Results tagged ‘ Craig Kimbrel ’

From Gwinnett to the Show: Matt Wisler

Right-handed starter Matt Wisler was 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts for the Gwinnett Braves before he was promoted on June 19 to make his Major League debut with the Atlanta Braves. (Jim Lacey)

Right-handed starter Matt Wisler was 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts for the Gwinnett Braves before he was promoted on June 19 to make his Major League debut with the Atlanta Braves. (Jim Lacey)

Right-handed starting pitcher Matt Wisler became the third of four former Gwinnett Braves pitchers to make his first Major League start with the Atlanta Braves this season when he faced the New York Mets on June 19 at Turner Field.

He pitched 8.0 innings that night with one run and six hits allowed, a hit batsman and two strikeouts to earn a victory in his big-league debut, as the Braves scored a pair of runs for him in the bottom of the eighth inning to head toward a 2-1 win.

Despite all of the new experiences the 22-year-old has had in his transition to the Majors, that superb first outing was as unexpected as anything, he said.

“What surprised me was my debut going so well,” Wisler said. “I didn’t really see that one coming.”

Wisler has gone on to make 10 starts for Atlanta this season with a 5-2 record and 4.74 ERA (30 ER in 57.0 IP). He suffered his first career loss the second time his spot in the rotation came around  in a road start on June 25 against the Washington Nationals, but he then won four of his next five outings.

“Being up here, feeling a part of it, I don’t feel overwhelmed or anything, which is good,” he said. “It’s not really been too much change. Obviously, hitters are better and everything, but you have to pitch the same game and you still have to get outs and everything. You’ve just got to be executing a little more consistently up here.”

Those performances followed a 12-start stint with the G-Braves to begin the season after Atlanta acquired him from the San Diego Padres on April 5, four days before Gwinnett’s season opener, in a six-player trade that sent outfielder Melvin Upton, Jr. and relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel to the Padres. Wisler began the year 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA (15 ER in 20 IP) in his four April starts, but after the calendar flipped to May he posted a 3-1 record and 3.20 ERA (16 ER in 45.0 IP) across his final eight starts before his call-up.

Wisler (Taylor Botta)

Wisler (Taylor Botta)

The moment he got the news of his promotion was memorable, as well. Wisler said he went into pitching coach Marty Reed’s office confused about why he had been pulled from his regularly scheduled start in Louisville, and Reed acted as though he was upset with Wisler for questioning his authority before he told the pitcher the Braves had promoted him to the big leagues.

Wisler also said the work he and Marty did with his mechanics benefitted him as he moved into the big leagues.

“Marty was a great pitching coach for me, helped me a lot this year getting back on track,” Wisler said.

He was one-quarter of a group of starting pitchers who began the season with the G-Braves but have since moved on to Atlanta, along with fellow right-handers Williams Perez and Mike Foltynewicz, and left-hander Manny Banuelos (currently on the disabled list). That quartet has combined to go 14-12 with a 4.69 ERA (120 ER in 230.1 IP) in 46 appearances, 39 of which have been starts.

“It’s pretty crazy to think that all four of us were in Gwinnett this year and now three of us are in the rotation,” Wisler said. “It’s great that I got to know those guys a little bit before I got up here. … It’s cool to know those guys, just from a little bit (in Gwinnett), and think that we have a chance to be together for a while.”

Those starters are part of a group of 29 non-rehab players who have played for both Gwinnett and Atlanta this season. Braves’ manager Fredi Gonzalez  has relied heavily on former G-Braves this season, and he said he has been impressed by the quality of players he gets after they’ve worked with G-Braves’ manager Brian Snitker, Reed and hitting coach John Moses.

“Everybody has made some kind of an impact, some kind of contribution,” Gonzalez said. “Snit, Marty and Moses have done a great job preparing those guys. It’s a luxury to have a guy like Brian Snitker as the Triple-A manager. … He’s been dead on with every guy he’s brought up. You don’t have to worry about the guys not playing the game the right way, not getting a sign. That all stems from those guys in Triple-A in Gwinnett.”

Wisler got to enjoy that high level of instruction for only two-and-a-half months, but that relatively short time had a significant affect on his development during a season that has brought numerous new experiences.

“It’s been unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been up here. It is definitely a privilege to be here. I definitely learned a lot in Gwinnett, too. … I’m just always soaking in new information and trying to get better.”


From Gwinnett to the Show: Pedro Ciriaco

Infielder Pedro Ciriaco batted .234 with a double, a home run and seven RBIs in 20 games for the Gwinnett Braves before his promotion to the Atlanta Braves on May 2.

Infielder Pedro Ciriaco batted .234 with a double, a home run and seven RBIs in 20 games for the Gwinnett Braves before his promotion to the Atlanta Braves on May 2. (Karl Moore)

Infielder Pedro Ciriaco nearly made the Atlanta Braves’ Opening Day roster out of Spring Training this season, but the April 5 trade that sent right-handed closer Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres for center fielder Cameron Maybin bumped Ciriaco to the Gwinnett Braves.

