Results tagged ‘ Gwinnett Braves ’

Il Preview: Gwinnett Braves

The IL Preview concludes with the Gwinnett Braves. Last season, Gwinnett had a forgettable season, finishing last in the IL with a 60-84 mark. Injuries at the Major League level and constant turnover at the minor league level crippled the Gwinnett roster.

The Braves will be led by new skipper Brian Snitker. The former Atlanta Braves third base coach has managerial experience at the minor league level, coaching over 2,000 games (1140-1145 record). He will have a good group of players leading the charge in 2014.

Pitching: The Braves pitching staff took a big hit with the losses of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy during Spring Training. The losses will trickle down to the minor league level, as two potential G-Braves in David Hale and Gus Schlosser will start in Atlanta.

The G-Braves will start the season with Zach Stewart, Mitch Atkins, Daniel Rodriguez, Cody Martin and Yunesky Maya. All five pitchers have pitched at the Triple-A level and come with experience. Atkins has won 33 games between the Pacific Coast League and International League. Last season, he went 5-2 with a 3.47 ERA in 17 games for Double-A Mississippi.

Martin enters the season with the least amount of experience on the staff, but will be leaned on to built upon his successful 2013 campaign. In 13 games (11 starts), he went 3-4 with a 3.49 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 69.2 IP with the G-Braves.

The bullpen will feature a slew of flamethrowers, as Wirfin Obispo, Mark Lamm, Juan Jaime and Luis Vasquez will be eager to close outs games. Obispo returns to Gwinnett after going 2-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 54 relief appearances. He recorded nine saves, striking out 70 batters in 63.2 innings.

Infield: Offensively, the diamond will be loaded with a deep-talented group. Ernesto Mejia, who hit a career-high 28 homers in 2013, returns for his third season with the G-Braves. He has led the IL in RBIs two straight seasons.

Tommy La Stella will join him on the right side. The former Coastal Carolina alum is a lifetime .327 minor league hitter. The second baseman made an impression with Atlanta during Spring Training, batting .255 with four doubles and five RBIs. He will get his first taste of Triple-A baseball in 2014.

The Atlanta Braves No.2 prospect according to Baseball America, Christian Bethancourt will get his first taste of Triple-A as well. He hit .277 (99-for-358) with 21 doubles, 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 90 games for the M-Braves. He set a club record by reaching base in 40-straight games from June 13 to August 14, batting .338 (54-for-160) with 12 doubles, 10 homers and 27 RBI during the streak.

Tyler Greene and Edward Salcedo will fill out the left side. Both players have the ability to drive in runs and steal bases. Salcedo has swiped 80 bags and drove in 211 runners in 471 minor league contests, while Greene has over 150 stolen bases and 373 RBIs in his ten year career.

Outfield: The Gwinnett Braves will be fortunate to feature a major-league like outfield, as Jose Constanza, Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich will be manning one of the three outfield positions. Terdoslavich returns after a banner season with Gwinnett. He was named an International League midseason and postseason All-Star after hitting .318 (102-for-321) with 24 doubles, 18 home runs and 58 RBI in 85 games. He was named Gwinnett’s Most Valuable player by Atlanta and Gwinnett. He was as selected to represent Team USA in the 15th annual SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, but did not participate due to his MLB call-up on 7/4.

Constanza returns for his fourth season with Gwinnett. The longest tenured G-Brave returns for his fourth season with the ball club. Constanza enters the season as the G-Braves all-time hits (306), triples (11) and stolen bases (58) leader. In three seasons, he has tallied a .301 (306-for-1,118) batting average with 19 doubles and 69 RBIs.

Cunningham, the switch-hitting outfielder led the squad in hitting with a .265 (113-for-427) batting average. He tallied 13 doubles, five triples, two home runs, 38 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 116 games.

Projected Depth Chart:

(Depth chart is not official, based on projections.)

(Depth chart is not official, based on projections.)

