It’s admittedly been some time since we’ve posted here at the G-Blog, but rest assured, there’s plenty going on in the Coolray Field offices since September. We’re working on preparing a tremendous fifth season of Gwinnett Braves baseball, and will have details on what you can expect to see in 2013 sometime after the holidays. Right now, you can prepare yourself for next season by purchasing 2013 Season Tickets or a Holiday Pack.
For preparations on the field, a major announcement was made on November 12 when Randy Ready (pictured left) was confirmed as the new manager of the G-Braves. Ready is just the second manager in club history (since 2009), replacing Dave Brundage, who took the managerial post with Lehigh Valley.
If you haven’t already read up on Ready, here’s a few details. The 52-year-old Dallas, Texas native is joining the Atlanta Braves organization for the first time after spending last year as the minor league hitting coordinator for the Texas Rangers. Prior to 2012 he was the Major League hitting coach for the San Diego Padres from 2009 to 2011. He’s managed a total of eight seasons in the minors, mostly in the Padres system, compiling a 489-466 record. Ready led Double-A San Antonio to a Texas League Championship in 2007 and was elected to the Texas League Hall of Fame shortly after. In 2008, he managed Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League and was named the PCL’s “Best Managerial Prospect” by Baseball America. On top of his coaching career, Ready also played parts of 13 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics and Montreal Expos.
Our friends over at WDUN talked with Ready by phone last week and have shared the audio clip with us. In the interview, he weighs in on the 2012 G-Braves club, his thoughts on player development and winning at the minor league level, joining the Atlanta Braves organization, how his Major League career has prepared him to manage and more.
Listen Here: Randy Ready WDUN Interview (11.21.12)
Ready’s 2013 Gwinnett Braves club hits the field on Thursday, April 4 for a 7:05 PM game at Coolray Field. That’s still a long ways off, but you can continue to keep up with everything G-Braves by checking out GwinnettBraves.com, facebook.com/GwinnettBraves1 and twitter.com/GwinnettBraves!
The following article on former Gwinnett Braves right-hander Eric Junge was to be published in the next edition of Tomahawk Talk, due out August 6. Junge was released by the organization today, but I still wanted the article to see the light of day. Best wishes to Eric as he makes the next step of his baseball journey, wherever that may be.
The Journeys of Junge
By Dave Lezotte (July 25, 2012)
While Triple-A baseball is often regarded a place to see the next generation of star players, it’s even more known as a level for the experienced veteran. Each season, International League rosters are full of players who have tasted Major League success and experienced hardships along the way, only to find themselves with another chance to regain glory.
Nobody on the Gwinnett Braves roster personifies this better than Eric Junge. A 35-year-old right-hander hailing from New York, NY, Junge (pronounced “Young”) is in his 14th professional season. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 11th round of the 1999 amateur draft out of Bucknell University, Junge has been to just about all corners of the baseball universe. He’s pitched in seven different Major League organizations including time in the big-league spotlight with Philadelphia in 2002 and 2003. He’s also pitched in the independent Atlantic League as well as overseas in Venezuela, Japan and South Korea.
It’s been a long road for the first-year G-Brave, to say the least. Yet Junge is as determined to pitch now as he was 13 seasons ago.
“I’m going to continue going until my arm falls off or I can’t get a job,” expressed Junge. “What motivates me? I just want to pitch well, I just want to excel. It’s not financial, it’s not necessarily getting back to the big leagues, (…) but it’s just excellence. We play to be good, we play to have excellence and that’s what I strive for.”
Junge has attained excellence at numerous points in his career. In 2001 with Double-A Jacksonville, he became a 10-game winner for the first time in his career as he went 10-11. The next year, he went 12-6 with a 3.54 ERA in his first season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. By the end of 2002, he had made a Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in just his fourth professional season.
Memories of his first big league call-up still immediately come to mind for Junge, even a decade later.
“I remember pitching against the Braves a lot when they had those good teams back in the early 2000’s. That was a thrill for me,” said Junge. “I got to pitch against (Tom) Glavine one time, and just being on the field with some of those marquee Braves teams was pretty cool.”
Junge made his Major League debut with the Phillies on September 11, 2002 against the Florida Marlins. The then-25-year-old earned his first career victory three days later on September 14 in a win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. His second and most recent MLB victory came over Glavine and the Braves on September 24, 2002, a game won by the Phillies, 5-3.
