Here we go again…again.
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the start of our offseason countdown chronicling the top 12 Syracuse Chiefs moments of 2012! We’re a little bit later this year as opposed to 2011, but Jason and I have needed months and months to compile our lists from an otherwise action-packed season. (Wait, does that excuse actually work? Let’s move on before you really have time to think about it.)
(Look, over here!)
I’ll start it off, and Jason will respond in kind (or in mean, I guess) on Friday.
#12: Keep The Fat Lady On Ice
When you’re 69-73 and 14.0 games back in the division with two games remaining in the season, it’s easy to calculate that you’re not exactly post-season bound. The Chiefs weren’t a playoff team this year, and they certainly knew it before the season’s penultimate game. But in the 2012 Alliance Bank Stadium finale, Syracuse had no intention of rolling over and playing dead, despite what the first six batters might have you believe.
Mitch Atkins started on the hill on that sunny Sunday for Syracuse (selling seashells by the sea shore), and his outing against the Rochester Red Wings started off with just a minor hitch, when shortstop Eduardo Escobar singled to center field. Not to worry, though, as Atkins was facing a Red Wings team that ranked third-to-last in the International League in runs scored. What was the worst that could happen here?
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka doubles (16) on a line drive to center fielder Corey Brown. Eduardo Escobar to 3rd.
- Brian Dozier singles on a line drive to center fielder Corey Brown. Eduardo Escobar scores. Tsuyoshi Nishioka to 3rd.
- Wilkin Ramirez doubles (17) on a ground ball to left fielder Jesus Valdez. Tsuyoshi Nishioka scores. Brian Dozier to 3rd.
- Clete Thomas singles on a soft line drive to right fielder Brett Carroll. Brian Dozier scores. Wilkin Ramirez scores.
- Rene Rivera homers (10) on a fly ball to center field. Clete Thomas scores.
Ah. So that’d qualify as “worst that could happen”, then.
In the blink of an eye, it was 6-0 Red Wings. Six batters, six hits, six runs, no outs, one bullpen set in motion. If Pat Lehman ever warms up earlier in a game, it’ll be because I started. The floodgates were as open as a 24-hour Wegmans.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the blowout – Atkins settled down, retiring the next three batters he faced. Then Corey Brown and Jesus Valdez homered in the first, slicing the deficit to 6-2. Then Atkins tossed a perfect second inning before Brett Carroll doubled in a run in the bottom half of the frame. 6-3. Then Atkins mowed down the Wings in the third, and the Chiefs responded with three runs, knocking out Rochester starter Nick Blackburn – the last of which came right here.
And just like that – we were all squared away at six. Yes, Mitch Atkins ended up with the longer stint of the game’s two starters after giving up six consecutive hits to start the game. Silly Mayans.
Of course, the Chiefs needed to do more than just tie the game, or else I wouldn’t be writing about this. Valdez and Chris Marrero knocked in seventh-inning runs, and Wilkin Ramirez’ eighth-inning home run wasn’t enough for Rochester, as the Chiefs won, 8-7. Turns out any comebacks in the season’s first 142 games were just appetizers for a hearty, medium-rare main course in Game #143. Now that’s going out in style.
So in case you were thinking “well, this season wasn’t that memorable” – that comeback ranks below 11 other moments for me. Beat that, Benetti.
Before you know it, it’ll be baseball season again in Syracuse…in fact, we’re just four months and a few weeks away from Opening Day 2013. Yes, that sounds like a long period of time, but once this whole Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus thing gets finished, it’ll zip right by.
But we’re not past looking back to last season, and that’s why Jason and I are getting ready for our second annual list of last year’s Top 12 memorable Chiefs moments. Last year’s list starts right here – and you can access all entries under the “Inside The Chiefs Blog Archive” drop-down menu on the right side of your screen.
This season’s list might be a little trickier to compile than last season’s, since nobody threw a perfect game or hit four home runs in one game in 2011. But 2012 still featured dramatic moments all around in its 144-game span, and we’d like you to help us pick them out. Shoot us an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
We’ll be starting the segment up within the next week. Until then, we look forward to hearing from you.
The Chiefs take on Toledo at 7:00 tonight at Alliance Bank Stadium. If you tune in tonight to our broadcasts on Time Warner Cable Sports (Me and Steve Grilli) or on The Score 1260 (Kevin Brown), you might hear:
*The Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony is tomorrow night. Former Baltimore Oriole Scott McGregor will be inducted along with four others (Carlos Delgado was inducted at the Hot Stove event in February).
