Results tagged ‘ Coolray Field ’
Atlanta Braves Director of Player Development Dave Trembley spent four days last week at Coolray Field to work with the Gwinnett Braves for the first time this season in his position as the man who helps oversee the Braves’ farm system.
Trembley, who managed the Baltimore Orioles from 2007-10 and was a Houston Astros coach in 2013-14, joined the Braves in October. He offered his observations of the G-Braves’ heralded pitching staff that had four hurlers in MLB.com’s Top 30 prospect rankings of the Atlanta system before the Braves called up right-hander and No. 3 prospect Mike Foltynewicz to make his first Major League start on Friday, May 1.
“The Braves have always been successful because they’ve had a stable of good, young arms who have come through their system, and I think that’s what the Braves are doing now. They’re re-stocking their system with pitching.”
Gwinnett still has the Braves’ No. 2 prospect and their top pitching prospect Matt Wisler, a right-hander the club acquired from the San Diego Padres on April 5 as part of the six-player trade that sent right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr. to the Padres.
The G-Braves also feature No. 11 prospect, left-handed starter Manny Banuelos, and right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz at No. 30.
“You’ve got to have pitching,” Trembley said. “You’ve got to have guys who can give you innings, and that’s been the focal point and starting point. Guys like Foltynewicz give you a guy who you like to think you can pencil in and say ‘Hey, this guy is going to be part of your rotation for a long time.’”
Trembley said he was familiar with how the Braves approached construction of their pitching staffs, as longtime Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone was Baltimore’s pitching coach when Trembley took over the managerial post in 2007.
“I knew very well about (John) Smoltz and (Greg) Maddux,” Trembley said. “We’re in a position now where we’ve acquired some very good young pitchers.”
Atlanta also picked up left-handed starters Ricardo Sanchez and Max Fried in offseason trades. Sanchez, the team’s No. 9 prospect according to MLB.com, came from the Los Angeles Angels in January and started the 2015 season at Class-A Rome. The Braves got Fried from the Padres in a December trade that sent outfielder Justin Upton to San Diego. Fried is ranked as Atlanta’s No. 5 prospect by MLB.com but will miss the entire 2015 season after he underwent “Tommy John” surgery in August.
“The Braves have always been committed to player development and scouting,” Trembley said. “That’s been their trademark going back to the days when (Braves President) John Schuerholz started this (in 1990) with (former manager) Bobby Cox, with (former amateur scouting director) Paul Snyder, with all the guys that have been there for a long time. … There’s a nucleus of people who have been here for an awful long time, and they’ve done it by developing pitching.”
Trembley said he sees many similarities in how the Braves are building their pitching depth with talent at the Triple-A level in Gwinnett.
“What I like here is we have some youth in the starting rotation,” he said. “We have some really up-and-coming, young arms that are here that are learning that in order to be successful in the Major Leagues you have to refine and develop their secondary pitches. I think (Banuelos, Wisler and right-hander Williams Perez) are doing that, and they have very good mentors in (guys like Chien-Ming) Wang.”
“I see this staff learning how to pitch, making the adjustments to pitch at this level and to be in Atlanta,” he said.
Thurs: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-1, 6.23 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Belfiore (0-3, 7.05 ERA)
Fri: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 2.08 ERA) vs. RHP Buck Farmer (3-0, 3.00 ERA)
Sat: LHP Manny Banuelos (1-0, 4.43 ERA) vs. LHP Kyle Ryan (0-2, 4.43 ERA)
Sun: RHP Williams Perez (2-0, 1.57 ERA) vs. RHP Tim Melville (1-2, 3.80 ERA)
The Gwinnett Braves continue their seven-game homestand with four contests against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The Mud Hens enter the series third in the four-team International League West Division after they dropped two of three road games to the Charlotte Knights on the first leg of their road trip. The G-Braves and Mud Hens split their four-game series at Coolray Field in 2014, but Gwinnett took the season series 5-3. Gwinnett has never lost a season series to Toledo, and the only year the G-Braves dropped a home series to the Mud Hens was in 2010 when Toledo won three of four games.
