio in Gainesville, GA.

The G-Braves return home to Coolray Field to begin a 10-game homestand on Thursday, May 24.  Tickets to all home games are on sale now at the Coolray Field Box Office.  Call (678) 277-0340 or visit gwinnettbraves.com for more information.

By: Tony Piraro

G-Braves Notes for 5.22.12 at Rochester

Julio Teheran makes his first daytime start of 2012 today. Last year, he went 2-1 with a 3.97 ERA (10 ER in 22.2 IP) in four starts under the sun. (Leslie Watts / Gwinnett Braves)

Playing an 11 AM game on getaway day to end an eight-game road trip is always a good idea, but the quick turnaround is even better when you’ve suffered a difficult loss the night before.  Such is the case today for the Gwinnett Braves, who look to forget a 10-1 drubbing at the hands of the Rochester Red Wings in the finale of the four-game series this morning.  The Red Wings, the last place team in the IL North, pounded out 18 hits on the night, 11 coming off G-Braves’ starter Jair Jurrjens.  Jurrjens gave up seven runs, six earned over 4.1 innings and is 0-2 with a 16.00 ERA (16 ER in 9.0 IP) over his last two starts.  That’s following a 2-0, 2.05 mark in his first three starts with Gwinnett.

The lone highlight of the night came courtesy of the red-hot Ernesto Mejia, who connected on a solo home run in the seventh inning to break the shutout.  Mejia’s seventh clout of the year extended his hitting streak to 10 games.  The newly-minted IL Batter of the Week is hitting .444 (16-for-36) with three homers and 12 RBIs on the streak, his first of double-digits this season.

Moving on to today, it’s right-hander Julio Teheran (3-2, 3.31) going up against Red Wings’ right-hander Daryl Thompson (1-4, 4.42).  Teheran was exceptional to start this month, but suffered a four-run, 2.2-inning loss his last time out at Buffalo on May 17.  The G-Braves are going to need him to settle down if they want to exit with a series split and finish the trip at a semi-respectable 3-5.

More on Jurrjens, Mejia, Teheran and the rest of the crew in today’s G-Braves Game Notes:  5.22.12 GBraves Game Notes

Today’s broadcast with Tony Schiavone can be heard on 1240 ESPN Radio in Gainesville, GA.  Make sure to tune him in there.  And, of course, we’ll see you at Coolray Field on Thursday night as the G-Braves return home to start a 1o-game homestand.

-DL

G-Braves Notes for 5.21.12 at Rochester

Former G-Brave, temporary Pirates property, and now apparent Tampa Bay infielder Drew Sutton. We won’t soon forget his 11-game hitting streak from early April, nor his April 16 walk-off double. (Dan Hamby / Gwinnett Braves)

It’s been a busy Monday here in the Gwinnett Braves Media Relations Department (otherwise known as the area in and around my office), what with Todd Redmond and Ernesto Mejia sweeping the International League Player of the Week awards, Drew Sutton being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates (he’s a Tampa Bay Ray now) and Lance Zawadzki joining the G-Braves’ roster in time to start tonight in Rochester.  Nobody ever said a job in baseball is short on excitement.

I could fill plenty of lines about all of those topics today, but you can check out the various press releases right now on GwinnettBraves.com.  Instead, let’s look ahead to tonight.  The G-Braves, fresh off a 2-1 win yesterday that snapped a four-game losing streak, take on the Rochester Red Wings in game three of a four-game series.  Mejia is in search of a 10-game hitting streak, Stefan Gartrell looks to keep up his torrid power pace on the road (four homers, seven RBI) and Jair Jurrjens (2-1, 5.06) just looks to put his 12-hit, 11-run debacle in the rear view mirror.  The Red Wings have right-hander Jeff Manship (3-1, 3.48) on the hill tonight, first pitch slated for 7:05 PM.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  5.21.12 GBraves Game Notes

Check out the broadcast with Tony Schiavone on WDUN 550 AM /102.9 FM and WDUN.com.  And don’t forget, tomorrow’s series finale in Rochester is an 11:05 AM start, which means two things.  One, the game can be heard on 1240 ESPN Radio tomorrow, and two, I get to stay up late preparing tomorrow’s G-Braves Notes.  Looks like another busy one.

