Pitching probables (All games start at 6:35 p.m.)
Mon: RHP Victor Mateo (6-6, 2.68 ERA with Double-A Mississippi) vs. RHP Jose Berrios (2-0, 3.52 ERA).
Tues: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (3-3, 4.02 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Bowden (7-3, 2.27 ERA).
Wed: RHP Kanekoa Texeira (3-3, 3.58 ERA) vs. LHP Taylor Rogers (8-8, 3.65 ERA).
Thurs: RHP Tyrell Jenkins (3-1, 2.03 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Duffey (4-6, 2.72 ERA).
The best stretch of the season for the Gwinnett Braves has launched them into the thick of the International League Wild Card race with 37 games left to play. They begin a four-game series at Coolray Field against the Rochester Red Wings 3.0 games behind the Columbus Clippers for the Wild Card spot and what would be the G-Braves’ first playoff berth since their inaugural season in Gwinnett of 2009. The G-Braves have gone 11-6 since the All-Star break and have won eight of their last nine games, including five of six against the Durham Bulls last week. They remain 7.5 games out of first place in the IL South Division but are 1.5 games behind the Charlotte Knights for second place and 4.5 games ahead of last-place Durham.
Rochester, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, has struggled since the All-Star break. The Red Wings have gone 7-10 to open the second half of the season and trail the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders by 4.0 games for the lead in the IL North. They also sit a half-game behind Gwinnett in the Wild Card race. Rochester’s rough patch included a split of a four-game series with the G-Braves at Frontier Field. Gwinnett won the first two games, but the Red Wings took the final two. That was the first time the clubs had met this season, and this will be their final regular-season series against one another 2015. The G-Braves have not won a season series against the Red Wings since 2012 when they went 5-3. They are 6-14 against Rochester since.
Pitching: Despite roster turnover that has left the G-Braves without any of their original five starting pitchers and with three relievers who started the season with the team, the Gwinnett pitching staff continues to produce at one of the best rates in the league. The team’s 3.03 ERA ranks third in the IL, and G-Braves have held opponents to three runs or fewer in 11 of their 17 games since the All-Star break. The staff has walked the fifth-most batters in the league with 355 and has eighth-most strikeouts with 764, but it has allowed the fifth-fewest home runs in the league with 52 and by far has the fewest wild pitches with 28, seven-fewer that Rochester, which ranks second in that department.
The Red Wings have a team ERA of 3.68 that ranks eighth in the league but have the fewest walks of any team in the league with 300 to go with 787 strikeouts, which are the third-most in the league. Berrios, the Twins’ No. 3-ranked prospect and No. 26 overall according to MLB.com, pitched the first three months of the season for Double-A Chattanooga. He went 8-3 with a 3.08 ERA for the Lookouts before his promotion to Rochester. He got his first two Triple-A victories in his last two starts, including a 7.0 scoreless innings against the G-Braves on July 23 when he allowed four hits and two walks with one strikeout. He has fanned eight or more batters in three of his first five starts for the Red Wings.
Jenkins, who is the Braves’ No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com, is scheduled to finish the series for the G-Braves after he notched his second consecutive win on Saturday against Durham. He struck out eight Bulls’ batters in that game, which is the most he’s had in any of his first five starts since he got called up from Double-A Mississippi on July 8. Mateo will make his Triple-A debut in the opener of the series in his 185th career minor league appearance. He signed with Atlanta as a minor league free agent in November after eight years in the Tampa Bay Rays’ system, including the last two with Double-A Montgomery.
Hitting: The G-Braves homered twice during their three-game road series at Durham but still have the fewest home runs in the league by a wide margin. Their 35 for the season is seven behind the next closest team, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, in that category. They are on pace for a franchise-low 47 on the season, which would also be the fewest of any team in the IL since the 1980 Tidewater Tides. However, Gwinnett is second in the league with 122 stolen bases and three behind the Indianapolis Indians for the lead in that department. The G-Braves also have the fewest walks (256) and strikeouts (548) of any team in the league. Their strikeout total is 104 behind the Norfolk Tides for the next lowest in that category.
Rochester is tied for the third-highest team batting average in the IL with a .262 mark. The club’s 66 home runs rank sixth in the league but its 36 stolen bases are the fewest. The Red Wings have also hit into the second-most double plays, two behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in that department. Their 54 attempted stolen bases are by far the fewest in the league, as Norfolk is next-to-last in that category with 66. They sit in the middle of the pack in both walks (10th, 348) and strikeouts (ninth, 728).
The International League named Red Wings’ first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez the IL Batter of the Week from July 26-August 2. He batted .385 with a league-high seven extra-base hits, 22 total bases, six runs scored, an .846 slugging percentage and ran his hitting streak to 10 games. He enters the series against Gwinnett with a league-high 44 extra-base hits and 64 runs scored for the season. He also ranks third in doubles (27) and total bases (176), and he is tied with outfielder Danny Ortiz for the team lead in home runs (12). Second baseman James Beresford also ranks third in the league with a .311 batting average for the season.
G-Bites: The G-Braves lost second baseman and the Atlanta Braves’ top-ranked prospect Jose Peraza in a three-team, 13-player trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 30…Right-handed pitcher Williams Perez completed his rehab assignment with Gwinnett and returned to Atlanta on July 31…Right-handed relievers David Carpenter and Ryan Kelly both rejoined the G-Braves that day after a stint with Atlanta…Mateo and infielder Luis Mateo, no relation, joined the team from Double-A Mississippi July 30 and 31, respectively….Atlanta called up relief pitchers Matt Marksberry and Jake Brigham on July 31…Utilityman Joey Terdoslavich begins the series against Rochester on a season-high 12-game hitting streak during which he has batted .364 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, 11 RBIs and eight runs scored…The G-Braves will complete their longest remaining homestand of the season with three games against the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, from Friday through Sunday at Coolray Field.
Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Catching Coordinator Joe Breeden was at Coolray Field during the Gwinnett Braves’ most recent homestand against the Charlotte Knights and Durham Bulls that lasted from July 24-29. As part of his travels through the Braves’ entire minor-league system, Breeden spent time with G-Braves’ catcher Christian Bethancourt, as the 23-year-old backstop refines his game in preparation for a possible return to Atlanta, which is where he began the 2015 season as a big-league rookie.
Bethancourt batted .198 (20-for-102) with six doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, 12 runs scored and a stolen bases in 29 games for the Braves before they optioned him to Gwinnett on June 15. He also threw out 37.5 percent (6-of-16) of attempting base stealers, committed three errors and had five passed balls.
“Always when you’re a young guy, you’re still learning game-calling and handling the staff,” Breeden said. “That becomes the biggest part, especially when you get up to the big leagues, handling that staff, putting in your work.”
Since the return to Gwinnett, where he played 91 games in 2014, Bethancourt has one error and one passed ball to accompany a 47.8 percent (11-of-23) caught-stealing rate. He also immediately began to hit again at the Triple-A level. He had at least one base hit in nine of his first 10 starts for the G-Braves for a .354 batting average (17-for-48) in that span, which included three doubles, a home run, six RBIs, five runs scored and three stolen bases.
Breeden said Bethancourt has the best arm he has seen for a catcher in his 28 years in professional baseball, but he was pleased to see the effort Bethancourt has put into his video study with Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed since he rejoined the G-Braves because the catcher position demands mental preparation and game-planning on the defensive side of the game that is similar to pitchers.
He said he was also was impressed to learn Bethancourt is now running the meetings the pitching staff has at the start of each series to go over the opposing hitters’ strengths and weaknesses.
“That’s where, to me, he is really taking steps to get better,” Breeden said. “You can always get better at it. It’s an on-going process.”
Breeden said he has known Bethancourt since the Panama native signed with Atlanta when he 16 years old and a member of their affiliate in the Dominican Summer League. In the proceeding eight seasons, Breeden has watched him grow both physically and mentally into a player whose athleticism reminds Breeden of former catcher Benito Santiago, who played 20 years in the Major Leagues and Breeden worked with when both were members of the Florida Marlins’ organization in 1993-94.
“His hands work well, he’s a sharp guy, speaks fluent English,” Breeden said of Bethancourt. “He’s a bright, bright kid. Offensively, he’s gotten stronger. Now he’s getting at-bats regularly, and you can see he is swinging the bat well.”
Through his first 32 games with the G-Braves this season, Bethancourt batted .309 with 10 doubles, two home runs, 13 RBIs, 13 runs scored and five stolen bases. He leads the team in batting average and doubles since he was optioned.
The work Bethancourt has put in during his time in Gwinnett also continues to mold him into the type of catchers Atlanta wants throughout its organization, Breeden said.
Those ideals include a player who is physically tough enough to withstand the summer heat and hazards that are inherent in the catcher position such as foul tips, he said. However, the organization also wants mentally tough players who can still guide a pitcher through a start even when the catcher is tired or beat up because of the rigors of a long season, he said.
“Being able to get a (pitcher) through when he’s having a hard time, that’s the thing we talk about,” Breeden said. “The good catchers can, when a guy’s having trouble, get him out of trouble. The guys who don’t do a good job, they’ll catch a guy into trouble when he’s going good.”
He said the organization has its catchers call their own games at every level to help them through the learning process of what works and what does not work for a variety of different pitchers.
“Everything is off the pitcher’s strength,” he said. “That’s the main thing. We’re concerned about the hitter’s weakness, but we’re more concerned with our guy’s strength. We’re going to pitch to his strength.”
Although catcher A.J. Pierzynski played well enough to earn the bulk of the playing time for Atlanta while Bethancourt was on the club, Breeden said he thinks the experience Bethancourt was able to gain during that time benefitted his development.
“We say this all the time, ‘We work, we work, we work, but sometime you’ve got to take the test, and the test is playing the game,'” Breeden said. “When you get Major League experience, that’s the highest level and when you get that it’s definitely going to help you, whether you stay up there or whether you come down.”
With the work Bethancourt has done since his first extended test in the Majors earlier this season, Breeden said he is optimistic Bethancourt will be a valuable piece of the organization for years to come.
“He works hard, and I think he’s going to be a big part of our future,” Breeden said.
Pitching probables (All games start at 6:35 p.m.)
Mon: RHP Tyrell Jenkins (1-1, 3.18 ERA) vs. RHP Bradin Hagens (1-1, 3.38 ERA).
Tues: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-6, 3.49 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (2-1, 1.84 ERA).
Wed: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (3-2, 3.61 ERA) vs. LHP Blake Snell (0-1, 2.25 ERA).
The Gwinnett Braves worked their way out of the cellar in the International League South Division on Sunday when they beat the Charlotte Knights 5-3 and the Durham Bulls lost 11-1 to the Norfolk Tides. That dropped the Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, a half-game behind the G-Braves for last place in the division. Gwinnett has won five of the last seven meetings between the clubs this season and leads the season series 7-6. This is the Bulls’ final visit to Coolray Field this season. After an off day on Thursday, the teams will play three more games at Durham from Friday through Sunday, and they have a two-game series at Durham Bulls Athletic Park scheduled for August 21 and September 1. The G-Braves have not taken a season series from the Bulls since they went 11-10 in 2012.
The G-Braves ran their post-All-Star break record to 6-5 with the sweep of Charlotte. Durham, meanwhile, has yet to win consecutive games in the second half and gone 4-7 in that span. The Bulls have the lowest team batting average (.229) and second-highest team ERA (4.64) in the IL for July, but they have slugged 27 home runs through 23 games during the month, which trails only Charlotte’s 33 in that category. Gwinnett’s 11 homers in the July are the second-fewest, ahead of only the nine hit by the Indianapolis Indians. The G-Braves’ .244 batting average for July ranks 11th in the league, but they have managed a 12-12 record since July 1 with the help of a 3.49 team ERA that is the fifth-lowest in the 14-team league.