He pitched six more times in relief for Philadelphia in 2003, posting no record and a 3.52 ERA. Despite a promising 2-0 record and 2.21 ERA in two stints, Junge wasn’t called upon by the Phillies again and hasn’t been back to the Majors since.
“I didn’t expect it to be that hard to get back (to the Major Leagues), to get a second opportunity,” admits Junge. “But that’s the way things go.”
Since 2003, his journey has taken him just about everywhere imaginable. He pitched in the Phillies system again in 2004 before landing with the New York Mets organization a year later. In 2006, Junge pitched for Triple-A Portland of the San Diego Padres system. In 2007, he suited up for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre again, but this time as a New York Yankees farmhand. After a release from the Yankees, Junge caught on with the independent Bridgeport Bluefish for the duration of 2007.
Then, in 2008, he discovered he’d have to leave the United States to keep his dream alive. Junge spent the next two seasons playing in Asia, going 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in 11 games with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League in 2008 and 1-7 with a 7.04 ERA in 12 games with the Hanwha Eagles of the South Korean Professional Baseball League in 2009.
Aside from obvious adjustments in culture, Junge found himself challenged by a different style of play in both countries.
“In Japan and Korea, they sort of play tennis, if you will,” described Junge. “They try to return your serve, the hitters, that is, these slap-hitting guys. You have to adjust your game a little bit. I didn’t have much success in the Asian arena and I think a lot of guys (American players) don’t have success over there. It takes more than a few months, and they (the teams) don’t’ give you enough time to adjust to the game.”
In 2010, Junge returned to the United States and signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He was immediately assigned to Triple-A, where he went 5-3 with a 5.15 ERA in 14 games with the Salt Lake Bees in 2010 and 8-9 with a 5.12 ERA in 25 games in 2011. Simply getting back to affiliated baseball proved to be a victory in itself for Junge.
“I didn’t know if it was even going to happen (returning to affiliated baseball). I pitched my way back in,” said Junge.
It was in the Angels system that Junge learned a pitch that would ultimately increase his longevity.
“I developed a sinker over there with Erik Bennett, he was my pitching coach over there (Salt Lake). We worked on a sinker and that’s really helped me to prolong my career. As my velocity goes down, now I can sink the ball a little bit more and induce more contact.”
Armed with the sinker that helps him get more ground ball outs, Junge is still striving for excellence in his first season in the Atlanta Braves organization. He started off the year 3-1 with Gwinnett before scuffling in May and June. Recently, the right-hander has experienced resurgence, going 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in four outings from June 30 to July 23.
“Just being aggressive,” answered Junge when asked the secret for his latest success. “(Being) aggressive early in the count with fastballs and using my cutter and slider to get guys off the fastball. When I was struggling, I think I was a little more slider-dominant, pitching backward and kind of looking for answers. There are no easy answers, you just go back to basics. Pound strikes with your fastball and get guys a little more uncomfortable in the box.”
As of July 25, Junge is tied for the team lead in both wins (6) and quality starts (8). While a call-up to Atlanta for his first Major League innings since 2003 is still likely a long shot for Gwinnett’s elder statesman, he remains content with his achievements.
“It was a special experience, and hopefully I can maybe get back (to the Major Leagues) one day,” said Junge. “If not, it’s fine, it’s all been fun. Nobody can take away the feeling of pride I have for my own career. I feel like I’ve exceeded my own expectations.”
Back by popular demand, Gwinnett Braves Game Notes: 7.17.12 GBraves Game Notes
Left-hander Yohan Flande (3-7, 4.37) gets the start for the G-Braves tonight, looking to erase the memory of his 0.2-inning, 6-run outing his last time out at Louisville. He’ll be opposed by left-hander Jeff Locke (7-5, 2.95) of the Indians.
Jose Constanza goes in search of a hit to tie the International League’s longest hitting streak this season, 20 games. He’s already hit in a Gwinnett franchise record 19-straight games coming into the action. Ernesto Mejia has a three-game multi-hit streak on the line as well.
The 7:05 PM game at Victory Field in Indianapolis, IN can be heard on WDUN 550 AM /102.9 FM and WDUN.com.
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.