 

-JD-

Spring Training Q&A with David Hale

This time last year, right-hander David Hale was working on adding a sinker to his repertoire and preparing for his first Triple-A season with Gwinnett.  A year later, the Marietta, GA native finds himself competing for an Opening Day roster spot with the Atlanta Braves, having already made his Major League season and postseason debuts last fall.  Gwinnett Braves Media Relations Manager Dave Lezotte caught up with Hale today at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Image

Hale, Atlanta’s third-round pick in 2009 out of Princeton University, went 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 games, 20 starts for Gwinnett last year. (Photo by Chris Roughgarden)

DL: Last year, you made your Triple-A debut, battled back from a right shoulder strain and made your Major League debut by season’s end.  A lot of things happened to you in one season.  What did you learn from those experiences?

DH: Just to stick with it, and to improve on the stuff that I have.  I added another pitch last year, my sinker.  It gave me a lot of confidence in pitching, and I could focus more on the art of pitching instead of just trying to overpower people.  I could actually go at them with a pitch that I could come in on them and then go away on them.  It’s more of an art to me now, to focus on pitching like that.

DL: September 13, 2013, you made your Major League debut for the Atlanta Braves.  Being from Marietta, growing up a Braves fan and getting a chance to make a debut in front of your family and friends, what was that like?

DH: It was incredible, I had so many people there that I haven’t seen in years.  To have all them come out and support me, it means a lot, it really does.

DL: You worked 5.0 scoreless, four-hit innings and struck out nine in that game.  You didn’t have more than nine strikeouts in any Triple-A start all season.  Did your performance surprise you that night?

DH: I think it did.  It was good for me because it gave me some confidence; let me know that I can perform at that level.  I couldn’t have asked for a better outing, just to do that in front of my family and friends, and like I said, to give myself some confidence.

DL: You got a win the next time out on September 26 vs. Philadelphia, and not long after, you were named to the Braves’ postseason roster.  How shocking was that?

DH: You know, I really wasn’t expecting that.  When it came down to it, I guess they were looking for a long relief kind of guy, and I was able to fill that spot.  It was a blast; it’s something that I certainly won’t ever forget.

DL: You pitched in Game 3 of the NLDS at Los Angeles, a tough 13-6 loss for the Braves.  Still, it was a huge personal moment for you at the end of that game.  What was it like stepping on the mound in the playoffs, at Dodger Stadium of all places?

DH: It was pretty cool to be on the mound during the playoff atmosphere.  Like you said, L.A., that place is enormous; I didn’t realize it was the largest stadium in the league.  It was a little daunting, but we were down a little bit, so that took away (some) of the nerves because it was out of our hands.  But still, my heart was racing and it was fun to be there.

DL: When we talked last season, one of the things we focused on was your use of video as preparation at the Triple-A level.  You have access to even more of that at the Major League level, what is your preparation like here?

DH: I kind of do the same thing.  We have a lot of the same video stuff in the big leagues as in Triple-A, so I always like watching that.  I get a feel for the hitter before I ever see him, so it’s like I’ve faced him before.  It’s being comfortable through knowledge, I guess.

DL: This year at Spring Training, you’re competing for a Major League roster spot.  What is that competition process like?

DH: It’s pretty stiff.  We have a lot of good starting pitching, so I’m just doing the best I can and hopefully putting the ball in the decision-makers’ courts.

DL: What are you working on the most this spring?

DH: Consistency, that’s something I’ll say for the rest of my career.  Working on that sinker, just being consistent with it, as well as my off-speed pitches.

DL: Do you have a good feel for that sinker so far this year?

DH: Yeah, it actually is feeling really good right now.  I’ve got to get that off-speed stuff going again, but it’s early obviously, and that’s why we have Spring Training.  Just getting the feel back.

DL: You’ve been a starter and a reliever in your minor league career.  Would you accept either role in the Majors?

DH: I’ll catch if they want me to.  Whatever they want me to do to be on this roster, I’ll do it.

DL: This is a young pitching staff, both the rotation and the bullpen.  Who do the young guys look up to on the staff?

DH: Like you said, it’s a pretty young staff.  (Kris) Medlen has taken on a big leadership role.  Then you have Freddy (Garcia), he’s been around forever, so we all look up to him.

