Results tagged ‘ Gwinnett Braves ’

Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (11-14) at Gwinnett Braves (15-10)

Martin (Taylor Botta)

Martin (Taylor Botta)

Probables Pitchers

Thu: Zach Stewart (1-1, 4.98) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (0-2, 3.97)

Fri: Cody Martin (2-1, 2.66) vs. Jonathan Pettibone (1-0, 4.09)

Sat: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (3-2, 2.67) vs. David Buchanan (3-0, 3.45)

Sun: Mitch Atkins (1-3, 5.01) vs. LHP Greg Smith (2-0, 1.82)

The Gwinnett Braves return home after a solid 4-4 road trip, while the Lehigh Valley IronPigs begin their eight-game swing with a four-game set at Coolray Field. Gwinnett enters the game with a one game lead in the Wild Card lead and two games behind the Durham Bulls in the South division. Lehigh Valley is tied for fifth in the North division and is four games behind the front-running Pawtucket Red Sox.

Pitching: Lehigh Valley comes into the contest with a team ERA of 3.80 through 25 games. The duo of Buchanan and Smith has led the IronPigs rotation. Buchanan leads the league with six starts and his tied for second in wins. He has fanned 19 batters in 28.2 innings. He will get the ball in game three.

Smith has been even better. The southpaw is a perfect 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA. He has recorded three quality starts in four attempts. On April 17, he tossed a complete game shutout against the Syracuse Chiefs. He is one three pitchers in the IL to toss a complete game shutout. He has 18 punch outs in 24.2 innings.

Gwinnett will counter with Stewart, Martin, Rodriguez and Atkins.

Martin has been sensational in his last three starts. The righty has gone 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA over his last three. On April 26, he fanned a season-high ten batters at Toledo. In 23.2 innings, he has recorded 33 punch outs. He will get the ball in game two.

Rodriguez will pitch game three. Through five starts, Rodriguez has recorded three wins, tying his mark from 2013. He has been solid, striking out 28 batters in 27.0 innings. He is coming off of his strongest outing of the season on April 27, as he tossed 7.0 scoreless innings at Toledo.

Batting: The Braves have had to live life without Ernesto Mejia since being released on Saturday to pursue other opportunities. In his absence, Joey Terdoslavich has carried the load. The switch-hitting outfielder has been on a tear of late, recording a hit in his last ten games. On Monday morning, the IL named him the Batter of the Week after posting a .500 average with one homer and three RBIs from 4/21-4/27. On the season, he is batting .330 (30-for-91) with two homers and 10 RBIs.

Tommy La Stella continues to impress in his first season of Triple-A ball. The infielder is hitting .310 (27-for-87) with two doubles and 15 RBIs. He leads the team in RBIs. In 99 plate appearances, the lefty has fanned six times.

Lehigh Valley is off to a slow start at the plate, posting a team batting average of .235 through 25 games. Highly-touted prospect Maikel Franco is having a nightmarish start to the season. The third baseman is hitting .172 (15-for-87) with one homer and seven RBIs. The No.1 prospect in the Phillies organization according to Baseball America has fanned 18 times and has committed two errors on the field.

Bacon Bites: Former G-Braves manager Dave Brundage returns to Coolray Field for the second time in his career as an opposing manager. Last season he took three of four from Gwinnett.

Tribute to Big Ern

The Gwinnett Braves parted ways with a valuable member of their franchise on Saturday afternoon. Slugger Ernesto Mejia was relieved of his contract with the Atlanta Braves organization, so he could pursue a career overseas in the Japanese League.

Mejia served as the Gwinnett Braves first baseman for 2+ seasons. In 287 games with the G-Braves, he hit .279 (302-for-1198) with 59 homers and 199 RBI. He scored 143 runs, while swiping 18 bases.

In 2012, he was named IL Rookie of the Year after batting .296 (152-for-514) with 24 homers and 92 RBI. He earned back-to-back IL mid-season All-Star honors in 2012-2013, while leading the league in RBI both seasons.