Pitching: While Gwinnett holds a 3.57 ERA and is tied for second in the league with 168 strikeouts, the Mud Hens enter the series with a 4.73 team ERA that ranks 13th in the 14-team league and has the second-most walks with 83 against 125 strikeouts (Gwinnett pitchers have 70 combined walks).
Perez is the only G-Braves pitcher to garner a victory in his last start. His 1.57 ERA is also tied for the ninth-lowest among qualifying starters in the league. Foltynewicz, meanwhile, leads the league with 30 strikeouts through his first four starts of the year.
Farmer leads the Toledo starting rotation in wins (three), ERA (3.00) and strikeouts (28). His strikeout total is also second in the league behind Foltynewicz, and his .173 opponent batting average is the fifth-lowest in the league.
Hitting: Toledo holds the statistical advantage on offense. The Mud Hens have the third-highest team batting average at .267 and have scored the second-most runs (91) in the league, four behind the Pawtucket Red Sox. They are also tied for the league lead in doubles with 40 but have hit five home runs, one more than Gwinnett and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
The G-Braves twice tied their season-high hit total with 13 Monday and Wednesday against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Also, outfielder Cedric Hunter launched the team’s first home run of the season at Coolray Field in walk-off fashion to win the series opener Monday, 6-5. The G-Braves are up to sixth in the league with a .256 team batting average and continue to lead the league with 26 stolen bases.
Outfielder Daniel Fields leads Toledo with a .349 batting average that ranks seventh in the league. He leads the league with five triples, and his 11 extra-base hits are good for second. Mud Hens third baseman Jefry Marte is also tied for third in RBIs with 14.
G-Bites: Gwinnett took two of three games from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to begin the homestand…The G-Braves each of the first two games by one run (6-5 and 3-2) before the RailRiders topped them 8-5 Wednesday…Outfielder Todd Cunningham begins the series on a team-best, nine-game hitting streak, and infielder Sean Kazmar is riding an eight-game streak…Outfielder Eury Perez leads the league in stolen bases with 12 after swiping two in the series against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre…Left-handed reliever Donnie Veal leads the league with 10 appearances and five holds, while right-hander Aaron Kurcz is tied for second in the league with five saves.
After the series with Toledo, the G-Braves will have an off day Monday before they begin a six-game road trip that includes three games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre followed by three at Lehigh Valley. They will return home to face the Syracuse Chiefs at 6:35 p.m. Monday, May 11.
Mon: LHP Manny Banuelos (0-1, 3.77 ERA) vs. RHP Jaron Long (0-1, 6.75 ERA)
Tues: RHP Williams Perez (1-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Chase Whitley (2-0, 2.12 ERA)
Wed: RHP Matt Wisler (0-2, 4.60 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Davies (1-1, 6.75 ERA)
The Gwinnett Braves open a seven-game homestand with three 6:35 p.m. contests against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The Railriders have finished fifth in the six-team International League North Division in each of the past two seasons, but they have had Gwinnett’s number. The G-Braves are 4-12 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since 2012 and have not won any of the eight games between the two clubs at Coolray Field. This will be the G-Braves’ first foray outside of the IL South Division this season. They were 32-46 against non-divisional opponents in 2014.
Pitching: Gwinnett and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre are evenly matched statistically in the pitching department. The G-Braves’ staff enters the series with the league’s sixth-lowest earned-run average at 3.31 (55 ER in 149.1 IP), while the RailRiders sit in seventh with a 3.35 ERA (61 ER in 164.0 IP). The teams are also extremely similar in terms of their pitching staffs’ control. The G-Braves have a 2.39 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (146/61). The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre staff’s rate is 2.55 (153/60).
However, the G-Braves hold the advantage in individual stats. Tuesday’s starter, Perez, boasts the seventh-lowest ERA in the league at 1.69. In the bullpen, left-hander Donnie Veal enters the series tied for the league lead in holds (four) and appearances (nine). Righty Aaron Kurcz is tied for fourth in saves with four.
