Archive for September, 2011

Wren Q and A: Neither Lowe, Heyward guaranteed starting jobs

Two days after the Braves were eliminated from the postseason, Braves general manager Frank Wren shared his thoughts about where the Braves go from here. In a candid interview Friday with selected members of the media, Wren said he didn’t envision Derek Lowe with a spot in the starting rotation next season as of now. He said the Braves have no plans to trade Jason Heyward but he will have to fight for a job in right field. And he stood behind the job manager Fredi Gonzalez did despite the Braves’ September collapse.

Here are excerpts from that hour-long interview.

Q. What about Derek Lowe?

A. He had a very tough finish to the year, and going into next season there’s, it’s hard to project him as one of our starters at this point, based on the young talent we have. But that’s something we’ll figure out when we get closer to spring training.

Q. So the bullpen is an option, if he’s not traded?

A. It’s an option we have to evaluate at that time.

Q. Has it become …

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After further review, Braves fire hitting coach Parrish

After further review, Larry Parrish was fired as Braves hitting coach on Friday.

One day after manager Fredi Gonzalez said his entire coaching staff would return in 2012, Braves general manager Frank Wren announced that Parrish would not be brought back. Parrish was fired with a year left on his two-year contract, which will be paid in full.

The firing came two days after the Braves completed a 9-18 September collapse and blew an 8-1/2-game wild card lead in 3-1/2 weeks, equaling the largest September lead every blown by a National League team.

Wren said the move was not made to satisfy fans or media members who wanted someone held accountable.

“That was not the reason that we did it,” he said. “There were enough questions in our mind that we couldn’t go forward to 2012 with the feeling that changes would be made — and changes needed to be made. They need to be made with a number of our hitters, and with our whole offensive production. Bottom line, you’ve got to have …

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Medlen’s moment, McCann’s September blues and more

One of the few Braves who could take encouragement from Wednesday’s loss was Kris Medlen. The Braves right-hander was called on to pitch with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the season on the line, in only his second outing back from 13 months out rehabbing from elbow ligament-transplant surgery.

Medlen needed only three pitches to get out of the inning and 13 more to work a scoreless 10th. He allowed only one hit in 2 2/3 innings since his return.

“To come in in a humongous spot and do well gives me a bunch of confidence, which is what I needed,” said Medlen, who could either return in 2012 as a starter or a reliever. “I’m mentally drained from the year and a couple months that I’ve gone through, and to be able to help the guys was huge for me. I already can’t wait until next year.”

McCann’s September blues

Brian McCann set out this season to be strong in September after a late-season fade a year ago, by losing weight and changing his …

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Chipper reiterates commitment to play in 2012

After the Braves’ season ended with a five-game skid and no postseason berth, Chipper Jones reiterated his intention of returning for the 2012 season.

Jones said the team’s September collapse would have no bearing on his decision.

“I’ve committed to playing next year,” he said. “I won’t commit past that; let’s put it that way. [But] I’m looking forward to it. As tough a pill as it is to swallow, for a lot of these young guys it’s a learning experience.

“We got our butts kicked for the last couple of weeks of the season, and they’re going to learn a lot from it and be better ballplayers for it.”

Jones, 39, came back from season-ending knee surgery in August 2010 to hit .275 with 33 doubles, 18 homers and 70 RBIs in 126 games in 2011, despite being slowed much of the season by knee and leg injuries.

He spent three weeks on the disabled list after arthroscopic knee surgery in July.

His .344 on-base percentage was a career low, 61 points off his career …

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Gonzalez: Braves coaching staff will return intact

There was barely time to speculate about potential changes before Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Thursday that his entire coaching staff would return.

Only 12 hours after his team’s season – and its playoff hopes — ended abruptly with a 13-inning loss to Philadelphia, Gonzalez said he has asked back all his coaches for 2012.

“Everybody is coming back,” said Gonzalez, whose Braves went 9-18 in September and lost their last five to finish one game behind St. Louis in the wild-card standings. “I invited them back and they all accepted, which is good. We’ve got a good staff.”

Some figured that first-year hitting coach Larry Parrish might be fired in light of the Braves’ dismal hitting in September and lackluster offensive performance throughout a season that ended badly. Often teams in similar situations sometimes fire a coach to send a message.