He leaves the Gwinnett Braves as the single-season home run leader with 28, as he set the mark in 2013. While, also ranking among the G-Braves all-time leaders in homers (59, 1st), doubles (72, 1st), RBI (199. 1st), hits (302, 2nd) and runs (143, 4th).

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During his time with the G-Braves he did more than enough to earn a spot with the big club, but the opportunity never presented itself at the major league level. With the emergence of Freddie Freeman at first base and others viable options on the bench, Mejia was stuck in a bad situation. Despite his lack of opportunity, the Guenare, Venezuela native didn’t get discouraged.

“But I don’t feel stuck. I know I have a lot of talent and work hard. I just happen to be behind a great first baseman and a team with so much talent that I can’t even get a spot on the bench. It’s baseball. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said in an April 26 interview with David Purdum of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Baseball answered his call with a great opportunity to showcase his talent overseas. Mejia will join the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League. Mejia will try and continue his hot start from 2014, in which he hit .354 (28-for-79) with seven homers and 24 RBI for the G-Braves.

Hopefully Big Ern does great things in the Far East and returns to the states to live out his dream of playing in the big leagues.

Like he said to me a season ago after breaking the G-Braves home run record,

“Me sueño es jugar en las grandes ligas. Pero ahorita tengo que luchar y trabajar duro. Si la oportunidad se presenta voy hacer todo en mi poder para quedarme con el quipo grande, pero si no se presenta voy a continuar a jugar a lo mejor de mi talento.”

“My dream is to play in the big leagues. But, for now I have to keep fighting and work hard. If the opportunity presents itself (at the MLB level) I will do everything in my power to stay with the big team, but if it doesn’t present itself I’m going to do the best I can with my abilities.

Writer’s Note: I covered Big Ern for a little over a season. He was one of the most engaging players in the G-Braves clubhouse, and made the best every opportunity. Ultimately knowing his fate with the Braves franchise, Mejia was never discouraged and went out there and let it fly. I saw him hit over half-a-dozen majestic clouts in his time with Gwinnett, but not a single one more memorable than his record breaker on July 20, 2013 against Brandon Cumpton. After the homer, I recall asking him how it felt to break a G-Braves record.

He humbly answered, “Honestly, I didn’t know. Obviously, I’m very excited. I never expected it. I think it’s a result of all the hard work.”

The work has shown and will continue to show with the Lions. While, Mejia will be missed in the middle of the G-Braves order, you couldn’t be more delighted to for an individual to get a great opportunity like this.

“Use your imagination. Imagine the life you want to live, and live it!” –Jack Ramsey.

-JD-

Joey Terdoslavich Named IL Batter of the Week

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – The International League office has awarded Gwinnett Braves outfielder Joey Terdoslavich with Batter of the Week honors for the period of April 21-27. Terdoslavich is the second G-Brave to win the award this season, joining former Gwinnett first baseman Ernesto Mejia (April 7).

(Karl L Moore)

(Karl L Moore)

Terdoslavich, 25, has been red hot in the past week. He recorded hits in all seven contests from April 21-27, batting .500 (13-for-26) with three doubles, one home run, four RBIs and nine runs scored. The G-Braves went 4-3 in that span.

After batting .235 (12-for-51) through his first 13 games of 2014, Terdoslavich has hit safely in his last eight games, raising his batting average to .317. He currently ranks among IL leaders in runs scored (T-7th, 16), hits (T-9th, 26), total bases (12th, 40) and batting average (15th). Last season, the switch-hitting outfielder was named an IL postseason All-Star after batting .318 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs in 85 games with the G-Braves. His contract was purchased by the Atlanta Braves on July 4, 2013 and he spent the rest of the season with Atlanta.

Terdoslavich and the Gwinnett Braves continue their road trip on Monday night as they play game three of a four-game series against the Toledo Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field. First pitch is set for 6:30 PM. Right-hander Mitch Atkins (1-2, 4.86) will start for the G-Braves, while the Mud Hens will counter with left-hander Robbie Ray (2-2, 1.93). Tony Schiavone will have the play by play call beginning at 6:15 PM on wdun.com, GwinnettBraves.com, TuneIn Radio and the MiLB First Pitch app.

