Archive for May, 2011

Struggling Uggla feeling pressures that come with extension

PITTSBURGH – A day to clear his head didn’t do much to change the course Dan Uggla has been on at the plate; and the struggling second baseman went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in his return to the lineup Wednesday against the Pirates.

Uggla finished this three-city trip 2-for-26 (.077) to magnify an already troubling start to his season. His average on the season fell to .180.

Heading into Wednesday’s game, Uggla admitted that perhaps the pressure of signing a five-year $62 million extension with a team he was just traded to this winter has caught up.

“It kind of comes with the territory,” said Uggla, who signed his first big multi-year contract in January, a few months after being traded from the Marlins. “You’re paid a lot of money to do a job and you want to do it; you want to fulfill it.”

Uggla said it’s something he and Brian McCann have talked about. McCann experienced some of the same pressures after signing a six-year extension worth $26.8 million with the Braves in …

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Prado sits out first game of season

Martin Prado was out of the lineup for the first time all season Wednesday for what he characterized as just a day off to rest his body. Prado fouled a ball off his foot on Tuesday night but said Wednesday there was no specific injury bothering him.

“Some days you don’t feel well, (like) my body is not responding,” Prado said. “But I’m still playing and doing my best. But players sometimes get mentally get tired. It’s not just physical.”

Prado and Uggla were the last of the Braves regulars to have started every game this season and those streaks ended this series. The struggling Uggla sat out Tuesday night’s game as a mental breather.

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Former Brave Diaz sees Venters’ nastiness for himself

PITTSBURGH – Former Brave Matt Diaz watched from a locker or two away last year as his friend Jonny Venters put together one of the best seasons of any reliever in the National League last year. He found out for himself Tuesday night exactly what the hubbub is about.

Diaz struck out in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter against Venters in the Pirates 2-0 loss, just one night after he’d gone out for dinner with Venters, fellow Pirate and former Brave Chris Resop, and their wives.

“He tried to talk me into the fact that he can’t throw strikes,” Diaz said of their dinner conversation. “And he throws a nasty slider first pitch on the black. I’m like ‘Oh gosh.’ He’s good, he’s really good. He obviously has unbelievable stuff, and it looks like he’s starting to harness it.”

After Tuesday night, Venters was leading all qualified major league relievers with a .100 (9-for-90) opponents’ batting average. His 0.63 ERA was second among all qualified major league relievers.

If there’s a …

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Minor returns to mound; Chipper on fan interference

Minor back in action today for Braves

Minor back in action today for Braves

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien)

PittsburghMike Minor gets the start today against the Pirates, and his first start in the majors since he made a spot start for Jair Jurrjens on April 6 in Milwaukee.

Minor gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 5-4 loss that day, looking a lot like an unsure rookie. He basically admitted afterward he battled some nerves, and it showed in his control – he walked the first three Brewers batters on 14 pitches. He was actually lucky the game wasn’t much, much worse.

Minor is a refreshingly honest guy and it showed up in some comments he made to DOB after that game.

“I just wanted to throw strikes right away, and I felt like I was kind of just babying it,” Minor said. “(I was thinking) ‘Throw a strike, throw a strike. And it just kept going on and on, ball ball ball ball. I guess it kind of scared me a little bit. I felt like I had the yips out there. I couldn’t throw the ball …

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Braves postgame comments after Tuesday’s shutout win vs. Pirates

FREDI GONZALEZ

On Jurrjens:

“He gives us quality start after quality start. It’s nice to see the consistency…. He’s healthy. People ask me what’s different about JJ. And he really works at it with that knee in his preparation.”

On defense:

“We played good defense and that seemed to be our MO, good pitching, good defense and the bats will come around. As long as you have the first two, you can wait on those bats to put up a big number.”

On the fan interference call:

“When you get fan interference, the rule book states that it’s up to (umpires’) judgment to see if they can score the runner or not. And they felt when the guy caught the ball or interfered with the play, Prado was not far enough to third to score the run there. My argument was with two outs, he’s going on the ball hit. But of course, my argument falls short. I have not seen the video….It’s a beautiful ballpark and sometimes the fans get involved. There are a lot of other ballparks that happens in. I’m glad it …

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Hudson on track to start Monday vs. Padres

Tim Hudson is progressing well in his recovery from back stiffness and is on track to make his next scheduled start on Monday against the Padres, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Hudson returned to Atlanta over the weekend to have his back evaluated after giving up eight runs in only 3 2/3 innings on Friday night.

