New to the Mix – Tyler Graham Staff Feature

This offseason, the G-Braves have brought in eight new staff members. To get fans more acclimated to the recently added staff, we will be having weekly staff features here on the blog. Let’s cut right to the chase and lead things off with the new Ticket Sales Manager, Tyler Grahamwho joined the team on October 18th.

How did you end up with the G-Braves and what previous sports experience, if any, got you to the position you currently hold?

I ended up in Gwinnett after spending the previous 5 seasons working for the Atlanta Braves. In addition to working in the big leagues, I interned for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. Working for such top-notch organizations has given me the experience I’ve needed to grow within this industry.

As a new member of the staff, what are you looking forward to most when it comes to working for a new team?

I’m looking forward to getting to know all of our season ticket holders and continue to make the Gwinnett Braves the premium experience in all of Minor League baseball.

What is your dream job in sports and how does it compare to what you wanted to be as a kid?

While I don’t have one job that I would categorize as a “dream job,” I can say that I always wanted to be involved in the business of sports in some capacity. I’ve been lucky enough to work with and learn from some great people and I look forward to continuing to pursue my goals with the Gwinnett Braves!

We asked each new staff member a number of “This or That” questions to find out some things you might not figure out by just looking at the online staff bios.

Tyler prefers N’Sync over the Backstreet Boys, Benny Rodriguez and The Sandlot over Charlie Conway and Mighty Ducks. He’ll take the pizza-loving Ninja Turtles over the Angel Grove saving Power Rangers as well. His favorite cartoon growing up? Doug. Whether or not he had a crush on Patty Mayonnaise is still a mystery to us all.

When asked who would play him in a movie and what genre his life story would be, Tyler went with Vince Vaughn as the actor to portray him in a comedy. If he were to be a member of a family in a TV Sitcom, it would be Marshall Eriksen in How I Met Your Mother.

Tyler likes the NFL (Chicago Bears) over College Football, Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s over Zaxby’s and Burger King. Mexican is above Italian in his book as well. Also, if he needed someone to save him, his choice was Batman over the Man of Steel.

Last but not least, his walk out song…Hells Bells by AC/DC…feel free to take a listen below.

If you want information on tickets, feel free to give Tyler and his ticket department a call at 678-277-0340. Only 116 days until Opening Day here at Coolray!

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New on the 40: Ryan Buchter

Yesterday, I delved a bit into the background of right-hander Wirfin Obispo, the hard-throwing Gwinnett Braves closer who was just added to the Atlanta Braves’ 40-man roster last Friday.  Today, it’s time to do the same for the other newest 40-man addition, left-hander Ryan Buchter.

The 26-year-old Buchter emerged as a bullpen force for the G-Braves last season, compiling a 4-0 record and a 2.76 ERA in 51 relief appearances.  In addition to converting all five of his save chances, the southpaw also ranked among International League relief leaders in strikeouts per 9.0 IP ratio (1st, 14.95) and lowest opponent batting average (3rd, .168).  Buchter’s most impressive work came down the stretch as he posted a 0.00 ERA over his final 14 appearances in August and September.

Much like Obispo, Buchter’s “breakout” season in 2013 came after a well-traveled start to his career.  Originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 33rd round of the 2005 draft, the New Jersey native has already been traded twice.  The Nationals dealt him to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for right-hander Matt Avery in 2008, and the Cubs moved him to Atlanta in a deal for right-hander Rodrigo Lopez in 2011.  Amid the ever-changing scenery, including stops in eight different leagues, Buchter put together All-Star seasons in the Class-A Midwest League in 2009 and the Double-A Southern League in 2010.

Buchter’s travels and subsequent learning experiences were featured in a story I wrote for the final regular-season issue of Tomahawk Talk last year.  In it, he reflected on his unlikely discovery by the Nationals, the benefits of being traded, his confidence gained from the 2012 Arizona Fall League, his “rollercoaster” 2013 season in Gwinnett and more.

Ryan Buchter, photo by Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves.

Ryan Buchter, photo by Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves.

Buchter Breaks Out

Left-hander Ryan Buchter has emerged as a go-to arm out of the Gwinnett Braves bullpen in 2013

by Dave Lezotte (published in Tomahawk Talk, August 26, 2013)

He may not qualify as the biggest prospect arm on the Gwinnett Braves’ roster, but what left-hander Ryan Buchter has been able to do in his first full Triple-A season is nothing short of impressive.  The New Jersey native has held International League hitters to a .178 batting average, striking out 83 over 51 innings in 42 outings this year.

Buchter’s professional career, including stops with the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs organizations, has always been a bit under-the-radar.  Even his signing by Washington came about almost on accident.

“It was a mistake,” said Buchter about his discovery by the Nationals.  “I ended up pitching against somebody who was being scouted already.  I kind of outpitched him, and it all started from there.”

