• Exclusives

    As trade deadline approaches, Braves hold ground in NL East

    With ten days left before the trade deadline, the Braves are in the precarious position of deciding whether to pull the string on a trade or stand pat. Despite their tough series loss in Chicago, the Braves held their ground in the NL East with a 6-1/2 game lead over the Phillies and a 7 game lead over the Nationals. Their tough loss in the series finale thanks to little run support for a great Mike Minor outing came on an afternoon when both the Nats and the Phillies also lost.

    The Braves are decimated by injuries as they return from the all-star break, with key injuries to Jordan Schafer, Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Paul Maholm. Jordan Schafer is expected to be out at least another 4 weeks with a right ankle fracture. B.J. Upton was placed on the DL just before the break with shoulder woes. Jason Heyward was given 3 extra days rest in addition to the break for his ailing legs. He is expected to start in the first game of the Mets’ series and will be plugged into B.J. Upton’s spot in centerfield. And Freddie Freeman was forced to hand over his playing spot at the All Star Game to Brian McCann due to the jammed thumb he suffered just prior to the break. He was back in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale.

    However, none of the injuries the Braves have sustained recently play into the question of whether they will make a trade before the deadline. The likely spot the Braves would look to improve is in the bullpen. Looking for a reliable reliever, the Braves have cobbled together a strong ‘pen in the absence of Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Cristhian Martinez (who had season-ending shoulder surgery just prior to the break). They could certainly improve in the ‘pen, though they have the 2nd best bullpen ERA in the National League.

    One piece of the ‘pen that is still untested is the recent call-up of RHP¬†Kameron Loe. Loe had had a rough few years in the big leagues with Seattle and Milwaukee before signing a minor league deal with the Braves. His numbers at Triple-A Gwinnett:

    Year Team W L W-L% ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
    2013 Gwinnett (AAA)  4 2 .667 3.19 21 4 2 42.1 40 18 15 2 8 24 1.134

    Unfortunately, what the Braves would like from Kameron Loe is what they got from Chad Durbin in his year with the team. That isn’t likely to happen. However, Loe has improved his pitching in Gwinnett and it appears his sinker is finally back to being as dominant as it once was in his early years with Texas. If his sinker can in fact sink, Loe could be a good situational pitcher out of the ‘pen for Fredi Gonzalez.

    BRAVES RETURN TO CITI FIELD FOR 4-GAME SET…

    With the wrist injury to Paul Maholm in his last start, the Braves now face the question of whether or not to activate young ace Brandon Beachy. Maholm is returning to Atlanta to have his strained wrist examined. The Braves will not know whether he can make his start against the Mets until the wrist is examined. If Maholm cannot start, Beachy has been progressing in his rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett.

    A break down of Beachy’s numbers while on rehab assignment following Tommy John surgery:

    Year Team W L W-L% ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WP WHIP
    2013 Rome (A) 1 0 1.000 0.00 1 1 5 3 0 0 0 1 3 0 0.800
    2013 Mississippi (AA) 1 0 1.000 5.40 1 1 5 6 3 3 1 1 4 0 1.400
    2013 Gwinnett (AAA) 1 3 .250 3.38 6 6 24 21 10 9 3 14 23 2 1.458

    Adding Beachy to the rotation in Maholm’s spot only prolongs the question of what to do with 6 potential starters, but for the time being, the Braves will have dodged that question once again.

    At end of upcoming series against the Mets, the Braves will have played New York 14 times in 2013 and will have lucked out by only facing Matt Harvey once. This is similar to their luck in not facing Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.

    The upcoming series against the New York Mets will open at Citi Field with Teheran (7-5, 3.35) vs. Gee (7-7, 4.32). The second game of the series will feature Medlen (6-9, 3.64) vs. Torres (0-1, 0.79). Hudson (7-7, 4.08) vs. Hefner (4-7, 3.93) will face off in the third game of the series. Slated to pitch in the final game of the series is the injured lefty Maholm (9-9, 4.41); whether he will be able to pitch vs. Wheeler (3-1, 3.58) is still up in the air.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.