Batting: The larger differences between the two teams in this series show up in their offensive approaches. The G-Braves use a speed-based game to score runs. The RailRiders’ lineup, meanwhile, produces more power and hardly ever attempts to steal bases.
Gwinnett has a league-low three home runs through 17 games, but it leads the league with 21 stolen bases. Ten of those swipes have come from outfielder Eury Perez, who has been caught twice and was 27-for-31 in steal attempts in 2014 while playing in the Washington Nationals’ and New York Yankees’ organizations. Outfielder Todd Cunningham hit a team-best .429 (12-for-28) with two doubles and a triple during the nine-game road trip and returns to Coolray Field on a seven-game hitting streak.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has eight home runs, which is tied for the seventh-most in the league, but has stolen four bases in eight attempts. RailRiders outfielder Ben Gamel leads the league with a .404 batting average (19-for-47), ranks second with a .472 on-base percentage and sits behind teammate Ramon Flores (.611) for fourth in slugging percentage with a .596 mark. Flores is also tied for second in the league with four home runs.
G-Bites: Gwinnett returns home with a new-look bullpen compared to when it left town April 16. RHP Kanekoa Texeira went on the disabled list along with infielder Sean Kazmar on April 17. That opened a spot for RHP Mitchell Boggs, who the Atlanta Braves signed to a minor-league contract April 20. The Braves also re-signed LHP Greg Smith the next day to join the G-Braves’ corps of relievers. The G-Braves activated catcher Jose Yepez off of the disabled list to fill Kazmar’s roster spot.
RHPs John Cornely and Michael Kohn got the call to Atlanta on Friday, April 24, while RHPs Sugar Ray Marimon and Juan Jaime returned to Gwinnett. Marimon made one appearance for the G-Braves before Atlanta called him up on April 13. Jaime saved 18 games for Gwinnett in 2014 and began the 2015 season with the Braves.
The G-Braves will finish their homestand with a four-game series Thursday-Sunday against the Toledo Mud Hens at Coolray Field.
Wed: LHP Manny Banuelos (0-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Beck (0-0, 5.79 ERA)
Thurs: RHP Williams Perez (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. LHP Carlos Rodon (1-0, 1.80 ERA)
The Gwinnett Braves finish their season-opening, eight-game homestand with two games against the International League South Division rival Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Charlotte and Gwinnett have both alternated victories through their first six games and are part of a division-wide tie for first place at 3-3 with the Durham Bulls and Norfolk Tides. The two-game set features 6:35 p.m. contests Wednesday and Thursday at Coolray Field. Both teams will then travel Friday to Charlotte to begin a three-game series at BB&T Ballpark.
Pitching: With two pitchers who were ranked in the top 30 in the Atlanta Braves’ system in the 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Gwinnett will look to continue its early success on the mound. None of the G-Braves’ five starting pitchers has allowed more than two runs in a start through the season’s first six games. The rotation has posted a 2.03 ERA with a combined 30 strikeouts and 16 walks in 26.2 innings but has yet to garner a win, as RHP Chien-Ming Wang is the only starter to last past 5.0 innings. The Gwinnett bullpen, meanwhile, has an equally impressive 2.23 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 14 walks in 32.1 innings. Overall, the G-Braves’ pitching staff is ranked third in the International League with a 2.14 ERA and 58 strikeouts.
Charlotte comes to Gwinnett in the cellar of the International League pitching rankings. The Knights have allowed seven or more runs in each of their three losses and carry an IL-worst 5.17 ERA and seven home runs allowed, three more than any other team. Wednesday’s starter Chris Beck received a no-decision in his first start of the year Friday vs. Norfolk (4.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO). Thursday starter Carlos Rodon provided the Knights’ most impressive start of the early season the following day with nine strikeouts (2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2BB) in 5.0 innings during a 4-2 win over the Tides.
