PHOENIX – With the All-Star game in the books, catcher Brian McCann and the Braves’ three All-Star pitchers caught a charter flight back to Atlanta late Tuesday, ready for a brief rest before getting back to serious business.
The second half.
The Braves are 3-1/2 games behind National League East leader Philadelphia and actually have a slightly better record than the Phillies since the third week of the season.
While the pitching-centric Braves would like to trade for an affordable right-handed bat, they don’t have a lot of money to spend and won’t mortgage the future by trading a slew of prospects for one player that wouldn’t be a guaranteed difference-maker that puts them over the top.
The Braves’ All-Stars liked their chances going forward, whether or not general manager Frank Wren makes any trades. They said the pending return of Martin Prado from the disabled list was the big key for them, followed by Chipper Jones’ expected return from the DL in about three weeks.
“Do we need a piece? That’s up to [Wren],” McCann said. “But as far as what we have here, we have, I think, the third-best record in all of baseball. We feel very comfortable where we sit today.”
The Braves’ 54-38 record gives them the third-most wins and fourth-best winning percentage (.587) in the majors, behind Philadelphia (.626), Boston (.611) and the New York Yankees (.602). Only the Red Sox (55-35) and Phillies (57-34) have more wins.
“We get back Prado and Chipper Jones, we should be good to go,” All-Star reliever Jonny Venters said. “I’m sure that there’s talk of maybe getting a right-handed bat or something like that, but I like where we were at the first half. If we stay healthy and continue to do the things we did in the first half, we’re going to give the Phillies a run for their money.”
Wilson’s special spikes
While recording the last two outs for a save in the NL’s 5-1 All-Star win, eccentric San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson wore a bright orange glove and cleats adorned with his face and famous beard.
Nike produced the cleats, which featured a hand-painted picture of Wilson’s face above the swoosh symbol on each shoe, set against an orange backdrop. After the game, Wilson showed them to reporters crowded around his locker stall – which was next to the stall of Braves reliever Jonny Venters.
Venters got to know Wilson in Phoenix and came away impressed. He said he picked the veteran’s brain for advice on pitching and game preparation.
Wilson was just one of the many NL teammates that made Venters’ first All-Star experience something he said he’d never forget.
“I was just kind of sitting at my locker today looking around, taking it all in,” the Braves left-hander said. “I was in awe of the whole thing.”
Halladay got NL started
McCann was replaced after four innings and thus didn’t get to catch the Braves’ three pitchers – Venters, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel — in Tuesday’s game, but enjoyed receiving a splendid array of pitches from Phillies ace Roy Halladay.
Halladay started for the NL and worked two perfect innings with one strikeout, becoming the first starting pitcher to retire the first six batters in an All-Star game since Roger Clemens in 2001.
“I also caught him last year [in the 2010 All-Star game],” McCann said. “It’s special to be able to throw 92 miles an hour like that and make it cut, make it sink, and throw the changeup. He splits both sides of the plate.”