• Minnesota Twins

    Ozuna Signing Adds Needed Jolt to Braves Lineup

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA – Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t read this blog, of that I’m certain. His burner Twitter account doesn’t follow me on that always-sane platform, of that I’m fairly certain, too. But if he did track me here or on social media, he certainly would have seen my insistence that upon seeing Josh Donaldson head to Minnesota, he could not take this team into the March 26 season opener as it was constituted this time last week.

    Turns out, all those who screamed the Braves would stand pat got to bang that drum for exactly one week.

    Seven days after news broke that Donaldson was heading north, Anthopoulos solved the Braves cleanup problem in much the same manner he brought the Bringer of Rain here for 2019, signing former Miami and St. Louis outfielder Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal. In his second season with the Cardinals, Ozuna slashed .241/.328/.472 for an .800 OPS, 29 homers, 89 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.

    Ozuna is two years removed from a monster season with the Marlins, driving in 124 runs with 37 homers (the same total a certain right-handed swinging, umbrella-toting slugger belted for the Braves in 2019) with a .312/.376/.548 slash line. He turned 29 in November and was offered a qualifying offer by the Cardinals, which certainly helped to depress his free-agent market. As hitter after hitter went off the board, Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos were left as the final two marquee bats after Donaldson signed.

    While Braves fans – including this one – pined for more rain in the forecast for 2020 and beyond – Anthopoulos found a way to land his slugger while not blocking super-prospect outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. In this space throughout the offseason, I wrote how I preferred Ozuna over Castellanos. His defensive shortcomings will be compensated by having Ender Inciarte (Pache later this summer, in my opinion) flanking him in center.

    Ozuna-palooza, coming to the ballpark formerly known as SunTrust in early April 2020.

    In landing an impact bat, the Braves also ensured there will not be three platoons (including catcher) in the everyday lineup. The thought of a World Series contender running Johan Camargo and Austin Riley at third base while employing Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall in left field didn’t necessarily spark visions of October glory.

    Anthopoulos certainly realized this, too. He did not sit by idly (as quite a few folks whined incessantly that he would), making the move he needed to make in the wake of Donaldson’s departure. Sure, losing the draft pick tied to the qualifying offer stings a bit, but when you need a big bat to hopefully push you deeper into October after two straight NLDS exits, you bite on the risk there and go for it.

    For all of Anthopoulos’ great work in the opening weeks of the offseason, missing out on Donaldson was indeed that: a swing and a miss. But Ozuna’s acquisition, on a one-year deal, is exactly the type of realistic impact move Atlanta needed to make. So, a nod of kudos to Anthopoulos for getting it done.

    The batting order looks far better with Ozuna in the fourth spot that it did a week ago, which goes to show the sheer folly of getting too worked up about a puzzle that’s under construction. Opening day remains more than two months away. Camp opens soon, yes, and with every passing day, that hole in the middle of the lineup loomed larger. But it looms no more.

    I would love to think the Braves aren’t done, that perhaps there will be another bat added (full disclosure: I’ve wanted two impact bats all offseason, knowing that’s a reach). Nolan Arenado, another popular topic on this blog and on Twitter, is quite unhappy with Colorado. But any potential trade remains a very complex situation. And I’m convinced my children’s children will have children before the Kris Bryant grievance deal is resolved.

    I won’t quibble if Anthopoulos is done here. Ozuna’s signing gives the Braves 23 locks on the opening-day roster, the way I see it, with a 2020 payroll of approximately $145.88 million. Add a cheap bench piece and two relievers from the vast number of internal candidates, and payroll likely sits around $150 million, with certainly a few million more pigeon-holed for midseason moves.

    Counting the $4 million options exercised for Markakis and catcher Tyler Flowers, the Braves have added $74.24 million in salary for the upcoming season. It sure does help having Acuna and Ozzie Albies slated to make $1 million each in 2020, and at least two members of the starting rotation (Mike Soroka and Max Fried; three, if you include Sean Newcomb) pulling in the major-league minimum.

    (No, I’m not counting on Felix Hernandez making the opening-day roster, in case you’re curious.)

    There still is the question of third base, and while I’m not enamored with the strategy of hoping Camargo 2020 is closer to 2018 and not 2019, or Riley 2020 is closer to May 2019 and not July 2019, it’s more acceptable with an impact bat in left field.

    Many of us – myself included – were critical of Anthopoulos last winter after the only move he made between the end of November and the end of spring training was re-signing Markakis. But the financial flexibility jokes officially are dead and buried now. The narrative of the Braves being too cheap is done. You can continue to say them if you wish, but you’re wrong.

