April 2015

Braves announce 2015 Opening Day Roster

The Atlanta Braves announced their Opening Day roster on Sunday. After a winter filled with moves gave way to a crowded clubhouse throughout spring training, the team finally trimmed the number down to 25 men. The group includes 14 first time Braves, with only seven active players who appeared on the 2014 Opening Day roster.

The new faces are pitchers Trevor Cahill, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Cody Martin, Andrew McKirahan, Shelby Miller, Josh Outman and Eric Stults, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, infielders Alberto Callaspo and Jace Peterson and outfielders Jonny Gomes, Nick Markakis and Eric Young Jr. The seven players who were on last season’s Opening Day roster are pitchers Luis Avilan, Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood along with infielders Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons. (Two others who were on that roster will open 2015 on the disabled list – pitcher Mike Minor and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr.)

The roster also includes four rookies: pitchers Juan Jaime, Cody Martin and Andrew McKirahan and infielder Jace Peterson.

Five men begin the season on the disabled list. Pitchers Shae Simmons and Daniel Winkler are both recovering from Tommy John surgery and have been placed on the 60-day DL, while left-hander Mike Minor goes on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation. Outfielders Melvin Upton Jr. (foot) and Joey Terdoslavich (wrist) are likewise on the 15-day DL.

Additionally, Atlanta placed two players on the restricted list, outfielder Dian Toscano and reliever Arodys Vizcaino. Last week, Vizcaino was suspended for 80-games for testing positive for a PED. Toscano, who hails from Cuba, has yet to report to the team due to visa problems.

Below is the roster breakdown by position:

Pitchers (13): Luis Avilan (LH), Trevor Cahill (RH), Jason Grilli (RH),  Juan Jaime (RH), Jim Johnson (RH), Craig Kimbrel (RH), Cody Martin (RH), Andrew McKirahan (LH), Shelby Miller (RH), Josh Outman (LH), Eric Stults (LH), Julio Teheran (RH), Alex Wood (LH)

Catchers (2): Christian Bethancourt, A.J. Pierzynski

Infielders (6): Alberto Callaspo, Freddie Freeman, Phil Gosselin, Chris Johnson, Jace Peterson Andrelton Simmons

Outfielders (4): Johnny Gomes, Kelly Johnson, Nick Markakis, Eric Young Jr.

Disabled List (5): Mike Minor (15-day), Shae Simmons (60-day), Joey Terdoslavich (15-day), Melvin Upton Jr. (15-day), Daniel Winkler (60-day)

 

The Braves open the regular season on the road on Monday afternoon at 4:10 p.m. against the Miami Marlins. Julio Teheran will make his second consecutive Opening Day start for Atlanta, facing fellow right-hander Henderson Alvarez.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.

Braves wrap up spring with 5-3 win over Orioles (2015)

The Atlanta Braves finished off the Grapefruit League slate with with a 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

At the plate: The Braves lineup had a productive final day at Champion Stadium. Freddie Freeman belted a solo-homer in the bottom of the first to put Atlanta on top. He finished the spring batting .339 with three home runs and 11 RBI. Infielder Alberto Callaspo went 2-for-2 and closed out his spring by hitting .327 and scoring eight runs over the final 14 games. Pedro Ciriaco strengthened his bid for a spot on the bench with yet another good day, going 1-for-2 with RBI and a walk. He batted .373 with 15 RBI this spring, both team-leading totals. Despite getting a late start on his spring due to December neck surgery, right fielder Nick Markakis saw time in eight big league games and got some extra at-bats on the minor league side.  He should be good to go on opening day in Miami.

On the mound: After being named the team’s fourth starter on Friday, left-hander Eric Stults got one final spring tune-up. He was sharp once again, tossing five innings of one-run ball. Stults will take his first turn in the rotation in Friday’s home opener against the New York Mets. Out of the bullpen, lefty Andrew McKirahan followed with a scoreless sixth inning. Mike Foltynewicz, who was in the running for the fifth starter’s job all spring, gave up an unearned in the seventh thanks to a pair of errors, one of which charged to him on a pickoff gone bad. Jason Grilli tossed a clean eighth inning, but Craig Kimbrel surrendered a solo-homer to Chris Parmalee in the ninth. Both of those men recorded a pair of strikeouts in their final outings.