The pitcher being scouted by both the Nationals and the Cubs was Winslow Township High School right-hander Chris Rollins.  The Nationals passed on Rollins in the 2005 First Year Player Draft, but took Buchter in the 33rd round out of Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, NJ.

A draft-and-follow selection, Buchter attended Gloucester County Community College in nearby Sewell, NJ before starting his professional career in 2006 at age 19.  His first two seasons as a Nationals’ farmhand were anything but successful.  In his first year in the Gulf Coast League, he went 1-1 with a 7.24 ERA in 11 games, one start.  The next year, he went 1-2 with a 6.82 ERA at Short-A Vermont.  He finally showed some promise in 2008, going 4-2 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 games between the GCL and Class-A Hagerstown, but was traded away after the season.

The Nationals dealt Buchter to the Cubs in exchange for right-hander Matt Avery on November 3, 2008.  The change of scenery proved to be a turning point in his career.

“Getting traded kind of jump-started me,” said Buchter about the move to the Cubs.  “It made me take a different path in my career.  I started to work a little harder that off-season and it started to show right away.  From there, I kept building and building.  I attribute (my success) to being traded and not wanting to let the new team down.”

With his career refreshed in a new organization, Buchter put together two award-winning seasons in the Cubs’ system.  In 2009, he made his first professional All-Star Game, going 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA and five saves in 38 games for the Peoria Chiefs of the Class-A Midwest League.  A year later, he was an All-Star again in the Double-A Southern League, going 7-2 with a 4.65 ERA in 47 games for the Tennessee Smokies.  His third campaign as a Cub began with mixed results as he split time between Tennessee and Advanced-A Daytona, but another shakeup was imminent.

On May 26, 2011, Buchter was traded for the second time.  The Cubs sent him to Atlanta in exchange for 35-year-old right-hander Rodrigo Lopez.

“I was just sent down to High-A to iron out some kinks,” reflected Buchter on the time of the trade.  “I started throwing well in Daytona with the intention of (moving back up) to Double-A or Triple-A.  When I got traded, (Daytona manager Buddy Bailey) pulled me aside and said ‘I have good news and bad news for you.  The good news is, you’ve been traded.  The bad news is, you’re going back to High-A.’  That was a difficult thing to handle.”

Buchter started his Atlanta Braves’ career with Advanced-A Lynchburg, going 2-5 with a 3.59 ERA and a career-high 15 savs in 2011.  In 2012, he moved on to Double-A Mississippi, returning to the Southern League for the first time since pitching with Tennessee.  Facing familiar competition, he boasted a 3-1 record, 1.31 ERA and four saves in 35 relief outings for the M-Braves.

“I just went out and did what I knew I could do,” said Buchter about his success.  “Just give me an opportunity and I’ll pitch and throw well, especially late in the game.  I embraced the role I was being used in, seventh, eighth, sometimes ninth (inning) and it worked out.”

His stint with Mississippi worked out for a late-season promotion to Gwinnett for his Triple-A debut.  Buchter went 0-2 with a 10.12 ERA in nine outings for the G-Braves, indicating that he still needed some refinement.  A trip to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League and an extended look in Braves’ Major League camp during the spring helped him regain confidence.

“It helped me iron out some bad habits that I created when I came up here (to Gwinnett),” said Buchter about his fall and spring assignments.  “It made me realize that I can get anybody out.  I can get the prospects out; I can get the big league guys out.  Once you realize that, I don’t want to say the game becomes easier, but you start to have a little more faith in yourself.”

Buchter began his 2013 season on Gwinnett’s Opening Day roster and was nearly unhittable early, postin a 1.00 ERA in nine April outings.  He came back down to earth in the summer months, going 0-0 with a 4.58 ERA in 28 games from May through July, but found his best stuff in August.  Through his first seven games, he went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and one save.

“It’s been a pretty fun rollercoaster,” said Buchter about 2013.  “With pitching, it’s easy to be a perfectionist and want to go out and pick yourself apart for giving up a walk or giving up a hit.  Sometimes the hardest thing is to realize that if you throw up a zero (no runs), it’s actually a good inning no matter what else happens.”

He’s had plenty of those good innings lately for Gwinnett, most of them in pivotal spots.  With the departure of closer Cory Rasmus to the Los Angeles Angels in a July trade, Buchter has been given more opportunities to pitch with late leads and in save situations.  Pitching in tight ballgames is something he relishes.

“The game’s a little more fun when you’re out there and you’re up by one, down by one and you know your team needs you to throw up a zero,” said Buchter.  “It’s something that I’ve learned to embrace and I look forward to a one-run game.  I get a little antsy in the bullpen hoping they’ll call down and say my name, that way I get a chance to come in.”

Buchter has climbed to the top of the league in relief strikeouts thanks to a fastball that sits in the mid-90′s and a willingness to challenge hitters with it.  For the left-hander, getting ahead in the count quickly is the key to his prolific strikeout numbers.