    And sorry for this painful reminder, but Ozuna nearly single-handedly helped end the Braves season in the NLDS (although Atlanta had plenty of help doing it to itself), going 9-for-21 with three doubles, two homers, five RBIs and six runs scored in five games.

    If that Ozuna shows up in October, the Braves will be thrilled. And getting to the season’s 10th month certainly feels more likely than it did this time last week.

    —30—

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.

    The Rain Goes North, and It’s Time to Keep This Offseason from Going South

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    SOMEWHERE IN NORTH GEORGIA – As if the news couldn’t get any worse on a day when the home of the Braves was rechristened as Truist Park (yes, spellcheck just underlined it, if you’re wondering how the English language views this), things indeed turned worse Tuesday night.

    The skies cleared and the rain disappeared, save the tears of frustration and pain from the good people of Braves Country as news of Josh Donaldson’s signing with the Minnesota Twins cascaded across social media.

    Donaldson, whose resurgent one-year stint in Atlanta helped fuel 97 victories and a second-consecutive National League East championship, agreed to a four-year, $92-million deal with the AL champion Twins, who set a major-league record in 2019 for most homers by one team in a single season. The kicker in the deal is a fifth-year option for 2024, a season that will conclude with Donaldson a few weeks shy of his 39th birthday.

    All things being equal – and we may never know just how much the Braves offered and for how many years – it’s not much of a stretch to think Alex Anthopoulos would not include anything for a fifth year. The mindset that the option wasn’t a key element of the decision-making process is something I can’t grasp, especially for a 34-year-old player who struggled with injuries in 2017 and 2018 but rebounded at just the right time, playing 155 games in 2019 to secure a contract that will pay him for four full years and perhaps a fifth.

    Good for Donaldson, who played hard, infused grit and attitude into the lineup, exhibited outstanding defense, and provided a powerful right-handed bat in the cleanup spot. When Donaldson moved to the fourth spot and Ronald Acuna Jr. returned to the top of the order on May 10 in Arizona, the Braves offense took off. Donaldson slugged 37 homers while slashing .259/.379/.521 for a .900 OPS.

    The rain is gone, but with apologies to Jimmy Cliff, we certainly can’t see any clearer. In fact, the view is now clear as mud. The Braves absolutely must get at least one impact bat (and I’ve advocated all winter, they really need two). But going into 2020 with Nick Markakis hitting cleanup would be abhorrently criminal for a team that views itself as a World Series contender, and acted like one in the opening six weeks of the offseason by upgrading the bullpen to one of baseball’s best, plus adding a solid catcher and veteran rotation piece.

    What’s next, you ask? A few thoughts:

    Go get Arenado: In a perfect world where deals happen in a vacuum (i.e., fantasy baseball, or Twitter), I’d drive (insert prospects name here) to the airport myself. But in the real world, it’s far more complicated than screaming into the atmosphere, “just trade for him!”

    Arenado has an opt-out after the 2021 season. If he doesn’t waive it, you’re only getting him for two years. At $35 million each year. That is, if he approves the trade (Arenado has a full no-trade clause). If he does waive the opt-out, MLB stipulates you must replace that value – potentially by adding another year to a deal that already owes the Rockies third baseman $35 million a year through 2024, $32 million in 2025, and $27 million in 2026.

    I won’t quibble about the money. I’d pay it … sure, it’s not my money, but mainly I’d pay it because this player is that good. Arenado, who turns 29 in April, is a seven-time Gold-Glove winner and a five-time All-Star. It’s fair to question his road splits away from Coors Field: in 316 road games from 2016-19, he slashed .271/.341/.498 (.839 OPS). But even using that as a baseline and projecting across a 158-game season, Arenado would average 34 homers and 99 RBIs.

    But any trade for Arenado will be complex, expensive (in terms of money and prospects), and to me just doesn’t feel feasible, as much as I might want it to happen. But it would be the type of statement that would send shock waves throughout baseball, and it would in my opinion make the Braves the definitive favorite to win the NL pennant.

    Go get Bryant: I wrote about Kris Bryant earlier this offseason, and yet here we sit on Jan. 14, and there still is a question of whether he will play 2020 as a pending free agent or will be under club control through 2021. An arbiter is expected to rule on his grievance issue at some point between now and the All-Star break (kidding; kind of), and while I do not see the arbiter opening Pandora’s Box by siding with Bryant, I also don’t see the Cubs being able to move him until a decision is reached.