Batting: While Gwinnett holds a significant statistical advantage in the pitching department, the opposite is true offensively. The G-Braves’ .224 batting average ranks 11th in the 14-team IL and they are one of two teams (Buffalo) that have yet to hit a home run. Infielder Pedro Ciriaco leads the team with seven hits and four RBIs with a double. Two of the G-Braves’ wins have also come on Ciriaco’s game-winning hits. He singled home the winning run Friday in the 11th inning to beat Durham 5-4 and bounced a grounder off of first base in the 10th inning Monday to score two runs and give Gwinnett a 5-4 victory over Norfolk.
Charlotte leads the league with a .296 team batting average and a .427 slugging percentage that includes five triples. Outfielder Trayce Thompson is second in the league with a .429 batting average and has three runs scored to go with three RBIs. Infielder Tyler Saladino also leads the league with five stolen bases, while outfielder Engel Beltre is tied for the league lead in runs scored with six.
G-Bites: The Atlanta Braves called up right-hander Sugar Ray Marimon from Gwinnett on Monday, and he made his Major League debut the following day. He entered Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins with one out in the third inning and the bases loaded. He struck out the first batter he faced, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and got Adeiny Hechavarria to ground out to escape the jam. Marimon pitched a total of 4.0 innings (4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) after opening the season on the G-Braves roster. He made one appearance with Gwinnett, throwing 3.0 hitless innings with two strikeouts against Durham on Opening Night, Thursday, April 9 … Left-handed reliever Ian Thomas joined Gwinnett from Double-A Mississippi to replace Marimon on the Triple-A roster. Thomas pitched 2.1 innings with nothing more than one hit allowed Tuesday vs. Norfolk.
The Atlanta Braves extended outfielder Joe Benson a non-roster invitation to Major League Spring Training camp on Thursday, and he wasted little time to take advantage of the opportunity.
Benson, 27, had spent the entire spring in minor league camp yet played in nine big league games as a reserve. He received the non-roster invite after hitting a solo home run Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, and then had the game-winning hit Thursday to beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
But his ninth-inning single to left field to drive in center fielder Eric Young, Jr. was far from the only act from his standout performance. Benson played left field and had three other singles and finished the day 4-for-5 with a run scored, an RBI and a strikeout. His spring batting average now stands at .412 (7-for-17) with a home run, three runs scored and three RBI as he bids for a spot on the Braves’ Opening Day roster.
Other possible Gwinnett Braves position players’ stats from Thursday vs. Baltimore:
Todd Cunningham (RF), 1-for-1, RBI.
Pedro Ciriaco (3B), 1-for-1.
The Orioles scored four of their five runs off of potential G-Braves right-handed starter Chien-Ming Wang (BS, 1), who entered the game as a reliever in the sixth inning.
Baltimore pushed across one run in the sixth and added three in the seventh, including a two-run, pinch-hit home run by right fielder Travis Snider. Wang lasted 1 1/3 innings with four runs allowed (three earned) on five hits with a walk and a strikeout.
Also, G-Braves’ right-handed reliever Arodys Vizcaino has been suspended for 80 games for using performance-enhancing drugs. The Braves had optioned him Monday to Gwinnett.
The Braves and Orioles will meet for the second of three games to finish their Grapefruit League schedules at 6:05 p.m. Friday in Sarasota, Fla. They will then return to Champion Stadium for a 3:05 p.m. contest Saturday.
Atlanta opens its regular season schedule at 4:10 p.m. Monday against the Miami Marlins in Miami. Gwinnett’s Opening Night game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against the Durham Bulls at Coolray Field.
A parade of pitchers who could man the mound at Coolray Field in 2015 helped lead the Atlanta Braves to a weekend of four games in which they allowed an average of fewer than three runs per contest. The Braves split the weekend slate and are 8-12 in Grapefruit League play.
Six of seven potential Gwinnett Braves relievers who worked Saturday and Sunday did not allow a run. All seven combined for a 1.08 ERA (1 ER in 8.1 IP) with two saves and two holds. Right-hander Williams Perez (BS, 1; L, 0-1) was the only likely G-Brave pitcher to work Friday. He gave up the final four runs on seven hits, two walks and three strikeouts in a 5-1 loss to the Miami Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.