-DL

G-Braves Game Notes for 5.18.12 at Buffalo

The Gwinnett Braves play their final regular-season game against the Buffalo Bisons at Coca-Cola Field tonight, looking to salvage a series that started off well, but has since seen the Bisons win back-to-back games.  After the firepower both sides displayed on Wednesday night, last night’s contest was fairly pedestrian.  The G-Braves scored twice in the top of the first only to see right-hander Julio Teheran give the runs right back in the bottom of the first.  Teheran struggled with control over 2.2 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and walking a season-high five.  Stefan Gartrell and Ernesto Mejia both went 2-for-4 as Gwinnett out-hit Buffalo 10-7, but Bisons’ starter Chris Schwinden and three relievers were able to avoid major damage to take a 2-1 series lead.

Eric Junge has thrown five-straight quality starts for the G-Braves and has worked at least 5.0 innings in all seven of his outings thus far. (Kyle Hess / Gwinnett Braves)

 A split of the four-game series is within reach for Dave Brundage’s crew, and they’ll have their quality man on the mound tonight.  Right-hander Eric Junge rides a five-game quality start streak entering his eighth start of the year.  He’s 3-3 with a solid 3.07 ERA and will be looking to avenge a quality loss to the Bisons from back on May 8.  Buffalo, meanwhile, sends prospect arm Matt Harvey to the hill.  Harvey pitched 6.0 scoreless, five-hit innings on May 8 to best Junge the last time he faced Gwinnett.

More on Teheran, Gartrell, Mejia, Junge and others in tonight’s G-Braves Game Notes:  5.18.12 GBraves Game Notes

We’ll see if it’s offense or pitching that plays the storyline tonight.  Whichever, hopefully it benefits the G-Braves as they wrap up the first leg of this eight-game road trip.  First pitch is up at 7:05 PM, listen to the broadcast with Tony Schiavone on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and WDUN.com.

-DL

G-Braves Game Notes for 5.17.12 at Buffalo

The Gwinnett Braves scored seven runs on a season-high 15 hits, getting three-hit, multi-RBI efforts from both Stefan Gartrell (3-for-5, 2 doubles, HR, 2 RBI) and Ernesto Mejia (3-for-5, double, 3 RBI) and a 2-for-4, two-RBI game from Joey Terdoslavich.  Yet they still lost.  Right-hander Jair Jurrjens entered the Gwinnett record book with a team-high (dating back to 2009) 11 runs allowed, 10 0f them earned on 12 hits over 4.2 innings.  Buffalo added three more runs against the bullpen and won the second game of the four-game set by a touchdown.

Stefan Gartrell connected on his team-leading eighth home run last night in Buffalo, but it was a mere side-note in Gwinnett’s 14-7 loss to the Bisons. (Leslie Watts / Gwinnett Braves)

Jurrjens had been stellar in the rotation for Gwinnett prior to last night, entering with a 2-0 record and 2.05 ERA.  JJ, however, now holds the dubious distinction of being the first G-Brave to allow more than eight earned runs in an outing (the last one to allow eight ER was Randall Delgado in a loss at Charlotte on August 21, 2011).  We’ll see how JJ bounces back in his next outing on Monday against a struggling Rochester club.

In the meantime, it’s Julio Teheran on the hill tonight against the Bisons.  Teheran, in case you haven’t already seen, has looked much more like the defending IL Pitcher of the Year and top Braves prospect as of late.  In three May starts, he’s 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA (2 ER in 16.0 IP) and is limiting IL opponents to a .214 average.  Last time he faced the Bisons, he limited the IL’s top-hitting team (.275 team average) to just an unearned run on five hits across 6.0 innings.  He’ll hope to post similar numbers tonight.

Read more about Jurrjens, Teheran, Gartrell, Mejia and other’s in tonight’s G-Braves Game Notes:  5.17.12 GBraves Game Notes

Don’t forget to check out the broadcast with Tony Schiavone on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and on WDUN.com.

-DL

Interview With G-Braves Stefan Gartrell

Photo courtesy of Chris Roughgarden

On Walk-off Home Run against Buffalo:

“I was happy I put the ball in play,” said Gartrell. “I was really happy I put the ball in the air and hit it hard. After I hit it, I knew it was gone. It was a lot of fun to come around third base and look at all my teammates just going crazy and going ‘Aghhhhhh!’ so that was fun.”

