(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien Saturday and Sunday.)
So it’s the calm after the home-opener. Great crowd for Friday night’s wild win over the Brewers, 10-8, of 50,635, but now we settle into the heart of the Brewers series, and still get the red-and-white bunting too, and maybe a little shorter lines on the concession stands (I hear they were a little nutty.)
The Braves are breaking out the new cream-colored, throwback style, uniforms for Saturday and then it’s back to the home whites with “42s” for Jackie Robinson day on Sunday. Sunday is the 65th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier, so the players and coaches will wear his “42” for the occasion. But going forward the Braves will be in the cream throwbacks on home Saturdays and Sundays.
For those who missed the big reveal in February, the new uniforms are reminiscent of the ones the Braves wore in 1966 and 1967, with “Braves” across the chest and the jersey numbers below, as well as on the back. They also feature a new crossed tomahawk logo on the left sleeve.
I’d expect Chipper Jones to take another day off Saturday to rest his knee and return to the lineup Sunday against left-hander Chris Narveson. He got his knee drained during the game Friday night – 45cc of fluid (ick!) – and was immediately feeling better. But he was thinking chances were probably 30-70 that he would be back in there Saturday. So we’ll see.
So now do you put Juan Francisco back in the lineup against the right-handed Shaun Marcum? The young third baseman struggled mightily in his last start, committing three errors in Monday’s game 8-3 loss to the Astros, including two on one costly play. He’s got to get back on the horse some time, but the Braves are already playing rookie Tyler Pastornicky at shortstop and could use some sure hands on the left side of the infield. At the plate, Francisco is 1-for-10 so far as a Brave, 1-for-3 vs. lefties, and 0-for-7 vs. righties.
Seven games into the season entering Saturday, no Braves starter had pitched more than five innings. It’s early, yes, but the trend is fairly troublesome. Jair Jurrjens tried on Friday night, pitching into the sixth inning, but he managed just a “plus” on the end of his five innings, as he allowed three consecutive hits, including a two-run Corey Hart double, and that was it for him.
“As a group, we’ve been struggling,” Jurrjens said. “We’re not really doing our job by eating innings. We need to step it up and try to help these guys in the bullpen. It’s the first month and we’re using them too much already. As a starting group we need to step it up and try to eat some innings and try to go deeper in the game.”
It’s up to Mike Minor on Saturday and Brandon Beachy on Sunday to try to remedy that.
The weird thing for Jurrjens Friday night was that his velocity was finally up, but he still gave up five runs in five innings. He touched 92 mph with his fastball in the first inning to strike out Ryan Braun.
“That’s why I said it’s hard to swallow my performance because I felt really good,” Jurrjens said. “I felt the ball was coming really good out of my hand. I’m just happy we won. It would be a hard one if we had lost. I don’t think I would have slept if we had lost this game.”
DOB came up with a great stat Friday, that while the Braves had the fewest innings from their starting pitchers (29 1/3 entering the Brewers series) of any major league team, the Braves didn’t have a single reliever among the 34 with at least four appearances before Friday.
As of Saturday, the Braves were still getting the fewest innings from their starters of any major league team (34 1/3), and Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, and Jonny Venters had joined a group of 69 relievers with four or more appearances. But none were in that group of 17 relievers with five or more appearances. (The Marlins’ Steve Cishek and Oakland’s Grant Balfour were leading the way with six appearances; 15 others have five appearances.)
O’Flaherty is one guy who’s been fighting it here recently, as evidenced with the three runs he gave up in the seventh on Friday which allowed the Brewers to tie it 8-8.
O’Flaherty certainly set the bar high for himself with a 0.98 ERA last year, the lowest in major league history for a pitcher with 75 or more appearances (78). But after giving up only eight earned runs all last year (in 73 2/3 innings), he’s given up four in the past two games and four in his 3 2/3 innings overall.
Fredi Gonzalez said last night he remembered O’Flaherty having a few issues early last year as well, and it was something pitching coach Roger McDowell would get into the video room and work on to iron out. Just looked back at his numbers last year, and O’Flaherty did get hit quite a bit early, but the overall damage wasn’t close. He gave up 11 hits in his first 11 2/3 innings over 12 games last year but only two earned runs for a 1.54 ERA. Through four games this year, he’s given up four runs for a 9.82 ERA.
Brewers and the former Braves
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez will miss both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games against the Braves while on paternity leave. His wife, pregnant with their third child, was supposed to be induced on Sunday. Congratulations to the Gonzalez family. Eric Farris is coming from AAA Nashville to replace him on the roster.
It’s probably good news for the Braves, who watched Gonzalez go 2-for-4 with a two-run home run off Jurrjens on Friday night.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to Gonzalez yesterday, which is a shame, but he told Guy Curtright from MLB.com this: “I liked Atlanta. Good teammates, good fans, good team. But I’m happy. I’m glad to be with the Brewers. We have a playoff team. I’m excited about the season.”
I did get some scoop on our old friend Brooks Conrad from the Brewers’ illustrious beat writer Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. As you might recall, Conrad signed a minor league deal with the Brewers this winter after it was clear the Braves weren’t going to bring him back. Well, Tom says Conrad was the last guy cut from the team coming out of spring training with the Brewers, after losing out a bench spot to Travis Ishikawa.
Unfortunately for Conrad, he also jammed his shoulder sliding into base in his last game of spring training, so currently he is on the 7-day DL in Triple-A Nashville.
Javy Lopez autobiography
I just started reading Javy Lopez’s autobiography “Behind the Plate,” written with former AJC and ChopTalk editor Gary Caruso, and it’s been an interesting read so far. I’ve known Javy probably since 1993 or 1994, and he’s always been a nice guy, a soft-spoken guy. And while he spoke English really well by the time he came into his own with the Braves, I never felt like I really knew what was going on in his head quite like some of the other players because of his personality and the language barrier. So I’m enjoying getting that chance now with this book.
I’m only three chapters in and already I’ve learned some nuggets I didn’t know, like Lopez used to wear his baseball uniform under his school clothes so he wouldn’t be late for practice as a kid. That his father was embarrassed about his signing bonus with the Braves, coming out of Puerto Rico, so they lied about the amount, saying it was $90,000 when it was really $37,000.
I also learned that Javy’s ex-wife got rid of the balls from his first hit and first home run, and that the day he got called up in 1992 was also the first time he went to a major league game.
Anyway, some interesting stuff and a good read for all the Lopez fans out there.
Eye on Gwinnett
The Gwinnett Braves won Friday night to make that five in a row now. They got Julio Teheran back on track Thursday, with five shutout innings, and Jose Constanza had three triples in three games.
1. Bourn CF
2. Prado LF
3. Jones 3B
4. McCann C
5. Uggla 2B
6. Freeman 1B
7. Heyward RF
8. Pastornicky SS
9. Beachy P