“If I get ahead, a lot of times my success rate is a lot higher than a lot of guys,” said Buchter.  “Get strike one, and then I try to pitch to one side of the plate for righties and lefties.  If I get two strikes on a guy, then I’ll try to put him away.  It’s a very simple game plan.  A lot of fastballs; then I’ll mix the cutter in and then try to put them away with the breaking ball.”

Buchter’s professional career started with an unlikely discovery, progressed with three different organizations and has resulted in a 2013 season that has him closer than ever to the Major Leagues.  While he waits for a shot at Atlanta’s bullpen, he remains optimistic and focused.

“Obviously, you’re waiting for your turn, and for a lot of bullpen guys, it’s luck,” said Buchter.  “It’s luck and what the team has planned for you.  They may have a plan for you, they might not, but you’ve got to continue to stay focused on the task at hand down here (in Gwinnett).  It’s good to just keep your mind on things down here and do your job every day.  If you don’t do your job here, they’re not going to be looking for you anyway.”

The Atlanta Braves will certainly be giving Buchter a long look when Spring Training starts up in February.  For the first time in his career, he has the stability that comes from being on a Major League 40-man roster.

-DL

New on the 40: Wirfin Obispo

Late last Friday, the Atlanta Braves announced the addition of two 2013 Gwinnett Braves to their 40-man roster.  Left-hander Ryan Buchter and right-hander Wirfin Obispo, the back-end of the G-Braves’ bullpen for the bulk of the season, have both been added to Atlanta’s 40-man for the first time in their careers.

Today, the focus is on Obispo, the hard-throwing Dominican Republic native who first turned heads during Spring Training.  An impressive Cactus League run — 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA and eight strikeouts over six outings — earned him serious consideration for a bullpen spot in Atlanta, but Obispo wound up spending all of 2013 in Triple-A.  After a slow start, some minor adjustments on the mound brought him back strong, and he went 2-4 with a 3.53 ERA over an International League-leading 54 appearances.  The July trade of right-hander Cory Rasmus to the Los Angeles Angels thrust Obispo into the Gwinnett closer’s role, and it is there that he truly shined.  He converted nine of 11 save chances from mid June through September, posting a second-half ERA of 2.55.

While the Braves wait to see if Obispo will be next season’s version of David Carpenter, we look back on what has already been an interesting, challenging career for the former shortstop prospect.  Below is a feature story on Obispo written by Juan Dorado for the eighth issue of Tomahawk Talk last season.

Wirfin Obispo, picture by Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves

Wirfin Obispo, picture by Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves

The Journeys of Obispo

From the Dominican Summer League to the Japanese League and now finally in the U.S., right-hander Wirfin Obispo has been on an amazing journey

by Juan Dorado (published in Tomahawk Talk, July 18, 2013)

On the first week of July each year, the International signing period begins.  Major League teams scatter around the Caribbean Islands in search of the next great Latin-born player.  In 2002, a young shortstop from the Dominican Republic by the name of Wirfin Obispo was signed by the Boston Red Sox organization, and so began his well-traveled baseball career.

Nineteen years old at the time, Obispo was assigned to the Dominican Summer League Red Sox.  In 37 games, he hit .211 (24-for-114) with four doubles, one triple and five RBIs.  Despite being two-to-three years older than most players on his team and yet struggling at the plate, Boston decided to bring the right-handed hitting infielder back in 2003.  During the spring, however, he suffered a setback and went through his first real injury as a ballplayer.

“After I came back for my second season, I suffered a leg injury,” recalls Obispo.  “The Boston Red Sox organization didn’t think I could really play after that, so they decided to let me go.  Honestly, I don’t think it could have worked out any better.”

Obispo was unemployed, but not discouraged.  He spent the off-season rehabbing and getting back into shape for a winter workout with the Cincinnati Reds and International Scouting Director Johnny Almaraz.  While working out in front of Almaraz, the fleet-footed, strong-armed, 160-pound shortstop was asked if he had ever thought about pitching.  Even though he had spent his whole childhood and professional career as a shortstop, Obispo was open to the idea.

“In 2004, when I was working out for Cincinnati and Johnny Almaraz, he told me that he wanted to see me as a pitcher,” said Obispo.  “He looked at me as a shortstop (prospect) but then he asked if I would like to pitch.  I was glad to go out and pitch for him, so I went on the mound and he saw that I had a good fastball.  After that, he signed me, but this time as a pitcher.”

On January 23, 2004, with the support of Almaraz and the Cincinnati Reds organization, the right-hander signed as a minor league free agent.  Obispo spent the next three seasons as a pitcher for the Dominican Summer League Reds.  He excelled in the role, appearing in 47 games, 26 starts, and posting an 8-11 record with a 2.38 ERA.  The fireballer struck out 204 batters while walking only 58 during his rookie ball career.

