(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
So it’s the day after Strasmas. Where do you go from there? Back to your typical Braves-Nationals matchup?
I’d say there might be a letdown out at the ballpark tonight, but that should only be with the fans, who might not be beating down the doors to come out for Game 2 of your run-of-the-mill now Braves-Nats series. But for the Braves themselves? You have to think they got a big momentum boost from what they did against Stephen Strasburg in a 5-0 win last night.
Tim Hudson pitched as if to say “Strasburg who?” and the Braves just kept chipping away, finding some openings against the young man with the golden arm. Sure momentum is only as big as the next day’s starter but the Braves have the edge there too.
Tonight, the Braves face Craig Stammen, the right-hander who was sent down to the minors in early June when Strasburg was called up to make his major league debut. Stammen went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts for Class AAA Syracuse, giving up four runs in his first outing there but only one in his last two over 13 2/3 innings.
He faces Derek Lowe (9-5, 4.42 ERA) who is coming off seven scoreless innings in Chicago, which was spoiled only by the home run Takashi Saito gave up in the eighth inning to Paul Konerko.
Then on Wednesday you have Jair Jurrjens returning to the mound from his hamstring injury. He’ll face J.D. Martin (0-3, 3.03).
While Jurrjens’ numbers from Gwinnett haven’t been great – he was 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA, 20 hits allowed in 13 innings with a .357 opponents’ batting average – Jurrjens used the time to build his stamina and work on his changeup. You can imagine when he returns to the major league mound, he’ll lock in with more intensity.
The Braves have seen Stammen and Martin only once each, so you have to think the Nats’ biggest edge in these matchups might be unfamiliarity. You know how that goes sometimes with the Braves. But again, momentum to the Braves now that Strasburg’s start is over and the Nationals are back to looking like the last-place team which has lost five in a row and 13 of its past 16.
Heyward and the All-Star game
So Jason Heyward goes on the DL after the game last night and Matt Diaz is activated.
Heyward’s DL stint will be retroactive to June 27, which means he’d be eligible to come off on Monday July 12 and could still conceivably play in the All-Star game on Tuesday, July 13 in Anaheim.
From what DOB tells me, Heyward wasn’t sure last night how he would handle that. That he wanted a chance to take some swings, maybe get some rehab games before getting activated again. So would he be able to do all that in time for the All-Star game? And should he?
My first inclination would be no. That if the whole point was to rest, let this thumb injury heal, and put himself in position to be stronger down the stretch for the Braves, then that would be his priority and he wouldn’t play in the All-Star game. He said last night either way, he’d go to Anaheim, and that’s not surprising, given the professional way he handles himself and the relationship he has with the fans.
But when you consider the splash Heyward has made in the voting this year, that has got to make this a difficult decision.
Today, in the latest – and the last voting tally that will be released before July 4 – Heyward was within 60,000 votes of Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, still in second place among all National League outfielders. Heyward has 2,205,534 votes to Braun’s 2,262,663.
Only Braun, Albert Pujols (3,249,136) and Chase Utley (2,887,350) have received more votes among National League players than Heyward. He would be the second-youngest player ever voted to start an All-Star game since Ken Griffey Jr. started in the outfield at age 20 years, eight months in 1990.
In other voting:
Troy Glaus moved ahead of Prince Fielder into third place among National League first basemen. The in-stadium voting ended on Wednesday but on-line voting at MLB.com and team sites will go until midnight Thursday.
1. Albert Pujols 3,249,136
2. Ryan Howard 1,371,913
3. Troy Glaus 998,312
1.Chase Utley 2,887,350
2. Martin Prado 1,522,295
1. Placido Polanco 1,418,096
2. David Wright 1,395,461
3. Chipper Jones 1,084,675
1. Yadier Molina 1,682,998
2. Brian McCann 1,497,097
Kawakami to the bullpen
As it turned out, that one dominant start over the Tigers Saturday – and his first win of the season – wasn’t enough to prevent Kenshin Kawakami from going to the bullpen.
Bobby Cox announced last night it would be Kawakami’s spot in the rotation that Jurrjens takes Wednesday and Kris Medlen would stay in the rotation.
The last time I saw Kawakami was after his miserable day against the Royals when he spoiled a 4-0 lead and seemed resigned to the bullpen possibility.
Unlike last year when he was the odd man out when Hudson returned from Tommy John, maybe it won’t come as quite the jolt to him this time around since he started this season 0-9 and seemed to get why this was happening.
Last year he was 7-10 with a 3.97 ERA in 25 starts when he was sent down to the bullpen. Right now he’s 1-9 with a 4.48 ERA.
In the two years since he’s come over from the Japanese Leagues, Kawakami is 8-19 with a 4.16 ERA in 40 games as a starter and 0-2 with a 2.63 and one save in seven games as a reliever. He had basically one bad outing last year as a reliever, when he hit Reds pitcher/hitter Micah Owings above the ear with a pitch and gave up two runs in two innings. But my point is now maybe he can be a real asset down there in the bullpen.
Rocket Wheeler on Julio Teheran
I spoke to Myrtle Beach manager Rocket Wheeler last week for a story I wrote for Sunday’s paper about Julio Teheran making the Futures game. It got chopped a little so I wanted to include some of what he said here.
There’s no doubting Teheran’s mid-90s fastball is impressive (he hit 97 mph in his two-inning stint in the Carolina League-California League All-Star game), but I thought you guys would want to hear about his overall repertoire.
“He’s got an excellent curveball, 12-to-6,” Wheeler said. “We’ve already talked about his fastball being plus. He’s got a plus curveball, and he’ll show signs of a plus changeup as well.”
Wheeler says he’s still working on command of his curveball, but that he can buckle knees when he’s got it going. Both farm director Kurt Kemp and Wheeler said he’s working on his confidence in his changeup and that’s something all their young guns are working on developing, but it sounds like Teheran has got a nice changeup as well and is really the total package.
“I haven’t seen a young kid throw this hard before and with the break on the curveball that he has and he’ll show you a major league changeup,” Wheeler said. “He’s got all three major league pitches.”
OK more from the ballpark shortly.