    Like Arenado, it feels like the Cubs would ask for the moon and stars for two years of Bryant. He’ll make $18.6 million this season, a number that will soar past $20 million for 2021 provided the Cubs win the grievance. It’s certainly worth exploring, but I just don’t see the Braves paying what Chicago is likely going to ask.

    Turning to the outfield: Donaldson’s migration to Minnesota leaves two major bats on the open market, and both are corner outfielders. Marcell Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos have positives about them offensively while not being exactly Gold Glovers defensively (although Ozuna is, in my opinion, adequate enough to be fine in a corner while being flanked by either Ender Inciarte or Ronald Acuna Jr.).

    I thought both Ozuna and Castellanos would get four-year deals, and maybe those dominos will fall quickly now that Donaldson has unclogged the market by signing. A four-year deal is an issue, with Cristian Pache and Drew Waters quickly ascending through the Braves minor-league system. I expect Pache to be up by late summer playing center field; Waters might not be too far behind. As I wrote before the Winter Meetings, I’d lean to Ozuna here but again, the length of the deal would concern me.

    I’ll also pivot to this thought. Two years ago in Miami, Ozuna smashed 37 homers and drove in 124 runs. We’ve seen him be an impact bat before, but we didn’t see it in either of the past two seasons in St. Louis.

    Something we don’t expect: Anthopoulos has made a living in Atlanta pulling off transactions very few people expected, and if I had to bet on any scenario, I’d put my chips here. Seattle keeps popping into my mind as an intriguing trade partner, although I really am not as enticed by third baseman Kyle Seager (.789 OPS) and his contract ($38M across the next two years) as much as I am intrigued with outfielder Mitch Haniger (injury-scuttled 2019 limited him to 63 games, but 26 homers and a .859 OPS at age 27 in 2018, and under control through 2022).

    Everybody loves to throw Matt Chapman’s name out there. I don’t see any way in the world Oakland trades its emerging star third baseman.

    Stand pat: Yeah, right. Johan Camargo had a very good 2018 before a lost 2019 mired by injuries and inconsistency, not to mention showing up to spring training out of shape. Austin Riley dazzled us for six weeks, then struck out at an alarming rate that showed he’s not quite ready to be handed third base out of the gate in 2020. I think he will be a good major-league hitter, in time, but a hope-for-the-best mindset doesn’t win the World Series.

    The Braves already plan to use a platoon in left field between Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall, which is concerning. With Donaldson off the market, there simply is no defensible stance to standing pat. It cannot happen, not with the moves already made this offseason, with Acuna and Ozzie Albies still ridiculously inexpensive next season, with the championship window now full open after two division titles, a painful October choke last fall, and the potential to win and win big for the foreseeable future.

    And the feeling here is the Braves won’t be content to go with what they have. A good offseason now has turned a bit on a swing and a miss, even if it’s understandable why the Braves couldn’t get it done with Donaldson. Consider me surprised he’s departing, but it happened.

    Time for Anthopoulos to really earn his money, or else all that great work in November and December will feel awful empty.

    No matter how clear the skies now may be.

    —30—

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.

    BRAVES AT THE DEADLINE: Anthopoulos must make the right move

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA – And to think, just four months ago we all assumed this week would be about getting some type of return for Brandon McCarthy and Nick Markakis.

    Unless you’ve been hiding on another planet since March – and if you have, pull up a chair because you’re truly not gonna believe this – you realize the preconceived notion of the 2018 Atlanta Braves has transformed greatly thanks to the team winning 54 times in the season’s first 98 games. At least a year ahead of the expected opening of its contention window, Atlanta sits in a very enviable and yet difficult spot as the hours tick toward Tuesday’s trade deadline.

    We could spend the next 40 paragraphs discussing the craziness that has transpired with this franchise since last summer, when Atlanta’s midsummer moves included releasing Bartolo Colon and Eric O’Flaherty, and dealing Jaime Garcia and Anthony Recker to Minnesota for a little-known prospect named Huascar Ynoa (who incidentally today was promoted to High-A Florida and is considered by many as an intriguing pitching prospect).

    Imagine that, another young impact arm in the Braves system, a system that despite the sanctions imposed by Major League Baseball in the wake of Coppygate still bursts as the seams with talent that could make waves in the majors for years to come.