Obispo was great in his first two stints in the DSL, but it would take until 2006 for the Reds to really take notice.  Now primarily a starter, he went 4-5 with a 2.08 ERA in 14 starts in the DSL, limiting hitters to a .168 batting average and striking out 93 in 79.1 innings.

The Reds decided that Obispo was ready to begin a professional career in the United States and invited him to minor league Spring Training in 2007.  Unfortunately, problems off the field prevented the emerging hurler from pitching in the U.S. for the first time.

Instead, Obispo found himself in another unfamiliar place, and 8,623 miles from his home in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.  With the help of Junior Noboa and Melvin Soto, professional scouts and assistants of the Reds organization, he was shipped off to Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants.

“It was an incredible experience, one learns a lot over there,” said Obispo.  “It was a little uncomfortable at times.  Technology was fast moving and highly advanced, so it took a while to get acclimated with the environment, but once you get accustomed to it, it becomes like any other place.”

Obispo spent five seasons overseas, accumulating an 8-4 mark with a 4.13 ERA in 30 games between the Yomiuri Giants and the Nippon Ham Fighters.  He battled injuries along the way, including a left hand injury suffered on a line-drive come-backer that severely limited his production in 2008.

When he returned to health in 2009, Obispo went 6-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 14 games, seven starts for the Giants.  During the Japanese League postseason, he won decisive games in both the Nippon Professional Baseball Climax Series and Japanese Championship Series, eventually defeating the Yu Darvish-led Nippon Ham Fighters in six games to claim the 2009 JL crown.

After his Japanese contract expired in 2011, Obispo’s desire to pitch in the United States earned him another try with the Reds organization.  Cincinnati signed him to a minor league contract on February 2, 2012.  He spent the season between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville, hurling a combined 96.0 innings and posting a 5-3 record with a 3.00 ERA in 35 games.

Despite his familiarity with the Reds, Obispo opted to try his hand at free agency in the off-season and signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves.  An exclusive clause guaranteeing him an opportunity to pitch in Major League Spring Training was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“I’m still very inexperienced playing baseball in the United states.  Including this season, I have only played two years stateside, so I was excited to participate in Spring Training with the Braves,” said Obispo.

Considered a long shot to make the Major League roster, Obispo still raised some eyebrows with a high-90′s fastball and a sharp breaking slider.  He dominated the Grapefruit League in his six appearances, tossing 5.0 shutout innings while giving up two hits and striking out eight.  In the end, his lack of experience prevented him from earning a spot in a deep Atlanta bullpen, and Obispo was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Pitching for the G-Braves, Obispo was greeted rudely by International League opponents.  He went 0-1 with a 5.82 ERA in his first 18 games, a slide that was particularly aggravating given his successful spring.

“I wasn’t doing anything different from Spring Training, but it was like my head was getting in the way,” admitted Obispo.  “I was over-thinking everything, I was doing everything I did before but I was running into bad luck and letting it affect my head.”

Obispo didn’t let his early struggles keep him from improving, and with continuous hard work with pitching coach Marty Reed, he found an underlying problem with his preparation and delivery.”

“Coach Reed helped me out a lot.  He saw that I used to get loose and warm up from the side, but when I pitched in games I was upright, standing straight towards the plate.  He didn’t really force me to pitch from the side, but asked if I was more comfortable from there, so I made the adjustment and began pitching slightly turned.”

The quarter-turn has paid off.  From May 20 through June 27, Obispo went 14 outings, 17.2 innings without allowing a run.  He yielded just four hits and four walks while striking out 18 during that amazing span.  As of July 8, Obispo was 1-1 with a 2.01 ERA and three saves in his last 18 outings, including 22 strikeouts in 22.1 innings.  He posted a 0.81 WHIP and limited hitters to a .133 batting average in that time frame.

With two years under his belt and confidence steadily building on the mound, Obispo is certainly knocking on the Major League door, but he’s not worried about the logistics of finding his way to Atlanta.  Instead, he is concerned with doing his job on a nightly basis.

“I think I would be silly to say I didn’t want to get to the Majors soon, but I would like to finish the season healthy and pitch well wherever I am, that’s the main thing,” said Obispo.  “Like a teammate always told me, ‘I’m just an employee working hard until I get a promotion.’”

Later this week, we’ll focus on the other Braves’ 40-man addition, the left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter.

-DL

2013 Final Report Now Available

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In the month since the end of the Gwinnett Braves’ 2013 season, have you been starving for Game Note-style information?  Do you have a hunger to read about all the noteworthy achievements for each of the 57 players to don the G-Braves uniform last year?

If you answered “yes” to both questions, you’re in luck.  The 2013 Final Report is now complete.

Should 20 pages of charts and bullet points not quench your baseball thirst, keep in mind that there’s only 174 days and two hours until the start of the 2014 season.

