LIVE from Braves with Gonzo, Heyward and a pennant race

Alex Rodriguez walks out to take his first batting practice as a Brave and is in the lineup tonight. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Alex Gonzalez and rest of Braves are ready to get this second-half party started. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Welcome to the intersection of first place and the second half. If that seems rare territory for the Braves, it’s because they haven’t been in this position to open play after the All-Star break since 2003. (Even in 2004 and 2005, the last two first-place finishes in the string of 14 straight, the Braves were in second place at the break.)

“Seems like home,” Chipper Jones said with a smile after batting practice.

Is it all coming together? Seems like it.

Starting tonight’s series opener against Milwaukee is Jair Jurrjens, who returned from injury just before the break and threw six strong innings (three runs, two hits) against Philadelphia. Joining him in the lineup and back in right field (and batting second) is Jason Heyward, who returns from a thumb injury. (Heyward will wear a guard on his thumb when he’s on the bases but not when he’s batting.)

Also tonight, Alex Gonzalez makes his debut as a Brave. He just held a media session in front of his locker and he seems very at ease in his new surroundings (maybe there’s four others from Venezuela in clubhouse: Martin Prado, Omar Infante, Gregor Blanco, coach Eddie Perez).

I’ve got some good stuff from Gonzalez for the column, but here are a few snippets: His agent phoned him a couple of times around 10 a.m. to inform him of the trade but Gonzalez didn’t answer because he was still sleeping.

“Too early,” he said.

But when he eventually got up and looked at the caller ID, he knew he had been traded because his agent lives in San Diego. “There’s no way he would be calling me that early if it was something else.”

But Gonzalez was certain he had been traded to St. Louis. Why? Well . . . ah, I’m going to save that for the column. (I know. I’m such a tease.)

Suffice to say, he’s thrilled to be a Brave. He leaves a team (Toronto) that was 12 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, with no real hope of passing the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay or Boston, and joins a team (Braves) that leads the National League East over the Mets (four games) and Philadelphia (4 1/2) and is being talked about as a World Series team.

This also happened to Gonzalez last season. He was dealt from Cincinnati to Boston during a pennant race and wound up playing for the Red Sox in the American League playoffs.

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That’s it for now. I can’t recall this much anticipation for the second half of a season in a few years.

One more thing before we get into tonight’s live blog. Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog suggesting (somewhat jokingly) that the Braves should start a “Vote For Prado” All-Star campaign, spinning off the “Vote for Pedro” campaign in, “Napoleon Dynamite.”

For the record, I’m not taking credit for Prado making the All-Star team. I must concede: His league-leading .325 average probably had something to do with that. But the blog actually launched two “Vote For Prado” Facebook pages and some fans designing T-shirts. One is Curt Linder (@curtl on Twitter). Just giving him a shout-out here. Curt contacted me on Facebook to tell me that he sold about 30 shirts via Cafe Press, just on a whim, and is going to donate the proceeds to charity. If you would still like to buy a shirt, here’s the Cafe Press link. I was hoping to get a picture of him wearing a shirt but unfortunately he’s on his way to Hilton Head. (Must be tough.) But here’s a tip of the cap to Curt.

OK, onto the game. I’ll be back in a little while and get to your questions.


Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

Earlier posts today

Damon Evans, out of a job, puts his home up for sale

♦ Braves get glowing reviews of Gonzo trade (and is team set?)

Gonzalez improves Braves now but dealing Escobar is risk

264 comments Add your comment

Andrew

July 15th, 2010
6:38 pm

Alex Rodriguez still plays for the Yankees (check the caption). Not trying to be “that guy,” just want to help.

rico43

July 15th, 2010
6:47 pm

Jeff: David Ross was a teammate of Gonzalez with the Reds. Get his thoughts about what he brings to a team — and a clubhouse.

Not that you need anyone to tell you how to do your job, or anything. I’m very curious to know what he says and I’m not there.