Atlanta played a pair of split-squad games Saturday. One Braves squad beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 in a home contest at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and the other portion of the team lost 1-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter.
Possible G-Braves pitchers’ stats vs. Washington:
RHP Michael Kohn (H, 2), 1.0 IP, H, BB.
RHP Juan Jaime (H, 2), 1.0 IP.
RHP Brandon Cunniff (S, 1), 2.0 IP, 2 BB, 2 K.
Potential G-Braves pitchers’ numbers against St. Louis:
RHP Arodys Vizcaino,1.1 IP, H, BB.
RHP Sugar Ray Marimon, 2.0 IP, 2 H, HBP.
RHP Aaron Kurcz (L, 0-1) 0.0 IP, 2 H, ER, BB.
Left-handed reliever Donnie Veal was the only potential G-Braves hurler to pitch Sunday in a 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at Champion Stadium. He got his first save of Spring Training with a scoreless ninth inning during which he walked a hitter and struck out two others.
Infielder Pedro Ciriaco led possible G-Braves hitters by going 3-for-6 in two starts, including 2-for-3 against Detroit with three runs batted in. He also picked up a single and a walk as the leadoff hitter and starting shortstop vs. the Nationals.
Potential G-Braves position players’ stats from Friday against Miami:
Eury Perez (CF), 1-for-4, K.
Jesus Flores (C), 1-for-4.
Phil Gosselin (3B), 1-for-2.
Jace Peterson (2B), 0-for-3, BB, K.
John Buck (1B), 0-for-1.
Joey Terdoslavich (pinch hit), 0-for-1, K.
Infielder Sean Kazmar took over at shortstop in the eighth inning but did not receive an at-bat.
Other possible G-Braves position players’ lines Saturday against the Nationals:
Todd Cunningham (CF), 2-for-4, 2B, RBI, K, outfield assist in the third inning on a play when Mike Carp was out trying to reach second base.
Jose Constanza (RF-LF), 1-for-3, R, SB.
Seth Loman (1B), 0-for-4, K.
Cedric Hunter (RF), 1-for-1, R, RBI.
Barrett Kleinknecht (3B), 0-for-1.
Corban Joseph (2B), 0-for-1.
Catcher Steve Rodriguez entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning but did not receive an at-bat.
Potential G-Braves position players’ stats vs. St. Louis:
Peterson (2B), 2-for-3, K.
Buck (C-1B), 2-for-3.
Gosselin (LF-3B-1B), 0-for-4, K.
Terdoslavich (RF-1B), 0-for-2, BB.
Joe Benson (LF-CF), 0-for-1, BB, threw out Rafael Ortega at home plate from center field in the sixth inning.
Braeden Schlehuber (C), 0-for-1.
Perez (pinch hit), 0-for-1, K.
Kazmar (SS), 0-for-1.
Other possible G-Braves position players’ stats against Detroit:
Perez (RF-CF), 1-for-5, K.
Cunningham (CF), 1-for-3, R, SB.
Constanza (LF), 1-for-1, R, SB.
Gosselin (2B), 0-for-1, RBI, BB, K.
Benson (LF-CF-RF), 0-for-1, BB, K.
Joseph (2B), 0-for-1.
Schlehuber (C), 0-for-1.
Loman (1B), 0-for-1.
Hunter (pinch hit), 0-for-1.
Flores entered the game at catcher as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning but did not receive an at-bat.
The Braves will face the Houston Astros at 1:05 p.m. Monday in Kissimmee, Fla.
Several players who could patrol the diamond at Coolray Field for the Gwinnett Braves in 2015 finished the weekend with standout performances at the plate, as the Atlanta Braves split a pair of games against the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros. They also made their two largest rounds of roster cuts.
The Braves chopped their Spring Training roster by 13 players with cuts made Saturday and Monday.
Top prospect Jose Peraza headlined the six players cut Monday. Atlanta optioned him to Gwinnett and sent right-handed pitcher Tyrell Jenkins to Double-A Mississippi. Right-hander Mauricio Cabrera and left-hander Yean Carlos Gil were optioned to Advanced-A Carolina. Left-handed pitcher Brady Feigl and catcher Jose Yepez were reassigned to Minor League camp.