*Toledo starter Drew Smyly went to high school at Little Rock Central. That’s the same school which, 55 years ago, was the test case for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Read more here.
*Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Jason Grilli is allowing opponents to hit only .186 this year.
*The Nationals, at 73-45, have the best record in baseball by a full two games.
*Former Chief Horacio Ramirez has been signed by the Cubs. Ramirez, a former Atlanta Brave starter, threw with the Chiefs in the first year of affiliation with Washington, 2009.
All this and more at 6:45 on The Score 1260 and at 7 on Time Warner Cable Sports.
On August 18, the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame’s Class of 2012 will be inducted prior to the Chiefs’ game against the Indianapolis Indians. Here on Inside the Chiefs, we’re catching up with the soon-to-be Syracuse Wall of Famers.
First up, one of the most popular players in Chiefs history: Stu Pederson. The right fielder (who played for the L.A. Dodgers for part of the 1985 season) was a member of the Chiefs from 1988-92, suiting up for 473 games. Among the highlights of Pederson’s Syracuse career was a walk-off grand slam to win the final game of the ’91 campaign and being a member of the ’89 International League pennant-winning club. Pederson’s popularity with Chiefs’ fans was so high that the team hosted a “Stu Pederson Night” during the ’91 season.
Stu sat down with our intern, John Nolan, a short while ago for this question and answer session:
What comes to mind when you think of your time as a member of the Chiefs organization?
John and Tex. They were just great people. When I got there, they welcomed me in. We formed an instant relationship. They were great people — really nice to myself and my family. When I think of Syracuse, the first thing I think of is Tex and Johnny and their whole family. They’re like one big family.
What are some of your best memories from your playing days in Syracuse?
I got my 1,000th hit there. But you know, just being at the old MacArthur Stadium, where so many all-stars had played before, that was memorable.
Why do you think you became such a fan favorite?
I don’t know the exact reason, but I would imagine with Syracuse being a blue-collar type town, it’s because I was a hard-nosed player. I wasn’t the fastest guy, or the guy with the most power, or anything like that. I played my hardest every time out. That’s how I was taught to play and I displayed it.
Part of your popularity probably had something to do with the way fans simply embraced yelling your name. Heck, your name was even printed on t-shirts and megaphones. Was MacArthur Stadium’s famous chant of your first name something you experienced throughout your career?
That was kind of unique to Syracuse. People used to call my name, “Stuuuuu!”
When I played in San Antonio, the P.A. announcer there did it. But in Syracuse, it kind of took on a life of its own. I still have the t-shirt that says “Stuuuu!” on it.
You played in Syracuse from 1988-92. After a year or two, players often decide to move on to another club. What kept you with the Chiefs for five seasons?
I felt comfortable there. John and Tex make you feel comfortable. Rather than bounce around from different teams and different organizations every year, I enjoyed Syracuse and I still loved playing baseball. To me, baseball is baseball. Would I have liked to have made it back to the big leagues? Sure. But I thought Syracuse was as good as any minor league city I was gonna play in, so that’s why I stayed.
What does it mean to you to be a member of the 2012 Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame induction class?
It’s an honor. It’s a great honor with so many great players having gone through Syracuse and playing there. Obviously it’s not based on what I did in the major leagues, but based on what I did in Syracuse. It shows the appreciation the people of Syracuse have for me as a ballplayer.
So with your playing days over, what is Stu Pederson up to now?
Living in the San Francisco area. Married still to my wife, Shelly. We’ve been married for almost 28 years. We have four kids – three boys (Champ, 24, Tyger, 22, and Joc, 20) and a daughter (Jacey, 14).
I have my own business — a ticket business. We sell tickets for sporting events, concerts, and theater events.
Still love baseball. I coach high school baseball and a travel team during the summer time. I really enjoy it, trying to help some of these younger kids reach their dream.
And finally, what do you hope your legacy is with Syracuse baseball fans?
Played hard. Gave it everything he had. Played the game the right way, played hard.