The G-Braves return to Coolray Field on Thursday, May 1 at 6:35 PM against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Tickets for all home games are available for purchase now by calling the Coolray Field Ticket Office at 678-277-0340 and by visiting GwinnettBraves.com.

-JD-

 

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (11-6) at Columbus Clippers (6-10)

Tue: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (2-1, 2.40) vs. Trevor Bauer (1-0, 0.75)

Daniel Rodriguez (Photo Credit KarlLMoore)

Daniel Rodriguez (Photo Credit KarlLMoore)

Wed: Mitch Atkins (1-2, 5.40) vs. LHP T.J. House (1-1, 2.45)

Thu: TBA vs. RHP Tyler Cloyd (1-2, 7.56)

Fri: RHP Zach Stewart (1-0, 5.06) vs. Josh Tomlin (0-1, 4.00)

The Gwinnett Braves are on a roll, winning seven straight games and taking full possession of first place in the Wild Card standings. With the 6-3 win over the Charlotte Knights on Monday night, the G-Braves tied their franchise record for consecutive wins at seven. Gwinnett has accomplished the feat four times before last night, once in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013.

Pitching: Gwinnett will have their hands full this week with the Clippers’ staff. On Tuesday night, they will face the No. 3 prospect in the Indians organization, Bauer. In two starts for the Clippers, Bauer has been outstanding, hurling 12.0 innings of one run ball with 18 strikeouts.

Left-hander T.J. House will be especially tough on Wednesday night. The southpaw comes in with a 1-1 mark and a 2.45 ERA. He has fanned nine in 11.0 innings, while posting a 0.91 WHIP. House made one start against Gwinnett in 2013, hurling 6.0 innings, allowing two runs on 10 hits in the no-decision.

Bauer has fared the best against the G-Braves in his career, going 0-0 with a 2.19 ERA in two starts. Tomlin made one start against Gwinnett in 2013, going 5.0 innings, allowing seven hits, three runs in the no-decision.

Gwinnett will counter with Rodriguez, Atkins and Stewart, while they wait for their Thursday starter to be announced.

Rodriguez has been the Braves’ best starter in the month of April. In three starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA. He has tossed five innings in each of his three starts, while punching out 19 batters.

Stewart will be the only Braves pitcher with previous experience against the Clippers. Last season, the right-hander went 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against Columbus for the Charlotte Knights. This season, Stewart has been solid for the G-Braves, going 1-0 with a 5.06 ERA. In his last start on 4/20, he went a season-high six innings, allowing three runs for his first win of the season.

Batting: The G-Braves are scolding hot at the dish, as they enter the series with a league-high 97 runs. They also own the third-highest batting average in the league (.280).

Phil Gosselin is leading the way with a .404 (19-for-47) batting average. The infielder enters the series with the second highest batting average in the league, behind Gregory Polanco of the Indianapolis Indians.

Ernesto Mejia and Tommy La Stella aren’t too far behind. Mejia is fifth in the league with a .379 (25-for-66) batting average. He has seven homers and 22 RBIs. He is second in the league in dingers and is tied for first in RBI. While, La Stella enters with a .346 (10th in IL) batting average. Since moving to third in the order, La Stella is hitting .375 (12-for-32) with one double and eight RBIs.

Columbus has been in the middle of the pack offensively, but Jesus Aguilar and Jose Ramirez have been standouts. Aguilar is hitting .386 (22-for-57) with five doubles, five homers and 13 RBIs, while Ramirez is hitting .333 (21-for-63) with two doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs. Aguilar is the No.15 prospect in the Cleveland organization according to Baseball America, while Ramirez is the No.9 prospect.