Pitching: A weekend series vs. Charlotte in which the G-Braves did not allow more than three runs in any of the three victories helped lower the club’s ERA to 3.18 for the season, which is the fourth-lowest of any team in the league. Knights’ outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo hit two home runs on Friday, but those were the only long balls Gwinnett pitchers allowed, and the 51 the G-Braves’ pitching staff has combined to give up are tied for the fourth-fewest in the IL. Durham has the third-highest team ERA in the league at 3.97 and its pitchers have given up the most home runs in the IL with 86. The Bulls have struck out the second-most batters in the league with 761 K’s and issued the second-fewest walks (289), and their relievers have combined for 34 saves, which is tied for the league lead in that department. G-Braves’ hurlers have the fifth-most strikeouts with 723 and the fifth-most walks with 335, while the bullpen has 30 saves to tie for fourth in that category.
Foltynewicz has given up seven of the G-Braves’ home runs allowed total this season and is in his third stint with Gwinnett after two promotions to the Major Leagues with the Atlanta Braves. He worked as a starter in Atlanta from May 1 to June 14, going 3-2 with a 5.19 ERA in nine starts, and pitched three times out of the bullpen from July 7-11, going 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA. Four of his 10 starts for the G-Braves have been quality starts, but the team is 3-7 in those games in part because the offense has provided him the fewest runs of support of any pitcher currently in the starting rotation (14 total, 1.40 per game).
Hagens has made four starts (five appearances) for the Bulls this season after he began the year at Double-A Montgomery, where he posted a 4-5 record and 3.86 ERA in 16 outings (eight starts). He stuck out nine Charlotte batters in his most recent start on July 22 and has a 3.75 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (30 strikeouts/8 walks) since his move to the Triple-A level. Andriese has split the season between Durham and Tampa Bay. He has gone 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA and two saves in 12 outings (seven starts) for the Rays in his Major League rookie campaign. He was optioned to Durham most recently on July 8.
Hitting: Barrett Kleinknecht hit his fourth home run of the season with a solo shot in the seventh inning on Sunday, but the G-Braves still sit at the bottom of the IL in that department with 32 homers and trail the next closest team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, by 10. They are on pace 46 home runs for the season, which would be the fewest in franchise history and the fewest in the league since the Tidewater Tides hit 43 in 1980. The lowest season home run totals for Richmond/Gwinnett teams is 68 set in 2001 and tied in 2006. However, the G-Braves have used their team speed to steal 114 bases and tie Indianapolis for the lead in that category. That puts Gwinnett on pace for 163 on the season but still well behind the franchise record of 195 set in 1986.
Durham is third in the league with 100 stolen haves but is also second in the IL with 90 home runs despite a team batting average of .244 that is tied for the second-lowest in the league. First baseman J. P. Arencibia has helped the team home run total with a league-high 20. The Bulls do not lay down many sacrifice bunts (14, second-fewest in the IL compared to Gwinnett’s second-highest total of 52), but they draw the third-most walks of any team in the league with 359. The G-Braves have a league-low 241 walks but also the fewest strikeouts with 503. Durham has whiffed a league-leading 863 times.
Jose Peraza’s team-high 13-game hitting streak came to an end when he went 0-for-4 on Sunday, but he is still tied for second in the league in hits with 110. He is also tied for the league-lead in sacrifice bunts (12) and sacrifice flies (seven) to go with the fourth-highest strikeouts-per-plate-appearance ratio of 12.18. Durham outfielder Taylor Motter won the IL Player of the Week award for June 29 to July 6 and has a .303 batting average for the season that ranks seventh in the league among qualified hitters. His 104 hits on the season are the fifth-most in the IL, and he leads the league in extra-base hits with 42.
G-Bites: Infielders Daniel Castro and Adonis Garcia got recalled by Atlanta on Friday. They both left the Gwinnett game in the second inning to join the Braves in St. Louis. Garcia hit his first career Major League home run in the sixth inning on Sunday, a solo shot that provided the deciding run in their 3-2 win over the Cardinals…Atlanta optioned first baseman Joey Terdoslavich on Friday to make room for first baseman Freddie Freeman’s return from the disabled list…Outfielder Cedric Hunter went 5-for-9 two RBIs and four runs scored in the series vs. Charlotte. He has batted .292 with 14 RBIs and 13 runs scored in 22 games in July to raise his season batting average to .272…With a 6.0-inning start on Saturday during which he allowed two runs (one earned), right-hander Kanekoa Texeira completed his fourth consecutive quality start, which is the longest such streak for a G-Braves’ pitcher this season…After the upcoming weekend series at Durham, the G-Braves will return to Coolray Field for a seven-game homestand from August 3-9 that includes four games against the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and three vs. the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Fri: TBA vs. TBA, 7:05 p.m.
Sat: RHP Kanekoa Texeira (1-3, 3.64 ERA) vs. RHP Erik Johnson (8-5, 2.59 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sun: RHP Williams Perez (2-1, 1.36 ERA) vs. RHP Brad Penny (5-3, 4.09 ERA), 2:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves welcome the Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, to Coolray Field for the final time this season still in search of their first victory over Charlotte on their home field. The Knights have won each of the first five games the teams have played in Gwinnett and have outscored the G-Braves 24-15 in those contests, although only one of the games was decided by more than a two-run margin. The G-Braves have gone 2-3 against the Knights in Charlotte, including two wins in a three-game series at BB&T Ballpark from July 2-3 that preceded a six-game losing streak.
Gwinnett remains last in the four-team International League South Division, while the Knights sit in second place, 0.5 of a game behind the Norfolk Tides. The G-Braves face their largest deficit in the standings of the season, as they are 8.5 games behind the Tides and 8.0 games back of Charlotte for the Wild Card playoff spot. This is the first time the teams have not played a home-and-home series this season, as the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, will come in for a three-game series from July 27-29.
This will also be the first time Gwinnett has been home since the All-Star break. The G-Braves went 3-5 on a road trip that took them to Syracuse, where they lost three of four games to the Chiefs, and Rochester in a four-game series they split with the IL North-leading Red Wings. Charlotte has won five of its eight games since the break and eight of their last 11, overall, to put them a season-high 14 games above the .500 mark.