Gonzalez said Hudson played catch on Tuesday and came away encouraged that he’d be ready to go Monday as planned. Hudson was originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday in Pittsburgh but the Braves will call up Mike Minor to replace him, giving Hudson a few more days to rest.

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Schafer gets first big league start in two years

Pittsburgh – Jordan Schafer returned to the Braves’ lineup Tuesday night for the first time in almost two years, getting the start in center field for the injured Nate McLouth.

Schafer hadn’t played in the majors since May 31, 2009, just three days before the Braves traded for McLouth and effectively gave up on the notion that Schafer was ready to play center field every day.

Schafer had injured his left wrist just four games into that season and futilely tried to play through it. He has spent the better part of two years working his way back from the ensuing surgery. He’s also gained some perspective.

“All the stuff I’ve been through has been pretty crazy, but I think it’s made me grow up a lot where I think I’m more mature now mentally,” said Schafer.

One way that might show up is in his approach. Schafer said unlike his first two months in the majors in 2009, when he struck out 63 times in 167 at-bats, he’s focused on staying within himself, getting on base and using his …

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Gonzalez sits struggling second baseman Uggla in Tuesday’s opener

PITTSBURGH – Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez sat scuffling second baseman Dan Uggla for Tuesday night’s opener against the Pirates.

It’s the first time all season Uggla has been out of the lineup, but after going 2-for-21 (.095) in the first five games of the Braves road trip to drop his season average to .185, Uggla conceded a breather was good.

“I couldn’t argue my way back into the lineup today,” said Uggla, who talked to Gonzalez about it on the plane ride from Arizona Sunday night. “It’s one of those things where he could tell I was really frustrated, and he wanted to let me have a little break.”

The fact that it came after an off day Monday and in a game the Braves are already playing without Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward, both of whom are on the disabled list, gives an indication of the depth of Uggla’s slump.

He hit only .202 in April, in his first month as a Brave following his offseason trade and subsequent signing of a $62 million extension. He’s traditionally a slow …

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Braves juggling outfielders, face improving Pirates

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)

PITTSBURGH – So it’s a little overcast here in Pittsburgh today, and I’m not just talking about the Braves injury situation.

Schafer joins Braves today from Triple-A Gwinnett

Schafer joins Braves today from Triple-A Gwinnett

When you’ve got two-thirds of your starting outfield on the disabled list, and two-fifths of your starting rotation on the shelf (Brandon Beachy, Tim Hudson), and you’re 1-4 on this road trip, well, it’s not too good.

You’d think two games against the Pirates would be enough to brighten the mood on a cloudy day here for the Braves, but the Pirates don’t appear to be the pushovers they have been in recent years, and tonight’s starter Charlie Morton is a great example. The former Brave has finally started to get the results to match his talents. More on all that in a moment.

But first let’s look at the Braves outfield situation and toss out a question. How do you play it right now if you’re the Braves, with both Nate McLouth …

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Next for Braves: Pittsburgh Pirates

Series preview: at Pirates

When (TV): 7:05 p.m. Tuesday (SPSO); 12:35 p.m. Wednesday (SPSO)

Radio: 680, 93.7, 100.5

Probable starting pitchers:

Tuesday: Braves RH Jair Jurrjens (5-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. RH Charlie Morton (5-1, 2.62)

Wednesday: Braves LH Mike Minor (3-3, 3.71) vs. RH James McDonald (3-3, 5.51)

About the Braves:

• Batting: Joe Mather went 7-for- 12 (.583) with a home run and five RBIs in the three-game series against the Angels, including a three-run homer and game-winning double in the 12th inning Saturday. That day he became the first Braves No. 9 hitter to collect four hits and four RBIs since pitcher Lew Burdette did for the Milwaukee Braves in 1959. Freddie Freeman has had multi-hit games in three of his past four, including back-to-back two-hit games vs. his hometown Angels.

• Pitching: Jurrjens is coming off his first loss in seven starts this season after allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 loss in Arizona. Jurrjens has allowed two …

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