Results tagged ‘ Turner Field ’
Two key contributors who helped the Gwinnett Braves push to one game out of a playoff spot were able to catch a glimpse of where their Major League dreams might become reality when they received honors shortly before Saturday’s game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field.
Right-handed starting pitcher Tyrell Jenkins earned the Braves’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year award, and center fielder Mallex Smith received the Braves’ Minor League Player of the Year award during a pregame ceremony that honored players from each level of the Atlanta Minor League system, including Gwinnett Pitcher of the Year Manny Banuelos and Gwinnett Player of the Year Adonis Garcia.
“It’s pretty cool, actually,” said Jenkins, who is Atlanta’s No. 4-ranked prospect according to MLB.com. “When they called me and told me, I couldn’t stop smiling for like 10 minutes. It was just awesome.”
The 23-year-old Jenkins and 22-year-old Smith both began the season at Double-A Mississippi but were promoted to Gwinnett before the Triple-A All-Star break. Jenkins was 3-4 with a 3.57 ERA (18 ER in 45.1 IP) in nine starts for the G-Braves, while Smith batted .281 (78-for-278) and stole a team-high 34 bases in 69 games with Gwinnett.
“It’s just a blessing,” said Smith, the Braves’ No. 13 prospect according to MLB.com.” You can’t really ask for this, it’s something that just happens over the course of time. Every day you wake up and try to get ready to go and perform and just be the best you can possibly be. I just feel like if you go out there and put your best foot forward daily, things happen. The Lord just found mercy on me to bless me with this. It’s just an honor, unbelievable.”
The Braves acquired both players in offseason trades. Jenkins joined right-handed starter Shelby Miller as part of a package in a November 17 trade from the St. Louis Cardinals in return for outfielder Jason Heyward and right-handed reliever Jordan Walden. Smith was part of a five-player deal with the San Diego Padres on December 19 that sent outfielder Justin Upton to the Padres.
Jenkins overcame two lat muscle injuries in the past three years that had kept him from making more than 19 starts in any of his first five professional seasons. He started a combined 25 games between Mississippi and Gwinnett in his first year as an Atlanta farmhand, going 8-9 with a 3.19 ERA (49 ER in 138.1 IP) that was the fourth-lowest among qualified pitchers in the Braves’ system. His 88 strikeouts also were the fifth-most of any Atlanta minor leaguer.
“Just to be able to come back and be able to have a full season, whether it was (Pitcher) of the Year or not, I was just happy to make it through the season knowing that the whole surgery held up and everything,” Jenkins said. “Just to win that adds on to kind of let you know what people saw I did or what they thought of my year, and it’s pretty special. I’m glad to be here.”
After he led all of Minor League Baseball with 88 stolen bases in 2014, Smith had a blistering start to his career in the Braves’ system. He batted .340 (70-for-206) with 23 steals in 57 games for Mississippi before he received his promotion to Gwinnett. He finished the season with a combined .306 batting average (148-for-484) that ranked fourth among Atlanta farmhands, while his 57 total steals led the organization.
“Mentally, I improved a lot, just going through my ups and downs,” Smith said. “Being traded, I had to get over that mental hump. Adjusting to a different organization, adjusting to different rules. Just trying to better yourself and just make sure you’re not disobeying the rules, just trying to get along and figure out your way. It helped out a lot.”
All of the award winners had the chance to be on the field for batting practice, which allowed Smith to meet outfielder Cameron Maybin, who was also a member of the San Diego organization up until the 2015 season, and outfielder Michael Bourn, who Smith admired during Bourn’s first tenure with the Braves from 2011-12.
“It’s a different feel seeing them up close and personal than on TV,” said Smith, a native of Tallahassee, FL. “It feels more real.”
As for his time in Gwinnett, Smith said it was fun to be part of a team that had a chance to reach the playoffs until the penultimate day of the season after it was in last place its division when he arrived on June 24.
Jenkins spent much of the final three weeks of the season on the Gwinnett disabled list because of arm fatigue, but he was thrilled to be able to come back to make one more start on Sept. 4 to prove to himself and the organization he was healthy and ready to embark on an offseason of preparation for a 2016 season that could see him back in the dugout at Turner Field.
He said it would be particularly special if he could accomplish that goal alongside Smith, his friend and roommate during road trips with Gwinnett.
“We’d always talked about always going up to Atlanta together and being together,” Jenkins said. “If he does something wrong I’ll let him know, and if I do something wrong he’ll let me know. We really looked out for each other this year.”
Smith admitted it would be fun to rise to the big leagues together, but he said he also understands all they can do is put themselves in positions that make that dream a possibility.
“When the time is right, we’ll come,” Smith said. “Until then, we’re going to prepare and get ourselves ready to be up here.”
