Archive for December, 2012

Braves minor leaguer gets 50-game drug suspension

Braves minor league pitcher Billy Bullock was suspended 50 games for a second violation of baseball’s drug prevention and treatment program for a “drug of abuse.”

The suspension was announced Friday by the commissioner’s office. No specific drug was cited, but the program’s list of drugs of abuse includes cocaine, LSD, marijuana, opiates, ecstasy, GHB and PCP.

That’s a separate category than performance-enhancing substances, which includes 70 items such as various steroids and human growth hormone.

“We are always disappointed when these events take place,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said, “and we will continue to educate and counsel our players.”

Bullock, who is on the Triple-A Gwinnett roster, will serve his suspension without pay at the beginning of the 2013 season.

In 40 appearances last season between Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett, the hard-throwing right-hander compiled a 6.34 ERA with 67 strikeouts, but also a whopping 56 walks in 59-2/3 …

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Who’s in LF? Plus, DOB’s Top 50 albums

We’re inside the last week before Christmas, Braves fans. Do you know where your left fielder is?

No, I didn’t think so. But at least you’re about to know the best 50 albums of 2012, as judged by your Crusading Everyman. The list is at the bottom of this blog.

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco," could compete at some point in 2013 for playing time in left field and as a third catcher.

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco," could compete at some point in 2013 for playing time in left field and as a third catcher.

As for left field, you’re not sure who it’ll be and neither is anyone else. The Braves say they continue to search the trade market for a left fielder or third baseman, but also insist if they don’t make another big acquisition at either spot and end up going to spring training or starting the season with what they have now, they’ll be OK with it.

Until proven otherwise, we’ll take them at their word.

Going into the season with what they have now seems a bit more feasible and less risky than it would’ve if they had stated that intention a few weeks ago, right after signing center fielder …

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Braves sign utility infielder Pena

The Braves added another bench piece Thursday, signing utility infielder Ramiro Pena to a one-year major league contract.

Pena, a former New York Yankee who has played shortstop, third base, and second base, provides the Braves another backup shortstop given the uncertainty of when Paul Janish might return. Janish, whom the Braves also signed to a one-year deal, underwent surgery for a torn labrum on his non-throwing shoulder and might need an additional two to four weeks at the start of the season.

Janish has minor league options remaining and could be sent to Triple-A Gwinnett without going through waivers. Pena is out of options.

Like Janish, Pena is outstanding defensively. And the Braves don’t have another near major-league ready player in their organization who fits that profile.

Tyler Pastornicky began last season as the starting shortstop but struggled defensively and was sent to the minors in late May in favor of defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons. Pastornicky …

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Braves GM Wren encouraged by Dominican trip

While the Braves wait to see if they can work out a fit for a left fielder and leadoff hitter on the trade market, general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez spent four days in the Dominican Republic getting a closer look at some of their internal options.

They were encouraged by what they saw from their young players in winter ball there.

That started with Juan Francisco, the leading candidate to play third base if the Braves don’t acquire another left fielder and move Martin Prado to third. The Braves had charged Francisco with two things: cutting down on extra movement in his swing and getting in better shape.

“(Hitting coach) Greg Walker wanted him to continue to work on less rotation in the swing, and I think he’s done that,” Wren said Tuesday. “And we wanted him to get in better shape and he’s well on his way to that as well. He’s slimmed down and it’s noticeable. It’s still a couple of months before spring training, so I think there’s …

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Teheran tops Baseball America’s Top 10 Braves prospect list

For an organization that prides itself on being pitching rich, the Braves saw that reinforced Monday when Baseball America named seven pitchers among its Top 10 Braves prospects for 2013.

1. Julio Teheran, RHP

2. J.R. Graham, RHP

3. Christian Bethancourt C

4. Sean Gilmartin LHP

5. Lucas Sims, RHP

6. Mauricio Cabrera, RHP

7. Alex Wood, LHP

8. Evan Gattis, LF/C

9. Zeke Spruill, RHP

10. Jose Peraza, SS

Teheran, 21, was named the Braves’ top prospect for the third consecutive year. After a dominant 2011 season in Triple-A, he admittedly struggled in his return to Triple-A Gwinnett in 2012, but he’s been back to form in the Dominican Republic this winter. Teheran, who went 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 26 starts in Gwinnett last year, is 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA in seven starts this winter for the Licey Tigers.