The Braves reassigned seven players Saturday, including right-handed pitcher Jason Hursh, catchers Matt Kennelly and Chris O’Dowd, infielders Daniel Castro and Rio Ruiz, and outfielders Cedric Hunter and Mallex Smith.
Potential G-Brave returnee Joey Terdoslavich, winner of the 2014 G-Braves’ “Fan Favorite Player” award, belted his first home run of the spring with a three-run shot in the seventh inning Sunday against the Blue Jays in a 10-5 loss at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. He drove in possible G-Braves infielders Pedro Ciriaco and Peraza after Ciriaco led off the frame with a single and Peraza entered as a pinch runner for infielder Alberto Callaspo.
Terdoslavich struck out in his only other at-bat in the ninth inning. Ciriaco finished the game 2-for-5 with a strikeout, and Peraza grounded out to first base in the ninth inning for his only at-bat of the game. Center fielder Todd Cunningham went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double in the sixth inning and threw out a runner at home plate to end the third.
Other potential G-Braves position players’ Sunday stats vs. Toronto:
Braeden Schlehuber (C), 0-for-3.
Jesus Flores (C, pinch hit), 0-for-1.
John Buck (1B) 0-for-1.
Phil Gosselin (SS-LF), 0-for-1.
Right-hander Ryne Harper was the only pitcher the Braves’ threw against Toronto who projects to spend time in Gwinnett this season. He recorded the final two outs of the fourth inning despite throwing a wild pitch and giving up two hits, including a two-run home run to outfielder Jose Bautista.
Atlanta topped the Astros 6-5 Saturday at Champion Stadium. Left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez (W, 2-0) picked up his second win of the spring by going four innings with two hits allowed, three walks and two strikeouts.
Other possible Gwinnett pitchers’ stats from Saturday:
RHP Chien-Ming Wang, 0.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, K.
RHP Justin Jackson (S, 1), 1.0 IP, H, ER.
Second baseman Jace Peterson led potential G-Braves hitters at the plate Saturday, going 1-for-1 with a walk and a run scored.
Other possible G-Braves position players’ stats from Saturday:
Gosselin (2B-SS), 0-for-2, R.
Cunningham (RF-LF), 0-for-2.
Terdoslavich (1B), 0-for-3, 2 K.
Kelly Johnson (3B), 0-for-4, 3 K.
Eury Perez (LF), 0-for-3, 2 K.
Yepez (DH), 0-for-3, K.
Peraza (2B), 0-for-1.
Flores (C, pinch hit), 0-for-1.
Atlanta travels to face the Astros for a 1:05 p.m. game Monday in Kissimmee, Fla.
Right-handed pitcher Cody Martin will have a chance to take his 2014 Gwinnett Braves Most Outstanding Pitcher honors with him to to the Major League side of Spring Training camp when he arrives at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., later this month.
Martin and former G-Braves catchers Jose Yepez and Matt Kennelly are three of 24 players to receive non-roster invitations to Spring Training, the Atlanta Braves announced Tuesday.
Martin, 25, tied fellow right-hander Gus Schlosser for the most wins on the Gwinnett staff with seven, and he led the team with a 3.52 ERA, 26 starts, 13 quality starts, 156.0 innings pitched and 142 strikeouts. He also finished third in the International League in strikeouts, fourth in innings pitched, tied for fourth in starts, fifth among starters with an 8.12 strikeouts-per-9-innings ratio and sixth in ERA.
His premier performance as a G-Brave came on June 25 when he held the Toledo Mud Hens to one run on three hits with two strikeouts in a 7.0-inning, complete-game 7-1 victory at Coolray Field. He is 10-12 with a 3.51 ERA in 40 career appearances, including 37 starts, with Gwinnett, and this will be his second consecutive year as a non-roster invitee for spring training.