Atlanta Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia had never hit more than nine home runs in any of the three seasons since the Cuba native has played baseball in the United States, but this year he has received his first chance to play in the Major Leagues and gone on a power surge.
The 30-year-old Garcia hit three home runs in 87 games to begin the 2015 season with the Gwinnett Braves, but he blasted eight in his first 45 big-league games.
“The difference is just coming up here and being a little bit more prepared,” he said through translator Alex Cotto. “We’ve worked on my swing a little bit, not too much, but I’m looking for a good pitch to drive, and the results are coming through.”
His homers have come in key situations, as well. His first career Major League long ball came in his third game after Atlanta recalled him from Gwinnett on July 25. He took St. Louis Cardinals’ right-handed starter Michael Wacha deep for a solo shot to lead off the sixth inning on July 26 that was the go-ahead run in a 3-2 victory.
Garcia then hit a game-tying solo homer in the top of the ninth inning the following night against left-handed reliever Zach Britton to give the Braves a 1-0 lead over the Baltimore Orioles, although Baltimore came back to win the contest 2-1 in 11 innings.
His third blast was a “walk-off” two-run shot against right-hander Ryan Vogelsong that beat the San Francisco Giants 9-8 in the 12th inning on August 3. He even homered against the organization that signed him as a non-drafted free agent on April 28, 2012 when he hit a solo homer off of New York Yankees’ right-handed reliever Branden Pinder.
Garcia’s first career pinch-hit homer was his eighth in the big leagues this season, overall. He launched a three-run blast over the left-field wall on Sept. 12 at Turner Field off of New York Mets’ righty reliever Tyler Clippard to pull the Braves into a 4-4 tie.
“It was a good feeling, as with most of the other players on the bench, they are preparing themselves in case that moment comes when they”ll be called,” Garcia said after Atlanta ultimately lost the game 6-4. “From the fourth inning on, me and a few the other guys were working out in the cage and keeping an eye on the pitcher who may be coming in. When my time was called, I was glad I was able to come through.”
Garcia also drove in three runs the following day in a 10-7 loss to the Mets. He batted .270 (43-for-159) with nine doubles, 17 runs scored and 18 RBIs while playing third base and left field across his first two big-league stints. Atlanta purchased his contract from Gwinnett on May 18, and he got two pinch-hit at-bats, going 0-for-1 with a walk and a strikeout. The Braves sent him back to Gwinnett on May 22, and he continued to work at the Triple-A level until he received the call back to Atlanta little more than two months later.
“Gwinnett, it was good because I played every day,” Garcia said. “It prepared me and just got me going because without Gwinnett I wouldn’t be here. It helped me establish myself and get well-prepared for what I was going to encounter (in the big leagues).”
He led the team with 47 RBIs and was second on the club with 94 hits at the time of his recall. He also helped carry the G-Braves’ offense through April. He batted .328 (22-for-67) with five doubles, one home run, nine runs scored and 10 RBIs during the first month of the season, which earned him the Gwinnett Player of the Month award for April from the Atlanta Braves.
Garcia also received the Gwinnett Player of the Year award from Atlanta after he hit .284 (94-for-331) with 17 doubles, a triple, 43 runs scored and five stolen bases for the G-Braves in his first year with the Atlanta organization.
“I’m very proud. I’m very appreciative, too, of the opportunity to work with the coaches and the players who were there,” said Garcia, who the Braves signed as a minor league free agent on April 4 after the Yankees released him three days earlier. “The coaches spent a lot of time with me, and I’m very appreciative of that. I’m grateful for the award.”
Atlanta Braves’ infielder Daniel Castro has had many new experiences in the first 20 games he has played in two stints in the Major Leagues this season, and he added an entire batch of highlights in what was perhaps his best game on Friday, September 11.
The 22-year-old Mexico native, who started 88 games at shortstop for the Gwinnett Braves in 2015, played second base on Friday for the second time with Atlanta and fourth time, overall, in his 131 games this season among Double-A Mississippi, Triple-A Gwinnett and Atlanta. He also hadn’t homered in his first 445 at-bats combined among the three clubs.
However, he lifted a 2-2 pitch in the fifth inning during his third at-bat against New York Mets’ left-handed starter Steven Matz over the left-field wall at Turner Field for his first big-league home run. It was also his first homer of any kind since August 29, 2014 with Mississippi.
“It felt great, but I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” Castro said through translator Alex Cotto. “I was down in the count, I was just trying to make contact and it just so happens that’s what happened.”
The solo shot accounted for the only run in Atlanta’s 5-1 loss, and Castro received the ball afterwards to have as a keepsake.
“I’ll just save it and put it away and just always have it there as a remembrance of what happened,” he said.
