(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
So I had to dig through my sports page to find the Braves game story today, which means a) it’s that time of year where college football takes center stage and b) this is not a good time for four consecutive losses. Perhaps the editors, anyway, think the Braves’ six-game gap in the wildcard with 26 games to play is a bit much.
I think it’s looking that way myself. But hey, they pay me to keep on covering the team and see what twists and turns might be in store these last four weeks.
So today, we get Tim Hudson on the mound for his first start at Turner Field since his Tommy John surgery. Maybe that will give the Braves a spark they need to stop the bleeding in this Reds series.
I know the atmosphere has got to be a little more uplifting for him than when he made his return Tuesday in Florida against the Marlins. He had to wait out a three-hour rain delay, and only his wife Kim was there to witness it from his family (and she got major wife points for sitting out the delay and then having to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight back the next morning.)
Hudson gave up two runs on six hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings that game. It was wobbly early, as he gave up doubles to the first two batters before settling in. I think he’s looking for bigger and better things today, even though that was a nice start considering the circumstances.
It also happens to be the last time the Braves won.
CHIPPER OUT, NEW-LOOK LINEUP
Chipper Jones was out of the lineup today with a sore abdominal muscle. Brian McCann is getting a day of rest. Brooks Conrad is getting his first start at second base since his September call-up. And Yunel Escobar is still nursing the injury he suffered Friday night, though after taking batting practice Sunday he’s said he’s thinking probably Tuesday.
Frank Wren said the injury has migrated from his ankle to his heel. Escobar said it didn’t bother him taking groundballs but did bite him some at the plate taking bp, when he loaded up his weight on his back leg.
The Braves are 11-10 in games without Chipper in the lineup, not nearly as lopsided as last year, so it’s not all gloom and doom to have him out, necessarily. (Pause here for comments from the peanut gallery.)
1. McLouth CF
2. Prado 3B
3. Anderson LF
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Diaz RF
6. Conrad 2B
7. Infante SS
8. Ross C
9. Hudson P
Chipper said he was told the sore spot in his abdomen was another part of his oblique muscle. But unlike the area he hurt a few weeks back, which was more to the side, this is right under his ribcage in the front.
“I started feeling it a couple days ago and it just gradually got worse,” he said. “It was sore. When (the trainer) was poking and prodding on it last night, I almost came out of my chair.”
Chipper was not expecting to be available to pinch hit today. He thinks with the off day on Monday and then the night game Tuesday in Houston, he’ll probably be back ready to go.
“I’ve never had pain in the front part of my abdomen before,” Jones said. “We’ll see what a couple days do for it.”
I asked him about his experience on the GameDay set yesterday, he said he had a blast. I didn’t see the whole thing, just a snippet on YouTube, but I did hear that he picked against a certain local team….And yeah, that’s looking pretty good about now. (He picked Oklahoma State if you didn’t know.)
Chipper said he had 17 text messages by the time he got off the set at Centennial Olympic Park.
“Georgia made me look good,” the well-known Gator fan said with a grin. “I honestly didn’t feel like they were going to win the game. I knew I was going to take a bunch of guff for it, but when you go up on stage and on national TV and pick eight games, why wouldn’t you want to go 8-0?”
He said he missed on Illinois, Oklahoma and Wake Forest. He’s waiting on Miami-FSU.
Chipper, who as we know, is a natural-born quote and fits right in in that setting. He said broadcasting does hold some interest for him, but not the kind that forces you to travel with a major league team 81 games a year.
“I might,” Chipper said when I asked him if he had some interest in broadcasting some day. “It could be something that bridges the gap between playing and coaching. I don’t want to get into coaching when I’m done playing right away because I don’t want big league travel. But if I could get on the air a couple times here at home, where I could actually spend some time at home until the kids are up and out, then maybe I might go into that. (Beyond that) I might want to be a hitting coach one day.”
The more I hear him talk the more I think he’s serious about wanting to be a hitting coach some day.
ACOSTA BACK, VALDEZ DOWN
The Braves re-called reliever Manny Acosta from Class AAA Gwinnett as they told him they would once his 10 days in the minors were up. Acosta appeared in three games for Gwinnett, giving up one earned run in 5 1/3 innings.
They also sent Luis Valdez back to Gwinnett, even though they didn’t have to because major league rosters have expanded. But Gwinnett clinched a playoff spot on Saturday, so that played a part.
“Give them their closer back for the playoffs,” Wren said. “And give him a chance to pitch more than he would here. Then we’ll re-evaluate.”
So yes, Valdez could come back once the playoffs are over.
Stay tuned for Peter Moylan hairstyle updates. He still had the “rally head” Smoltz-look working this morning but said it might be time to shave his head completely if the losing streak continues. The Braves were 0-3 heading into Sunday. He said he was going to let Hudson weigh in on that.