We’re less than a month away from the end of Syracuse’s 2012 season, but there’s still plenty of reason to come stop by Alliance Bank Stadium this year. Take today for example: the Chiefs and Buffalo Bisons will go at it in a Triple-A battle of the Nationals and Mets. For any Chiefs fans in the area, or any fans of the big league Mets, today’s twin bill features a number of juicy storylines. Let’s take a look at the two games through four intriguing players – that just so happen to have something in common…
Duke’s the Game 1 starter for Syracuse, and there’s reason to believe that the International League All-Star will submit another brilliant performance tonight. Duke, who’s tied for the league lead with 11 wins, has simply dominated the Bisons this season. He tossed seven shutout innings against Buffalo in a May 1 win, and threw six scoreless frames against the Bisons on July 4. Why has Duke been so successful against Buffalo? The Bisons are a very patient team, second in the league in walks and first in strikeouts, and Duke prides himself on throwing strike one. Get ahead of hitters and work from there – that’s more or less Duke’s philosophy.
Though the Chiefs are nine games back with 30 games to play, Duke still has plenty left to pitch for. At 11-5 with a 3.78 ERA in 21 starts, he’s already showed that he can have success in the International League, consistently giving the Chiefs a solid start. He’s thrown at least six innings in eight consecutive starts and at least 5.2 innings in 13 straight starts. There are ramifications for Duke here for the future, as he’s with Washington on just a one-year deal. Can he still be effective in the majors? He’s held lefties to a .255 average this year and posted an ERA in the threes in the last three months. Another good start could go a long way toward solidifying a return to the major leagues for the former National League All-Star.
Buffalo’s Game 1 starter is an appetizing one. Wheeler – perhaps the Mets’ best overall prospect – will be making his Triple-A debut tonight. The 22-year-old righty-hander was 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 19 starts with Double-A Binghamton. He throws in the high 90s with a sharp curveball, named the best curve in the Mets’ organization by Baseball America. Wheeler was acquired by the Mets last season in a one-for-one swap with the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran. Considering Beltran didn’t re-sign with the Giants, and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with the Mets – consider this a potentially huge win for New York.
While the big league club’s started to slip, hopes are high for Mets fans now. Vaunted prospect Matt Harvey has recently gone up to the major leagues and tossed a few great starts, while Buffalo right-handers Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia still have tremendous potential. But it may be Wheeler who’s the most anticipated of anyone, and he could provide the foundation of a future rotation of aces for the Mets. And the beginning to the final step before the majors starts today in Syracuse.
Walters, a 22-year-old middle infielder, is one of the newest Chiefs, after being added to the roster on Friday. He’s jumped through the Nationals’ system this year after starting the season with Advanced-A Potomac. Walters was also part of a one-for-one trade last season, coming over to the Nationals from Arizona in exchange for starting pitcher Jason Marquis. (Marquis didn’t re-sign with Arizona and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with Washington…so, much like the Wheeler deal, this could end up being a steal.) He’s a switch-hitter with a solid glove and some pop in his bat, smacking 19 doubles and 11 home runs in 99 games so far this season.
Where does Walters fit in the Nationals’ future plans? He’s looked at as a potential Steve Lombardozzi-type, providing some help for middle infielders Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Of course, a 22-year-old switch-hitting shortstop with pop doesn’t need to be relegated to backup status. Walters has already exceeded expectations this season, and it should be fun to see if he can continue to do so with Syracuse. Plus, the youth movement’s already been good to Syracuse this year, thanks to the 15-game hitting streak of Triple-A rookie Eury Perez.
26 years old might be the outside edge of being considered a “prospect”, and Lutz reached that mark two months ago. But just because he’s hit that magical number doesn’t mean there’s no future for Lutz. On the contrary, the infielder is a powerful bat whose best days seem to be ahead of him. In 47 games this season, Lutz has posted a slash line of .325/.429/.556 thanks to 11 doubles and 8 home runs. The right-handed hitter who made his major league debut this season (1-8 in four games) has always hit when healthy – but it’s the latter concern that’s often been the problem. Over the last three seasons, Lutz has played just 72 games (in 2010), 63 games (2011) and 53 so far in 2012. In those 188 games, he’s smashed 39 home runs. If he stays healthy, Lutz is a definite corner infield option for the Mets in the future.
From 22-year-old Eury Perez to 39-year-old C.J. Nitkowski (just promoted minutes ago!), there are plenty of reasons to come check out the Chiefs and Bisons today. But we’ve given you at least four, a group of Zach(k)s that likely have big league years galore to come. So catch ‘em while they’re still here.