Of note: The Braves have not completely narrowed down their 25-man roster to open the regular season. Outfielders Todd Cunningham and Joe Benson were both sent to Triple-A Gwinnett, which opened the door for infielder Pedro Ciriaco to claim the final bench spot after a strong spring showing. On the pitching side, Mike Foltynewicz was optioned to Gwinnett as well. He will anchor the starting rotation there. Both Juan Jaime and Cody Martin are expected to secure spots in the Atlanta bullpen barring any further transactions.

Up next: Braves @ Marlins — Monday,  April 6 at 4:05 p.m.

RHP  Julio Teheran vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez

 

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.

Braves acquire Trevor Cahill from Diamondbacks

The Braves have been one of the busiest teams in baseball over the past six months, and that trend continued on Thursday when Atlanta acquired right-handed starter Trevor Cahill from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Atlanta sends minor league outfielder Josh Elander to Arizona in exchange for Cahill. According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, one source has indicated that the Braves will only be responsible for $5.5 million of Cahill’s $12 million salary.

Cahill, 27, began his career with the Oakland Athletics and was an All-Star in 2010, when he turned in an 18-8 record to go along with a sparkling 2.97 ERA. The going has been a rougher since then.

After signing a five-year, $30.5 million extension with the A’s, Cahill was shipped to Arizona in a five-player trade prior to the 2012 season. He won 13 games during his first season with the Diamondbacks, but his win totals continued to fall as his ERA and opponents’ batting averages were on the rise. Cahill went just 3-12 with a 5.61 ERA in 110-2/3 innings last season. He was demoted from the rotation in mid-April, was designated for assignment in mid-June and accepted a minor league assignment shortly thereafter. Cahill made seven starts in the minors before rejoining Arizona in mid-July.

The righty has been working on mechanical adjustments this spring in hopes of curtailing the walks that have plagued him at times, particularly last season when he turned in a career-worst rate of 4.5 BB/9. He has issued five walks against 10 strikeouts in his 10 innings of Cactus League play, turning in a 3.60 ERA in four appearances (three starts). Cahill’s contract includes a pair of option years, though Atlanta is unlikely to pick up either. He is due $12 million guaranteed in 2015, with options of $13 million in 2016 ($300,000 buyout) and $13.5 million in 2017 ($500,000 buyout).

Elander, 24, has yet to play above A-ball since being selected by Atlanta in the sixth round of the 2012 draft out of Texas Christian University. He boasts a a .275/.356/.435 slash line in 870 career plate appearances, hitting .293 with 15 homers and 93 RBI between Low-A Rome and High-A Lynchburg in 2013. Elander battled a shoulder injury and hit just .219 with two home runs in 37 games last season with the Hillcats.

With Cahill in the fold, Atlanta will continue to evaluate its options for the final rotation spot. On Friday, the team released veteran Wandy Rodriguez, who signed a minor league deal which included an opt-out clause if he was not added to the major league roster by April 3. Rodriguez, 36, has dealt with knee and arm injuries over the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and made just 18 starts, which likely factored into Atlanta’s decision. He turned in 2-0 record with a 3.13 ERA in six starts this spring, walking eight and striking out 23 in 23 innings of work.

Fellow lefty Eric Stults also signed a minor league contract and holds that same opt-out clause, but remains in camp as of early Friday afternoon. The 35-year-old is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings, walking just four but striking out only seven. He stands a good chance of being named the team’s fifth starter, though rookie Mike Foltynewicz has been in the competition as well and makes his final start in Saturday’s Grapefruit League finale. Either man could factor into Atlanta’s bullpen mix as well.

 

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.

Spring Training: Braves walk-off against Orioles, 6-5 (2015)

The Atlanta Braves grabbed a 6-5 walk-off win over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.

At the plate: The Braves piled up 14-hits in this one, including multi-hit games from a pair of outfielders in need of one for different reasons. Nick Markakis picked up two-hits, his first since his debut back on March 23. The new Atlanta right fielder played in his first game against his old team, after spending the first nine years of his career with Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Joe Benson was officially extended a non-roster invite to big league camp earlier in the day. He responded by going 4-for-5 with the walk-off, RBI-single that sent Atlanta to a 6-5 victory. Suffice it to say, that bolstered his efforts to make the club as a reserve. The Braves launched their game-winning rally against T.J. McFarland (1-1), when Kelly Johnson singled and was chased to third on a double by Eric Young Jr. A wild pitch allowed Johnson to score and set the stage for Benson’s walk-off base hit.