Pitching: The G-Braves’ pitching staff has allowed five or more runs four times in its last 15 games and has the fourth-lowest team ERA in the IL at 3.21. The 49 home runs G-Braves’ pitchers have allowed are also tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. Charlotte has a team ERA of 3.53 that ranks seventh in the league and the 70 home runs it has allowed are the fourth-most in the IL. However, the Knights hold an advantage in strikeout-to-walk ratio. They are tied for the third-fewest walks issued with 295 and lead the league with 789 strikeouts, which are 52 more than second-place Durham in that department. Gwinnett pitchers have walked the fourth-most batters in the league with 331 free passes, and their 704 strikeouts rank fifth.
Gwinnett has also used 14 different starting pitchers this season. Perez and right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (1-6, 3.49 ERA) are the only pitchers currently in the rotation that also began the season in Gwinnett, although Perez is on a Major League rehab assignment from the Atlanta Braves. He has made two rehab starts since the All-Star break and gone 0-1 with one run allowed in a combined 6.0 innings, including 10 strikeouts and one walk, in those appearances. Saturday’s starter, Texeira, notched his first victory of the season in his last start, his sixth of the season among 11 relief appearances, on Monday, July 20 when he held the Red Wings to three runs on two hits and three walks with two strikeouts in a 6-3 victory.
For Charlotte, Johnson holds the third-lowest ERA in the league among qualified starters with his 2.59 mark. He trails only former Gwinnett left-handed starter Manny Banuelos, who was promoted to Atlanta on July 2, and his Charlotte teammate right-hander Kyle Drabek. Johnson leads the league in strikeouts with 105, but Charlotte left-hander Casey Jarrett holds the top spot on the club in wins with 9, which ties him for the league lead along with Durham lefty Scott Diamond. Johnson also holds the tops spot in the league with a 1.09 WHIP, while Drabek is tied for third with a 1.14 mark.
Hitting: Charlotte holds the fourth-highest team batting average at .260, while the G-Braves come in 10th with a .252 mark. Both teams have plenty of speed, as Gwinnett is second in the league with 107, one more than the Knights, but Charlotte has much more power in its lineup. The Knights have slugged a league-best 94 home runs, and the G-Braves have managed an IL-low 31. That puts Gwinnett on pace for 46 on the season, which would be the lowest of any IL team since the Tidewater Tides, who were a New York Mets’ affiliate at the time, hit 43 in 1980.
The G-Braves also have the fewest walks and strikeouts of any team in the league. They would be the first club since the 2012 Lehigh Valley IronPigs to finish at the bottom of both categories in the same season. Additionally, their league-low .304 on-base percentage would be the lowest in the IL since the Syracuse Chiefs, who were an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays at the time, had a .302 mark in 1988.
Individually, second baseman Jose Peraza, the top-ranked prospect in the Braves’ system, is second in the league with 107 hits and fourth with six triples. He enters the series on a season-high 11-game hitting streak during which he has batted .362 (17-for-47) with two doubles, a triple, three RBIs and seven runs scored. He is batting .292 (107-for-367) for the season with eight doubles, six triples, three home runs, 37 RBIs, 44 runs scored and 25 stolen bases, which ties him for fifth in the IL in that category.
Charlotte second baseman Micah Johnson holds the second-highest batting average among qualified batters in the IL with a .328 mark and has the fifth-highest on-base percentage at .379 to go with the third-highest slugging percentage at .486 in 60 games. Third baseman Matt Davidson is tied for fourth in the league with 15 home runs, outfielder Trayce Thompson has the the fourth-most doubles with 23 and fellow outfielder Jason Coats’ 61 RBIs rank third in the league.
G-Bites: Right-handed reliever Brandon Cunniff rejoined the G-Braves during their most recent road trip but is on the disabled list, and righty reliever David Carpenter is back with the club after his first stint of the season with Atlanta. The Gwinnett bullpen also got back right-hander Jake Brigham from a stint with Atlanta…Righty David Peterson received a promotion to Gwinnett from Double-A Mississippi on July 17 and has yet to allow a run in his first two relief outings while picking up his first Triple-A save in his first appearance on July 18 at Syracuse…Right-handed reliever Vin Mazzaro also joined the team after Atlanta signed him as a minor-league free agent on July 10…Righty reliever Carlos Fisher threw 1.0 scoreless inning in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 15 in Omaha, NE…Outfielder Todd Cunningham broke free of a 1-for-13 skid to bat .500 (6-for-12) with a home run, three RBIs and four runs scored during the four-game set at Rochester.
Former Atlanta Braves first baseman Fred McGriff stopped by Coolray Field for the first time during the Gwinnett Braves’ final homestand before the All-Star Break to offer his insights and knowledge to the next wave of potential Braves’ stars.
“We’ve got some good players here, some young, some a little older,” said McGriffl, who threw a ceremonial first pitch before the G-Braves’ game on July 7 against the Norfolk Tides. “It’s cool. You’ve got good coaches here.”
The man who held the first base position in Atlanta from 1993-97 returned to the organization this season as a special assistant to baseball operations. He attended Major League Spring Training and has focused on professional scouting during the season.
He said it was also his first chance to see and work with players such as center fielder Mallex Smith, second baseman Jose Peraza and right-handed starter Mike Foltynewicz, who has sinced been recalled to Atlanta for the second time this season.
“This is my first year with the Braves’ organization so I’m just trying to learn all of the different players,” he said.
So far, McGriff said he has been impressed with the number of highly talented players in the system, particularly on the pitching side of the game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who throw real hard,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting the guys to get some experience, let them work their way through the minors and learn how to pitch so once they finally get up to the big leagues they can stay up in the big leagues.”
McGriff hit 493 home runs during his 19-year career in the Major Leagues that stretched from 1986-2004 with the Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
In his new job, he said he was involved in the June free agent draft process after he spent early portions of the season scouting high school and college players, including a stop at the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, AL. He said he has also been introduced to the analytical side of the game.
