Hitting coach, Chipper like what they see

PHOENIX – Their new hitting coach likes what he sees from the Braves, and so does their third baseman. Which hasn’t always been the case with Chipper Jones.

Greg Walker and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher were hired to make the Braves tougher outs than they were in 2011. To make them more confident and competitive and aggressive — and more proficient at situational hitting.

So far, results are encouraging.

After ranking 22nd in the majors in scoring last season at 3.95 runs per game, the Braves were averaging 5.4 in 18 games before Wednesday night’s series finale against the Dodgers. After ranking 26th in the majors with a .308 on-base percentage in 2011, they were 10th at .324 and rising before Wednesday.

After finishing 10th in the National League in slugging percentage at .387 in 2011, they were fourth at .430 before Wednesday.

“I just think we’ve got a lot of people that feel good about themselves,” Walker said. “They’re fighting as a unit, not giving at-bats away. And when you get a bunch of guys that are talented fighting through at-bats — quality at-bats – you get results. So yeah, I’m pleased. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re not naïve to that fact. But we’re pleased. The guys are working. They’ve got great attitudes about the game. They can’t wait to get to the ballpark every day, and we’re playing good.”

They led the National League with 97 runs before Wednesday, despite totaling only 10 during their 0-4 start.

After hitting .165 in those first four games, they hit .286 while winning 11 of the past 14. The Braves had 87 runs and 19 homers in that 14-game stretch.

“It’s been really good, an immediate impact,” Jones said of the effect of Walker and Fletcher. “Guys are well informed before they walk up there. They go up knowing what the tendencies are, and knowing what pitch they want to put in play. And you’re seeing the fruits of that at the plate. I mean, it’s no secret why we’re leading the league in runs scored and hitting the ball out of the park and executing with guys on third and less than two outs, things like that.

“We’re still not where I’d like to see us as far as that’s concerned – guys on third, less than two outs – but situational hitting has been good for the most part.”

The Braves, who went over a month without a sac fly last season and finished 29th in the majors with 30, were tied for third in the majors with seven sac flies before Wednesday. They were also third in the majors in sac bunts with 10.

“Knowing that we scuffled in those situations last year, it was a point of emphasis [beginning in spring training],” Jones said. “Fredi came in [talking about it] from the first day. David Justice had a talk with us. [The ex-Brave was a guest instructor for one week in spring training]. We paid attention.”

In Tuesday’s 4-3 win, the Braves scored the winning run in the ninth inning on a leadoff single by Tyler Pastornicky, a sacrifice bunt by Jack Wilson and a two-out triple by Martin Prado on a seven-pitch at-bat after he fouled off four pitches.

In other words, it was a microcosm of things the Braves have been doing better.

“Unbelievable,” Walker said of the Prado at-bat. “We’ve had a lot of those at-bats this year. Freddie [Freeman] had one in Arizona. That’s what it takes to be a good offensive team. You can’t give away at-bats. Guys want the at-bats. They want to be up there in big situations right now. We’re not always getting it done, but you can tell people want the at-bat. That’s a big thing.”

And to go up with more of a plan than to just swing for the fences.

“I think the situation of the game has got to dictate what you’re trying to do at the plate,” said Jones, who hit a fifth-inning leadoff homer on his 40th birthday Tuesday for the Braves’ first run after they trailed 2-0. “You can’t just go up there and swing from the heels every time up. If you’ve got guys on second and third, do what you’ve got to do to try to get that one run in. Don’t try to knock both in. If you get lucky, yeah. But I just don’t want to see guys go up there trying to hit the three-run homer.

“This team over the years, at times, has sat back and waited for the three-run homer. And if you live by that, you’re going to die by that.”

Hudson scheduled for Sunday

Gonzalez said Tim Hudson was still scheduled to come off the disabled list and start Sunday against Pittsburgh. He is returning from offseason back surgery and made his fourth and final rehab start Tuesday at Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves had left open the possibility that Hudson could have an extra day of rest and start Monday instead of Sunday, swapping starts with Mike Minor. But as of Tuesday, Gonzalez said the plan was to start Hudson on Sunday.

Gearrin ready for whatever

Rookie reliever Cory Gearrin got the news Tuesday at 8 a.m. that he’d been recalled from Triple-A by the Braves, and was booked on a 3 p.m. flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles.

The sidearmer made his flight, endured a ride through L.A. rush-hour traffic and got to the Tuesday night’s game right after the Braves had finished batting practice.

He didn’t pitch Tuesday, but Gearrin was ready. Is ready. Will be ready anytime.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Gearrin, who had 15 strikeouts with two walks in 12-1/3 scoreless innings of seven relief appearances for Gwinnett. “This year I feel like I can go out and just play, as opposed to feeling like  I have to try to do more than I really do.

“I’m using all the stuff from spring training and last year, just going out and worked on changing speeds, keeping guys off balance and attacking the zone. Just really trying to get ground balls.”

