(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
No doubt, it’s a dark day for the Braves. While sorting out the next step to take with pitching coach Roger McDowell and allegations that he made anti-gay remarks and gestures to some Giants fans, came this morning’s news about Derek Lowe.
The 37-year-old Opening Day starter, one of their team leaders and on a normal day the most positive guy, and great clubhouse influence, was arrested last night at 10 p.m. for DUI in Buckhead.
To have two things of this nature come to light in a span of 36 hours is as big a one-two punch as I can remember in my 16 years (off and on) around the Braves. McDowell, at least so far, has not been nearly the firestorm kicked up by John Rocker in 1999 with his tirade in Sports Illustrated. That seemed to drag on and on as Rocker wouldn’t diffuse anything by addressing the media, and then kept making news with run-ins with reporters.
*Update: The Braves announced they have placed McDowell on administrative leave pending the outcome of their investigation. Minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace will be their acting pitching coach in McDowell’s absence.
The Braves seemed to be acting swiftly on the McDowell front and ready to take action before the team got back on the field tonight, which would be a big step toward working through this. But now the Lowe arrest has the Braves battling on two very serious PR fronts. And let’s not forget this could have been much, much worse if someone had been hurt last night.
The latest detail reported this morning by my AJC colleague Mike Morris is that Lowe was allegedly racing another driver down Peachtree Road when he was arrested.
The Braves released a statement about Lowe this morning, saying:
“Obviously we are concerned and disappointed about the events involving Derek Lowe overnight. We are currently gathering information and plan to address this matter later today.”
Add it to the list.
Former Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal was arrested for DUI twice – in June of 2000 and then again on Sept. 10, 2004, but there was a six-month window there after the Rocker thing first broke, not less than two days. Now the Braves have become been regulars this week on TMZ. Not good.
The only real good news I have to pass along is that come 7:35 p.m. tonight, the Braves will get back on the field to play the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe everybody can breathe a sigh of relief then.
The fact that all this off-the-field controversy comes at a time when the Braves are riding such a wave of momentum is what has to make this all the more disappointing to the team, and embarrassing for the parties involved to be part of the distraction.
The Braves were coming home from a 10-day West Coast swing, having swept the defending World Series Giants and rolled past the Padres the last two games of the series, outscoring them 15-2. Tonight they figured to play in front of a home crowd eager to see some of the best Braves’ baseball of the year continue. At the moment, I figure the Braves fans just want the roll of bad news to stop.
Lowe is scheduled to start in Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s still happens.
Hudson vs. Carpenter tonight
In some ways, I think Tim Hudson is the perfect guy for the Braves to have on the mound tonight. He’s a veteran. He’s the starter the Braves counted on time and again last year to pitch well after a loss. Tonight sort of feels like that with all that’s swirling around the team.
Hudson is coming off his best start of the year, when he came one out from a complete game Saturday against the Giants. He threw 112 pitches and came out after needing eight pitches to strike out Nate Schierholtz, otherwise he probably finishes.
Hudson also made it through the first inning scoreless for the first time all season. The Braves could use a smooth start, especially facing the Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who took over that role after Adam Wainwright went down with a season-ending elbow injury in spring training.
The Cardinals have yet to win in five Carpenter starts this year – despite his 3.90 ERA, but only one of them has been bad – an eight-run outing against the Diamondbacks on April 12. Otherwise he’s given up two or fewer runs each time out.
Carpenter is 3-3 with a 6.36 ERA in nine career starts against Atlanta. Chipper Jones has hit him at a .375 clip (3-for-8) and Brian McCann is 4-for-12 (.333) with a homer and three RBIs off him. The Braves rolled up eight runs (six earned) in an 8-6 win against Carpenter the last time they faced him last Sept. 10 at Turner Field.
Mather called up
Also, look for Joe Mather in uniform tonight for the Braves. As we reported yesterday, he was added to the Braves roster as the extra position player. Right-hander Jairo Asencio was sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett and Cory Gearrin gets to stay on in the bullpen.
The Braves chose having more options with Mather – he can play all three outfield positions, first and third – than to go with the hot-hitting outfielder Jose Constanza (batting .363, with a double, a triple, and nine RBIs) or first baseman Mauro Gomez (batting .403 with three homers and 14 RBIs), who has deficiencies defensively.
Mather, who unlike Constanza bats right-handed, was hitting only .258 with five doubles, a homer and four RBIs in Gwinnett. But he has played 90 games in the major leagues, including 36 last year for the Cardinals. (He’s hit .233 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 21 RBIs in his major league career, which has been married by wrist injuries.)
Who knows, maybe the Braves think Mather might come up with a little magic against his former team, the one which waived him last winter?
Continue to check back on ajc.com and the Braves page throughout the day, as I’ll have updates on the McDowell and Lowe situations.
1. Prado LF
2. Heyward RF
3. Jones 3B
4. McCann C
5. Uggla 2B
6. Freeman 1B
7. Gonzalez SS
8. McLouth CF
9. Hudson P