Braves general manager Frank Wren sat down with selected members of the media following the end of the Braves season, discussing topics ranging from the September collapse to roster projections. In Part II of that interview, Wren talks about Brian McCann’s late-season troubles, the prospects of signing Michael Bourn long-term and Freddie Freeman’s breakout season, among other things.
Here are excerpts from the remainder of that interview. (Part I is available at ajc.com/braves)
Q. How much did injuries play a role, like in the case of Brian McCann?
A. It’s clear Brian was not the same hitter after the injury. It’s something we’ve never seen with Brian in five years, so it’s hard for me to say. I do know you’re talking about a guy that works hard and cares more than anyone on this team and is as responsible as anyone on this team, and he couldn’t pull himself out of the struggles, and we couldn’t help him pull out of the struggles. He took more extra batting practice and spent more time watching video and comparing good swings to bad swings than anyone you could imagine and just couldn’t reverse. I think when the pressure mounts as it did in September that can be debilitating, and I think we saw that with a lot of hitters.
Q. Did you see swings that looked like he was trying to protect his oblique?
A. I think Brian took a lot of swings that looked normal and he took some swings that didn’t look so normal to me. But I don’t know that that was based on the oblique or whether he was protecting it. But I think it was very tough for him to get his timing back after that.
Q. Do you look at Martin Prado’s season as an aberration?
A. This was a tough year for him, and I think it’s hard to really evaluate what that staph infection meant to him. In a lot of ways to me it’s similar to what happened with McCann after the oblique. They were not quite the same…I’m not a doctor so I don’t know physiologically what exactly (the staph infection) means but we saw a different Martin.
Q. Do you think moving to left field had a negative effect on him at the plate?
A. It shouldn’t affect him. Let’s put it that way.
Q. Will he be back in left field?
A. I think the likelihood (is good). We’re still a couple weeks away from having our real planning meeting where we look exactly what we think the club will look like.
Q. Would you hesitate to move him to a third position in three years?
A. We’re not there. We’re not to the point where we’ve had any discussions like that.
Q. Do you go into next season in a similar position with Chipper Jones, knowing he’s your third baseman but you can’t play him every day?
A. It’s probably exacerbated a little more because we know with his knee situation it’s going to be hard for him to play seven days in a row. That’s just the reality. We’ve got to take care of him to keep him healthy for the long haul. We also saw that when he got a roll this year, he was a pretty dynamic player. It’s probably unrealistic for us to expect that all the time, but he gave us a lot of good games at third base and a lot of big hits throughout the season.
Q. How much of the September collapse was a result of the ripple effect of losing Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson to injuries?
A. It’s hard for me to pin it on the pitching because we had 17 games in September when we gave up four runs or less. So that doesn’t indicate to me that the pitching was a problem.
Q. How concerned are you about Hanson’s shoulder?
A. Based on the information we have right now, not very. It’s just going to take some time. None of the doctors have come back with any structural damage, and so it’s one of those things where we were trying to ramp him up and see if we could get him ready to pitch at some point in the postseason if we made the postseason, and he couldn’t get going that quickly.
Q. Do you go into the winter looking to improve bullpen depth?
A. Not really because I felt like Cristhian Martinez was a guy that really came on. I thought Anthony Varvaro really did well…So we feel like we have some internal choices, and it also depends on what happens with Kris Medlen and what role he’s in because he really can do a variety of things and be very valuable.
Q. What do you tell Medlen about his role heading into the winter?
A. He could do so many things. The great thing was getting him back and getting him into major league games and competing again, because it sends him off with the confidence that he knows he’s back, and we know he’s back. And whether he’s a starter or a reliever – I don’t know the answer to that right now – but he can do either.
Q. Do you try to sign Michael Bourn to a contract extension this offseason?
A. I don’t know the answer to that. He’s an arbitration eligible player that we’ll go through the process. If those discussions come up during that process , we’ll explore it. We like Michael a lot. We like what he brings to the team. We like the infusion of speed.
Q. Nice to get what you did out of Freddie Freeman?
A. He had just a terrific breakout year. He laid a great foundation in Triple-A a year ago and showed what kind of hitter he could be and he carried it through. He has a great approach. He has a good swing, I think he uses the whole feel very well and that makes him a dangerous hitter. For a lot of people the knock was would he have enough power. I don’t think anybody is going to question that any more. As he grows and learns, he has plenty of power.
Q. Now you have to hope he doesn’t endure the sophomore slump?
A. No one is immune to it, that’s for sure, but I think his swing is one that allows for pretty consistent play.