Mike Minor Quotes: 4.19.14

Following Mike Minor’s rehab start on Saturday night with the Gwinnett, Grant McCauley (790 the Zone) and David Friedlander (Gwinnett Daily Post) caught up with the left-hander. In his four rehab appearance, Minor went 6.0 innings, allowing three runs.

Mike Minor (Chris Roughgarden)

Mike Minor (Chris Roughgarden)

D.F: After that rough first inning you have to be pretty pleased with how you bounced back?

“Yeah. It was a tough first inning but other than I started working in some breaking pitches and changeups. I feel like I got them off balance a little bit.”

G.M: As you gone through this process is there a way you have integrated each of your pitches as you gone along or is it more about building arm strength and getting yourself ready.?

“I think it’s a little bit of both. I think the main thing is going out there and being healthy and getting the pitch count up. Then in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth innings try to work in some breaking pitches. Obviously early on, I tried to get the fastball established on both sides of the plate and then try and throw some breaking balls in there for strikes. “

D. F: What do you feel like you corrected from the first inning to the second?

“It really wasn’t anything. It was kind of the same thing. I left some pitches over the plate and they were aggressive. I left some balls over the middle of the plate and they took some good cuts. They were aggressive and hit the ball hard.”

G.M: Pitch count is up to 80, do you feel like you’re ready to go make that start in five days?

“Yeah, I think so. I could have thrown up to 90 this time. I think last time I threw 69 pitches or so. This time it was 80, I didn’t look at my velo(city) but I think it was alright. I’m glad I came out healthy and feel pretty good.”

G.M: Obviously, you have kept tabs on what the big club is doing. Their starting rotation is doing pretty well. How excited are you to get back up there and contribute.

“Those guys have been doing a heck of a job and I don’t want to let them down coming in there. I think we have the league-leading ERA right now, and hopefully I won’t skyrocket that, but I think I will be alright.”

 

-JD-

Gavin Floyd Postgame Quotes 4.13.14

On Sunday afternoon, Gavin Floyd took the mound for the Gwinnett Braves in his third rehab start of the 2014 season. The right-hander went 3.2 innings, allowing two hits, two runs-one earned with three walks and three strikeouts. Despite a rough first two innings, Floyd retired the last six batters he faced. He threw 73 pitches and 43 strikes in the 3-1 loss to Durham.

After the game I stopped by to check in on the Atlanta Brave.

How did you feel out there?

GF: “First couple innings I was just trying to make adjustments because I was rushing a little bit. I was able to make that adjustment in the third and fourth inning. I was glad I was able to make that adjustment and end the game on a good note.”

You had a rocky few first inning, what did you start doing differently in the last two frames?

GF: “My pace was quick. Everything was going too fast. I kept jumping at the plate. So I refocused and took a breather. I was able to slow myself down a little bit and make pitches.”

What were you trying to accomplish with this start? Was it a result oriented start or just another live workday?

GF: “Obviously you want results as a pitcher. In an ideal world, I wish I would have gone all five innings and pitched 75, but I’m glad I’m going through this. I had a good start last time, and today is a little bump in the road. I had tough two first innings, but I got a chance to figure it out. I need these things to get ready for when I do come back. I feel like being able to make an adjustment like that and being able to make good pitches will only help me out. I think that’s good thing to be able to get in a groove and work through some things on the mound. This will only help to make the adjustments a lot quicker when I do come back.”

How do you feel health wise?

GF: I feel good. Elbow is good. Stamina is too.

-JD-

Gwinnett Braves (4-3) vs. Durham Bulls (5-3)

Series probables
Fri: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (1-0, 1.80) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (1-0, 0.00)
Sat: Mitch Atkins (0-1, 6.75) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (0-0, 2.25)
Sun: Gavin Floyd (0-0, 5.06) vs. Nathan Karns (0-1, 13.50)

The Gwinnett Braves will welcome the Durham Bulls for a three game set starting on Friday, April 11 at Coolray Field.

Last weekend, the squads met for a four game set at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. They ended up splitting the series, as Durham took game one and four, while the Braves took care of business in game two and three.