We’d love to hear from you here on our blog with potential ideas. Shoot us an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evening, Chiefs fans. Syracuse is back in town today to begin a four-game series with the Norfolk Tides after dropping three out of four games in Pawtucket. The Chiefs lost their first four games against the Tides this year down in Norfolk, but the four losses came by a combined five runs – so either way, you’ll want to stay tuned until the final out.
Let’s take a look now at the Tides – the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – before their lone visit to Alliance Bank Stadium this year.
Catcher: Luis Exposito, Ronny Paulino, Chris Robinson
40-man member Exposito, who’s just recently been activated from the Disabled List, is an intriguing 25-year-old player who was claimed off of waivers from the Red Sox this season. He’s got a strong arm and is a plus defender, but there’s work to be done offensively – he’s hitting just .267 with no home runs and seven walks in 28 games this season. Paulino, a 31-year-old major league veteran, was recently sent down to Norfolk after big league backup Taylor Teagarden’s activation from the DL, while the 28-year-old Robinson likely provides mostly organizational depth at this point.
First Base: Joe Mahoney
Mahoney, a 6’6″, 25-year-old first baseman, just made his big league debut with the Orioles 13 days ago, but he was quickly sent back down to Norfolk. At .259 with only six home runs in 92 games, he’s likely not a big league offensive player yet, but he’s the only active infielder on the 40-man roster and he’s played regularly for the Tides this year. Baltimore’s survived with basically-average first base play this year from swing-hard-and-maybe-make-contact titans Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds, who have combined for 23 home runs and 170 strikeouts on the season.
Second Base: Bill Hall, Carlos Rojas
Speaking of strikeouts…Hall, who started the season in the majors before being designated for assignment, has been the ultimate king of whiffs this year. He’s punched out 91 times – to just 13 walks – in 56 games with the Tides. Hall does have 11 doubles and 11 home runs in 56 games with Norfolk, however. Rojas, a .222 hitter with one extra-base hit in 35 games, is a 28-year-old who likely provides organizational depth. Unfortunately for the Orioles, neither of these two appear to be the answer to their major league problems. Robert Andino, who’s posted a .230/.292/.325 slash line, has been the regular second baseman this year. Former All-Star Brian Roberts is currently on the DL – and even when he’s been off it, he’s been slowed down to the tune of a .182 average in 17 games. And right now – with both Andino and Roberts on the DL – it’s Steve Tolleson, up from Norfolk, who’s become the starter.
Shortstop: Blake Davis
J.J. Hardy’s started 90 games for the Orioles this year, though the position’s not necessarily set in stone for Baltimore – he’s hitting just .217 on the season. But Davis, at .247 with two home runs in 75 Triple-A games, is likely an “in case of emergency” option. The real long-term option here is likely in Double-A – uber-prospect Manny Machado. The 20-year-old who was the #2 pick in the 2010 MLB draft is having a solid offensive season, batting .257 with 23 doubles and eight home runs, though he’s committed 17 errors. But Machado’s likely still in need of some seasoning at the lower levels before coming to Norfolk.
Third Base: Brandon Waring, Zelous Wheeler
Neither the 26-year-old Waring or the 25-year-old Wheeler is much of a prospect at this point, and neither player has ever appeared in a major league game. Luckily for the Orioles, there’s no shortage of potential third-base options up in the major leagues, with Reynolds, Tolleson, Wilson Betemit and Ryan Flaherty all able to play the position if needed.
Outfield: Xavier Avery, Led Ford, L.J. Hoes, Jamie Hoffmann, Nate McLouth
Avery’s the only 40-man roster member here, and the speedy 22-year-old has already been up in the major leagues a few times this year. He wreaked havoc against the Chiefs in his only game versus Syracuse this year, collecting two hits and two walks while stealing a base and scoring a run. But it’s Ford, the former Minnesota Twin, who’s been the team’s offensive standout this year. He’s hitting .340 in 54 games with a colossal .964 OPS, and though Ford’s 35, those kind of numbers seem certain to catch someone’s eye, whether it be Baltimore or not. Hoes, a 22-year-old prospect, has also opened some eyes with a .314/.371/.444 line in his Triple-A debut season. And then there’s McLouth, with an asinine .746 slugging percentage in 59 July at-bats, along with a former major leaguer in Hoffmann – so yes, this is a fairly stacked group.
However, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have a firm grasp on two of the major league club’s starting outfield spots, with Steve Pearce and Davis also getting their fair share of playing time. So outside of an injury, that group’s likely to stay the same, and it seems logical that 40-man member Perez would be the first guy to go up.