    “Could” is the key word, and therein lies the rub as general manager Alex Anthopoulos surveys the madness of a market that one person described to me today as quiet for now, but “would not surprise me if it becomes frantic in the next three-to-four days.”

    The Braves, among several other teams, deserve credit for that madness. The National League was to be a victory lap for the Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers in 2018, with Arizona and Colorado and Milwaukee fighting for the two wild-card spots. Alas, the standings are chaos, with 10 teams sitting within five games of a playoff spot.

    Alas, the Nationals are not among them.

    How to sort through this unexpected landscape, especially with a team contending a year ahead of schedule and a fanbase starving for a postseason game and a system overflowing with players who could impact your future in a good way (or bad, if you deal the wrong ones)? This is when general managers make their money.

    I’m on record in this space in saying I don’t expect an earth-shaking move to come in the next seven days. It would not be prudent to deviate from a plan that has caused so much pain in order to chase a short-term gain – as sweet as October baseball would be – at the risk of negating what many expect to be a long-standing swing at championships extending into the next decade.

    Again, back to my conversation today. I was reminded of two names.

    “Stephen Strasburg.”

    “Matt Harvey.”

    Strasburg blitzed through the league in 2012 as a 23-year-old, winning 15 games with a 3.16 ERA, but was shut down after 159 1/3 innings to protect his arm. The Nationals did as the Nationals do, flopping in the NL Division Series. Six seasons later, Washington has won as many playoff series as you and I combined, and woke up today six games out of a playoff spot.

    Harvey led a young, talented Mets rotation to the 2015 NL pennant, then famously refused to yield to manager Terry Collins after eight innings of a must-win Game 5 of the World Series. He gave up a walk and a double leading off the ninth before being yanked, the Royals won in extra innings to capture the championship, and today the Mets are a dumpster fire while Harvey pitches every fifth day for Cincinnati.

    One, an organization decision based on belief opportunities would present themselves without fail for years to come. The other, a manager who was convinced to change his mind with good intentions and perhaps lost the only shot that franchise will have at the brass ring for years to come.

    Both are cautionary tales of counting on a future that may not arrive. And so, as the clock ticks toward the deadline, Anthopoulos and his charges won’t sleep much. That’s life in a major-league front office in the days before the deadline, but the challenges facing this Braves regime as July crawls to a close are equally unique, daunting and exciting.

    For his part, Anthopoulos is not shying away from the task at hand. On SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio Monday morning, he stated the Braves are able to make the moves they need to make, provided it’s right for the organization for 2018 and beyond. It’s comforting to know this front office won’t empty the farm system for one run at a ring, but at the same time one wonders just how far they should push.

    After all, the right move – not the biggest move, and not just for the biggest name, but the right move – could vault Atlanta alongside the Dodgers as NL favorites. There is a three-headed beast in the American League, four if the Brad Hand deal stabilizes Cleveland’s bullpen, so many think the Senior Circuit is playing for runner-up honors. But the fact is you can’t win the World Series until you get there, and the Braves are in the mix of NL teams who could find themselves getting the chance to win seven games (or eight, depending on if they are in the wild-card game) in October to reach the big stage.

    But at what cost? What will it take? And remember, for all the folks on Twitter begging the Braves to get “this guy” or “that guy” or “those guys,” it takes two to tango. Some of the proposed moves by basement GMs border on absurd. At the same time, Atlanta could offer the moon and sun in any one deal and still have a top-10 system. That’s the result of four years of misery and all the work that’s transpired to rebuild this once-proud franchise.

    Sorting out the varying possibilities and the potential impacts, good and bad, always are part of the recipe of July for front offices. For the one residing at the confluence of Interstates 75 and 285 on Atlanta’s northwest flank, figuring out the straightest path through the winding madness could yield an amplifying boost for the next three months while not negating the opportunity to contend for the foreseeable future.

    After today, I have backed off my earlier stance of the Braves not doing anything, for what it’s worth. Call it intuition, call it a feeling, call it a guess. But the closer we get to 4 p.m. ET on July 31, the more I think Anthopoulos and the Braves will strike.

    —30—

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.

    Braves sweep homestand, head to the Big Apple

    "Bear" Gattis' heroics helped the Braves sweep their 6-game homestand.

    “Bear” Gattis’ heroics helped the Braves sweep their 6-game homestand.