Pitching: The home opener will feature two southpaws that shut down the respective opposition last weekend. Rodriguez tossed 5.0 IP, allowing two hits, one run and struck out nine as he recorded the victory on Saturday night; while, Montgomery dominated Sunday’s matinee, tossing 5.0 innings of scoreless baseball in the Bulls 8-1 victory. He allowed three hits, three walks and struck out seven.

Game three will feature Gavin Floyd, as he makes his third rehab start with the Gwinnett Braves. After a shaky first start, Floyd was solid on Tuesday night. He tossed 4.0 innings, scattering three hits, allowing one run and striking out two. He threw 60 pitches, 37 for strikes in the no decision victory by the Braves.

Former Nationals prospect Nathan Karns will get the ball in game three. The right-hander has got off to a slow start, allowing 11 runs in 7.1 innings (13.50 ERA). He has walked ten batters and struck out ten, so he has electric stuff but is hampered with control issues. He will look to get back on track on Sunday afternoon.
The Braves will have to get to the Bulls pitching staff early, as the back end of the bullpen has been tough on opponents. Right-hander Kirby Yates is a perfect 3-for-3 in save opportunities and has allowed one hit, no runs with four strikeouts in 4.0 innings.

Batting: Ernesto Mejia has headlined the G-Braves offense with five homers and 10 RBIs in seven games, but Phil Gosselin and Tommy La Stella are off to solid starts. Gosselin leads the team with a .500 (10-for-20) batting average with a team-high three doubles. In three games against Durham last weekend, Gosselin went 4-for-11 with three runs scored, one double and one RBI. La Stella has been just as good, batting .308 (4-for-13) with one double and three triples. La Stella has also drawn four walks in five games.

Durham is off to great start offensively, scoring 40 runs in eight games. They have relied on the long ball, slugging eight round trippers this season. Wilson Betemit, Justin Christian, Kevin Kiermaier and Jerry Sands have each clubbed two. Sands is off to the best start of the four of them, batting .333 (10-for-30) with six doubles and six RBIs.

Staying Figgy with it: Cole Figueroa is off to another great start for the Durham Bulls… The infielder is batting .463 (6-for-13) with two doubles. In his career, he has batted .356 (42-for-118) with 16 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, one homer and 20 RBIs against the G-Braves. Last season, Figueroa batted .355 (27-for-76) with six extra-base hits and 14 RBIs, while only striking out twice in 18 games against Gwinnett.

 

-JD-

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (2-2) at Norfolk Tides (1-3)

Mon: Zach Stewart (0-0, 0.00) vs. Suk-min Yoon (0-0, 0.00)

Tues: Gavin Floyd (0-0, 13.50) vs. Mike Wright (0-0, 0.00)

Wed: Cody Martin (0-0, 3.00) vs. Kevin Gausman (0-0, 0.00)

Thu: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (1-0, 1.80) vs. Steve Johnson (0-0, 3.00)

The Gwinnett Braves and Norfolk Tides meet for the first time in the 2014 campaign at Harbor Park in Norfolk, VA starting Monday night. The four-game set will conclude the G-Braves current road trip, as they split with Durham to start the season.

Pitching: The G-Braves pitching staff has been touched up for 23 runs (21 ER) in 34.0 IP and are last in the IL with a 5.56 team ERA through the first four games of the season… Daniel Rodriguez had the strongest showing of the weekend. The southpaw went 5.0 innings, allowing one run on two hits, while striking out nine. He recorded his first win of the season and first victory since May 28, 2013. He will get the ball in game four of the series. Last season, he made one start against the Tides, tossing 4.2 innings, scattering three hits and allowing three runs. He was not a part of the decision, as the G-Braves won the contest 5-4 in extra innings on April 15.

(Daniel Rodriguez/ Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden)

(Daniel Rodriguez/ Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden)

Despite dropping three games to the Knights, the Tides’ pitching staff has been real strong in 2014. In four games, they have posted a 2.50 ERA, while striking out 43 batters in 36.0 IP.

