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.


2013 Final Report Now Available


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (45-61) vs. Charlotte Knights (48-58)

Hale (Makensie Cooper)

Hale (Makensie Cooper)

Fri, July 26: RHP David Hale (4-5, 3.03) vs. RHP Zach Stewart (5-10, 4.91)
Sat, July 27: RHP Omar Poveda (5-6, 3.30) vs. LHP Charlie Leesman (2-1, 3.62)
Sun, July 28: RHP Joe Bisenius (3-3, 5.83) vs. TBA
Mon, July 29: TBA vs. RHP Jason Berken (8-9, 3.85)

Gwinnett dropped their last two at Durham, losing the road-home series three games to one. Charlotte is on a roll of late, winning their last three games and taking sole possession of third place in the South Division.

Batters: Since rejoining the G-Braves, Tyler Pastornicky has hit in four straight games. In his last four games, he is hitting .462 (6-for-13) with one run scored and two RBI. On the season, he is batting .317 (78-for-246) with 13 doubles, two triples, four homers and 27 RBI for Gwinnett… Todd Cunningham returned from a minor hip flexor strain on fire. In three games, he is hitting .455 (5-for-11) with a double and three runs scored. He has been a sparkplug, taking over the leadoff spot since returning to the lineup. In 20 games as the leadoff hitter, he is batting .280 (21-for-75) with two doubles, one triple and two RBI.

Pitchers: David Hale will get the ball in the opener. In his last seven starts, he is 3-2 with a 1.12 ERA (5 ER/40.1 IP) and a 1.16 WHIP. Hale won his first career Triple-A contest against the Charlotte Knights on 4/6, tossing five innings of two-run ball. Omar Poveda continues to have solid starts for the G-Braves. In his last contest, he went six innings, allowing seven hits and two runs in a 2-1 loss to Indianapolis. Poveda leads the squad with 13 quality starts.

Charlotte Knights
Batters: Charlotte has had a rough time against the G-Braves, posting a .251 (98-for-390) batting average, while striking out 105 times… Steve Tolleson leads the team in hitting, batting .292 (83-for-284) with six homers and 43 RBI. However, the infielder has struggled against the G-Braves, posting a .238 (10-for-42) batting average… Mike McDade fared well against the Braves in their two game series three weeks ago. In two games, he went 3-for-7 with two walks. On the season, he is hitting .257 (82-for-319) with eight homers and 42 RBI.

Pitchers: Zach Stewart is having a tough season. Originally the opening day starter for the Knights, the right-handed hurler has posted a 5-10 record with a 4.91 ERA. The long ball has been one of his problems, as he has issued 13 in 20 starts… 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 3.62 ERA. He has struck out 54 in 59.2 innings, while walking 25 batters. Last season he was 12-10 with a 2.45 ERA.

Knight Tales: Charlotte enters play 7.5 games back of the Wild card spot. They will need a big weekend against the G-Braves, as they have lost eight of 12 against Gwinnett.

Road Preview: Gwinnett Braves (45-59) at Durham Bulls (65-39)

Thu: RHP Brandon Beachy (1-3, 3.38) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (4-4, 4.52)

FRI: RHP Cody Martin (2-1, 2.94) vs. RHP Merrill Kelly (4-1, 2.57)

The Gwinnett Braves and the Durham Bulls continue their home-away series tonight in Durham, NC. After splitting two at Coolray Field, the teams will travel seven hours north to finish off their series.

Batters: Tyler Pastornicky is back with the G-Braves and is 3-for-7 since returning to Gwinnett lineup. In his last contest, he went 2-for-3 with a run scored. On the season, the right-handed batter is hitting .313 (75-for-240) with 12 doubles, two triples, four homers and 25 RBI… Joe Leonard finished the Braves homestand hitting .333 (7-for-21) with two doubles and five RBI. He is currently on a three-game hitting streak, collecting five hits in his last ten at bats. On the season, he is hitting .228 (63-for-276) with 17 doubles, three triples and 21 RBI…

Pitchers: Disregarding Monday night’s 7-0 loss, the Braves staff allowed eight runs in the other five games during the homestand. Lefties Alex Wood and Yohan Flande picked up wins, while right-handers Brandon Beachy and David Hale added a tally to the win column… Beachy will go in game one of the series. In his last start, he matched a season-high going 5.0 innings. He allowed five hits, one earned run and struck out three, picking up his first Triple-A victory of the season. Martin hasn’t started since 7/10, but picked up a save on 7/18 against the Indianapolis Indians, as he tossed four one-run innings in relief of Wood. On the season, he is 2-1 with a 2.94 ERA, while fanning 37 in 33.2 innings.

Durham Bulls

The Tampa Bay Rays affiliate is just as hot as their big club, winners of 14 of their last 21, batting a combined .278 and posting a 2.98 ERA as a staff.

Batters: Cole Figueroa has been tough to get out. The left-handed infielder is batting .366 (15-for-41) with three doubles, one triple, one homer and seven RBI against Gwinnett. He has fared well against everyone, hitting .300 (99-for-330) with 17 doubles, three triples, three homers and 47 RBI on the season… All-Star Vince Belnome continues to have a monster season for the first-place Bulls. In 93 games, he is hitting .330 (106-for-321) with 29 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 59 RBI. He leads the team in hitting, hits, doubles and RBI, while coming in second in runs (62)…

Pitchers: Both Bulls’ starters have faced the Gwinnett offense in 2013. On 7/6, Montgomery went 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out four and took the loss… Kelly on the other hand, is a perfect 2-0 with 0.00 ERA. In 13 innings against the G-Braves, the right-hander has not allowed a run, scattering eight hits and striking out seven….

Bull-Headed: The Durham Bulls have owned the season series vs. Gwinnett, taking eight of 10 from the G-Braves in 2013.



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