Starting Pitchers: Jake Arrieta, Jason Berken, Dana Eveland, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz
Four of these five starters are members of the 40-man roster, with the exception being Dana Eveland, who was designated for assignment just six days ago. Tonight’s starter, Matusz, has more than double the amount of major league starts to minor league starts in his career – but at 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA, he’ll be making his third Norfolk start of the season tonight. Johnson’s back here after making his major league debut a few days ago, while Arrieta’s down with the Tides after a 3-9, 6.13 record in 18 Baltimore starts this year. It’s a trio of likely future contributors for the big club – but for now, it’s time for extra seasoning.
Relief Pitchers: Tim Bascom, Greg Burke, Pat Neshek, Zach Phillips, Miguel Socolovich, Oscar Villarreal, Pedro Viola
Hey, remember that note about all those starting pitchers on the 40-man roster? You know, the one from six lines ago? Well, a whopping one member of the Tides’ relief group is on the 40-man – IL All-Star Socolovich, who just pitched in his first two ever big league games on the 14th and 16th. There likely won’t be too much of a concern for Baltimore, though – Kevin Gregg’s 3.90 ERA represents the worst mark in a completely stacked major league bullpen. Outside of Socolovich, another former Twin has excelled here, in Neshek. The submarine-throwing right-hander’s posted a 2.48 ERA in 32 games, striking out 44 batters to just seven walks in 40 innings.
That’s all for today’s version of Triple-A Trickledown. Hope to see you at the park tonight for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, tomorrow for fireworks, or on Sunday or Monday for some more Chiefs baseball.
This comes from one of our media relations interns, John Nolan (who himself will be interning for NBC on its Olympics coverage this summer)….
Corey Brown, Zach Duke, and the rest of their Chiefs teammates aren’t the only residents of Chiefsville garnering headlines these days. In fact, five members of the Chiefs front office have been the subject of recent feature articles.
The Syracuse New Times made Chiefs Director of Communications and play-by-play voice Jason Benetti the cover boy of its July 3 edition. Chris Baker’s article explores how the ever-prepared and clever Jason has overcome a near-death experience as a young child to become a “Wonder Mike.”
And Jason isn’t the only one in the Chiefs broadcast booth to be profiled of late. Jason’s broadcast partner Kevin Brown was the subject of Ben Meyers’ story on “The ‘Other’ Voice of the Chiefs” for Federal Baseball on July 14. Meyers shares how Brown actually grew up aspiring to be a zookeeper. Fortunate for radio listeners of the Chiefs, though, the 22-year-old Brown overcame tamed his dreams and is now displaying his skills as a broadcaster.
(By the way, in case you missed it back in May, even one of our interns made news. Bill Spaulding received the 2012 Jim Nantz Award for being America’s top collegiate sports broadcaster. And although this didn’t come with a trophy like the Nantz Award did, additional congratulations to Bill for also recently being named the fiance of Deanna Payson.)
Finally, the limelight in Chiefsville was also cast on three others in the office: Wendy and Ariel Shoen, and Desirée Ellison. Meet the Diamond Girls by Jill Romano in the July issue of Syracuse Woman’s Magazine chronicles how Wendy, Ariel, and Desirée have found success working in an industry dominated by the opposite sex.
Who will be highlighted next? Keep scanning the headlines to see. For now though, once you’re done reading about Jason, Kevin, Desirée, Wendy, and Ariel, come find them at Alliance Bank Stadium to discover how the sundry crew is even more outstanding in person.
Thank you Charlie Tuna. It’s a pleasure to be here along with you folks for another edition of (Third) Rate the IL Hotel. It’s been a long time……20-game homestands and All-Star Breaks aren’t great for ratings, that’s for sure. If you’ve just joined along, we present to to you a recent hotel the Syracuse Chiefs have stayed in, list three pros and three cons and assign a rating between 0 and 100. This week’s contestant is the Downtown Durham Marriott!
1) Internet improvement. Two seasons ago, when the Chiefs went to Durham, I had keys for a pair of rooms at the Marriott. I wheeled my suitcase into the first room and opened my computer. The web wouldn’t load. I called the front desk The man there said the music wouldn’t play. He also said that he’d reset the Internet. That didn’t help. So, as a test, I brought my computer to a different floor and connected to the Internet. Worked fine. See, some hotels have routers scattered on every other floor. That leaves the evens (or the odds) with weak wireless. That was the case in that situation. So, I got a different room. This time around, the Internet was great in multiple locations. Nicely done on the fix.