Yoon and Wright will make their first starts of the 2014 season on Monday and Tuesday. Yoon, 27, is coming over from the Korean League. In 2011, he was named the Korean Baseball Organization MVP after leading the league in wins (17), ERA (2.45) and strikeouts (178).

Wright is coming off of a strong 2013 campaign, as he dominated the Double-A circuit, going 11-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 26 starts for Bowie. On September 2, he was called up to Triple-A Norfolk to make his debut. He delivered seven shutout innings, scattering six hits and striking out two. The former third rounder in the 2011 draft out of the University of East Carolina features a mid-90’s fastball, slider, curve and change-up. Wright enters the season as the No.8 ranked prospect in the Orioles system according to Baseball America.

Gausmann and Johnson will round out the Norfolk rotation for the weekday series. Both right-handers threw in the opening weekend series against Charlotte, but received no decisions. They combined to strike out 10 batters in 7.1 innings.

Batting: Ernesto Mejia is coming off of a huge week with the G-Braves. In four games, he hit .308 (4-for-13) with four homers and seven RBIs. He was named IL Batter of the Week for his outstanding work at the dish. Last season, Mejia hit .347 (25-for-72) with five doubles, eight homers and 16 RBIs in 19 games against the Tides.

Infielder Phil Gosselin also had a solid opening week. The right-handed hitter batted .364 (1-for-11) with one double and one RBI, while playing shortstop and third base. Gosselin fared well against Norfolk in 2013, hitting .275 (14-for-51) with two homers and six RBIs.

Norfolk is off to a slow start offensively, scoring six runs in four games against Charlotte.

Henry Urrutia is batting .143 (2-for-14) with one RBI and two strikeouts. Last season, he hit .316 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 29 games with Norfolk. He was even better against Gwinnett, batting .356 (16-for-46) with two doubles, one triple, one homer and 10 RBIs. He will try and get Norfolk back on track this week.

Tides News: The Orioles have acquired right-hander Preston Guilmet from the Indians in exchange for infielder Torsten Boss. Guilmet was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

-JD-

 

Inside the Numbers: Cole Figueroa

The Gwinnett Braves (0-1) started off the season with another tough loss to the Durham Bulls (1-0) on Thursday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Facing a 6-2 deficit in the top of the third inning, the Bulls battled back, scoring one run in the fourth inning, three in the fifth and one in the seventh to claim the victory 7-6.

Bulls’ shortstop Cole Figueroa scored the game-winner, as he continued to haunt the G-Braves by going 2-for-3 with two runs scored in the contest.

In 30 games against the Braves, Figueroa has tallied a .354 (40-for-113) batting average with 15 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, one homer and 20 RBIs. Last season, Figueroa batted .355 (27-76) with six extra-base hits and 14 RBIs, while only striking out twice.

So, what makes Figueroa so good against the Braves?

In 113 official at bats, the infielder has fanned five times. His .044 strikeout per at bat average is well below his career strikeout per at bat average of .103 (225 K / 2180 AB). In addition to his low strikeout rate against the G-Braves, Figueroa has a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .358 against Gwinnett.

Some sabermetricians would suggest that Figueroa is getting lucky, as his BABIP is greater than his BA.

But, line drive hitters tend to have high BABIP’s. Figueroa is a great example, as he holds a BABIP of .312 in his career, opposed to a lifetime batting average of .291 (635-for-2180).

So, luck has nothing to do with it and the G-Braves will have to deal with Figueroa another three days at the DBAP.

Gwinnett will face Figueroa and the Bulls in game two of this four game series at 7:05 PM tonight.

Background Check: Stephen Cole Figueroa is a Tallahassee, FL native, but played his collegiate baseball at the University of Florida. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft by the San Diego Padres. In 2010, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with RHP’s Brandon Gomes and Adam Russell and LHP Cesar Ramos in exchange for shortstop Jason Bartlett. Figueroa is entering his fourth season with the Rays organization and his seventh in professional baseball.