After his home run, Castro went back to his second base position the following inning and made a dazzling, diving play up the middle to rob Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada of a base hit.
“I feel good,” Castro said. “I contributed with the home run, as well as with my defense.”
Castro said he originally signed with Atlanta as a second baseman in August 2009, but he moved primarily to shortstop this season with Jace Peterson at second in Atlanta and No. 1 prospect Jose Peraza at the same position in Gwinnett.
Castro joined Gwinnett on May 8 for his Triple-A debut after he batted .389 (35-for-90) in 23 games with Mississippi to begin the year. His first stint with the G-Braves lasted until June 17 when Atlanta called him up for his Major League debut. He pinch hit in the seventh inning that night and notched his first big-league hit, a single off of right-handed reliever Junichi Tazawa, in a 5-2 home win over the Boston Red Sox.
Castro returned to Gwinnett the next day and remained as the G-Braves’ primary shortstop until Atlanta brought him back to the big leagues on Sept. 1. He hit .302 (16-for-53) with two doubles, a home run, three RBIs and 10 runs scored in his first 20 games for Atlanta. He batted .268 (83-for-310) with nine doubles, 36 RBIs and 19 runs scored in 89 games for the G-Braves.
“I had a good time there and worked hard,” Castro said of his time in Gwinnett. “It prepared me.”
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.
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.”
Left-handed reliever Matt Marksberry began the season at Advanced-A Carolina in April with a goal to simply earn a promotion to one of the two highest minor league levels at some point in the following five months.
However, the 24-year-old pitcher who the Atlanta Braves drafted in the 15th round of the 2013 June free agent draft was already in the Major Leagues before the end of July.
“It was shocking because I didn’t expect it,” Marksberry said.
Marksberry went 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA (11 ER in 35.2 IP) and two saves in 22 relief outings for the Carolina Mudcats to begin his second full professional season and skipped Double-A completely, as the Braves promoted him on June 29 to Triple-A Gwinnett.
He was 0-0 with a 2.61 ERA (3 ER in 10.1 IP) and one save in 11 relief appearances for the G-Braves. Then manager Brian Snitker told Marksberry he would be headed to Philadelphia to meet up with the Braves on July 30.
Marksberry pitched 1.2 scoreless innings in his Major League debut on July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies. He didn’t even allow a run until his sixth outing on August 9 to the Miami Marlins at Turner Field. Through eight outings, he is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA (4 ER in 8.0 IP).
“You can’t really rely on fastballs up here,” Marksberry said of the differences he’s noticed about pitching in the big leagues. “It’s a good go-ahead pitch, but in my last outing (on Wednesday at Tampa Bay) because I honestly threw way too many fastballs. In my previous outings, I mixed it a little bit better.”
The Cincinnati native spent hardly more than one month with the G-Braves, but he said he learned a lot during that short time because of the number of veterans on the squad in Gwinnett.
“It was also cool to pick their brains about stuff and figure out stuff about pitching,” Marksberry said. “Everywhere I’ve been to has been real nice to me. It’s awesome to have a bunch of older guys who have the experience they have and have the big-league time that they have, to treat me as one of them instead of like a rookie.”
The journey to the top level of baseball has made 2015 a “whirlwind” year, Marksberry said, but all of the surprises and moves have been positives for a pitcher who has been more than happy to enjoy the ride.
“It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in my life so far,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Karl Moore
The G-Braves ace Julio Teheran was called-up by the Atlanta Braves to make a spot-start for Tim Hudson on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field against the Toronto Blue Jays. The No. 2 overall prospect in minor league baseball opposed the Blue Jays southpaw ace Ricky Romero. Before the game, Chipper Jones was activated from the 15-day disabled list and Jose Constanza and J.C. Boscan were both optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Teheran lasted just 4.1 innings on Sunday, as Toronto’s potent offense got to the stud right-hander in the fifth inning. The Braves starter hadn’t allowed a run in his first four innings of work as Teheran looked sharp and determined to prove a point. However, the wheels came off in the fifth inning with the Braves leading 4-0, as Toronto struck for six total runs in the inning. Teheran allowed four of the six runs to cross the plate in the frame.
The reigning Atlanta Braves 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year walked away with the no decision after 4.1 innings pitched. Teheran surrendered four earned runs on four hits and struck out five while he walked just one batter amidst the 74-pitch effort.
Thw 21-year-old has so much room to improve, so there shouldn’t be a feeling of wanting to rush this kid to the big leagues. Julio Teheran’s time is coming in the not-to-distant future, but for now, you can’t rush the growing process which is vital to the future success of his career. Stay tuned to The G-Blog in the coming days for news on Julio’s next start….
By: Tony Piraro