He instead became the first player from the G-Braves’ Opening Day roster to get promoted to the Atlanta Braves in 2015. After he made several spectacular defensive plays at third base and shortstop to go with a .234 batting average (18-for-77), a double, a home run and seven RBIs, which tied for second-most on the team in April.

Atlanta called up the 29-year-old on May 2, and he has batted .214 (3-for-14) in 10 games with two starts.

“It’s going pretty good,” Ciriaco said of his experience with the Braves this season . “I’ve got the opportunity to be here, and I love it. We’ve got a good ballclub, and you just try to help them win games.”

Two of Ciriaco’s Major League hits this season have been as a pinch hitter (.333 pinch-hitting batting average) and each have gone for extra bases. His first hit of the year was a two-run double off of Washington Nationals’ right-handed starter Doug Fister on May 9 in an 8-6 road loss. He hit an eighth-inning triple in his next appearance May 13 against Cincinnati Reds’ right-handed starter Raisel Iglesias. Ciriaco came around to score the Braves’ only run of the game in a 5-1 defeat at Cincinnati.

(Taylor Botta)

Ciriaco played 13 games at third base and five at shortstop this season for Gwinnett. (Taylor Botta)

Ciriaco has spent parts of eight seasons in the Major Leagues with five different teams. He entered 2015 with a .270 career batting average in 188 MLB games. He said he has especially focused on how to be consistent at the big-league level after his latest callup.

“Every time I get a chance to play I try to play good defense…help our pitching staff out and try to win more games,” he said.

Ciriaco’s playing time has been limited in Atlanta compared to Gwinnett, where he played in 20 of Gwinnett’s first 21 games. It has been a change of pace, but it has also made him focus on every chance he gets at the plate or in the field.

“It’s a little bit different, but you just have to adjust and when you get the opportunity to play take advantage that I have here and continue to make things happen every chance I get to play,” he said.


Atlanta Braves Director of Player Development Dave Trembley Talks Gwinnett Pitching

Atlanta Braves Director of Player Development Dave Trembley visited the Gwinnett Braves recently at Coolray Field. (Karl Moore)

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’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, 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 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.


All Things Five

Anniversary MarkHard to believe, but the 2013 International League season (and our home opener at Coolray Field) is just 85 days away!  With April 4 quickly approaching, we’re starting to lift the curtain on some of the things you can expect to see for the upcoming season of Gwinnett Braves Baseball.

The first major announcement occured this morning with the launch of the Fifth Season campaign and logo (pictured left).  Celebrations of the anniversary season include a new alumni Bobblehead Series and brand new 5-Pack Plans.  The series of five bobbleheads features G-Braves who have gone on to stardom in Atlanta, including Brandon Beachy, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen.  Conveniently, you can purchase tickets to all five bobblehead giveaway nights in the Bobblehead Pack, one of the four 5-Pack Plans that were rolled out in today’s announcement.

The 5-Packs also include a Fireworks Pack (all five dates are Friday Fireworks nights), a Best 5 Games Pack (our most popular games including Opening Night on April 4 and July 4) and a Silver Sluggers Pack (five day games).  Reinforcing the five theme, each 5-Pack starts at just $50.  You can get more details and buy online as well by visiting

To add to the excitement of Season Five, is hosting a look back at some of the great players that have played for the G-Braves in the team’s first four seasons.  Expect to read up on guys like Barbaro Canizares (this week’s feature), Matt YoungTodd Redmond and Mauro Gomez in addition to the likes of Freeman, Kimbrel and others.  A new “5th Season Friday” feature will debut each Friday through the end of March. 

Is that enough fives for you yet?  Me neither.  As if the baseball gods had a hand in it, the G-Blog was announced as the 55th most visited ProBlog on the MLBlogs Network for the past year.  Fifth place would have been more fitting, but it’s an honor to finish near the middle of the Top 100 in our first year.  You can check out the entire list over at

Give yourself a high-5 for reading this post and head over to for more on the 2013 season!


Video: Former G-Braves Flourishing in Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

Craig Kimbrel

The best closer in baseball title belongs to the former Gwinnett Braves farmhand Craig Kimbrel. This season with the Braves, the right-hander has recorded 30 saves (2nd in MLB) alongside an insane 1.35 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. He has struck out an impressive 67 batters in just 40.0 innings of work, while we has walked just 10 hitters all season.

The days of playing at Coolray Field on a regular basis are long gone for Kimbrel. The right-hander consistently registers between 97-99 mph on the radar gun, as is quickly becoming one of the most respected relievers in all of baseball. This former Gwinnett Brave is creating a path to greatness.

Freddie Freeman

Forever connected will Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman be in the minds of Braves fans. They both came up to Atlanta together after stellar Gwinnett career’s, and both set the league on fire upon their emergences. Freeman just lost the National League Rookie of the Year voting to his teammate, but was happy for Kimbrel nevertheless.