Johnson’s single pushed his spring training line to .300/.426/.540 in 61 plate appearances, giving him an extremely strong cast to secure one of the open spots on the Braves bench. As for the regulars, Freddie Freeman was 1-for-4 and Andrelton Simmons went 1-for-3, both collecting RBI-singles.  Young crossed the plate two more times and his now tied for the Grapefruit League lead with 15 runs scored. His seven stolen bases are tied with Marlins speedster Dee Gordon for the most in baseball this spring.

On the mound: Alex Wood capped his spring training with a fine outing. The lefty allowed just one run on six hits while striking out four men. Wood is slated to start the second game of the regular season against the Marlins on Tuesday. The going was not as nice for Chien-Ming Wang, who surrendered four runs – three earned – on five hits in just 1-1/3 innings of work. Brady Feigl finished the seventh inning and Jason Grilli followed with scoreless eighth. New left-hander Andrew McKirahan (1-1) debuted with a perfect ninth, striking out two men and earning the win. The Braves just added McKirahan on a waiver claim from the Miami Marlins.

Of note: After the game, the Braves announced they traded for Diamondbacks right-hander Trevor Cahill [Full Story]… Righty reliever Arodys Vizcaino was suspended for 80-games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy. Vizcaino, 24, tested positive for stanozolol, which is commonly referred to as winstrol and is a synthetic anabolic steroid. He had already been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett and will serve his suspension there. The Braves reacquired Vizcaino from the Cubs over the winter in a trade that sent second baseman Tommy La Stella to Chicago.

Up next: Braves vs. Orioles — Friday,  April 3 at 6:05 p.m.

 

 

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.

Spring Training: Braves clocked by Phillies, 9-2 (2015)

The Philadelphia Phillies belted four home runs in a 9-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

At the plate: There weren’t many highlights for the Braves offense. Outfielder Joe Benson is making a late push for a reserve spot and strengthened his case with an opposite field, solo home run off Cole Hamels in the second inning. Atlanta tallied two runs on six hits against Hamels (1-1) over the first six innings and had no luck against the Philadelphia bullpen. The only other Braves run came in the top of the fifth when Pedro Ciriaco scored on a passed ball. Ciriaco finished 1-for-3, while Chris Johnson and Jace Peterson were each 1-for-4 on the day. Todd Cunningham is also battling for a spot on the bench and finished 1-for-3 with a walk.

On the mound: Julio Teheran (2-2) struggled through his final start of the spring. The Phillies touched him up for seven earned runs, including four home runs, over four innings of work. Chase Utley hit two of those homers, belting a three-run shot in the first inning and a solo-shot in the third. Teheran allowed those seven runs on eight hits and no walks, while striking out four. Juan Jaime followed with two frames of scoreless baseball, but Aaron Kurcz was charged with two unearned runs in 1-1/3 innings thanks to some shaky Atlanta defense. John Cornely recorded the final two outs in the eighth inning.

Of note: The Braves added a left-hander to the mix on Wednesday, claiming Andrew McKirahan off waivers from the Miami Marlins. McKirahan, 25, was a Rule 5 selection from the Cubs in the December, which means the Braves would have to carry him on the 25-man roster for the duration of the season or offer him back to Chicago for $25,000. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012, but was back on the mound in the second half of 2013 and put together a strong 2014 between High-A and Double-A for the Cubs. He turned in a 2.04 ERA in 65 innings with 57 strikeouts against 14 walks last season… It turns out that move may have larger implications. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that lefty Josh Outman flew back to Atlanta to have his ailing shoulder examined. He had not been particularly effective this spring and experienced pain following his appearance on Saturday. This recent development means there is a strong possibility that Outman begins the season on the disabled list. Bowman also provided some spring numbers for McKirahan when it comes to dealing with left-handed hitters:

Up next: Braves vs. Orioles — Thursday,  April 2 at 6:05 p.m.

LHP Alex Wood vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen

 

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game. Follow Grant on Twitter.