He hasn’t allowed a run in his past three starts – while giving up only two hits – over 16 2/3 innings. He gave up only one hit, struck out eight and walked none in six innings …

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In last year on HOF ballot, case made for ‘Murph’

Dale Murphy won back-to-back National League MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, something only Joe Morgan had done before him and only Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols have done since. He won as many MVP awards in two seasons as Braves greats Hank Aaron and Chipper Jones won between them in their entire careers.

“Murph” was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, and he finished 12th or higher in the league MVP balloting six times during 1980-1987.

Fifteen of his first 18 seasons were spent with the Braves, a period when the ultimate Mr. Nice Guy played for a lot of bad teams and a few good ones. He played in front of a national audience that tuned in to watch the Braves on the cable SuperStation, most of it during a time when fans outside major league markets had only the choice of Braves or Cubs to view on TV on a daily basis.

And so he was a popular player not just in Braves Country, but across the country.

For a time, Murphy was one of the very best players in baseball, winning back-to-back MVP awards.

For a time, Murphy was one of the very best players in …

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Braves still LF shopping, glad they got CF early

The Braves don’t know who’ll hit leadoff or play left field when they open the season against Philadelphia on April 1, but they left the Winter Meetings in Nashville last week thankful to know who’ll be playing center field.

The five-year, $75.25 million contract the Braves gave center fielder B.J. Upton on Nov. 28 was the first significant move of baseball’s Hot Stove season, and at the time many of us thought the Braves were impulsive in so quickly giving Upton the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

But in light of some deals signed since, and contract figures being bandied about for free agents in Nashville, the Upton deal has begun to look like – well,  maybe not a bargain, but not unreasonable.

If 32-year-old Shane Victorino, coming off a season in which he hit .255 with 11 homers, 55 RBIs and a .704 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, got a a three-year, $39 million contract from with Boston, and 32-year-old Nick Swisher rumored to be in line for a …

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Braves re-sign Johnson, leave WM without LF

NASHVILLE – Even if the season were to begin Friday, manager Fredi Gonzalez insisted the Braves would be OK despite making no deal for a new left fielder during the Winter Meetings.

But Opening Day was nearly four months away, plenty of time for general manager Frank Wren to sign or trade for a left fielder as well as a couple of bench players. Wren indicated Thursday that the bench players could be acquired much sooner (and within two hours of saying that he had one of them, outfielder/pinch-hitter Reed Johnson).

“I think some things could pop in the next few days, because a lot of seeds have been planted,” Wren said before leaving the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to drive back to Atlanta late Thursday morning. “We feel like we moved a little closer on some bench things, so hopefully we get some answers in the next day.”

Johnson agreed to terms by early afternoon, getting a one-year, $1.75 million contract with a club option for 2014. He’ll get $1.6 million in 2013, and …

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Braves beef up big-league scouting

NASHVILLE – The Braves shuffled their major league scouting department and hired two veteran scouts, Dave “Doc” Holliday and Brad Sloan, as special assistants to general manager Frank Wren.

Holliday, who spent the past 19 seasons as a Colorado Rockies special assistant, will be assigned to cover the American League. Sloan will be a major league scout for the Braves, after spending the past nine years as a scout with the Los Angeles Angels and six as San Diego Padres scouting director.

The Braves also promoted special assistant Dom Chiti, whose duties will including pitching development and special-assignment scouting.

Chiti was a special assistant/major league scout the past four seasons, but late during the 2012 season he also worked with Braves pitching prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado to help get them back on track. He will do more work like that alongside Braves pitching coaches in the minors and major league pitching coach Roger McDowell.

With Holliday …

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Braves balk at some trade ‘ask’ prices

NASHVILLE – They still were working several possibilities, but as the last full day at the Winter Meetings wore on Wednesday it sounded as if the Braves might leave Nashville without making a deal for a left fielder or bench help.

“Last night we started exchanging names more and getting information, and some of the ‘asks’ were beyond what we were comfortable doing,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “So we crossed some conversations off the list. We still have a couple of open conversations, but I’d say we had probably four or five more specific conversations going on and we were able to cross a couple of those off last night because of the high ‘ask.’ We’re still continuing to talk with a couple of others.”

Wren doesn’t divulge specific players the Braves are pursuing, but it was known they explored potential trades for outfielders including Arizona’s Justin Upton, Colorado’s Dexter Fowler, Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo and Kansas City’s Alex …

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