G-Braves News & Notes: Ryan Buchter was optioned from Atlanta prior to last night’s contest. The southpaw tossed a scoreless eighth inning. Buchter made the Opening Day roster, but did not appear in a game in his first call-up to the big leagues.

 

-JD-

Series Preview: Gwinnett Braves (0-0) at Durham Bulls (0-0)

Pitching Probables
Thu: Gavin Floyd (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Nathan Karns (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Fri: Ervin Santana (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Enny Romero (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Sat: LHP Daniel Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Matt Andriese (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Sun: Mitch Atkins (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Pitching: The Gwinnett Braves will open their series against the Durham Bulls with two MLB veterans leading the group. Both Floyd and Santana will be on strict pitch counts, as they work their way back to the Major Leagues. Rodriguez, who missed most of last season with elbow ailments in his throwing arm, will make his first start since June 2nd and Atkins will join the G-Braves after spending 2013 with Double-A Mississippi.

Floyd will try to get the Braves off to a good start in 2014, as he is a perfect 3-0 against the Bulls in his career, but hasn’t pitched in a Triple-A contest in seven years. Rodriguez and Atkins haven’t fared well against the Bulls in their respective careers. Rodriguez gave up seven runs in 0.1 IP in his lose start against the Tampa Bay affiliate, while Atkins is 1-1 with a 5.50 ERA in three career starts against Durham.

Nathan Karns will be the opening day starter. The right-hander was a part of the monster trade, which saw the Tampa Bay Rays exchange catcher Jose Lobaton, pitcher Felipe Rivero and outfielder Drew Vettelson for the Washington Nationals’ Karns. The right-hander is a game-changer as he tosses a mid 90’s fastball, hard sinker and a heavy slider. Last season, he struck out 155 batters in 133.0 IP with Double-A Harrisburg.

Karns wasn’t the only one dominating the Double-A circuit. Romero was spectacular in the Southern League, going 11-7 with a 2.76 ERA in 27 starts for the Montgomery Biscuits. He made one start for Triple-A Durham (8IP, 0R, 2K) and one for Tampa Bay (5IP, 0R) to end the season. He will get the start in game two of the series.

Andriese will make his first start in International League as he was a part of the San Diego Padres organization in 2013, while Montgomery will put his 2-3 record with a 5.27 ERA in five career starts against Gwinnett on the line in game four.

Batting: Offense will be showcased in the series, as both teams have potent attacks. The Braves will have two-time RBI champion Ernesto Mejia leading the middle of the order. In 2013, Mejia struggled against the Bulls, hitting .192 (14-for-73) with two homers, eight RBIs and 26 strikeouts. While, Mejia struggled against the Bulls, Jose Constanza thrived at the dish against Durham pitching. The outfielder batted .340 (17-for-50) with two doubles, two RBIs and six stolen bases in 12 contests against the Bulls. Constanza is the lone active G-Brave to hold a batting average over .300 against Durham in 2013.

While, the G-Braves struggled to hit Bulls’ pitching, Cole Figueroa welcomed G-Braves pitching. The infielder hit .355 (27-for-76) with three doubles, two triples, one homer and 14 RBIs in 20 games against Gwinnett in 2013.

He will be joined veterans Wilson Betemit and Vince Belnome around the infield. Betemit is coming off of an injury-riddled 2013 campaign, but in 2012, he hit .261 with 19 doubles, 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 102 games with Baltimore. He will try to find his stroke in 2014 with Durham.

Belnome hasn’t had a problem hitting at the minor league level. He is a lifetime .300 hitter at the MiLB level, clubbing 58 homers and driving in 312 runners. Despite struggling against the G-Braves in 2013 (.151, 12K), he hit .300 and drove in 67 runs while earning an IL All-Star Game nod.

Bull Rushed: The Gwinnett Braves will look to get off to a good start in 2014 against the Durham Bulls, as they went 6-15 against Durham in 2013. Durham’s stranglehold was more apparent at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, as they won nine of ten games at home.

-JD-

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