-DL

Nineteen Former G-Braves on Atlanta’s NLDS Roster

The second season officially begins tonight for the Atlanta Braves, who open the best-of-five National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field.  It’s no secret that the success of the Braves at the Major League level goes hand-in-hand with the preparation and rehabilitation that occurs here in Triple-A, a connection that became even more evident with the release of Atlanta’s 25-man NLDS roster yesterday.  A total of 19 players have connections to the Gwinnett Braves, including 15 that suited up for the G-Braves in 2013.

Pitchers:

David Hale (credit Chris Roughgarden / Gwinnett Braves)

David Hale (credit Chris Roughgarden / Gwinnett Braves)

Luis Ayala, David Carpenter, Freddy Garcia, Jordan Walden and Alex Wood all made brief appearances in Gwinnett this season, and all will be participating in the Playoffs as Braves for the first time.  Veterans Ayala (8 games, 0-1, 6.48 ERA) and Walden (1 game, 0-0, 0.00 ERA) appeared for the G-Braves on injury rehab assignments, while Garcia (0-1, 19.64 ERA) and Wood (1-0, 1.80 ERA) each made just one start for Gwinnett.  Before turning into a prime set-up man for Craig Kimbrel, the right-handed Carpenter was on Gwinnett’s Opening Day roster, going 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA in six relief appearances.  The most interesting inclusion on the pitching staff, however, is right-hander David Hale.  Atlanta’s third-round selection out of Princeton University in 2009, Hale worked past a right shoulder strain to go 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 games, 20 starts in his Triple-A debut.  A September call-up for the first time in his career, Hale was brilliant in two spot starts for Atlanta down the stretch, going 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 14 strikeouts and just one walk in 11.0 innings.  The Marietta, GA native won’t see a playoff start, but should be an asset in long relief.

The playoff success of the Braves will depend largely on pitching, and the four biggest names on the staff all have ties to Gwinnett.  Kris Medlen (2009, 2012), Mike Minor (2010-11) and Julio Teheran (2011-12) are the announced starters for the first three games of the NLDS.  Medlen has just one playoff start under his belt (the infamous 2012 NL Wild Card Game), while Minor and Teheran will experience postseason starts for the first time.   Kimbrel (2010), widely regarded as the best closer in baseball, will look to extend his dominance into October.

Catchers:

All three Braves’ catchers — Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird and Brian McCann — spent time on the Gwinnett roster in 2013.  McCann made a brief stop at Coolray Field on his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, while Gattis (strained right oblique) and Laird (kidney stone procedure) were also with the club on rehab assignments.  Gattis also returned to Gwinnett for the final three road games of the season, hitting .461 with three doubles, a home run and one RBI in a tune-up for the stretch drive.

McCann is a career .300 hitter with three homers and eight RBIs in seven NLDS games, all with Atlanta.  Laird has limited action in all three playoff rounds, winning the World Series as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 and returning to the World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 2012.

Infielders:

Freddie Freeman (credit Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves)

Freddie Freeman (credit Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves)

Of Atlanta’s five infielders, two played for Gwinnett in 2013.  First baseman Freddie Freeman, the International League Rookie of the Year with the G-Braves in 2010, hit .500 with two doubles, three runs scored and two RBIs in three games as he recovered from an oblique injury.  That span included the only five-hit game by a G-Brave this season, Freeman’s 5-for-5 performance on April 20 at Charlotte.  Infielder Paul Janish started his season on a rehab assignment as he returned from right shoulder surgery, but was later optioned to the Gwinnett roster.  In 41 total games, the defensive specialist hit .207 with five doubles and 12 RBIs.

The Braves (and the Dodgers, for that matter) know what to expect from Freeman, who is coming off a career year in which he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs.  Janish won’t see the starting lineup ahead of Elliot Johnson and Andrelton Simmons, but will be used to spell Chris Johnson at third base in the late innings.

Outfielders:

This six-man group (not including Gattis) includes four players who played in Gwinnett in 2013, including three on rehab assignments.  Jason Heyward (appendectomy), Jordan Schafer (right ankle contusion) and B.J. Upton (right thigh strain) all used stints in Triple-A to return from injury.  Heyward (.300, double, 6 RBIs) and Upton (.333, 3 doubles, 2 RBIs) were both productive offensively, while Schafer (.063, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs) struggled.

Jose Constanza (credit Chris Roughgarden / Gwinnett Braves)

Jose Constanza (credit Chris Roughgarden / Gwinnett Braves)

Jose Constanza edged out fellow former G-Brave Joey Terdoslavich for the final bench spot given his knack for getting on base and stealing bags.  Gwinnett’s “Fan Favorite Player” in 2013, Constanza hit .276 with 17 RBIs and a team-high 21 stolen bases.  He strung together an 18-game hitting streak and a 25-game on-base streak this season.  He won’t start and isn’t the first option as a pinch hitter off the bench, but expect to see Constanza utilize his speed as a pinch runner.