    With back-to-back sweeps of the Dodgers and the Twins, the Braves face off against an old nemesis, the New York Mets, this weekend with nothing but confidence. As they displayed in the final game of the series, the Braves can put all of their bench players in the lineup to give some of the regular starters a rest and they still dominate. They’ve proven time and time again that they can send anyone from their ace Tim Hudson to the rookie Julio Teheran to the mound and get results. They’re gaining confidence in the new-look bullpen, with Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro picking up more and more of the work and Cory Gearrin coming into his own as one of the better relievers in the National League. Right now, despite adversity, the Braves are winning baseball games and reminding the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with.

    In game 1 of the series, Julio Teheran went to the mound and showed the Twins that he may not be the most talked about rookie in the game, but he has the stuff to get any batter out. Now with a 3-1 record and a quickly dropping 3.99 ERA, his wins are more reliable and predictable than even those of Kris Medlen. Teheran pitched 8 2/3 innings, giving up only 1 run on 5 hits. The only run he surrendered was a solo homer. He walked only 1 batter and struck out 4. Teheran’s pitching gem was backed by a 3-RBI game for Dan Uggla who smashed a home run off Kevin Correia. And Cory Gearrin secured his first save of the season.

    In game 2 of the series, Tim Hudson battled the elements. Huddy threw 43 pitches before the teams were forced to leave the field for a 76-minute rain delay. Though Hudson was able to continue pitching after the delay, his start was shortened to 5 innings. His 5 innings were solid with only 2 earned runs. Hudson’s home ERA dropped to 2.84 (in comparison to his road ERA that is sitting at an ugly 7.36). In one of those strange happenings of baseball, Gearrin blew the save and then closer Craig Kimbrel entered the game to recording the win. The ‘pen was less than effective, allowing the same amount of runs as Hudson in 1 inning fewer. However, the Braves were able to get away with the win, increasing their winning streak to 5 games. Other highlights of game 2: Brian McCann hit his 4th home run of the season (4 of his 10 hits in 37 at-bats have been home runs) and Evan Gattis launched a pinch hit homer in the 9th to tie the gave for the Braves.

    Game 3 of the series was one of the most exciting, if not lopsided, in recent weeks. Putting together a roster of mostly bench players, Fredi Gonzalez reaped the rewards of fabulous offense from Evan Gattis, Jordan Schafer and Chris Johnson. He once again got to see the defensive might of Chris Johnson at third base. If there remained any doubt on the part of Gonzalez as to which player should receive the majority of the playing time, hopefully Fredi took note of just how well Chris Johnson played in the finale. Chris Johnson and Jordan Schafer now have the best averages and on-base percentages of the team. The biggest blow to the Twins came off the bat than, of course, Evan Gattis. Gattis hit his first career grand slam in the 4th inning to give the Braves an 8-0 lead. It was the 10th home run for Gattis, 3 of those pinch hit homers. He is tied for 4th in the National League in homers, quite a feat given that the others in the top 10 have at least 20 more at-bats than him. Gattis homered not long in the 4th inning after B.J. Upton homered for the first time in a game in which brother Justin didn’t. Chris Johnson’s double following the Gattis grand slam knocked starter Vance Worley out of the game. Cory Rasmus made his debut out of the ‘pen after Paul Maholm went 7 1/3 innings giving up only 1 unearned run. Rasmus gave up 2 additional runs, but the Braves’ cushion of 5 runs easily gave them the 8-3 victory.

    BRAVES FACE OFF IN FLUSHING…

    With the new interleague setup in 2013, essentially an interleague game being played every day, the schedule is even more unusual this season than before. The coming road series is case in point. The Braves will face the Mets at Citi Field for a 3-game weekend series and then they fly to Toronto for 2 games against the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays will then follow the Braves south to complete their 4-game tilt, the remaining 2 games at Turner Field. How that makes any sense, only MLB’s front office knows.

    By way of an update on injuries, Brandon Beachy will make another rehab start today in Gwinnett. He remains on track to join the club in June. Fredi Gonzalez has said that Jordan Walden will not be ready to come of the disabled list on Monday as played. He needs a few more innings of work in the minors as well as a bullpen session. And Cristhian Martinez remains at extended Spring Training in Florida where he is rebuilding arm strength. A time table for his return has not yet been determined.

    Against the Mets, the Braves will send the back end of the rotation to the mound. Tonight’s game will feature Medlen (1-5, 3.02) vs. Hefner (0-5, 5.00). Saturday’s game will feature Minor (5-2, 2.78) vs. Gee (2-5, 6.04). The series finale Sunday will feature rookie Teheran (3-1, 3.99) vs. Marcum (0-5, 6.59).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.

