Archive for August, 2010

McLouth focusing on command of the strike zone

For Nate McLouth, the results in Triple-A Gwinnett haven’t been markedly improved – he’s hitting .224 through 29 games – but he said his timing is better and he feels more comfortable.

For a player who felt “off” at the plate from the first week of spring training, it’s a step in the right direction.

“I maybe would like to have a few more hits, but I’m hitting the ball well,” McLouth said. “I’ve made a lot of hard outs. My command of the strike zone (is better). I’m walking a lot and not striking out a lot.”

Through Wednesday, he had five home runs in 29 games for Gwinnett, compared to only three home runs in 62 games for the Braves. He had just as many RBIs (14) for Gwinnett in nearly half as many games as he played for Atlanta. He had 17 strikeouts, with 16 walks, compared to 48 strikeouts with only 26 walks for the Braves.

McLouth said he and Gwinnett hitting coach Jamie Dismuke have been working on commanding the strike zone – whether it’s soft …

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Glaus feels good making transition back to third base

Troy Glaus said after five days of rest, his inflamed left knee has improved and now his attention is on re-acclimating himself to his old position of third base.

Heading into his third game at Triple-A Gwinnett Wednesday night, Glaus said it has felt good to be back at the position where he spent the first 12 years of his career.

“Even the first day standing over there, it felt good,” Glaus said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting into game speed over there.”

Glaus committed two fielding errors in Tuesday’s game. “One was a bad hop, and one I just whiffed,” he said. He thought he had another error Wednesday night charging a bunt by Jeremy Reed and rushing the play, but the scorekeeper changed the error to an infield hit for the speedy Reed.

“In all fairness to him, it’s not going to happen overnight,” Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said of the transition. “He’d be the first to tell you his range is not what it was years ago. But his hands seem to …

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Stat of the day: Infante’s power-hitting burst

5 –home runs for Omar Infante in the Braves’ past 17 games, equaling the combined number of homers he hit during the 2008-2009 seasons.

The All-Star utility infielder-turned-starting second baseman has hit .370 with five homers in 73 at-bats over the past 17 games, after hitting five homers in 520 at-bats (166 games) during the entire ‘08-’09 seasons.

His third-inning homer Wednesday extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games, during which he’s batted .410 with eight extra-base hits and nine RBIs.

Infante has started 27 consecutive games and has a .381 average in that period, hitting safely in all but one game. He has hitting streaks of 12 and 14 games in the Braves’ past 27 games.

Since June 1, he’s  hit a jaw-dropping .365 in 65 games, raising his season average to .347. Infante has  seven home runs, 37 RBIs and a .377 OBP and .837 OPS in 342 plate appearances in 2010.

His seven homers in 326 at-bats are his most since Infante hit nine homers in 406 at-bats …

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Braves’ quotes after Wednesday’s collapse

BOBBY COX

On what caused Jurrjens’ turnaround

“It’s hard to say. You make a bad pitch and the outfield is so big here. They hit every gap imaginable today. It’s not the first time it’s happened in this ballpark — you have a big lead and the other team comes back. We’ve done it ourselves. It’s not pretty to see. We couldn’t hold them. It’s one of the few times our bullpen couldn’t hold somebody.”

The total turnaround

“It’s happened many times here. It won’t happen hardly in any other park.

On potential double play:

“Young hit a ground ball to second. I don’t know if we’re going to turn [two]. He’s hard to double up. You’ve got to make sure you get one.

“And they hit a high chopper that got through by Prado.”

On Venters

“He was throwing every pitch, like, 96, maybe a little too hard. The ball would sink at times and at times it wouldn’t. He was throwing really hard.”

On walk to rookie reliever Matt Reynolds by Jurrjens in 5th inning

“He walked the pitcher and it led to four …

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Braves’ bullpen can’t shut door; showing some fatigue?

DENVER — Their bullpen has been arguably the Braves’ greatest strength, but it had a big part in their collapse on Wednesday.

Peter Moylan continued his recent struggles, while top rookie Jonny Venters had his worst game and Kyle Farnsworth again couldn’t get outs when needed.

Moylan gave up one hit, one walk and one run without recording an out, and the Aussie sidearmer has a 9.95 ERA and .360 opponents’ average in his past nine appearances. He’s allowed nine hits, seven runs and six walks in 6-1/3 innings over that period.

Venters was charged with two hits, four runs and two walks in 1-2/3 innings. The ascendant lefty has a 7.36 ERA and .300 opponents’ average in his seven appearances, after posting a 0.44 ERA and .121 in his previous 21.

“He was throwing every pitch, like, 96 [mph], maybe a little too hard,” manager Bobby Cox said. ” The ball would sink at times and at times it wouldn’t. He was throwing really hard.”