This season the first baseman is coming into his own, hitting .270 with 13 home runs, 61 RBI and 22 doubles with Atlanta. Not only is his offense on the rise, but his defense has never been better. Freeman, when on the field, has been one of the more consistent Braves this season. With time, he will grow into one of the most feared hitters in baseball.

Photo courtesy of Melinda Pease

Jason Heyward

The Braves prized product is finally producing in the way the Braves imagined when they drafted the 22-year old. This season Heyward has taken the next step in his career, further enhancing his growth in the game. Heyward is batting .270 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI, 18 doubles and 15 stolen bases alongside fantastic defense in right field.

He has become a full-time player in 2012, starting almost every game against left-handers as well. There is no question the future is still indeed very bright for Heyward, as he continues to scratch the surface of his immense talent.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess

Mike Minor

Most fans probably assumed that the fourth name would be Tommy Hanson, however Mike Minor has been far more impressive at certain points this year. The southpaw had a rough start to 2012, but he has resurrected his season as he surges to the finish. The lefty is churning out quality starts as if they were going out of style. Minor has worked 6.0 innings or more in each of his last four starts, including striking out nine while he walked none in his sixth win this season during his last start against the Phillies.

The left-hander has trimmed his ERA to a respectable 5.17, alongside a 6-7 record with 98 strikeouts in 113.0 innings of work, yielding 42 free passes. The future ace of the Atlanta Braves rotation? Possibly. He could surprise you as most of these former G-Braves standouts have already done with early success in their young MLB careers.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Watts

By: Tony Piraro

Spring Training Interview: Craig Kimbrel

As mentioned in my earlier post today, I had the pleasure of catching up with former Gwinnett Braves closer and reigning National League Rookie of the Year, Braves’ right-hander Craig Kimbrel today at Champion Stadium.

In the audio interview, Craig talks about what Spring Training is like for him this time around, how the 2010 season in Gwinnett prepared him for MLB success, finishing 1-2 in R.O.Y. voting with fellow former G-Brave Freddie Freeman, the tremendous set-up work of Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters, his thoughts on 2011 International League Rookie of the Year Julio Teheran, coming back to Coolray Field for April 3’s “Braves All-Stars vs. Future Stars Game” and more.

Listen Here:  Craig Kimbrel Interview 3.10.12

You can see Craig and the rest of the Atlanta Braves as they take on the future stars of the organization at Coolray Field on Tuesday, April 3 at 7:05 PM.  For tickets, call the Coolray Field Box Office at 678-277-0340.


Braves Spring Training, Day 2

I’m back in press row for today’s Braves vs. New York Yankees game, scheduled for 1:05 PM.  It’s set to be one of the busiest days of the Spring here at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex with not only a huge crowd expected here at Champion Stadium but also a major Cheerleading/Dance competition going on next door.

The Braves fell to 1-7 on the Grapefruit League season with losses in each of their split-squad games yesterday, including a 5-3 loss to the New York Mets.  Randall Delgado was tagged for three runs, two earned over 3.0 innings in his second outing of the Spring, while Rule 5 selection Robert Fish surrendered two runs in relief in the eighth to take the loss.  Martin Prado went 3-for-4 with a pair of ground-rule doubles.  Julio Teheran fared better than Delgado against the Yankees in Tampa, allowing an earned run over 3.0 innings in what was still the losing cause.

I’ve been out at Champion Stadium since 7:45 today, checking things off my Spring Training “to-do” list.  I was able to meet the Gwinnett coaching staff for the first time today and sat down with manager Dave Brundage for an interview previewing the season.  I’m planning on saving that interview for my 2012 Preview in the first edition of our gameday program, “Tomahawk Talk”.  Look for that at Coolray Field in April.

I also caught up with the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, former G-Brave and current Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel.  I’ll post that audio interview with Craig once I get a chance to listen to it in quieter conditions.

It’s getting fairly noisy here now as the starting lineups for the Yankees and Braves are introduced.  Both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are in the lineup for New York, but no sign of Derek Jeter.

As for the Braves, here’s the lineup:  Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (LF), Brian McCann (DH), Dan Uggla (2B), Chipper Jones (3B), Freddie Freeman (1B), Tyler Pastornicky (SS), J.C. Boscan (C), Jose Constanza (RF), Jair Jurrjens (SP).

And, in closing, some pictures from today:

Prado, Jones, McCann and Hinske around the cage this morning.

Braves' manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman converse in the dugout.

2011 G-Brave Cory Gearrin and fellow pitchers Dusty Hughes and Zeke Spruill.

Ernesto Mejia has been a popular target for interviews these last two days.

Yankees' manager Joe Girardi and the legendary Dale Murphy.

Speaking of legends, Andy Pettitte threw a round of Yankees' BP today.

As hopefully you did yesterday, follow along with my game tweets at @DaveLezotte and re-tweets at @GwinnettBraves.  It’s back home to Lawrenceville, GA tomorrow!



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