All 19 former G-Braves and the rest of the Atlanta Braves begin their quest for a World Series title tonight with Game 1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Check back at the G-Blog for further updates on Gwinnett players in the 2013 MLB Playoffs.

-DL

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (57-81) vs. Durham Bulls (84-53)

Leonard (Moore)

Leonard (Moore)

Wed: RHP David Hale (6-7, 2.87) vs. RHP J.D. Martin (15-4, 2.84)

Thu: RHP Omar Poveda (6-7, 3.53) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.33)

Fri: RHP Kameron Loe (4-4, 3.28) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (7-7, 4.60)

The Gwinnett Braves wrap up their final series of the 2013 season with the Durham Bulls. Durham rolls into Coolray Field with the best record in the International League, while the Braves hold the worst mark in the IL. Durham holds the season series 12 games to 5.

Batters: Last night, Dan Uggla broke a 17-game homerless drought for the G-Braves with a fifth inning homer, but the Braves still dropped their fourth straight contest. The Braves bats have been swinging it well, collecting 26 hits in the two games series, but they have failed to drive runners in. During the Norfolk series, the G-Braves went 7-for-25 with runners in scoring position, while leaving 25 runners on base…  Joe Leonard is looking to finish the season strong. In his last 10 games, the third baseman is hitting .316 (12-for-38) with one run and five RBI.

Pitchers: The Braves will send a trio of right-handers for their final 2013 home series. Hale has been the most impressive. In his last 10 starts, the right-hander is 4-4 with a 1.88 ERA. He has struck out 36 batters in 62.1 innings… Kameron Loe is the only hurler that has made it to the Major Leagues this season. He has made three different stints at the MLB level (Cubs, Mariners and Braves). He has excelled as a starter for the G-Braves. In nine starts, he is 2-3 with a 2.76 ERA…

Durham Bulls

With six games left in the IL regular season, the Bulls have clinched the South Division title and will have home field advantage throughout the 2013 postseason.

Batters: Postseason All-Star Vince Belnome leads the No.1 offense in the International League. Belnome is hitting .297 (127-for-427) with 33 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 66 RBIs. While, Belnome has been with the club all season, Brandon Guyer has been the most explosive player on the roster. The fleet-footed outfielder is having a banner season for the Bulls. In 92 games, he is batting .301 (101-for-335) with 20 doubles, five triples, seven homers, 40 RBIs and a team-leading 22 stolen bases.

Pitchers: The offense hasn’t had to do much, as the Bulls pitching staff carries the best ERA in the league. The 2013 IL Pitcher of the Year, J. D. Martin leads the way. The righty leads the league in wins (15) and is fourth in ERA (2.84) and innings pitched (152.0). He is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA (0R/ 13IP) in two starts against the G-Braves… Former Kansas City Royals’ farmhands Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery will finish off the series against the G-Braves. Odorizzi holds the best batting average against (.225) in the league, while posting 1.72 ERA in his three starts against the G-Braves… Montgomery hasn’t fared well against the G-Braves in 2013, he is 2-2 with a 4.87 ERA. He is the lone Bull to have more than one loss against the G-Braves.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (57-79) vs. Norfolk Tides (71-64)

Constanza (Roughgarden)

Constanza (Roughgarden)

Mon: RHP Freddie Garcia (8-3, 2.84) vs. LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (4-6, 4.52)

Tue: LHP Sean Gilmartin (2-8, 5.63) vs. RHP Steve Johnson (1-3, 4.58)

With the G-Braves officially eliminated from playoff contention and Norfolk half a game behind the Wild Card leading Rochester Red Wings (72-64), Gwinnett will look to play spoiler in their final series with the Tides.

Batters: Gwinnett Braves are coming off a 3-5 road trip were they were held to four or less runs on seven of the eight contests… Jose Constanza rolls into the series having reached base on 23 consecutive games. The left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .267 (85-for-318) with six doubles, three triples, 15 RBIs and 20 stolen bases… Newly acquired Tyler Greene is off to a good start for the G-Braves. In seven games, he is hitting .300 (6-for-20) with two doubles, and one RBI. On the season, in a combined 63 games with Charlotte and Gwinnett, the utility player is hitting .246 (56-for-228) with 12 doubles, two homers, three triples, 28 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.

Pitchers: Last week, Freddie Garcia was playing for the Norfolk Tides, on Monday night he will face his old squad as a member of the G-Braves. The right-hander is having a great season. In 13 starts, he is 8-3 with a 2.84 ERA.  He has fanned 61 batters in 82.1 innings for the Tides…On the other hand, left-hander Sean Gilmartin is having a rough year. He is 3-8 with a 5.83 ERA in 15 starts for the G-Braves, while missing over two months with shoulder tendinitis. The southpaw will try and ride the ship in his second to last start of the 2013 season.