Yepez, 33, is the longest-tenured former G-Brave of the group, as he spent the entire past three seasons with Gwinnett. He compiled a .241 batting average with 27 doubles, three home runs and 62 RBIs through 163 games. He threw out 30.8 percent of attempted basestealers in 14 games a year ago, as he battled injuries that sent him to the disabled list three times.
Kennelly, a 26-year-old from Western Australia, spent the 2014 season at Double-A Mississippi after re-signing with the Braves in the previous offseason. Kennelly began the 2013 season with the G-Braves, going 5-for-12 (.417) with a double, a home run and four RBIs in five games before the Braves released him in May. He spent the rest of the year in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization.
Yepez and Kennelly were also non-roster invitees in 2014, as were fellow 2015 invitees Jason Hursh, a right-handed pitcher who was the Braves’ first-round selection (31st overall) in the 2013 June draft and played for Mississippi last year, and catcher Braeden Schlehuber, who also spent the season with the M-Braves.
Atlanta invited nine pitchers overall, including right-handers Michael Kohn, Sugar Ray Marimon and Chien-Ming Wang, as well as lefties Brady Feigl, Wandy Rodriguez, Eric Stults and Donnie Veal.
Those pitchers are accompanied by eight catchers, including Yenier Bello, John Buck, Jesus Flores, Tanner Murphy and Chris O’Dowd.
The Braves also invited infielders Johan Camargo, Daniel Castro, Pedro Ciriaco, Kelly Johnson and Rio Ruiz, as well as outfielders Cedric Hunter and Mallex Smith.
Braves camp opens Feb. 20 when pitchers and catchers report. Full-squad workouts begin Feb. 26, and the team opens its Grapefruit League schedule with a game at 1:05 p.m. March 4 against the New York Mets at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista.
Following a historic front office revamp in October, the Atlanta Braves are preparing for their most important Hot Stove season in recent franchise history. Here at the G-Blog, we’ll periodically take a look at some of the players that President of Baseball Operations John Hart and the new regime are bringing in, specifically those that will have an impact on the 2015 roster here in Gwinnett.
Yesterday marked Atlanta’s first foray into Major/Minor League free agency this offseason, as the club announced the signing of outfielder Zoilo Almonte to a one-year Major League deal and pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Donnie Veal to Minor League deals. While these acquisitions aren’t the most notable the Braves will make this winter, they are proof that Hart and company are committed to building a deeper organization through the addition of established veterans.
Anyone who follows the Gwinnett Braves or the Triple-A International League closely will be familiar with all three players. Almonte, Wang and Veal all spent significant time in the IL last season, and each played against the G-Braves on more than one occasion.
Almonte, on Atlanta’s 40-man roster, will contend for a spot on the 25-man Major League roster this Spring. He’s the youngest of the three acquisitions at age 25, and he’s logged brief stints with the New York Yankees in each of the past two seasons. Almonte has never quite settled in at the plate in the big leagues, batting .211 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 47 career games, but he’s done plenty at the Triple-A level to make him an intriguing prospect. In 105 games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders last year, he batted .261 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 69 RBIs. His banner performance of 2014 occurred against Gwinnett at Coolray Field from July 23-24, a game that took two days to complete due to rain. Almonte went 4-for-6 with three homers and seven RBIs in a 12-4 rout of the G-Braves, launching solo and three-run shots off Kanekoa Texeira and adding another three-run clout off Carlos Fisher.
Almonte is reportedly out of options and would have to clear waivers should the Braves ever want to send him to Gwinnett, so it’s unlikely that he’ll bring his homer show back to Coolray Field in 2015. That’s not to say his addition won’t have an effect on the G-Braves’ roster. IL veterans Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich, also competitors for the Atlanta bench, are now more likely to return to Gwinnett for their third and fourth seasons, respectively. Cunningham (.287, 8 HR, 58 RBI, 19 SB) and Terdoslavich (.256, 15 HR, 61 RBI) both had productive Triple-A seasons a year ago.