“To see it from a scout’s standpoint and see what they do and everything, how they put in their scouting reports and their lingo, it’s a different lingo,” McGriff said.
He has combined those lessons with his experiences from more than two decades in the game to try to help the current generation of young players make the most of their opportunities in the sport.
“If I can help one guy, if I can say something to one kid that helps them get to the big leagues, then it’s all worth it,” McGriff said.
Tues: RHP Kanekoa Texeira (0-2, 4.11 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Bowden (6-2, 2.17 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
Wed: LHP Greg Smith (3-3, 2.52 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Wright (4-0, 3.07 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
Thurs: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-5, 3.15 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Wilson (3-4, 3.18 ERA), 12:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves finish their final homestand before the All-Star Break with three games against the International South Division-leading Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Gwinnett is back at the .500 mark after it lost four straight games to the Charlotte Knights from Friday through Monday. The final two losses were each by one run, and Charlotte has now taken eight of the 10 games between the clubs so far this season. The G-Braves have fared better against the Tides. They are 6-5 against Norfolk this year despite being outscored 41-31 in those contests. The teams split each of their first three series, and Gwinnett won two of three from June 8-10 at Coolray Field.
Norfolk was shutout by the Durham Bulls in the finale of their three-game series on Monday, but that was the third loss in the Tides’ last 13 games dating back to June 21. That hot streak has propelled them to a 0.5-game lead in the division over Charlotte, 4.0 games ahead of Durham and 6.0 in front of the G-Braves. Norfolk is also the only team in the division without a losing record in any month. The Tides went a combined 33-23 in May and June, and they have gone 24-21 on the road. Gwinnett is an even 22-22 at home this year.
Pitching: The G-Braves hold the IL’s third-lowest team ERA at 3.17, but that is still shy of Norfolk’s league-leading 2.93 mark. Tides’ pitchers have thrown a combined 10 shutouts, which are tied for the most in the league, and their 244 walks are the third-fewest of any IL team. Gwinnett pitchers have issued the fourth-most walks in the league with 285. but they hold an advantage in strikeouts over the Tides, 605-577, and they have posted one fewer shutout than Norfolk with nine on the season. Neither team allows many home runs, as Norfolk’s 38 are tied for the third-fewest and Gwinnett’s 41 are the fifth-fewest.
None of pitchers who comprise the G-Braves’ current starting rotation have thrown enough innings to qualify for the league leaderboard, although Smith’s 2.52 ERA would be the third-lowest if he had enough innings. Norfolk’s Bowden leads that category with his 2.17 ERA to go with a 6-2 record. He edged out former Gwinnett left-handed starter Manny Banuelos for the top spot with 7.0 scoreless innings on July 1 vs. Charlotte. The Atlanta Braves called up Banuelos to make his Major League debut the following night. Norfolk pitchers hold three of the top six spots on the IL individual ERA leaderboard among qualified starters. Left-hander Chris Jones has a 2.59 ERA through 11 starts (19 appearances) that is good for third-lowest, and righty Zach Davies’ 2.70 ERA is the sixth-lowest. In the Tides’ bullpen, right-handed reliever Oliver Drake is third in the league with 14 saves, and righty Cesar Cabral leads the league with 10 holds.
Hitting: The Tides also hold an advantage offensively with a .260 team batting average that ranks fourth in the IL compared to Gwinnett’s .255 mark that puts them ninth in the league. Norfolk has scored five or more runs in half of their 16-game hot stretch, and the club has done so without a lineup that hits a bunch of home runs or steals many bases. The Tides rank 10th in the league with 41 homers and 13th in stolen bases with 33. Gwinnett has by far the fewest home runs in the league. It’s 26 are seven behind the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ for 13th in the league, but the G-Braves are one stolen base behind the Indianapolis Indians for the league lead in that department.
Jose Peraza leads the Gwinnett offense with 90 hits, which tie him for third in the IL in that category. He also is tied for fourth in the league with 22 steals and leads the team with 29 multi-hit efforts. The 21-year-old second baseman has hit safely in five of his last six games, going 8-for-25 (.320) in that stretch to put his season average at .288. Catcher Christian Bethancourt has been the G-Braves’ hottest hitter since Atlanta optioned him on June 15. He has batted .338 in 16 games with Gwinnett and has at least one hit in 13 of those contests to go with one home run, four doubles, seven RBIs, seven runs scored and five stolen bases without being caught.
Norfolk’s catcher Steve Clevenger has also been on fire of late. He has hit safely in seven of his last nine games and has a .337 average in 48 games with the club, although he does not have enough at-bats to qualify in the batting race. A left-handed hitter, Clevenger has pounded right-handed pitchers in the IL at a .387 rate with all three of his home runs, all seven of his doubles and 21 of his 22 RBIs. Lefties have held him to a .179 batting average. He has played four games for Baltimore this season, going 5-for-11 with a double, an RBI and a run scored from May 28 through June 3.
G-Bites: Atlanta traded right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz on Monday to the Oakland Athletics for International Bonus Slot No. 113. Kurcz had gone 4-3 with a 3.27 ERA and a team-high seven saves in 11 attempts in 31 relief appearances for the G-Braves this season…Gwinnett lost two other members of its bullpen to Major League promotions on Monday when Atlanta called up right-handers Arodys Vizcaino and David Carpenter… Vizcaino made two 1.0-inning appearances for Gwinnett after joining the club on Friday in his return from an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Carpenter began the season with the G-Braves and led the team’s relief corps with a 0.73 ERA in 27 appearances while holding opponents to a .183 batting average…In their place, the Braves acquired left-hander Mitch Lambson from the Houston Astros for cash considerations and activated righty Peter Moylan from the disabled list…Lambson had most recently been with the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, going 0-0 with a 2.60 ERA in 13 outings. Moylan is 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA in 12 appearances since he joined the team in early June…The G-Braves will finish their schedule before the All-Star break with three road games against Durham from Friday-Sunday.