“I don’t believe in that,” Gonzalez said. “I think if you hire people, let them do their job. If they’re …

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Heavy load takes toll on Venters, Kimbrel

Packing up his locker Thursday morning, Braves reliever Jonny Venters said he wasn’t sure if he’d slept at all the night before over disappointment from the Braves’ collapse in the wild card. Not that he would admit to anything more than that, but consensus from the outside looking in, anyway, is that he wasn’t just tired from a sleepless night.

Venters finished the season with 85 appearances to lead all major league relievers. His 88 innings were tied for second most among National League relievers. Seven relievers in the majors appeared in 78 or more games, and he, closer Craig Kimbrel (79) and Eric O’Flaherty (78) were three of them.

For much of the September collapse, Venters and Kimbrel had the look of relievers on fumes, not by velocity but by a lack of command and uncharacteristic results. Both Venters and Kimbrel loaded the bases in Wednesday’s night’s loss to the Phillies, and Kimbrel gave up the tying run in a blown save in the ninth.

During the first …

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Braves quotes after season-ending loss to Phillies

FREDI GONZALEZ

“I’m proud of the club. We battled today. The ball that Pence hit, you couldn’t throw it or place it any better. And they got the win. It’s a good club over there, but I’m really proud of our club, the way we battled. We had an opportunity to play for tomorrow, but it didn’t work out. But again, a lot of good stuff this year.”

On poor offense in September

“It’s just one of those things. You wish you could flip-flop it a month with another one earlier in the calendar, but you can’t choose that. We just had a rough month of September and we couldn’t right the ship.”

On injuries to Jurrjens and Hanson, how that affected team

“We could sit here and do this and that, ifs and maybes, but that’s all excuses. The kids that came up did a nice job and kept us in ballgames.”

“It’s sad, because you see the effort that guys have put through since spring training. You see them in the locker room and there’s no tomorrow. But what are you …

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Gonzalez starts Diaz over Heyward in season finale

Jason Heyward found himself on the bench on the final game of the 2011 season after Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to start the right-handed hitting Matt Diaz in right field against Phillies starter Joe Blanton.

“Blanton historically has better numbers against lefties; right-handers hit him a little bit better,” Gonzalez said. “And if they do bring in (left-hander Cole) Hamels; Diaz is there.”

Entering the game, right-handers had hit .341 against Blanton this season, and left-handers .281. Also, Diaz had hit 2-for-6 with two RBIs against Blanton, while Heyward was 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

“The lineup I put out there is guys you feel like are going to grind out some at-bats,” Gonzalez said.

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Pastornicky savors first big league chance

Braves shortstop prospect Tyler Pastornicky was on his way home from park-hopping through Disney Tuesday night in Orlando, when he got his first major-league call-up. Talk about a wild ride.

After Alex Gonzalez went down with a calf injury, the Braves turned to their top shortstop prospect for a little insurance behind veteran Jack Wilson. They’d told Pastornicky they wanted him to work out in Instructional League in case of an emergency. How about the final game of the season against the Phillies in a must-win game?

“It was a pretty good moment,” said Pastornicky, 21, who got the call at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and flew to Atlanta Wednesday morning. “…Just to be here is something you dream about, getting a chance to go to the playoffs. I’m still in shock a little bit.”

His first call was to his father Cliff, now a scout for the Blue Jays, who knew a bit about what his son was feeling. He played 10 games in 1983 for the Kansas City Royals. That was all he got, playing …

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Lingering shoulder soreness puts Hanson on hold

Tommy Hanson said Wednesday he has no immediate plans to throw off a mound, whether or not the Braves advance into the playoffs, because of lingering soreness in his right shoulder.

Hanson was originally a candidate to pitch Wednesday against the Phillies if the Braves had clinched, but that was before he had to cut short an outing in the Instructional League because of pain in his scapula. But it is continued pain in the shoulder, Hanson said, which would prevent him from continuing to try to work back in case the Braves advance past the first round of the playoffs.

“The spot in the front where there’s tendinitis is still sore,” said Hanson, who was diagnosed with an undersurface tear in his rotator cuff but was told it wouldn’t require surgery. “It’s not getting better…. I’m just going to continue to do my shoulder strengthening stuff and continue to work it out. I’m not throwing right now and probably won’t throw until December.”

Braves general manager …

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