DL: If you end up back in Gwinnett at some point this season, how do you handle that?

DH: Just stick with it and just keep getting better through practice.  I don’t think any team has ever had 25 men on it for the entire season.  I just need to put myself in position to take a spot if one opens up.

Spring Training Report- Familiar Faces, New Places

With every offseason comes a changing of the guard. When the Gwinnett Braves take the field in 2014, the roster will carry a couple of familiar faces, while the majority of it will be composed of minor league free agents and Double-A standouts.

The G-Braves roster will be determined at a later date, but for now we will take a look at the former G-Braves that have moved on to different organizations. In the offseason, 11 former G-Braves declared for free agency, pitchers Joe Beimel, Joe Bisenius, Juan Cedeno, Pat Egan, Yohan Flande and Omar Poveda, infielders Alden Carrithers and Sean Kazmar, and outfielders Brandon Boggs, Stefan Gartrell, Greg Golson.

While, Bisenius, Cedeno, Kazmar, Boggs and Gartrell look to catch on with a team once Spring Training starts, the rest of the crew will be reporting to a new location in 2014.

Flande(Moore)

Flande(Moore)

Beimel will report to Peoria, AZ as a non-roster invitee of the Seattle Mariners. The lefty pitched well for the G-Braves, going 1-2 with 4.36 ERA in 33.0 IP. Beimel got off to a slow start as he was coming off of “Tommy John” surgery, but finished strong in August, posting a 3.60 ERA in 15.0 IP with 13 strikeouts.

Fellow southpaw Flande will also head to the Cactus League, but he will head to Tucson, AZ as a member of the Colorado Rockies. Flande spent three seasons with the Braves organization, posting a 23-26 mark with a 4.13 ERA in 416.0 IP for the G-Braves. Last season, he won a team-high nine games. He is second in G-Braves All-Time history in wins, losses, innings pitched, strikeouts (302) and starts (65).

Righties Egan and Poveda will be pitching in the Central Division. Egan will report to Goodyear, AZ with the Cincinnati Reds, while Poveda joins the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, AZ. Egan bounced around from Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. He finished the season with the M-Braves after going 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA with Gwinnett. Poveda enjoyed his best season at the Triple-A level, going 6-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 27 games (25 starts). He was named the Gwinnett Braves Pitcher of the Year at the end of the season. He will be a non-roster invitee for the White Sox and compete for a spot on the rotation.

Carrithers and Golson will report to Phoenix, AZ, Carrithers as a member of the Oakland A’s and Golson with the Milwaukee Brewers. Last season, the left-handed batter, hit .299 (75-for-251) with 14 doubles, one triple, three homers and 19 RBI in 90 games for the G-Braves, while the outfielder batted .462 (6-for-13) in seven games for Gwinnett.  

With former G-Braves reporting to camp and the start of the Spring Training season less than 10 days away, baseball season is approaching. Be the first to join the action as the G-Braves open the 2014 season on Friday, April 11th at 7:05 p.m. against the South Division Champion Durham Bulls at Coolray Field.

Braves Notes:

Infielder Mat Gamel was released by the Braves after suffering another set back to his injured knee. The Braves will head to camp with 61 players as they begin team workouts today.

-JD-

Spring Training Report- Non Roster Invitees, Pitchers

The Atlanta Braves are ready to open up Spring Training camp on Thursday, February 13.  While, the majority of the 40-man roster returns from a season ago, the roster did take some hits this off season, losing Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Brian McCann to free agency. However, the Braves are locked and loaded to compete for their second straight East Division crown and their third straight postseason berth.

The Braves will enter camp with 62 players, inviting 22 non-roster players to join the fold in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Many of the players will get their first taste of big league camp, while others will compete for a chance at the 25-man roster. Arms are always at a premium, so we will go over all the hurlers that will report to the Disney complex on Thursday.  The Braves invited 11 non-roster pitchers, left-handers Ian Thomas, Daniel Rodriguez, Atahualpa Severino and right-handers Lay Batista, J.R. Graham, Jason Hursh, Mark Lamm, Cody Martin, Yunesky Maya, Gus Schlosser and Shae Simmons.