Norfolk enters the series in the middle of Wild Card race. The Tides owned the Wild Card lead most of the season, but were surpassed by the Red Wings. However, with a five game losing streak by Rochester, Norfolk is back in it and half a game out of first place.

Batters: Henry Urretia will look to push the Tides over the hump. The left-handed batter is hitting .354 (29-for-118) with five doubles, one triple, one homer and seven RBIs in 21 games for the Tides. He has owned the G-Braves, hitting .364 (12-for-33) with two doubles, one triple and five RBIs… Slick-fielding Yamaico Navarro is having a great season at the dish. In 99 games, he is batting .275 (98-for-356) with 20 doubles, one triple, nine round trippers and 45 RBIs.

Pitchers: Tsuyoshi Wada will take the ball for the Tides in game one. The southpaw is 4-6 on the season, but has picked up one of those victories against the G-Braves. On 8/6, he went five innings of scoreless baseball, while scattering four hits and striking out seven for his fourth victory of the season… Steve Johnson will pitch in game two. The right-hander is making his seventh start (ninth appearance) of the season. He has faced the G-Braves once, tossing three innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball. Johnson has struggled as a starter, going 1-3 with a 5.52 ERA (18ER/29.1IP), while posting a 0.00 ERA in six innings of scoreless relief.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (52-72) vs. Durham Bulls (70-54)

Tue: RHP Kameron Loe (4-3, 3.21) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (8-5, 3.88)

Wed: LHP Yohan Flande (7-7, 4.46) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (7-5, 4.24)

Thu: RHP Cody Martin (2-4, 3.97) vs.RHP Merrill Kelly (6-3, 3.45)

Fri: RHP David Hale (6-7, 2.99) vs. RHP Matt Buschmann (6-1, 2.95)

The Gwinnett Braves avoided a sweep of Monday afternoon, winning the finale against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs 3-1. The G-Braves are 4-6 in their last 10 games and are 3-11 against the Durham Bulls this season.

Batters: Phil Gosselin has carried the G-Braves offense, connecting in six straight games. In his last ten games, he is hitting .344 (11-for-32) with two runs scored. On the season, he is batting .279 (43-for-154) with two doubles, one triple, two homers and 11 RBI. Since returning from Atlanta, Jose Constanza has been solid bat at the top of the order. In three games, he is hitting .308 (4-for-13) with one run scored and one RBI.

Pitchers: Yohan Flande has been the best G-Braves arm of late. In his last two outings, he is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA. He has struck out 13 and walked one in that span. He has fared well against Durham, as he was won two of the three games against the Bulls. In five games (two starts), Flande is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA against Durham. He will get the ball in game two. Game four starter, David Hale, has matched Flande’s success lately. In his last two starts, he is 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA. Hale has been solid against Durham , tossing 12.1 innings, scattering 11 hits and allowing three runs (two earned, but has dropped both contests against the Bulls.

Durham Bulls

Batters: Leslie Anderson comes into town swinging a hot bat. In his last five games, he is hitting .357 (5-for-14) with two runs scored, one homer and five RBI. He lead the team with a .316 (118-for-373) batting average, 14 homers and 69 RBI. He has feasted against the G-Braves staff, hitting .333 (12-for-36) with three homers and nine RBI. Cole Figueroa enters the series, hitting .392 (20-for-51) with three doubles, one triple, one homer and nine RBI against G-Braves in 2013. He holds the best BA against the Braves.

Pitchers:  Right-hander Merrill Kelly is 3-1 with a 1.44 ERA in four starts against the Braves. In 25 innings against the G-Braves, he has allowed 18 hits and eight walks, while striking out 20. Matt Buschmann will take the ball in the finale. He is 6-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 14 games (13 starts). In his lone start against the Braves, he is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA (7 IP/ 1 ER).

Bull-Headed: The International League leader in wins, J.D. Martin will not pitch in the series, as he pitched on Sunday night. He is 14-4 with a 2.77 ERA and is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA against the G-Braves in 2013.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (51-69) vs. Lehigh Valley IronPigs (60-60)

Mejia (Cooper)

Mejia (Cooper)

Fri: LHP Yohan Flande (7-6, 4.42) vs. RHP David Buchanan (1-0, 2.57)

Sat: RHP Cody Martin (2-3, 2.96) vs. LHP Greg Smith (6-2, 2.50)

Sun: RHP David Hale (6-6, 2.99) vs. LHP Adam Morgan (1-5, 4.05)

Mon: RHP Omar Poveda (5-7, 3.42) vs. LHP Tom Cochran (3-6, 5.70)

The Gwinnett Braves enter the series coming off back-to-back one-run victories over the Norfolk Tides, while Lehigh Valley has dropped two straight games. The IronPigs have slipped to fourth place in the North Division and sit two games out of the Wild Card lead.