Sat: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (1-4, 3.40 ERA) vs. RHP Shawn Haviland (3-4, 4.60 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sun: TBA vs. RHP Terance Marin (2-0, 0.00 ERA), 2:05 p.m.
Mon: TBA vs. RHP Kyle Drabek (3-5, 2.86 ERA), 6:35 p.m.
The Charlotte Knights ended the Gwinnett Braves’ season-high, five-game winning streak on Friday when they drubbed the G-Braves 11-2 in the second game of a doubleheader at BB&T Ballpark. The G-Braves won the first game of the twin bill 11-4 and enter the homestand three games above the .500 mark and 4.0 games behind the International League South Division-leading Norfolk Tides, although they remain in the division cellar. The Knights are in second place in the four-team division, 1.5 games behind Norfolk.
The two victories to open the series at Charlotte were the first two for the G-Braves against the Knights this season, as Charlotte won four straight over Gwinnett in their only other meetings this season from April 15-18. However, only two of the G-Braves’ five losses to Charlotte have been by more than two runs. Gwinnett is three games above .500 at home, 22-19, compared to 20-20 on the road. It also has a lower ERA (2.95 to 3.44) and a higher batting average (.266 to .248) at Coolray Field, although they’ve hit 16 of their 24 home runs in road games.
Pitching: Gwinnett holds the fourth-lowest team ERA in the IL this season at 3.19, while Charlotte is sixth with a 3.53 mark. G-Braves’ pitchers have also allowed 11 fewer home runs (40 to 51). The Knights hold an advantage in the walks and strikeouts departments, however. Charlotte pitchers have struck out the most hitters of any team in the IL with 646, which is 49 more than the second-place Rochester Red Wings in that category (597). Gwinnett comes in with 598 K’s, which is tied for the sixth-most in the league. The Knights are tied for the fourth-fewest walks allowed in the league with 241, while G-Braves’ hurlers have the fourth-most in the league at 272.
The G-Braves will face the pitcher with the second-lowest WHIP in the IL (1.12) on Monday when Drabek starts the series finale. He also has the fifth-lowest opponents batting average at .216 among qualified pitchers. His 2.86 ERA is tied for the ninth-lowest with teammate right-hander Erik Johnson, who leads the league in strikeouts with 96. The G-Braves will not face Johnson during their six-game, home-and-home series against the Knights, as Charlotte skipped his turn in the rotation to give him extra rest.
Gwinnett lost two members of its starting rotation last week. The Atlanta Braves promoted left-hander Manny Banuelos on Thursday to make his Major League debut. They also traded right-hander Cody Martin to the Oakland Athletics the same day in exchange for international bonus slot money. Banuelos has the second-lowest ERA among qualified pitchers in the IL with a 2.29 mark at the time of his promotion. Martin was 1-3 with a 2.10 ERA in seven outings (six starts) for Gwinnett, but he also made 21 relief appearances for Atlanta. He was Gwinnett’s “Most Outstanding Pitcher” in 2014.
Hitting: The Gwinnett offense has exploded for six or more runs in three of its last four games, going 3-1 in those contests. It was also the first time the G-Braves have scored six or more in at least three consecutive games this season, which helped raise their team batting average to .257. That places them one point behind a three-way tie for sixth in the league in that department. The Knights, meanwhile, come to Coolray Field with a .260 team average that ranks fourth in the league. They have also slugged the most home runs (68) and stolen the third-most bases (87). Gwinnett sits at the bottom of the league in homers with 24 but is tied for the league lead in steals with 91.
G-Braves’ second baseman Jose Peraza has not gone more than one game without a hit since a two-game stretch from May 30-June 3. His batting average sits at .282 for the season, but he has the fifth-most hits in the IL with 85, the most sacrifice hits of anyone in the league with 11 and the fourth-best strikeouts-per-plate-appearance ratio at 11.00.
Charlotte outfielder Trayce Thompson was elected to start the Triple-A All-Star Game for the IL, as he had the third-most extra-base hits of anybody in the league with 32. He also holds the fifth-highest slugging percentage at .451, has scored the second-most runs with 44 and has the second most total bases with 138. His teammate Matt Davidson, who is slated to start the game as the IL’s designated hitter, is tied for the league lead in home runs with 13. On the speed side, Charlotte’s Tyler Saladino (24) and Leury Garcia (23) and the third- and fourth-most stolen bases in the league, respectively.
G-Bites: The G-Braves have received three new pitchers since they left Coolray Field on June 25 for a nine-game road trip. Right-hander Jorge Reyes, lefty Matt Marksberry and righty Arodys Vizcaino are with the team as it returns for the homestand. Reyes gave up eight runs in 5.0 innings in the nightcap of the doubleheader on Friday, while Marksberry made two relief appearances and gave up one run in 3.0 innings. Vizcaino joined the team on Friday and has not yet pitched…In conjunction with those additions, right-handers Peter Moylan and Sugar Ray Marimon went on the disabled list…On the same day he was promoted to the Majors, the IL announced on Thursday that Banuelos was elected to the All-Star Game for the IL…The G-Braves will host Norfolk for three games from July 7-9 to complete their final homestand before the All-Star Break.
Pitching probables (all games at 6:35 p.m.)
Mon: LHP Manny Banuelos (5-2, 2.29 ERA) vs. RHP Wilfredo Boscan (4-2, 4.42 ERA)
Tues: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (3-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. LHP Clayton Richard (3-1, 1.88 ERA)
Wed: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (0-4, 3.90 ERA) vs. RHP Adrian Sampson (6-5, 3.39 ERA)
Thurs: RHP Cody Martin (1-2, 2.21 ERA) vs. RHP Angel Sanchez (0-0, 7.20 ERA)
The Gwinnett Braves roll into their four-game series vs. the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, fresh off a “walk-off” 6-5 win Sunday when outfielder Eric Young, Jr. struck a two-run single to beat the Pawtucket Red Sox in the ninth inning. That victory saved the G-Braves from a sweep, as Pawtucket took the first two games by scores of 7-5 and 5-4, respectively. Still, Gwinnett sits in fourth place in the International League South Division, while the Indians lead the IL West and have the best record in the league, 14 games above the .500 mark.