Martin (Moore)

Martin (Moore)

Among the 11 invited, two have big league experience as Severino and Maya spent some time with the Washington Nationals. In 2009, Maya fled Cuba and signed with the Nationals. However, the 32-year old right-hander didn’t live up to the four-year, six-million dollar deal that he signed with Washington, going 1-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 16 games (10 starts) for the Nationals over the last four years. He will compete for a bullpen spot along with former teammate Severino, but they could end up with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Former Los Angeles Angels’ farmhand Lay Batista is the only other non-roster invitee that did not start his career in the Braves system. Batista reached Double-A last year, going 5-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 122.2 IP. He has relief experience, but primarily started the last two seasons.  He will likely start in Double-A Mississippi, but he will get a long look at big league camp.

The rest of the invitees have been with the Braves since they began their professional careers. Left-handers Ian Thomas and Daniel Rodriguez are interesting prospects, as the Braves’ bullpen enters camp with one lefty reliever. While, Jonny Venters recovers from “Tommy John” surgery, the Braves will look for another southpaw to emerge during Spring Training. Thomas had a strong showing in 2013, going 7-8 with a 2.76 ERA in 104.1 IP. He struck out 123 batters while walking 37. Rodriguez’ numbers did not resemble Thomas’, but he has been in big league camp two straight seasons and starred in Triple-A Gwinnett last year before an injury shutdown his 2013 campaign.

Rodriguez was not the only one that was shut down with an injury in 2013, as Graham had to miss the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. Graham made a name for himself during last Spring Training, tossing in 9.0 IP, allowing six hits, striking out five and recording two saves. He was sent down to Double-A Mississippi, landing on the DL in May.

With Graham’s absences on the M-Braves roster, Schlosser, Lamm and Martin, had a chance to shine for the Braves Double-A affiliate. Schlosser had the most impressive resume, going 7-6 with a 2.39 ERA in 25 starts, but he was the only one of the three that was not promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. Lamm and Martin got their first taste of the International League circuit. Lamm went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA, while Martin went 3-4 with a 3.49 ERA for the G-Braves.

Finally, the last two players that will get a look during big league camp will be Simmons and Hursh. Simmons dominated Class-A Rome, recording a club-record 24 saves, surpassing former record holder Sung Ki Jung of the inaugural 2003 club. While, last season first round pick Hursh will get his first taste of the big leagues during Spring Training. Hursh lived up to the billing last year, going 1-1 with a 0.67 ERA in 27.0 IP for Class-A Rome. The former Cowboy has an impressive upside, but he is likely heading to Double-A Mississippi to continue his development.

The 11 pitchers that are heading to big league camp will get a long look during Spring Training, but it is likely that all players will start the season in one of the Braves Minor League systems.

Tomorrow we will go over the 11 position players that have been invited to big league camp.

-JD-

Brian Snitker Interviewed on 92.9 The Game

Snitker PC

Brian Snitker answers questions at his January 23 press conference at Coolray Field (Photo by Chris Roughgarden)

In case you missed it, new Gwinnett Braves Manager Brian Snitker was a guest on Mike Sammond’s radio show on 92.9 The Game last Saturday.  In the roughly 10-minute interview, Snitker talked about his move back to the minors, the challenges of managing and coaching third base simultaneously, his experience as the Major League third base coach for Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez, the development of Braves’ top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, his thoughts on Atlanta’s club in 2014 and more.

Click below to listen:  

-DL

G-Braves Introduce Manager Brian Snitker

Manager Brian Snitker and GM North Johnson.  Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden. (For full press conference video-click photo.)

Manager Brian Snitker and GM North Johnson.
Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden.

The Gwinnett Braves held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to introduce their new Field Manager Brian Snitker.

In front of local media, VIP guests and front office staff, Snitker officially took over as the new skipper of the Gwinnett Braves. He replaces Randy Ready, who left the organization after one season with the Braves. Snitker will serve as the third manager in Gwinnett Braves’ franchise history.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” said Snitker. “I live 14 miles from here. I have raised my kids here in Lilburn and Brookwood High School. My mom lives five minutes from here. This couldn’t be any better for me.”