As a Braves rookie in 2011, Gearrin had a 7.85 ERA in 18 appearances, but was effective until two bad outings in his last three. He had a 3.38 ERA and .193 opponents’ average in his first 15 major league appearances, with 21 strikeouts and six walks in 16 innings.

Then he gave up six runs while recording one out at Philadelphia on July 10, and four runs (and four walks) in one inning at Colorado on July 19. He didn’t pitch again in the majors last season.

Gearrin held right-handed hitters to a .143 average (6-for-42) with 18 strikeouts and a .167 slugging percentage, but lefties hit him for a .393 average (11-for-28) with four extra-base hits and a .514 OBP.

He spent the offseason working on his changeup, to make him more effective against lefties. He also worked on changing speeds, taking some velocity off his fastball at times and get more sinking movement.

Gonzalez said Gearrin would get a chance to pitch and that it’s not a given he’ll be the pitcher sent to the minors when Hudson is activated.

“I don’t really worry about [being] up [with the major league team] or down,” Gearrin said. ” I love playing baseball. I’m here right now on this team, and I get to go out and play. If they call me and tell me you’re in, I get to go out and have fun, play the game.

“Obviously this is where  you want to be. You want to be playing for this team. But whatever they need to do to keep winning.”

19 comments Add your comment

Brave Decisions

April 25th, 2012
10:17 pm

Gearrin, the right move! Where should Gattis go?

http://wp.me/p2lqJ1-5k Thanks for checking it out! Go Braves!

JC Boscan III

April 25th, 2012
10:43 pm

No more “playing for the 3-run homer”…! Music to my baseball ears!!!

Who Me?

April 25th, 2012
11:22 pm

Whither Durbin???

same story since 2010

April 25th, 2012
11:59 pm

no runs = no win games

another game w/o offense too bad ,,, beachy struggling in bot 6th, a motha foker umpire dont call the 3rd strike to kemp and then the maniac CF hit a homerun ( yeah a maniac only look the reaction about Strikeouts , tight plays on 1st base, etc, always look like a maniac and crazy dumbass) and for the bad luck is raining now…..

2-1 after six innings …sure the HP umpire called the game …. i hope i dont, but sure is a kemp lover so this game is over and 4-3 road trip record….

good night

Caseyatthebat

April 26th, 2012
12:53 am

Enter your comments here. Where are all those Chipper haters now?

New Story

April 26th, 2012
1:03 am

Wrong!!! Best team in Baseball!

Good Night!

count_schemula

April 26th, 2012
2:40 am

“Where are all those Chipper haters now?”

CHIPPER SUCKS!

… the life out of the LA crowd…

Chipper's Oblique Muscle

April 26th, 2012
7:55 am

The retirement announcement must’ve relaxed Chipper tremendously. He hadn’t been this relaxed and in charge at the plate since his batting title season. Also, his knowing he will get many days off must be relaxing, too, as he doesn’t have to feel like he’s carrying the team.

Homer the Brave

April 26th, 2012
8:18 am

The pitchers did a good job keeping Kemp and Ethier in check during the series.

urban redneck

April 26th, 2012
9:45 am

living by the HR has been the braves’ offense for years. it’s great to see some small ball.

Oleo in South Ga.

April 26th, 2012
10:42 am

Great looking team this year. A unit.

David

April 26th, 2012
10:43 am

Hey “Same Story Since 2010″ hope you a had a pleasant surprise when you woke your negative ass up this morning. “Another game w/o offense” You mean the team that had two excellent 9th inning rallies and leads the majors in runs scored? Or the team with fantastic SP sans JJ and the best 8-9th duo in baseball (O’Flaherty coming around as well)? Yeah your ignorant so take your negative crap to the grave son

Toiny C.

April 26th, 2012
11:03 am

@ Urban Redneck: Amen.

Bo

April 26th, 2012
12:34 pm

it’s getting a pleasure again to watch this team. Beachy is a gem of a find and The Rev looks like he’s settling down at the plate. Chipper is Chipper and we have been blessed as Brave fans to watch a future Hall of Famer. Has anyone looked at the batting averages down Lynchburg? Wow !
What with Parraz? He’s tearing up Triple A and looked good this spring. Watched Teheran last night and he has nasty stuff when he controls it and is inconsistant right now. Good place right now for him is Gwinnett not Majors. Go Braves !

Disbott3000

April 26th, 2012
1:21 pm

No more playing for the 3 run homer? John McGram is smiling somewhere.

Disbott3000

April 26th, 2012
1:21 pm

Dammit! It’s McGraw! Damn my ignorant fingers!

TheOnlyBravesFan

April 26th, 2012
10:10 pm

Preston Drake

April 27th, 2012
9:26 am

@urbanredneck,

very true, but the thing is that we are also hitting for power too! our overall team avg is sooo much better than last year.

Crawford

April 30th, 2012
4:40 pm

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