However, Indianapolis enters the series on a three-game losing streak after they were swept by the Charlotte Knights during the first stop on their road trip. The Indians were outscored 24-6 in the three-game series. Before that series, however, Indianapolis had won 10 of 12 games and had a seven-game winning streak from June 5-11. That stretch included three wins in four games over the G-Braves at Victory Field in Indianapolis. None of their victories were by more than two runs, and Gwinnett’s only win of the series was an 8-7 victory on June 12. The G-Braves, meanwhile, are 6-7 in their last 13 games and have not won two consecutive games since a three-game winning streak from June 3-6.
Pitching: Gwinnett pitchers struggled with their control during their series vs. the PawSox. Starters Foltynewicz (four), Martin (career-high-tying six) and White (five) issued a combined 15 walks and averaged nearly a walk per inning. The team gave Pawtucket 21 free passes, overall, for a 7.00 walks-per-9.0-innings rate. That series also marked the first time they had allowed five or more runs in at least three straight games since Charlotte did so against them in four straight contests from April 15-18. Overall, G-Braves’ pitchers have handed out the fifth-most walks of any team in the IL with 237. Indianapolis pitchers have walked 226 batters (ninth-most). The G-Braves do hold an advantage in team ERA with a 3.21 mark that is the fourth-lowest in the IL compared to the 3.42 combined ERA for Indians’ pitchers that ranks sixth in the league.
Despite losses in each of his last two starts, Banuelos still leads the league with a 2.29 ERA and leads the team with five victories. He also holds the third-best strikeouts-per-9.0-innings ratio at 8.02 and is fifth in opponents batting average at .224. Yet, he is the only G-Braves’ starting pitcher slated to pitch against Indianapolis who has not been in the Major Leagues with the Atlanta Braves this season. Marimon, Foltynewicz and Martin have combined for nine starts and 26 relief appearances for Atlanta this season. They’ve gone a combined 5-6 with a 5.60 ERA.
None of the four starts for Indianapolis have pitched in the big leagues this season, but Sampson ranks second in the league in strikeouts with 72, although he is also tied for the most wild pitches in the league with seven. The Indians bullpen has also been a large part of the team’s success. Right-handed closer Blake Wood, an Atlanta native and Georgia Tech alum, leads the IL with 18 saves in 20 opportunities, and righty A.J. Morris is second in the league with eight holds.
Hitting: This series also features a pair of teams who approach the game similarly on offense. The G-Braves and Indians both rank at the bottom of the IL for home runs but in the top three in stolen bases. Gwinnett has a league-low 19 home runs and the third-most stolen bases with 71. Indianapolis has the second-fewest homers with 29 but leads the league with 75 steals. The Indians also hold a slight advantage in team batting average with a .263 mark compared to Gwinnett’s .260 team average.
Individually, Indians’ second baseman Alen Hanson leads the league with eight triples and is the club’s most productive base stealer. He has a team-high 17 steals in 23 attempts. Infielder/outfielder Steve Lombardozzi has the 10th-highest batting average at .303 and the third-best strikeouts-per-plate-appearance rate at 12.16, which is one spot ahead of Gwinnett infielder/outfielder Jose Peraza’s 11.61 ratio.
Peraza is also tied for the league lead with nine sacrifice bunts and is batting .405 across is last nine games, going 15-for-37 with two triples, four RBIs and seven runs scored. He leads the team with five triples on the season and has raised his season average back to .300. The last time his average had been that high was May 29, a span of 18 games during which his average twice dipped below .280. Third baseman Adonis Garcia ranks eighth in the league with a .309 batting mark and set a career high with four RBIs on Saturday against Pawtucket. He leads the team in runs scored (33), RBIs (32) and total bases (95). In addition, he is currently on a 10-game hitting streak that dates back to June 11. He has batted .357 during the streak with five multi-hit games, a double, a triple, nine RBIs and four runs scored.
G-Bites: After the Gwinnett roster underwent 24 transactions from June 10-19, the same G-Braves players who were active for the start of the weekend series with Pawtucket are still active for the beginning of the set vs. Indianapolis…Since Young was optioned to June 11, he has hit .371 with a home run, two doubles, a triple, six RBIs, six runs scored and five stolen bases, which ranks second on the team among active players, although outfielder Eury Perez had a league-high 28 steals before he got recalled to Atlanta on June 18…Atlanta optioned first baseman/outfielder Joey Terdoslavich to Gwinnett on June 10, and he has drawn 10 walks in his first nine games to put him in a tie for fourth on the team among active players in that category, three behind leader Cedric Hunter, who also leads the team with 15 doubles…The G-Braves will make three stops on their road trip after the series vs. Indianapolis. They have three games scheduled against Pawtcuket from June 26-28, three vs. the Buffalo Bisons from June 29 – July 1 and two against Charlotte from July 2-3. They return home for a six-game homestand on July 4 that features three games against the Knights and the Norfolk Tides.
Fri: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 2.08 ERA) vs. LHP Brian Johnson (7-4, 2.51 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sat: TBA vs. LHP Henry Owens (2-5, 3.45 ERA), 7:05 p.m.
Sun: TBA vs. TBA, 2:05 p.m.
The Gwinnett Braves open their homestand with a three-game series against the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The G-Braves had an off day Thursday, which followed a 3-4 road trip that took them to Indianapolis and Louisville. The PawSox are on a four-game losing streak after a 15-5 road loss Thursday to the Charlotte Knights and have fallen 6.5 games behind the International League North Division-leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for third place. The G-Braves remain in fourth in the IL South and trail the first-place Durham Bulls by 5.5 games.