Everything I said in yesterday’s post about turning things around can be repeated about tonight’s game. For six and a half innings of last night’s game, it looked like Kris Medlen and the G-Braves were going to halt the slide. Medlen turned in 5.0 scoreless innings, his first scoreless start since 2009 while also with Gwinnett, and the G-Braves held a 2-0 lead heading to stretch time. After the bottom of the seventh, Lehigh Valley had struck for five runs in an inning that featured a hit-by-pitch, missed catch error, wild pitch and balk. The IronPigs went on to a 5-2 win.
So now it’s Jair Jurrjens’ turn to play the role of stopper. The G-Braves haven’t lost five-straight this season, and if they don’t want to reach that point tonight, it’ll be on Jurrjens to look more like that 8.0-inning ace from May 27 than the struggling pitcher that allowed 10 runs and three homers his last time out on June 1. Meanwhile, the lineup has got to produce more than the four runs they’ve scored over the first three games of this series. Facing left-hander Pat Misch (3-8, 5.01) tonight might be the cure to what ails the bats, but keep in mind that Misch is looking to end a three-game losing streak of his own and pitched fairly well against Gwinnett despite a loss on May 29 (7.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER).
Tonight’s Game Notes: 6.8.12 GBraves Game Notes
First pitch from Coca-Cola Park is up at 7:05 PM, listen in on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and WDUN.com.
Last night’s 5-1 loss to Lehigh Valley has the G-Braves now 1.5 games behind Charlotte for the South Division lead and wondering what went wrong. After a tremendous 17-7 April and decent 15-15 May, Gwinnett has opened up June at 1-5. The offense is hitting just .179 (33-for-184) with one home run and 14 RBIs this month, while the pitching staff is posting a collective 5.29 ERA (30 ER in 51.o IP). It’s high time to turn things around.
Tonight’s Game Notes: 6.7.12 GBraves Game Notes
Kris Medlen hopes to be a huge part of that turnaround in his second start for the G-Braves tonight. Medlen struggled through 2.1 innings in his first Triple-A start since the 2009 season his last time out against Charlotte, allowing four runs on five hits including one home run. If he hopes to be on the fast track to the Atlanta rotation, he’s going to need a much better start this time out. The G-Braves could use it, their only win in the last eight games remains Julio Teheran’s nine-inning complete-game masterpiece on June 3 at Charlotte.
Medlen (0-1, 15.43) is opposed by veteran right-hander Scott Elarton (5-2, 3.55) of Lehigh Valley tonight in game three of the four-game series in Allentown, PA. If Elarton’s name sounds familiar, it’s because not long ago he was a pretty solid Major Leaguer. He pitched 10 MLB seasons from 1998 to 2008 with the likes of Houston, Colorado, Cleveland and Kansas City. Where’s he been since? The 36-year-old threw in 16 games for IL South rival Charlotte in 2010, was off the radar in 2011 before being signed to a minor league contract by Philadelphia this season.
Two MLB vets go head to head starting at 7:05 PM tonight, listen to the broadcast on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and WDUN.com.
There’s not too many positive things that can be taken away from last night’s 10-1 loss at Lehigh Valley, except the fact that the game is over and in the past. Todd Redmond allowed a season-high seven earned runs and three homers over 3.2 innings before being ejected, and the Gwinnett offense managed just one run on two hits (the run coming on Ernesto Mejia’s solo home run) in their sixth loss in the past seven games. The slide has the G-Braves in unfamiliar territory — second place — for the first time since April 11. Gwinnett had held the first-place spot in the IL South for an impressive 55-straight days.
Tonight, Dave Brundage’s crew looks to take first place back as they try and right the ship against the IronPigs. Lefty Yohan Flande (2-3, 3.44) pitched 7.0 scoreless frames in a 4-0 victory over Lehigh Valley his last time out, he’ll look to replicate that success against a ‘Pigs team that is suddenly swinging hot bats.
Meanwhile, the G-Braves offense is going to have to back Flande with something. The lineup scored zero runs for Redmond last night and zero runs for Eric Junge the previous game in Charlotte. They’ll have a tough task in IronPigs’ right-hander Tyler Cloyd (4-1, 2.47), who pitched 6.0 innings with three runs in a no-decision his last time facing Gwinnett on May 31.
Tonight’s Game Notes: 6.6.12 GBraves Game Notes
First pitch is at 7:05 PM, listen in to the broadcast on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and WDUN.com.