2) Proximity to sustenance. Kevin and I had our first ever chicken and waffles experience just steps from the hotel’s side door (see below).
Also, a few blocks away was a neat little free-range burger joint with absolutely delectable food. Plus, the park is nearby.
3) Generally nice. The carpeting is nice. The walls are nice. The towel carts are nice. The drapes are nice. There’s something to be said about being clean and nice. No real big blemishes. That’s perfect in my book. Nice. (No, I don’t want your thesaurus. Nice of you to offer, though.)
1) Water switcheroo. They used to have a tankard of flavored water at the exit. Now they don’t. That’s like when grocery stores used to have Boku. Now they don’t. Terrible.
Goes well with capers.
2) Overreaching engineering. The ice machine on our floor was unavailable. So, there was a neato sign in front of the alcove in which it was housed:
Very informative, but let’s be honest, engineering wouldn’t be that cordial. Do you know any engineers? Would they apologize for any inconvenience? That’s like Boris Badenov apologizing for chasing a flying squirrel.
3) Pillows. Where do they teach that all beds need to have 6000 pillows on them? If so, can I guest lecture? Nine carpets on the floor make the floor lumpy. 250 scoops of hot fudge on a sundae make the ice cream taste goopy. And 206 pillows tend to clutter a bed. Stop it.
Rating: 91. Very good. Any effort made on improving quality of Internet is worth bonus points.
Chiefs are back from the break tonight with a 6 P.M. suspended game against SWB. Catch it all on The Score 1260 or online at thescore1260.com.
Good morning, Chiefs fans…and what a good morning it is. Syracuse is over .500 for the first time since April 16, 2011. Here are some more nuggets to brighten your day…
*The box score from the last time Syracuse was over .500.
*Why Jim Thome’s 13th walkoff home run was more valuable than the others.
*Newsday looks at the 25-year anniversary of groundbreaking sports talk radio station WFAN.
*Bill Murray’s brilliant acceptance speech for the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame.
*The NY Times tackles our current generation gap.
Hope to see you out at the park today for a slightly earlier start time than normal, as the Chiefs and G-Braves tangle at 5:00 PM. If you can’t make it, catch the game on The Score 1260 at 4:45.
For the first time since April 17, 2011, the Chiefs are at .500 (not counting 0-0, of course). After a 6-2 win over the Gwinnett Braves last night, Syracuse improved its record to 37-37. The Chiefs now have a chance to sneak over .500 for the first time since – well, April 16, 2011. So let’s meet the enemy, the G-Braves, and examine who’s where and why…
Catcher: J.C. Boscan, Shawn McGill, Jose Yepez
If it seems a little bit odd that Gwinnett is carrying three catchers, it is. Boscan – despite a .193 average – is here as the de facto third catcher for Atlanta, since he’s on the team’s 40-man roster. Yepez is a 31-year-old career minor leaguer – save a week last season with the Mariners where he didn’t appear in a game – and he’s hitting .241 with some good defensive skills. McGill’s inclusion, however, is somewhat odd – he’d played just 19 games above Single-A in his career until this season, and he’s just 4 for 27 with the G-Braves this year.
First Base: Christian Marrero, Ernesto Mejia
Mejia’s been the offensive MVP of the G-Braves this season, ranking third in the league in batting average and RBI, fourth in total bases and fifth in extra-base hits. However, he’s a 26-year-old Triple-A rookie who still strikes out at a high volume, doesn’t walk a ton, and only plays first. Mejia’s certainly a big bat to have in Triple-A, but he’s not on the 40-man roster, so who knows where his ceiling lies. Former G-Braves star Freddie Freeman – all of 22 years old – looks to have a solid grip on first base up in Atlanta. Marrero, the older brother of Chiefs first baseman Chris, was traded to the Braves from the White Sox for cash considerations this offseason. At 26 years old, he provides first base and outfield insurance for the team.
Second Base: Lance Zawadzki
Zawadzki’s a former Padre who went 7 for 35 in limited time with San Diego in 2010, though he’s been a career minor leaguer outside of that. But there’s no need to worry about this position for Atlanta, as former All-Star Dan Uggla has started all of the Braves’ 70 games at second this year. 2010 fifth-round pick Philip Gosselin could make his way up here eventually, but he’s hitting .260 with no home runs in Double-A.