Snitker, who last served as the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves, has plenty of managerial experience, spending 17 seasons with the Atlanta Braves organization. He posted a career 1140-1145 record while leading ten different affiliates from 1982 through 2006. In 1999 and 2000, he led the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to consecutive Carolina League Championships. After the 2006 season, Snitker joined the Atlanta Braves as their third base coach and served under Hall of Fame Manager Bobby Cox and current Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez.

“I got to work with two of the better managers in the game of baseball, Bobby Cox and Fredi Gonzalez,” said Snitker. “They were practically the same guy on how they handled situations, players and the adversity that people don’t see on an everyday basis.”

Atlanta Braves prospects from left to right: Aaron Northcraft, J.R. Graham, Gus Schlosser, Kyle Kubitza and Lucas Sims. Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden

Atlanta Braves prospects from left to right: Aaron Northcraft, J.R. Graham, Gus Schlosser, Kyle Kubitza and Lucas Sims. Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden

The thirty minute conference was lighthearted and fun, as Snitker was joined by General Manager North Johnson, Media Relations Manager Dave Lezotte and Atlanta Braves prospects Lucas Sims, Kyle Kubitza, J.R. Graham, Gus Schlosser and Aaron Northcraft. Snitker and the prospects fielded questions from the local media as well as Gwinnett Braves season ticket holders. Snitker will head to Spring Training as soon as pitchers and catchers report to Lake Buena Vista, FL at the beginning of February.

Season ticket holders and G-Braves staff. Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden

Season ticket holders and G-Braves staff. Photo credit: Chris Roughgarden

All in all, it was a great day to be at Coolray Field. With the beginning of the season approaching, Snitker is up for the job. Gwinnett kicks off the home schedule at Coolray Field on Friday, April 11th at 7:05 p.m. against the Durham Bulls. For more information on the G-Braves and Coolray Field, visit Gwinnettbraves.com, as well as our social media outlets at facebook.com/GwinnettBraves1 and twitter.com/GwinnettBraves!

-Juan Dorado

Tom Glavine: The First G-Brave in Cooperstown

Newly-minted Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine pitched twice for Gwinnett in 2009.

Newly-minted Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine pitched twice for Gwinnett in 2009 (Gwinnett Braves).

Though he played just two games with the club, legendary Atlanta Braves’ left-hander Tom Glavine is a former G-Brave.  With the announcement of Glavine as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2014 induction class yesterday, the Gwinnett Braves Baseball Club has its first member of Cooperstown.

Glavine, who will be enshrined in the Hall alongside rotation-mate Greg Maddux and their manager Bobby Cox on July 27, 2014, was ever-so-briefly a member of the Gwinnett roster in 2009.  The G-Braves were not quite two months into their inaugural season at then-named Gwinnett Stadium when Glavine came to town on a minor league injury rehab assignment.

Glavine had rejoined Atlanta as a free agent in 2008 after spending the previous five seasons with the New York Mets.  He went 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA in 13 starts that year, a campaign shortened by three trips to the disabled list.  A nagging left elbow strain ended the left-hander’s season in mid-August, and Glavine underwent surgery with Dr. James Andrews to repair a torn flexor tendon on August 21.  The 2009 season was to be the 43-year-old’s comeback from the only major injury of his career.

His first rehab outing came with Double-A Mississippi on April 12, 2009, a 2.0-inning start in which he allowed a run on three hits in a no-decision.  Though he was efficient with 26 strikes among his 36 pitches, Glavine wouldn’t take the mound again until late May.

It was on May 23, 2009 when Glavine made his Gwinnett Braves debut.  In front of a Gwinnett Stadium crowd of 9,294, he turned in 3.0 innings against Toledo, yielding three runs on five hits.  Two of those runs came on a two-run homer by Mud Hens’ first baseman Ryan Roberson in the third inning.  Glavine left in line to lose, but the G-Braves scored seven runs over the fourth and fifth innings to take a 9-3 lead.  Two scoreless frames from reliever Francisley Bueno and a rain storm that erupted prior to the sixth gave Gwinnett the 9-3 victory in a shortened five-inning contest.