Pawtucket has gone 6-10 in June despite a league-leading 17 home runs. The PawSox have the second-lowest team batting average of any IL team in June at .239 and the second-highest team ERA at 4.56. Gwinnett has hit a league-low three home runs through its first 15 games in June, but the G-Braves are 8-7 with a team batting average of .263 (eighth in the IL) and 3.33 team ERA (sixth).
This is the first meeting between the clubs this season. The PawSox took five of eight games from Gwinnett in 2014, and the G-Braves have not won a season series over Pawtucket since 2009, their first season in Gwinnett. The teams split their eight contests in 2010 and 2011, respectively, but the PawSox have gone 17-7 against Gwinnett in the past three seasons. They will meet again at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket June 26-28 for their final meeting of the season.
Pitching: Foltynewicz will open the series for Gwinnett in his first start back with the G-Braves after the Atlanta Braves optioned him from their roster on Wednesday, June 17. The 6-3, 220-pound right-hander went 3-2 with a 5.19 ERA in nine starts for Atlanta after the Braves called him up on May 1. With the G-Braves, Foltynewicz was 0-3 with a 2.08 ERA that led the team at the time of his promotion. He will face the PawSox’ Johnson, who enters the start with a 2.51 ERA that is the fourth-lowest among qualifying starters in the league. His seven wins are tied for tops in the IL, his 1.06 WHIP ranks second, his opponent batting average of .211 is tied for third and his 66 strikeouts rank third. G-Braves’ left-handed starter Manny Banuelos leads the league among qualified pitchers with a 2.29 ERA.
As a team, the G-Braves have the third-lowest ERA in the league with a 3.11 mark, but they have allowed four or more runs in seven of their last nine games during which they posted a 4-5 record. They are also tied for the fewest wild pitches among IL teams with 21. Pawtucket hurlers have thrown 25 and have combined for a team ERA of 3.51 that ranks seventh in the league. Gwinnett is tied for the third-fewest home runs allowed with 26, while the PawSox are tied for fifth in that category with 33 given up.
Hitting: Gwinnett also holds an advantage on offense, statistically. The G-Braves have batted .260 as a team through their first 65 games, which places them in a four-way for the fifth-best in the league. Pawtucket has the second-lowest team batting average in the IL at .237. However, the Paw Sox are tied for the league lead in home runs with 53.the G-Braves have the fewest of any Triple-A team with 18, which is eight behind the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the second-fewest.
Four of the G-Braves’ last five wins have been by one-run, and they have scored more than four runs four times in their last 21 games dating back to a 4-1 win over Lehigh Valley on May 27 at Coolray Field, but they went 11-8 during that stretch. In that same span, the PawSox have eclipsed the four-run mark eight times but are 8-11. Individually, outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. ranks third in the IL among qualifying hitters with a .320 batting average, a .391 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage. Fellow outfielder Quentin Berry is third in the league in stolen bases with 21. Infielder Adonis Garcia continues to lead the Gwinnett offense with a .309 batting average that is good for ninth-highest among qualifying batters in the IL.
G-Bites: Shortstop Daniel Castro joined Atlanta for his Major League debut Wednesday and got a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning to drive in the go-ahead run in the Braves’ 5-2 win over the Red Sox…He returned to Gwinnett the following day, while outfielder Eury Perez got his first call-up with Atlanta. Perez batted .296 with a league-leading 28 stolen bases and a team-best 34 runs scored in 60 games to open the season with Gwinnett…The G-Braves also return home with four players who were with Atlanta during the last homestand from June 5-10. Outfielder Eric Young, Jr., catcher Christian Bethancourt, infielder Joey Terdoslavich and outfielder Todd Cunningham all joined the team during the road trip…Young hit his first G-Braves’ home run on Monday, June 15 at Louisville, and Bethancourt went 5-for-10 with an RBI in his first two games of the year with Gwinnett…The G-Braves will finish their homestand with four games against the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, from Monday, June 22 to Thursday, June 25.
Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Outfield Coordinator Bobby Mitchell Helps Jose Peraza Transition to Center Field
Atlanta Braves Minor League Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator Bobby Mitchell stopped by Coolray Field during the Gwinnett Braves’ most recent homestand to help the organization’s top prospect transition from the brown dirt of the infield to the vast stretches of green grass in center field.
Along with his regular duties at second base, the G-Braves have used Jose Peraza as an outfielder during the past two weeks to give him more chances at a promotion should Atlanta have a need in the outfield more than the infield, Mitchell said.
“We’re trying to get his offense into the big leagues, too,” Mitchell said. “We’ve done a lot of basic stuff with him because we’re just starting out, but he seems to be picking it up really well.”
Peraza reached Triple-A for the first time in his career to begin the 2015 season and batted .282 in his first 52 games. He spent his first 39 games with Gwinnett as a second baseman, although he had primarily played shortstop from the time Atlanta signed him as a non-drafted free agent in 2012 until he shifted to second base for a 2014 season he split between Advanced-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi.
G-Braves’ manager Brian Snitker inserted Peraza into the lineup as a center fielder for the first time May 27 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Coolray Field.
The Braves first had Peraza take some fly balls in the outfield during Spring Training but didn’t want put him in the outfield immediately when the season started because he is still not far removed from the switch from shortstop to second base, Mitchell said.
“We don’t want to take that away from him, either,” Mitchell said of Peraza’s spot on the infield, “But especially in the National League, if you can add versatility to your game then you’re a valuable player.”
Most of the work Mitchell said he did with Peraza focused on his footwork, how to take proper routes on plays and his throwing motion. Peraza uses a low arm slot to make his throws from second base, but he needs to throw more over the top in center field because that position requires much longer throws, Mitchell said.
While Mitchell said he understands it is a challenge for a player to move between the infield and outfield, he thinks Peraza’s speed could be a valuable asset in center because it would allow him to cover vast amounts of space and make plays others might not.
Also, Mitchell said he has been impressed by how well Peraza has taken instruction to learn yet another new position.
“He’s a smart kid and he works his butt off, so I think that’s a big plus for his development,” Mitchell said. “He seems to be able to apply what you teach him, and I think that is a huge part in moving forward.”