Rodney

July 15th, 2010
6:48 pm

lol – I think you are being ignored Andrew. (-;

Jeff

July 15th, 2010
6:48 pm

Jeff what are your thoughts about these rumors?
http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/07/potentially-available-outfielders.html
Cody Ross, $4.45MM (free agent after 2011) – The Braves have interest in Ross, who appears to be available. He isn’t hitting for quite as much power as usual, but still has a .282/.332/.415 line.

B.J. Upton, $3MM (free agent after 2012) – Back when the Rays were discussing Cliff Lee, it became apparent that they would consider moving Upton. The speedy 25-year-old isn’t hitting much this year (.230/.320/.395), but he is on pace for a third consecutive 40-steal season.
Jose Bautista, $2.4MM (free agent after 2011) – The former Rule 5 pick leads the league in home runs and walks at a bargain salary, so he will draw interest.

gtjacket44

July 15th, 2010
6:49 pm

Sweep the Brew Crew and get the second half off to a good start!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJC , ajc sports editor, James Roach, Shannon Moore, Jeff Schultz and others. Jeff Schultz said: We're blogging LIVE from Braves game. Heyward, Gonzalez, Jurrjens ready to go. Time for a penannt race. http://bit.ly/bUkNoM [...]

Cedric

July 15th, 2010
6:50 pm

Lets go Braves!!!! Cant wait to see the new lineup and hopefully JJ gets going again with the control and location of pitches tonite because Brew Crew can really hit the ball. Braves lineup looks good and hopefully J Hey can get it going again since the thumb has heeled.

Younger Than That Now

July 15th, 2010
6:51 pm

JS (and that’s not John Schuerholz)… it is a very nice intersection to be at… one that we’ve missed for a while now. Tell AGonz… “welcome from YTTN and break a leg”… and also tell BMac that Gomer Pyle says… “Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations!!!”

doggonit

July 15th, 2010
6:51 pm

Dumb question time: If the braves win the world series do the men that were traded recieve a ring also?

Tim

July 15th, 2010
6:54 pm

I miss Yunel…

Boatdoc

July 15th, 2010
6:54 pm

Andrew – no problem with being “that guy” when people make mistakes doing something they’re getting paid to do. But as of now I notice it’s still not corrected.

I think having “A-Rod” and J-Hey in the lineup tonight will charge up the fans and the Bravos: predict Braves win 6-1.

Tim

July 15th, 2010
6:54 pm

And I missed you Jeff.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
6:56 pm

Andrew (That Guy): Caption is fixed and the person who typed it has mysteriously disappeared, body never to be found.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
6:57 pm

Jeff — I’ve heard Ross more than the other 3 but Wren said the other day he is going to wait and see how Heyward, McLouth, Diaz do coming out of the break before making any decisions on a trade and I believe him.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
6:58 pm

Younger Than That Now — (in Gomer voice). SurPRISE, surPRISE, surPRISE.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
6:58 pm

Tim – No you don’t.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
6:59 pm

Tim (second remark) — No you didn’t. :)

Ace It!

July 15th, 2010
6:59 pm

Hey, Hey, Hey, JHey is back! I love this trade! Just how long were we to wait for Yunni to “grow up?” The Braves are now ready for a run to the pennent! What a fun second half coming up! Feels like old times again! Love it!

Speedy Claxton's accountant

July 15th, 2010
7:05 pm

Man you have to like the Buzz surrounding this team. It would be really cool if Chipper could get hot. That would really ignite this team.

jesse james

July 15th, 2010
7:06 pm

doggonit – That is not a dumb question. I believe the team can vote to give Yunel or anybody else a share of the money but I don’t think a ring.

david

July 15th, 2010
7:07 pm

i have not been this excited waiting for a game in a long time….
i am a bit concerned about all of the trade talks and how it might upset the team’s chemistry…. I hope most of the talks mostly involve minor league prospects. Every person on the 25 man roster has greatly contributed this year ( gonna make a charitable exclusion for escobar) and i think that is crucial…..

Coporal Boyle was a tool....