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

Knowing the Buffalo pitcher did not want to throw him a fastball:

“When a guy throws you four straight off-speed pitches and then he shakes, that usually means the catcher wants a fastball since he’s called for so much off-speed,” Gartrell said. “It looked like he (pitcher) didn’t want to bounce it because Constanza was at third base. So he left it a little higher than the other ones and I was able to hit it.”

Photo courtesy of Daniel Hamby

On hitting behind Luis Durango and Jose Constanza this year:

“(Chuckles) It’s funny. Since May, I’ve got a bunch of two-strike hits and two-strike RBI because of those two. I’ll literally take until they get to second or third base because they’re going to go eventually,” said Gartrell. “The pitcher is worrying about them and trying to throw so hard that they’ll throw balls up and away. I get walked a lot because of it. It’s funny, when they’re on base they get a lot of things going. It’s cool to have that type of speed with their high on-base percentages. They work the pitcher and find ways. They are the 1-2 (in the batting order) and they’re the fastest guys in the league, it’s kind of crazy. I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll wait for you to steal second, then I’ll get an RBI.’ It’s fun.”

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

On hitting in front of Ernesto Mejia:

“If a guy wants to try to pitch around me and not deal with me, then having Mejia behind me….People say I’m a power hitter and I have a lot of pop, but this dude (Mejia) is rediculously strong. To have a guy like that where they have to worry about both of us at some point,” said Gartrell. “Going back to the walk-off on a 2-2 pitch, he left it up because he didn’t want to throw another ball or risk facing Mejia. Stuff like that happens, I’m not getting just fastballs, but I am getting more pitches over the plate because they’re going to want to pitch to me. They’d rather give up a solo homer versus say a three-run home run.”

Photo courtesy of Leslie Watts

On listening to everyone’s opinion when struggling:

“You know where the advice is coming from. You know they want you do good. It comes from a good place so it’s not like, ‘Hey, I’m not going to listen to anybody, I got this.’ Gartrell said. “I’m not fooling myself like that. I like to be known as a humble person. But at the same time, you have to understand becuase they are not you, their methods may be different. What they saw may not be what works for me. What type of person, what type of hitter, what type of player they are or were doesn’t always work for how I am. The reason I am here is because I have always been a very aggressive hitter, to a point to where it’s overaggressive. If I become passive, or take too many pitches then there goes my aggressive swing which goes into my power. I just have to go back to my roots. Shorten up, make good contact and see what happens. The more I simplified it and not tried to crush every single ball, the more home runs came which was funny, so I like that aspect of it.”

Photo courtesy of Leslie Watts

On hitting coach Jaime Dismuke:

“Jaime was the one who said, ‘Dude, you’re fine.’ No matter what. Even if I was like, ‘No, I am not fine.’ He’s like, ‘you’re fine.’ Sometimes I’m like, ‘Jaime what do you see?’ and he says, ‘nothing.’ Then I think, there has to be something wrong. It’s just a matter of getting back to my roots as a hitter.”

Photo courtesy of Karl Moore

On being the first G-Brave player to be named IL Player of the Week in 2012:

“The funniest part is that I was probably the worst hitter in the league the first month (laughing). Then the first week of the second month, they’re like, ‘you’re the best player for the first week of May,’ which is…..sad (chuckling). Really? It took me a whole month? But that is baseball,” said Gartrell. “I just needed April to be over with. I would like to think I was just in a slump, but then things clicked. I started shortening up my swing. I guess it took me until May to figure that out. I was really glad because it gave me a lot more confidence. I try really hard to make sure my confidence doesn’t go up and down no matter how well or how bad I’m doing. Instead of folding up everything, packing up my tent and getting out of here, I made sure I just kept swinging and at some point it was going to click and that’s what happened.”

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

….For more on Stefan Gartrell and my interview with him, be sure to grab a Tomahawk Talk when you visit Coolray Field for the G-Braves next 10-game hometsand which is set to begin on Thursday, May 24 at 7:05 p.m. against Rochester.  

By: Tony Piraro

G-Braves Game Notes for 5.15.12 at Buffalo

The 11-game, 10-day marathon homestand is over, and your IL South-leading Gwinnett Braves take to the road for an eight-game trip through Buffalo and Rochester.  They begin things tonight at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo, NY as they take on Wally Backman’s Bisons’ squad.  The two teams met up at Coolray Field recently, with Buffalo taking three of four.  Only a Stefan Gartrell walk-off home run on Thursday afternoon could salvage the series for the G-Braves.