The G-Braves couldn’t follow up Julio Teheran’s Sunday evening gem last night as they fell 3-2 to Charlotte and settled for a split of the two-game series. The Knights scored all three of their runs off starter Eric Junge in the fifth inning, sending the veteran right-hander to his team-leading fifth loss despite his team-best seventh quality start. The Gwinnett offense continues to struggle as the club was shut out over the first eight innings, seven pitched by Charlotte starter Charlie Shirek. A two-run single by red-hot Christian Marrero cut the deficit to one, but Knights’ closer Brian Bruney struck out former Knight Stefan Gartrell to strand the tying run.
The road trip rolls on for Dave Brundage’s crew as they begin a four-game series at Lehigh Valley. The two clubs recently split a four-game series at Coolray Field, with the G-Braves taking the first two games (including the 9-8 comeback thriller on Memorial Day) and the IronPigs recovering to win the last two. It’s right-hander Todd Redmond on the mound for Gwinnett tonight, looking to keep up his impressive numbers. “Red” enters the game 5-3 with the league’s sixth-best ERA of 2.76. He yielded four runs over 7.0 innings in his last start, also against Lehigh Valley, a game that resulted in a no-decision and an eventual 14-4 loss. Left-hander Tom Cochran (2-1, 4.70) throws for the ‘Pigs tonight. First pitch is at 7:05 PM.
In roster-related news, we wish third baseman Joey Terdoslavich well as he looks to right his season in Double-A Mississippi. Joey T was sent to the M-Braves today after struggling at the plate (.180 average) and on defense (IL high 22 errors). There’s no doubt the defending Atlanta Braves Minor League Player of the Year has tremendous talent, but the jump from Advanced-A to Triple-A can be a big one for anyone. It may not be this year, but I’m certain we’ll see Terdoslavich come through Gwinnett again.
Replacing Joey on the roster is a familiar name, infielder Ruben Gotay. Gotay was acquired from Toronto for cash considerations today, and the Braves assigned him directly to Gwinnett. Gotay hit .253 with three homers and 25 RBIs in 72 games with the G-Braves last year. He had been hitting .346 with 14 RBIs in 22 games with Triple-A Las Vegas prior to the trade.
More on Junge, Marrero, Redmond, Gotay and others in tonight’s G-Braves Game Notes: 6.5.12 GBraves Game Notes
The G-Blog went on hiatus yesterday as Tony and myself both took the day off to recover from a 10-game homestand. We return today to have some fantastic news to report, in case you haven’t already heard (which you probably have).
After 84 career outings, 81 career starts without going the distance, 21-year-old right-hander Julio Teheran finally pitched his first complete game last night in a 5-1 win at Charlotte. Yes, hard to imagine that the two-time Atlanta Braves top prospect, 2011 International League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Pitcher had exactly zero outings in which he went the distance prior to yesterday. No rain-shortened complete games, no doubleheader CG’s, nothing. But that changed last night as he allowed only a run (on a Jordan Danks solo homer) on seven hits over 9.0 frames. He walked none and fanned six, throwing a season-high 109 pitches, 77 for strikes.
G-Braves’ pitching coach Marty Reed provided some great quotes in the MiLB.com story on Teheran’s outing last night.
What’s next for Teheran? How about a vote from you for the Triple-A All-Star Game? While you’re at it, vote for all the rest of the G-Braves, especially Ernesto Mejia, Todd Redmond and Luis Durango. Mejia drove in his team-leading 41st RBI last night and is hitting .314, good for third-best in the IL. Redmond, who starts tomorrow at Lehigh Valley, carries the league’s sixth-best ERA of 2.76. Durango, though his numbers have slowed down, still leads the circuit with 23 stolen bases in 29 attempts. They’re all deserving of your vote, which is going on now at MiLB.com.
The G-Braves are off the four-game slide with last night’s win and look to extend upon their 1.5-game lead for first in the IL South as they close the series with second-place Charlotte tonight. Right-hander Eric Junge (3-4, 4.20) has gone at least 6.0 innings in seven of his 10 starts for Gwinnett this season, there’s no reason to think that Junge won’t have his club in the game again tonight. Charlotte counters with right-hander Charlie Shirek (5-3, 4.23), who has posted numbers similar to Junge in his 11 games, 10 starts. First pitch at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, SC is scheduled for 7:15 PM, catch all the action with Tony Schiavone on WDUN 550 AM / 102.9 FM and WDUN.com.
Tonight’s Game Notes: 6.4.12 GBraves Game Notes
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.