Archive for October, 2011

Braves add Dascenzo to minor league staff

The Braves have hired Doug Dascenzo as minor league baserunning and outfielder coordinator, after he was named Texas League manager of the year for the Padres’ Double-A San Antonio affiliate.

Having put more emphasis on speed in recent drafts, the Braves want to make sure they get the most out of those draft picks. An outfielder for parts of seven major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Texas and San Diego, Dascenzo began his career with 241 consecutive errorless games, a National League record at the time.

He stole 30 or more bases in five consecutive seasons as a minor leaguer, and began his coaching career as a baserunning and outfielder coordinator in the Padres system in 1999.

Dascenzo, 46, had a 425-350 record during the past six seasons as a minor league manager, and his Double-A San Antonio Missions finished with a minor league-best 100-47 record in 2011 including postseason.

The Missions won the Texas League title and Dascenzo was manager of the year, two years …

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Braves to interview ex-White Sox hitting coach

Former Chicago White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker will interview for the Braves’ hitting-coach position this week. The Braves fired first-year hitting coach Larry Parrish two days after the season ended.

Walker, 52, is a Georgia native and former major league player who spent 8-1/2 seasons as White Sox hitting coach before resigning after the 2011 season. He has also reportedly been contacted by San Diego about the Padres’ hitting-coach position.

The Sox ranked eighth in the 14-team American League this season in average (.252), seventh in on-base percentage (.319) and 11th in on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.706), down from sixth in OPS (.752) in 2010.

They were 11th in the AL in runs in 2011, seventh in 2010 and 12th in 2009.

Walker was consistently praised by Paul Konerko for his work with the slugging first baseman over the years, drew criticism after former University of Georgia star Gordon Beckham’s regression since his 2009 rookie season and Adam Dunn’s career-worst …

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Heyward’s latest MRI shows no issues with spine

Braves right fielder Jason Heyward had an MRI that ruled out any issues with his cervical spine, and he will be placed on a “maintenance and stretching program” to strengthen his right shoulder, the team said. No surgery is required.

Heyward spent 3-1/2 weeks on the disabled list in May and June for rotator-cuff inflammation in his right shoulder, which bothered him beginning late in spring training. He has had two MRI exams  on the shoulder which showed no structural damage.

Heyward had the most recent MRI Thursday to see if there was anything spinal-related that was causing lingering soreness in the back of his shoulder, in order to give him peace of mind entering the offseason before he begins his workout regimen.

The NL rookie of the year runner-up in 2010, Heyward struggled in his second season and spent time on the bench in August. He hit .227 with 34 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs and a .319 on-base percentage in 128 games, down from .277 with 52 extra-base hits, 72 RBIs and …

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Wren, Fredi G. reflect on collapse, look ahead

One week into a Braves offseason that came all too quickly, I’m guessing it’s still a little difficult for some of you folks to wrap you minds around the fact that the Braves in September were one of the worst teams in baseball, after being one of the best three or four best teams for most of the year.

Wren shakes Gonzalez's hand after introducing him as Braves manager on Oct. 13, 2011, two days after the Braves lost to San Francisco in the division series. An epic September swoon kept them from returning to the postseason this year.

Wren shakes Gonzalez's hand after introducing him as Braves manager on Oct. 13, 2011, two days after the Braves lost to San Francisco in the division series. An epic September swoon ended the 2012 season.

For me, it has been — and I had a really good seat for the whole thing.

We’re going to get to some more of the Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez post-mortem interviews from last week, some things that didn’t make it in the paper in our stories and Q&As. Because there were a lot of things to discuss,  more than we had room to publish.

I think you’ll find interesting several more things that both had to say in the aftermath of a month that felt a little like the sad Green Day song, …

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Braves send letter to frustrated fans

The Braves’ franchise-worst September collapse, in which they blew an 8-1/2-game wild-card lead in 3-1/2 weeks — matching the largest lead ever blown by a National League playoff contender in the final month — has resulted in an unusual response from the top of the organization to season ticket holders.

In what amounts to an organizational mea culpa,  Braves president John Schuerholz sent a letter that thanks fans for continued support, cites several accomplishments by the team during the 2011 season and notes the depth of the organization, and then says that ultimately the team failed to reach its ultimate goal because of a performance in September that was “unnacceptable to all in the organization.”

For an organization that prides itself on keeping an even keel and reacting to all situations in a sort of button-downed, measured tone, it was a noticeably strong response from the person who has long been the primary force behind that philosophy.

We might add, it was a smart …

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A year later, Heyward’s future seems less certain

Last winter and at spring training, Braves general manager Frank Wren was asked if he’d try to sign Jason Heyward to a long-term contract, as Tampa Bay did with Evan Longoria early in his rookie season and Milwaukee did with Ryan Braun after his rookie year.

Last week, Wren was asked about a rumor that the Braves might consider trading Heyward after a disappointing, injury-plagued second season.

“We’ve never had one discussion about trading Jason Heyward,” he scoffed. “That’s the furthest thing from our mind. That’s never come up. Nobody’s contemplated it.”

The mere fact that there was even mention of the possibility – rumored or otherwise – says something of how bad a season Heyward had, and how perception of the 22-year-old  has already changed in some quarters.

Few people in baseball will be shocked if Heyward bounces back from an alarming second season – .227 average, .319 on-base percentage, 34 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs – with a performance in 2012 that more closely …

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Wren Q and A Part II: Talking McCann, Prado, Bourn and more

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 …

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