If you like great pitching (and who doesn’t), you’ll get a good dose of it as these two teams meet up again.  Right-hander Todd Redmond, fresh off his career high-tying 10-strikeout performance against the same Bisons lineup his last time out, takes the baseball for the G-Braves tonight.  “Red” yielded just a run on six hits over 6.2 innings in his 116-pitch effort on May 10, this time he’ll be looking to pick up the win.  Meanwhile, Buffalo counters with right-hander Jeremy Hefner, owner of the International League’s second-best ERA of 1.77.  Hefner’s 3-1 with a modest 23 strikeouts in 40.2 innings, but worked a season-high 7.2 innings with two runs on four hits in a no-decision when he last met with the Gwinnett lineup on May 10.  One of those two runs came home on a Christian Marrero solo blast.

We won’t get to see the Julio Teheran vs. Matt Harvey mega-prospect match-up that we just missed out on in the last series, but both pitchers will throw in the four-game set.  Teheran is slated for a game three start on Thursday, while Harvey will go up against right-hander Eric Junge on Friday.  Right-hander Jair Jurrjens, 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA over his first three starts with Gwinnett, will start on Wednesday night.  Plenty of great pitching to keep an eye out for.

Durango’s nine-game hitting streak has led directly to an increase in stolen bases. The speedster swiped nine bags on the recently-completed 11-game homestand. (Melinda Pease / Gwinnett Braves)

As far as the Gwinnett lineup is concerned, we’ve seen hot stretches from Drew Sutton, Jordan Parraz, Jose Constanza and Gartrell since the start of the season.  The latest entrant is Luis Durango, who after a combined 3-for-6 effort in the doubleheader, is riding a nine-game hitting streak.  Durango is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with two doubles, seven runs scored and five RBI on the streak.  The increase in his time on base has led directly to more steals, as he swiped nine bags in 10 games on the homestand.  Durango leads all IL players with 20 steals in 24 attempts this year.

More on Redmond, Durango and the rest of the G-Braves in tonight’s Game Notes:  5.15.12 GBraves Game Notes

Game one gets going at 7:05 PM tonight, listen to the broadcast with Tony Schiavone on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and WDUN.com.

-DL

G-Braves Walk-off Another Win

Photo courtesy of Daniel Hamby

The Gwinnett Braves offense is really starting to make some noise. The first month of the season was dominated by the G-Braves pitching as they led the International League with a 2.76 team ERA. Now, the offense is starting to receive a little attention with their recent heroics. Let’s take a look at the walk-off madness during the G-Braves recent 11-game homestand…

Walk-off No. 1 – Stefan Gartrell

Final game of the Buffalo series, the reigning IL Batter of the Week blasts a 12th inning home run for a G-Braves winner.

Walk-off No. 2 – Luis Durango

First game of the Toledo series, immediately following the Gartrell walk-off, the very next game Luis Durango follows with a seventh inning two-out RBI single that beat the Mud Hens in the first game of a doubleheader.

Walk-off No. 3 – Jose Yepez

Catcher Jose Yepez lifted a sacrifice fly into centerfield that scored Ernesto Mejia for the game-winner in the bottom of the eighth inning amidst the first game of yet another doubleheader between the Mud Hens and G-Braves.

With the G-Braves latest victory, they have moved their IL-best record to 24-13 on the season as they reside comfortably in first place of the IL South Division. Gwinnett is 7-0 against Toledo this season as the G-Braves are searching for their sixth straight win in total on Monday night. The final game of the G-Braves current 11-game homestand will conclude after Game 2 of the double-dip and then Gwinnett will head to Buffalo for a four-game series that will begin Tuesday. Win, lose or draw, the G-Braves offense keeps getting better with time and experience. Combine that with their dynamic pitching and you’ve got a recipe for disaster for the rest of International League in 2012.

By: Tony Piraro

G-Braves Looking to Remain Unbeaten vs Toledo

Photo courtesy of Daniel Hamby

What a way to end a homestand than with a doubleheader the night before the team leaves for an eight-game road trip? It is the final day of this enormous 11-game homestand from Coolray Field and your first place Gwinnett Braves (24-13) couldn’t be feeling much better about themselves these days.