Venters has allowed more hits (nine) in his past …

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McCann, vision-challenged Saito got signal crossed

DENVER – Braves reliever Takashi Saito’s reduced vision necessitates a catcher signaling for pitches as a third-base coach signals to a batter, rather than the conventional method of signaling with fingers between the squatting catcher’s legs.

It worked well for Saito and the Braves until Tuesday, when the 40-year-old pitcher and catcher Brian McCann got signals crossed on an eighth-inning pitch that proved costly.

Saito threw a full-count fastball to Clint Barmes when McCann was expecting a breaking pitch. Barmes swung and missed, but the ball sailed past McCann, allowing Barmes to race to first base.

Instead of the third out in a scoreless inning of a one-run game, the Rockies had the bases loaded. Dexter Fowler was up next and lined a two-run single to left-center field that pushed the lead to 5-2, which ended up being the final score.

“I missed the sign,” Saito said through his interpreter. “I thought it was a fastball. I didn’t realize it until I got back to the …

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Billy Wagner on Clemens, Bonds, steroids

DENVER – We’ve got a quick turnaround from last night to today’s day game, so I figured I’d skip some usual blather and share a few stories that Billy Wagner told the other day on the bench before a game at Wrigley Field, when the subject of Roger Clemens came up.

Clemens was indicted last week on charges that he lied to Congress in his 2008 testimony after Clemens was among those named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report.

Billy Wagner says it's "hearbreaking" that some of his heroes, including Roger Clemens, may have used steroids.

Billy Wagner says it's "hearbreaking" that some of his heroes, including Roger Clemens, may have used steroids.

I don’t mean to be too Wagner-centric on this road trip, but the man is unique in that he’s got a lot of interesting stories, and both the gravitas and willingness to tell them. Not often can we be privy to this kind of stuff, and I figured a lot of you would appreciate hearing them, too.

So here goes.

On superstars alleged to have used steroids:

“I told Barry [Bonds] this,” Wagner said. “I said, man, if that comes out that you did this it …

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Braves’ quotes after Tuesday loss to Rockies

BOBBY COX

Did the passed ball and two runs that scored after it deflate team?

“Nah, in this ballpark you always have a chance. Three runs down is not a lot of runs. Street had good stuff.”

On Lowe

“I thought he pitched a nice ballgame. Six innings, only give up six hits or so [and three runs] in this park, is not bad. De La Rosa was lights-out and he gave up two runs.”

De La Rosa made pitches when needed to?

“Yeah, he did. And we hit into four double plays, so….”

On Saito

“He threw OK. He had the side struck out. Crossed up the catcher.”

DEREK LOWE

“There were obviously a lot of baserunners, and I think that was a key, to minimize the damage. I obviously got off to a little rough start in the first inning. But having pitched here, this is about as good as I’ve pitched here in a long time.

“Individually it’s always been kind of a tough place for me to pitch, so [that part was good]. On the flip side, it seems like I lose every time I go out there. It’s been a long time.”

“You …

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Cox: Kawakami to the ‘pen in September

DENVER — Kenshin Kawakami will be back in the Braves’ bullpen when he returns from Triple-A Gwinnett in September, manager Bobby Cox said Tuesday.

Rookie Mike Minor has been impressive in three starts (2-0, 4.00 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 18 innings) and could remain in the rotation for the rest of the season.

When Kawakami was sent down last month, the Braves said the Japanese veteran would make four starts and perhaps return to the majors at that point, but a rotation spot wasn’t assured.

He lost his rotation spot to Kris Medlen this summer, and Kawakami made just one relief appearance in more than a month before he was sent to Gwinnett to become reconditioned for starting.

He is 0-1 with a 4.11 ERA in four starts for Gwinnett, and not likely to rejoin the Braves until Sept. 1 when rosters are expanded.

“He’ll pitch out of the ‘pen,” Cox said. “We still need him, in case someone’s sick or whatever. Now he’s used to starting …

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Heyward knew he hadn’t made an out in a while

DENVER — If the past three days were an indication, Braves right fielder Jason Heyward is primed for a strong finish in the NL Rookie of the Year race.

Heyward reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances and had hits in seven consecutive at-bats before grounding into a double play in the seventh inning of Monday’s 5-4 loss to Colorado.

He didn’t know how long his streak was, but Heyward knew he was doing work for three days.

“I realized I hadn’t made an out,” he said. “I wasn’t counting it, but I realized I had gotten on base.”

He’s 9-for-13 with two homers, four RBIs and five runs in his past three games, after going 9-for-61 (.148) with one homer, three RBIs and six runs in his previous 17 games.

The thumb that hindered him for six weeks isn’t fully recovered, but Heyward is back punishing balls like he did in April and May.

“As a person I’ve always understood, in life and in baseball, you’ve just got to keep going,” he said. “You’re going to have things that set …

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