    Braves sweep Dodgers, Twins up next

    It’s safe to say that the Atlanta Braves put their horrid road trip behind them with a home sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the timing could not have been better given the blows to the Braves of late, especially in their injury decimated bullpen.

    Before a rundown of the injuries the Braves are currently faced with, the line scores from the 3-game set against the Dodgers:

    Game 1:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Dodgers 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 1 0 5 10 2
    Braves 0 0 2 0 0 4 2 0 x 8 9 1

    W: Maholm (5-4) L: Rodriguez (0-2) SV: Kimbrel (12)

    Game 2:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Dodgers 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0
    Braves 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 x 3 7 1

    W: Gearrin (1-0) L: Jansen (1-2) SV: Kimbrel (13)

    Game 3:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 r h e
    Dodgers 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 3
    Braves 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 x 5 7 0

    W: Avilan (2-0) L: Jansen (1-3) SV: Kimbrel (14)

    The highlights of the series included a go-ahead homer by Evan Gattis in game 2. Gattis said the at-bat reminded of his time in the Venezuelan Winter League. He said he hadn’t had “many at-bats with that kind of intensity” and that he loved it. 6 of Gattis’ 8 home runs have given the Braves the lead. Each game of the series featured solid pitching performances. Minor and Medlen pitched just as well as Maholm, if not more so, but the hard luck continues to be with Medlen and Minor’s 9 strikeouts couldn’t do anything about the lack of run support while he was in the game. Another great moment of the series was when, just after Gattis homered to give the Braves the lead in game 2, Andrelton Simmons knocked a homer in the very next bat. Andrelton’s homer came off Kenley Jansen who is also from the island of Curacao. Simons has known Jansen since he was 4-years-old and they played baseball together in their native country. Of course, the moment on every highlight reel was the grand slam by Justin Upton. Upton now has 14 homers since joining the Braves. Unbelievably, his 14th homer of the 2012 season didn’t come until September 15th. The fastest he has ever reached the 14 homer mark was on June 23rd during the 2010 season. Clearly he is on an incredible pace this season.

    BRAVES WELCOME AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL TWINS…

    The Braves will be at home for 30 of their next 55 games. A welcome change given how little they’ve played at Turner Field thus far. They’ll welcome the Minnesota Twins Monday and then will go on the road for a series with the Mets and 2 games of a split series with the Blue Jays. Then next weekend we’ll see the Nationals at the Ted for Heritage Weekend.

    A recap of the Braves’ injuries:

    • Brandon Beachy (SP) — Recovering from Tommy John surgery on pitching elbow; Scheduled return 06/13
    • Luis Ayala (RP) — Dealing with anxiety disorder; Unknown return date
    • Jonny Venters (RP) — Underwent Tommy John surgery 05/16/13; Out for season
    • Eric O’Flaherty (RP) — May need Tommy John surgery; May be out for season
    • Jordan Walden (RP) — Right shoulder inflammation; Unknown return date
    • Blake DeWitt (2B) — Lower back strain; Unknown return date
    • Cristhian Martinez (RP) — Right shoulder inflammation; Unknown return date
    Key to moving forward without Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty to setup for Craig Kimbrel will be for Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro to step up. Cory Gearrin has been exceptional both with O’Flaherty and without him and will continue to be an important piece out of the ‘pen. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Braves looking for help out on the trade market once they know for certain whether O’Flaherty will undergo Tommy John surgery. One other question will be how the Braves will insert Brandon Beachy once he completes his rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves could go with a 6-man rotation for awhile, they could move Teheran to the ‘pen (though his success of late makes that an unlikely option) or they could put Beachy in the ‘pen. Putting Beachy in the ‘pen would be similar to what the Braves did with Kris Medlen when he returned from Tommy John surgery. It would limit Beachy’s innings and allow him to ease back in.
    The Braves will get a better picture of what pieces they may need in relief over the next few days as Varavaro, Gearrin and Avilan are tested. They will also know for sure what the path ahead looks like for O’Flaherty after he meets with Dr. James Andrews tomorrow.
    Against Minnesota, the Braves will feature Teheran (2-1, 4.57) vs. Correia (4-3, 3.35) in the opening game of the series Monday. Tuesday matchup will showcase Hudson (4-3, 5.12) vs. Pelfrey (3-4, 6.57). The final game of the series will feature Maholm (5-4, 3.83) vs. Worley (1-4, 6.20).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.