Currently, the G-Braves are 6-4 on the homestand after splitting a two-game set with the Charlotte Knights, losing three of four to Buffalo and winning all four against Toledo so far. In 2012, the G-Braves are a perfect 7-0 against the Toledo Mud Hens as they get set to do battle in a Monday double-dip.

Catcher Jose Yepez won the game for the G-Braves in Game 1 of the doubleheader Monday. The righty slapped a fly ball into centerfield that was deep enough for Ernesto Mejia to lumber home for the winning run. The G-Braves have now won all seven of their games against the Mud Hens in 2012 and are currently looking for the five-game sweep in the second game of the twinbill.

Toledo Mudhens (20-17, 2nd IL West) vs Gwinnett (24-13, 1st IL South) 

The No. 2 hitter in Toledo’s line-up for Monday’s game and the leadoff man for the three previous games, Justin Henry, has been on fire lately for the Mud Hens. The third baseman has reached base nine times in three games and will be looking to do more damage in two more games from Coolray tonight.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Hamby

The G-Braves handed the Detroit Tigers No. 1 prospect, Jacob Turner, the no decision in the first game of the night. The righty pitched well and exited the game in the sixth inning.

Game 2 Starting Line-up:

G-Braves southpaw Yohan Flande (1-2, 2.93) gets the start in game two after Eric Junge started the first game. Toledo is slated to start left-hander Casey Crosby (3-2, 4.55). Both games will be broadcast on WDUN 550 AM and 102.9 FM with Tony Schiavone calling the play-by-play.

Toledo Mudhens Batting Order:

1) Quintin Berry, CF

2) Justin Henry, 3B

3) Ryan Strieby, 1B

4) Brad Eldred, DH

5) Eric Patterson, LF

6) Andy Ciriaco, SS

7) Jeff Frazier, LF

8) Matt Young, RF

9) Bryan Holaday, C

G-Braves Batting Order

1) Luis Durango, CF

2) Jose Constanza, LF

3) Stefan Gartrell, RF

4) Ernesto Mejia, 1B

5) Drew Sutton, 3B

6) Felix Pie, LF

7) Josh Wilson, SS

8) J.C. Boscan, C

9) Greg Paiml, 2B

By: Tony Piraro

Scouting The G-Braves Opponent: Jacob Turner

 

The No. 1 prospect in the Detroit Tigers system is right-hander Jacob Turner who will be starting against the G-Braves on Monday night amidst a doubleheader. The righty actually was promoted from Single-A to Toledo, completely skipping Double-A. However, his time with the Mud Hens may be limited unless he performs above expectations.

So far this season, the right-hander has been very hit or miss with Class-A Lakeland. He has struck out nearly a batter an inning while walking just seven hitters to the tune of a 1.10 WHIP on the season. Turner seems to be on the fast track to the big leagues with his 6-foot, 5-inch frame.

2012 Stats: 1-2, 1.66 ERA, 4 Games Started, 21.2 Innings Pitched, 7 BB, 17 K’s, 17 Hits, 8 Runs, 4 Earned Runs, 1 HR, 1.10 WHIP

The flamethrower was a dominant high school pitcher and drafted by the Tigers in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft in June. Turner is just 20 years old and has plenty of room to grow into his big frame. He has a smooth delivery and is a prolific strike-thrower according to Baseball America. The right-hander throws from a three-quarter angle and sits between 90-94 mph comfortably. Turner can touch the mid to high 90′s when he needs it as well, reminding the Tigers of a guy they currently own in Justin Verlander. His fastball is good, but his curveball and change-up are hit or miss pitches. His curveball is his best pitch, but scouts believe his change will be his best at the end of the day once it develops.

Turner has a tall, lanky frame and has endured high-inning seasons already in his career. The right-hander has avoided injury for the most part and has no health concerns moving forward in his young career. At the end of the day, Jacob Turner is good enough to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the Detroit Tigers rotation, right behind Verlander and Max Scherzer. Some scouts and experts already admit that Turner has better stuff than half of the guys in the current Tigers rotation which is saying a ton. Turner is the real deal and it’s only a matter of time before he’s pitching regularly in Detroit. Tonight is his first step with the Triple-A debut live from Coolray Field.

By: Tony Piraro

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