In contrast to Almonte, Wang appears to be specifically signed to help the Gwinnett roster. The Taiwanese right-hander posted back-to-back 19-win seasons with the New York Yankees in 2006 and 2007, but suffered a career-altering foot injury in 2008 and has since seen his profile transition to Triple-A workhorse. Since the start of 2011, the 34-year-old has made twice as many starts in the International League (50) as he has in the Major Leagues (22). Last year, Wang made an IL-best 28 starts with two organizations, going 13-8 with a 4.12 ERA with the Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds) and the Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox). He struck out just 73 batters over 172.2 innings, but kept the ball on the ground with a 1.78 groundout/flyout ratio and only six homers allowed.
Much like Almonte, Wang had success facing the G-Braves last year. He went 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts while with Louisville, then finished 3-0 with a 3.54 ERA in three starts with Charlotte. He worked at least 6.0 innings in four of his five meetings with Gwinnett, including 7.1 scoreless, nine-hit frames in a win with the Bats on June 14.
If he joins Gwinnett, Wang would be the elder statesman of a starting rotation that could include returnees Cody Martin (7-8, 3.52) and Aaron Northcraft (7-10, 4.70) and Double-A standouts Jason Hursh (11-7, 3.58) and Williams Perez (7-6, 2.91). Another season of 170-plus innings from Wang would also help keep the bullpen fresh in 2015.
Speaking of the Gwinnett bullpen, that’s where you might find the left-handed Veal come April. Veal, a second-round pick by the Chicago Cubs back in 2005, has had a taste of the Majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago White Sox. In 100 total games from 2009 through 2014, he went 3-3 with a 4.87 ERA and one save. His best year was 2011, when he went 0-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 24 relief outings with the White Sox. Far more of his time has been spent at the Triple-A level, where he logged 25 games with the Indianapolis Indians from 2009-2011 and 89 games with the Charlotte Knights from 2012-2014.
After going 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 17 relief outings for Charlotte in 2013, Veal took a step back in 2014, going 4-5 with a 5.94 ERA in 37 appearances. Against Gwinnett, he went 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in three meetings. Though his recent numbers don’t impress, the 30-year-old southpaw will get a look in Major League camp this Spring. Should he fail to make the Atlanta roster, he’ll be an asset for a Gwinnett bullpen in flux. Of last year’s G-Braves relief staff, right-hander Pedro Beato and left-handers Ryan Buchter and Atahualpa Severino are all Minor League free agents. That trio combined to make 131 appearances for the club last season.
Yesterday’s moves don’t represent a “big splash” at the Major League level, but they are the Atlanta Braves’ first steps toward building better organizational depth — and a better Triple-A club — in 2015.
Medlen, who is expecting his first child in the next few weeks, decided that time was not in his favor, so on Friday afternoon at Coolray Field in front of a handful of Braves fans, he announced that he would no longer participate in the classic.
Medlen, who began the season in the bullpen in 2012, was arguably the most dominant starting pitcher in the MLB down the stretch. He posted a 9-0 record with a 0.97 ERA, 84 strikeouts, 10 walks in 83.2 innings.
The 27-year old was disappointed in withdrawing his name, as he was one of few American players to take the plunge and commit early in the process. However, he admitted that he may have jumped the gun a little bit early and did not account for the birth of his child falling near his departure date.
Medlen will leave Team USA in a bind, as they will go into the classic with only three starting pitchers. R.A. Dickey, Derek Holland and Ryan Vogelsong will anchor the staff, as Team USA will try to win their first WBC title.
“You only have your first kid once,” said Atlanta Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez at the same Coolray Field event.
Medlen will return to his regular routine, preparing for Spring Training after the birth of his child.
The right-hander is a permanent mainstay in Gwinnett Braves history, as he was the first G-Braves pitcher to record a victory. To read more about his climb to the MLB and his history with the Gwinnett Braves, click here.
As Medlen prepares for the season, so do the Gwinnett Braves. They kick off the season Thursday, April 4th at 7:05 p.m. against the Charlotte Knights at Coolray Field. For more information on the G-Braves or Coolray Field, visit the website at Gwinnettbraves.com, or through or social media outlets at facebook.com/GwinnettBraves1 and twitter.com/GwinnettBraves!