Storylines Since the Break
A new post on your Gwinnett Braves has been long overdue since the start of the final 52-game stretch of the regular season. The G-Braves are off to a 1-4 start since the Triple-A All-Star break and maintain a 1.0-game lead on Durham for third place in the International League South Division. Dave Brundage’s club stands 10 games behind South-leading Charlotte with time still on the clock to catch the Knights, but it’s clear that the time is now to make a move up the standings.
Here’s some of the storylines playing out since the break:
Jose Constanza is on a tear that may not end any time soon.
Constanza entered the All-Star break with a 14-game hitting streak in tact, tying the existing Gwinnett franchise record shared by Barbaro Canizares (2010) and Felix Pie (2012). He’s re-written the record book with hits in five-straight games since, giving him a 19-game hitting streak as of July 17. That streak is the second-longest in the International League this season, trailing only a 20-game streak accomplished by three players including former Toledo Mud Hen Brad Eldred. Constanza isn’t just collecting a hit a night to advance history, he’s often doing it with huge, multi-hit efforts. He’s logged more than one hit in 12 of the 19 games, hitting an impressive .400 (34-for-85) on the streak. Not surprisingly, he’s shot to the top of the IL in batting average, now leading the circuit with a .322 mark.
Ernesto Mejia has been even better since appearing in the All-Star Game.
What’s left to prove for Mejia after his first Triple-A All-Star Game selection? Plenty. He’s continued to do it with his bat, hitting .354 with four homers and nine RBI over the first 12 games of July. The slugging first baseman is riding a three-game multi-hit streak that has raised his average to .308, fourth-best in the International League. He leads the league with 106 hits (amazing for a player with such power to lead in total hits), while ranking second in total bases (189), tied for second in extra-base hits (44), tied for third in RBI (62), fourth in slugging percentage (.549), fifth in OPS (.916) and tied for fifth in home runs (19). If he can keep up the pace, the IL Triple Crown could be within his grasp in his first year at the level.
It’s going to be weird not seeing Todd Redmond pitch every fifth day.
One constant over the first four years of G-Braves baseball has been the consistency of Redmond in the rotation. The all-time wins leader in Gwinnett history was shipped to Cincinnati in exchange for shortstop Paul Janish on July 14. Redmond went 34-30 with a 3.78 ERA in 101 games, 97 starts in a G-Braves uniform, making him one of the faces of the young franchise. He’ll certainly be most remembered for his nine-inning no-hitter at Louisville on May 28, 2010, still the only no-no thrown by a G-Brave. Die-hard fans will certainly remember his outstanding 2011 season in which Redmond went 10-8 with the IL’s third-best ERA of 2.92. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be weird not seeing “Red” on the mound at Coolray Field. Even stranger, he may face his old club when his new team, the Louisville Bats, come to town in August.
With Redmond gone, who steps up?
It’s no secret that even when Redmond was still a member of the rotation, Gwinnett starters had been struggling. The question is, who is able to shake off those struggles and consistently win for this team? We’ve seen flashes of dominance from Julio Teheran, Eric Junge, Yohan Flande and Jose Lugo this year, but who takes the reigns as the staff ace? Teheran would be the likely candidate given what he did just a season ago. There’s still time for the 21-year-old to improve upon a 6-5 record and uncharacteristic 4.96 ERA. Randall Delgado served up six runs in his first Triple-A start since being optioned to Gwinnett by Atlanta, but could also ressurect his season with a strong finish in Triple-A.
There’s a whole lot of new faces here.
Terry Tiffee, Cole McCurry, Andy Russell…who are these guys? The G-Braves’ roster underwent nine transactions this past weekend, giving the roster a bit of a new look. Not only the addition of Tiffee, a third baseman who has logged Major League time in Minnesota and Los Angeles (Dodgers), McCurry, a reliever who came over from the Baltimore system earlier this year and Russell (not to be confused with Adam), a 28-year-old reliever in just his second U.S. season after pitching in his native Australia, but also the “re-addition” of Jordan Parraz. Parraz had been out since May 7 with a broken left hand, but went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles in his first game back with Gwinnett on July 14 at Louisville. Which of the new faces becomes a key piece of the puzzle?
With a slim lead late in the game, who gets the call?
Triple-A All-Star Cory Gearrin is currently on the DL, so who gets the coveted closer’s role? Jaye Chapman posted two saves and a win in three scoreless outings from July 4-12, but suffered a tough letdown in a blown save and loss on July 14 at Louisville. Buddy Carlyle is the active bullpen leader in ERA (2.34) and wins (5), but gave up the grand slam to Bats’ catcher Dioner Navarro that defeated the G-Braves on that same July 14 evening. Don’t count out the rest of the pen, Billy Bullock, Adam Russell, Dusty Hughes and others to get on track, but the late innings will still likely belong to Chapman and Carlyle.
That’s just a small sampling of what’s going on with the Gwinnett Braves just past the half-way point of July. To find out how it all plays out, keep coming back to the G-Blog and gwinnettbraves.com, as well as catching the radio broadcasts with Tony Schiavone on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and WDUN.com.