Shortstop: Tyler Pastornicky, Josh Wilson
The 22-year-old Pastornicky was Atlanta’s opening-day shortstop, but the Braves sent him back to Triple-A after a .248 average in 45 games. It likely won’t be the last time Pastornicky steps on a major league field – and honestly, the move shows long-term faith in the shortstop. Pastornicky could have stayed in the major leagues in place of the .175-hitting Jack Wilson, but Atlanta would prefer regular at-bats for Pastornicky. Meanwhile, Josh Wilson (no relation) is a long-time veteran who once played for nine teams in a four-year span. He played in 60 games with Arizona and Milwaukee last year, though he’s just a .227 career big league hitter with nine home runs. Another top prospect, Andrelton Simmons, has become Atlanta’s regular starter. And he’s performed quite well, with a .323/.368/.500 slash line in 18 games.
Third Base: Ruben Gotay
This was Joey Terdoslavich’s position for most of the season, but the 23-year-old hit just .180 in 53 games before being reassigned to Double-A. Terdoslavich broke a Carolina League record last season with 52 doubles and was so impressive that he originally skipped Double-A, but it turns out the jump was a bit too high to handle. So it’s now manned by the veteran Gotay, who’s only 7 for 42 in 13 games. Former Louisville Bats infielder Juan Francisco currently owns the position of Chipper Jones’ backup in the major leagues, where he’s posted just a .243 on-base percentage, but it doesn’t appear his job’s in any sort of jeopardy.
Outfield: Jose Constanza, Luis Durango, Stefan Gartrell, Felix Pie
Unless there’s an injury, it doesn’t seem like Atlanta’s going to need anyone from here. With Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and lefty-masher Matt Diaz, the Braves are just about set up in the major leagues. Constanza would be the easy – and logical – choice to go up first. He’s the only 40-man member of this bunch, and he hit north of .300 with both the G-Braves and A-Braves (does that work?) last season. Gartrell was unleashing his case after being named the IL Player of the Month in May, but a June slump’s knocked him down to .242/.343/.422 for the season. Durango, a .280 hitter, leads the IL with 27 stolen bases, while Pie’s a former big leaguer hitting .281 in 38 games. It’s a group that’s certainly the offensive strength of Gwinnett this season.
Starting Pitchers: Erik Cordier, Yohan Flande, Eric Junge, Todd Redmond, Julio Teheran
Redmond, Cordier and Teheran are all 40-man members here, but it’s Flande who was the closest to making the Braves on Opening Day this season. The 26-year-old left-hander was still in camp when Atlanta got down to 25 players and looked to have a bullpen spot sewed up, but Atlanta then signed right-hander Chad Durbin, and Flande returned to Gwinnett. He’s still not on the 40-man-roster, so his path still isn’t quite clear.
Meanwhile, uber-prospect Teheran, who’s tonight’s starter, has made one spot start in the majors this season after being called up for a few starts last year. At 21 years old, he’s likely got a long career ahead of him, so it seems Atlanta will be as cautious with Teheran as possible. Redmond was just called up to the majors for the first time earlier in the week, though he didn’t pitch out of the bullpen. The Braves’ rotation right now is 80% complete, with the fifth spot somewhat in flux – Brandon Beachy (and his 2.00 ERA) just injured his elbow and is out for the season, so Jair Jurrjens was recalled to take his spot. Jurrjens, who struggled early this season, allowed just three hits in 7.2 innings against Boston in his return, so Atlanta will be keeping a sharp eye on that spot.
Relief Pitchers: Billy Bullock, Buddy Carlyle, D.J. Carrasco, Jaye Champan, Cory Gearrin, Dusty Hughes, Adam Russell
Chapman (3.15 ERA in 28 games) and Gearrin (1.41 in 24 games) are the two 40-man members here, part of an overall strong Gwinnett bullpen. But the Braves are equally strong in the majors, with a strong and young core of relievers. Veteran Buddy Carlyle’s also had a strong season for the G-Braves, going 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 games. But overall, it doesn’t sound like there will be too much movement bullpen-wise with the big leaguers or the Triple-A squad this year.
Hope to see you out at the park tonight for the Chiefs and G-Braves at 7:00 – or if not, we hope you tune in at 6:45 to The Score 1260.