Five days later, Glavine made his final appearance in a G-Braves uniform and provided one last glimpse of his legacy for the 5,571 in attendance.  He handcuffed the Indianapolis Indians to six hits over 5.0 scoreless innings, walking one while striking out two.  Glavine threw 67 pitches, 41 for strikes to earn the win as Gwinnett prevailed, 10-6.

Those two outings (1-0 with a 3.38 ERA) marked the whole of Glavine’s time as a G-Brave.  However, it was not his final outing in professional baseball.  The last start of his career came with the Class-A Rome Braves on June 2, 2009.  Glavine won that game as well, tossing 6.0 scoreless, three-hit innings, walking none and striking out two in a 3-0 blanking of Augusta.

Glavine’s rehab assignment ended after that game, as did his professional career.  Though he had been dominant in his last two minor league starts, the 22-year Major League veteran was released on June 3, 2009.  The following February, he officially retired from the game in order to join the Atlanta Braves’ broadcast team and serve as a special assistant to Braves’ president John Schuerholz.

Four years later, Glavine is rightfully headed to the Hall of Fame.  He goes in as a career 305-game winner, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, a 10-time All-Star, a World Series MVP and lastly, a former G-Brave.

Though Glavine is the first player to don the Gwinnett Braves uniform to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame, he’s not the only member of the 2014 class with ties to the Richmond/Gwinnett franchise.  Glavine, along with managers Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa, all spent time as players with the Richmond Braves.

Bobby Cox, Richmond Braves third baseman in 1967.

Bobby Cox, Richmond Braves third baseman in 1967 (left photo).

Long before his days in the Atlanta dugout, Cox was a Braves’ farmhand himself, playing in 99 games with Richmond in 1967.  A 26-year-old third baseman, Cox batted .297 with 17 doubles, four triples, 14 home runs and 51 RBIs for manager Luman Harris and the ’67 squad.  That team finished first in the International League with an 81-60 regular-season record before falling in the first round of the playoffs.

Tony La Russa played for Atlanta in 1971 and was a member of the Richmond Braves in 1972.

Tony LaRussa played for Atlanta in 1971 and was a member of the Richmond Braves in 1972.

LaRussa played second base for Richmond in 1972 and appeared in 122 games for the club led by manager Clyde King.  Like Cox, he was productive at the plate, hitting .308 with 13 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 42 RBIs.  The ’72 R-Braves finished sixth in the IL with a record of 65-78, missing the playoffs.

Glavine as a member of the Richmond Braves, likely during the 1987 season.  (Gwinnett Braves Archives)

Glavine as a member of the Richmond Braves, likely during the 1987 season. (Gwinnett Braves Archives)

And finally we’re back to Glavine, who also pitched for Richmond in 1986 and 1987.  After going 11-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 22 starts for Double-A Greenville in 1986, Glavine joined Richmond and went 1-5 with a 5.62 ERA in seven starts.  Though his numbers weren’t great, he contributed to a team that claimed the franchise’s second Governors’ Cup Championship.  A 21-year-old Glavine returned to manager Roy Majtyka’s club in 1987, and despite a tough-luck 6-12 record, posted a respectable 3.35 ERA and four complete games in 22 starts.  That would be his last non-rehab stint in the minor leagues, as he joined the Atlanta Braves that same season and became a Major League mainstay in 1988.

While Cox, LaRussa and Glavine are going into the Hall based on the merits of historic Major League careers, each began their journey to Cooperstown in the minor leagues.  For a moment in time, those journeys intersected with the rich history of the Richmond and Gwinnett Braves franchise.

-DL

New on the 40: Ryan Buchter

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

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

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

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

Ryan Buchter, photo by Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves.

Ryan Buchter, photo by Karl Moore / Gwinnett Braves.

Buchter Breaks Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-DL

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 (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.

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