Batters: The G-Braves offense has been held to four runs or less in their last eight games. They have found a way to win three of those games, but runs are at a premium for the Braves… Ernesto Mejia will try to carry the offense. In his last contest, he hit a game-winning home run against the Norfolk Tides. On the season, he has belted 28 dingers, while hitting .243 (95-for-391) with a league-leading 77 RBI. Stefan Gartrell has carried a hot bat the last five days. In four games, he is hitting .417 (5-for-12) with a solo homer.  

Pitchers: In the last six games, the pitching staff has allowed 12 runs (11 earned), while logging 47 innings on the mound. They have posted a 2.11 ERA in that span, allowing 32 hits, 13 walks and striking out 41… Yohan Flande has led the way, winning three straight contests and being named IL Pitcher of the Week last week. In his last three starts, he has gone 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA (3ER/23IP), while fanning 15 and issuing one walk. He will try to improve to improve on his 7-6 mark, as he takes the ball in game one.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Batters: The IronPigs lineup features multiple table-setters and one big bopper in Cody Oberdeck. The first baseman leads the team in homers (19), runs (51) , RBI (58) and possesses a .265 (99-for-373) batting average…. Cesar Hernandez is one of the table-setters at the top of the lineup. The No. 15 prospect in the Phillies organization according to Baseball America is having a stellar campaign with the IronPigs. In 87 games, he is hitting .310 (104-for-335) with 11 doubles, eight triples, two homers and 31 RBI.

Pitchers: The pride of Georgia State University, David Buchanan, will take the ball in game one of the series. The right-hander made his Triple-A on 8/4, tossing seven innings, scattering six hits, allowing two runs and striking out four en route to his first career Triple-A victory. The Atlanta, GA native will have a large crowd in attendance, as he pitches in his home state for the first time in his career since being drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 First Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Brundy’s Back: Dave Brundage returns to Coolray Field for the first time since taking the managerial job with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He was the first manager in G-Braves history.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (47-63) vs. Charlotte Knights (50-60)

Mejia (Moore)

Mejia (Moore)

Wed: RHP Cody Martin (2-2, 3.26) vs. TBA

Thu: RHP David Hale (5-5, 2.86) vs. RHP Zach Stewart (5-11, 4.78)

Fri: RHP Omar Poveda (5-6, 3.36) vs. LHP Charlie Leesman (2-1, 3.70)

The Gwinnett Braves and Charlotte Knights split a four game series at Knights Stadium this past weekend. The Braves took game one and the finale, while Charlotte took the two middle contests.

Batters: Injuries at the Major League level have hurt the G-Braves, as their Opening Day outfield is in Atlanta… Tyler Pastornicky is leading the way. In the last ten G-Braves games, the right-handed hitting infielder is batting .318 (7-for-22) with five runs scored and two RBI. Since returning to Gwinnett, he has hit safely in five of seven games. In 12 games against the Knights, Pastornicky is hitting .341 (15-for-44) with four doubles, one homer and five RBI… Stefan Gartrell has posted nice numbers against his former club. In five games, he is batting .316 (6-for-19) with one double and two RBI. On the season, he is hitting .273 (42-for-152) with six doubles and six homers. He is second on the team in homers behind Ernesto Mejia (27)…

Pitchers: The pitching staff has also had some movement, as Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy have moved up, while Cory Rasmus was traded to the Los Angeles Anaheim Angels on Monday afternoon. Cody Martin, David Hale and Omar Poveda will have to anchor the staff with the departures of those three. Hale has been the best of the three lately, picking up wins in his last two starts. The right-hander went seven innings, scattering six hits and allowing one run at Charlotte on Friday night.

G-Bites: B.J. Upton is scheduled to begin his rehab with the Gwinnett Braves on Wednesday night. He will leadoff and play center field.

Charlotte Knights

Batters: Charlotte has had a rough time against the G-Braves, posting a .250 (133-for-531) batting average, while striking out 138 times… Steve Tolleson leads the team in hitting, batting .295 (86-for-292) with 21 doubles, six homers and 44 RBI. However, the infielder has struggled against the G-Braves, posting a .260 (13-for-50) batting average… Mike McDade has fared well against the Braves. In five games, he is 6-for-20 with two walks. On the season, he is hitting .256 (85-for-332) with eight homers and 43 RBI.

Pitchers: Charlie Leesman suffered a huge setback last season, tearing his ACL in an International League playoff game; however, he has come back strong in 2013. In 11 starts for the Knights, he is 2-1 with 3.70 ERA. He has struck out 58 in 65.2 innings, while walking 29 batters. Last season he was 12-10 with a 2.45 ERA… Jake Petricka has been nails out the pen. In seven appearances, the right-hander is 2-0 with 1.46 ERA. He converted his lone save opportunity on 7/20, hurling 1.2 innings of relief against Norfolk.

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