July 15th, 2010
7:07 pm

Go Braves..!!! I haven’t been this fired up since JS (ummm that’s Jeff Schultz) had a head full of hair….

jesse james

July 15th, 2010
7:08 pm

I heard Yunel will not be starting for Toronto tonight. The P.A. guy miss pronounced his name and he is too upset to play.

Bob Horner

July 15th, 2010
7:08 pm

funny stuff Jessie…..rough crowd on this blog

tckr83

July 15th, 2010
7:13 pm

Enter your comments here

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
7:14 pm

Corey Hart takes Jurrjens out of here. Mr. All Star gives Brewers a 1-0 lead. Hey, can Braves get him?

tckr83

July 15th, 2010
7:14 pm

sorry bout the previous post… with nothing in it… : )

Hart showing Frank Wren what he can do already tonight…

Ragnar Danneskjöld

July 15th, 2010
7:15 pm

Doesn’t he wear sunglasses at night?

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
7:16 pm

Corporal Boyle — Hey, that was a cheap shot. But I can respect that.

Bob Horner

July 15th, 2010
7:17 pm

tckr83 we got burned on that Tex trade….If I’m FW I’m gun shy on renting a guy for 3 months….JMO

Jeff

July 15th, 2010
7:18 pm

maybe???
Corey Hart, $4.8MM (free agent after 2011) – Hart’s value may never be higher. He has 21 homers and a league-leading 65 RBI. The Brewers are open to moving him and appear to want young pitching in return.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
7:19 pm

Heyward’s first AB.

tckr83

July 15th, 2010
7:20 pm

Bobby H-

I’d rather get our hands on Byrd. Hart would be my 3rd option behind Byrd and Ross as a CF would improve the team more with LF and RF producing this year for the Bravos. Hart reminds me alot of Jeff Francoeur… a free swinger.

tckr83

July 15th, 2010
7:21 pm

But at the same time… a trade for Corey Hart wouldn’t require nearly as much the trade for Teixeira did.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
7:21 pm

Jeff

July 15th, 2010
7:22 pm

Chipper only 6 HR this year? that is terrible.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
7:22 pm

OK, so not quite coming out of the break with a bang. 1-2-3.

Mitchell

July 15th, 2010
7:23 pm

Dammit. I just wrote a really long and awesome post but it said I put my email in wrong.

Why should I even have to put in my email at this point? I’m a regular customer.

I want the table by the window.

Jeff

July 15th, 2010
7:24 pm

I could hit 6 inside the park HR in that many at bats.. lol and I didn’t play past High School.

tckr83

July 15th, 2010
7:25 pm

Keep the ball down JJ

Jeff

July 15th, 2010
7:26 pm

To me it appears JJ don’t have it tonight.

The curse of Yunel..??

July 15th, 2010
7:26 pm

Will he get the last laugh……naaa he’s in Canada….but this game isn’t starting so well….

Mitchell

July 15th, 2010
7:28 pm

This is the least I’ve cared about a Braves game in a long, long time.

Okay, since Sunday.

But as much as having to wait till Friday a year ago for the Braves to come back felt like an eternity, I could have used a few more days this time.

How the hell are the Braves going to top the first half? Does it get any better than that?

Mitchell

July 15th, 2010
7:29 pm

Holy ****.

That’s a first from the kid. We haven’t seen anything like that this whole year.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
7:30 pm

I guess the thumb’s OK.

tckr83

July 15th, 2010
7:30 pm

Yea, but everybody knew he could do it… except for the dummy that just tried for third.

tckr83

July 15th, 2010
7:31 pm

Jair isn’t fooling anybody, very scary first two innings. They’re hammering everything up in the zone.

greg norton facts

July 15th, 2010
7:32 pm

they stopped the oil spill

Jeff

July 15th, 2010
7:33 pm

Glaus will get a big hit here

Bob Horner

July 15th, 2010
7:33 pm

I’m just glad the guy that got tagged out at 3rd didn’t try to run over Chipper…..Chipper could have been hurt…..