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The End of the Uggla Era

Jul 18, 2014 -- 9:57pm

Friday afternoon, the inevitable became reality as the Braves cut ties with Dan Uggla, giving him his unconditional release. The 34 year old Uggla was one of the most beloved and well respected players in the Braves clubhouse, and news of his release hit his teammates hard. The consensus on Uggla was that he handled his demotion and limited playing time with the utmost professionalism and was always there to support the other 24 guys in the Atlanta locker room. Freddie Freeman said Friday night’s opener against the Phillies was going to be tough. Jason Heyward said he appreciated the fact that Uggla was always there for him. Gerald Laird he understands the business of baseball. BJ Upton told me he fully expects Uggla to be a productive member of whatever team decides to sign him. Somebody will take a flyer on Uggla. The Giants have already expressed interest. What about his former team, the Marlins? How about a couple contenders in the AL like Baltimore or Oakland? Either way, a change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for the three time All Star second baseman.

Since finishing the 2011 season on a 33 game hit streak, Uggla has hit just .196 over the next two and a half seasons with 379 strikeouts in 1101 at bats. Playing time has been extremely limited for Uggla, who’s appeared in just  three games in the month of July. Since his two home run/five RBI game in Philly on April 14, Uggla had just one extra base hit with no homers and no RBI in the 96 plate appearances that have followed.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Another Braves Starter Gets Bitten By The Injury Bug

Jun 21, 2014 -- 9:42pm

On Thursday night, Gavin Floyd had it all going on. His curveball was literally unhittable…that is…until the last one he threw in the 7th inning. Jason Werth hit it a mile foul into the stands, and he could step back into the batters box, time was called so trainer Jim Lovell and manager Fredi Gonzalez could come check on their starter. Floyd immediately knew something was wrong, as he heard a something in his elbow pop. However, there wasn’t much pain sohe was confident it had nothing to do with his surgically repaired elbow that was fixed 13 months ago. X-Rays revealed a fractured elbow which had nothing to do with the tendons that were repaired during last years Tommy John surgery.

Floyd, who flew back to Atlanta on Friday, underwent an MRI and is set to see doctors on Monday or Tuesday to find out his next step. While we don’t have a timetable for when we could see Floyd on a mound again, given the severity of his injury, it’s likely his season is over after just nine starts. As for who takes his spot, Alex Wood will join the club in Houston and get the nod on Wednesday in the second of three against the Astros. Wood, who was sent down to Triple-A to get stretched out as a starter, allowed just one run over two starts for the G-Braves.

Longterm, I don’t think Floyd’s injury changes the course of action for the Braves as they inch towards the trade deadline. However, as Fredi Gonzalez always says, you can never have too much starting pitching. Over the last three months, the Braves have seen three depart with major injuries to their pitching elbows.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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Wood to Gwinnett...but for how long?

Jun 13, 2014 -- 7:29pm

On Tuesday, the Braves activated reliever Jordan Walden off the disabled list. The big question all along was who’s spot he’d take once he was healthy. Well, Alex Wood got the word that he was heading to Triple-A to once again serve as a starter. Wood is expected to make his first start with Gwinnett on Friday night and go three innings or 60 pitches. Wood told me he didn’t think he’d need more than three starts to be stretched out enough to be good to go close to 100 pitches.

Don’t expect Wood to be in Gwinnett long. From what I gather, the Braves will look to strengthen a bullpen that has certainly been vulnerable the last few weeks. The back end of the pen isn’t the issue. Shae Simmons has been outstanding since being called up from Mississippi two weeks ago, and of course, Craig Kimbrel isn’t going anywhere.

David Carpenter & Luis Avilan, two of the most reliable arms in the Braves pen last season haven’t been nearly as sharp as they were last season. Anthony Varvaro’s last few appearances have been shaky to say the least. And, Jordan Walden is certainly showing signs of rust from missing nearly six weeks of the season with a left hamstring strain.

So, this means the Braves will likely look to move either Gavin Floyd or Aaron Harang via trade in search of some help for a bullpen that once boasted the best ERA in all of baseball. In my opinion, Floyd would seem like the most logical candidate. His one year deal is loaded with incentives and will likely make him the odd man out once Alex Wood is ready. Like I said, he won’t be with Gwinnett long. The Braves picture him as a starter at the Major League level and have not seen him adapt to the role of reliever like they would have liked. The date on the calendar I’m keeping my eye on is Saturday June 28th. The Braves will be at the tail end of a 11 game road trip with a double header in Philly. With the rules, Atlanta can use the “26th man” which would give Wood one extra day of rest after making three starts at Triple-A.

All that said, a lot can change between now and then. As Fredi likes to always say, these things always take care of themselves. But, it would shock me if both Harang and Floyd aare on the team come July 1.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin.

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Welcome To The Show, Tommy

Jun 02, 2014 -- 9:22am

On Wednesday, a dream became reality for Tommy La Stella. The 25 year old second baseman woke up in Pawtucket, just hours after collecting his first home run of the season for Triple-A Gwinnett. La Stella was summoned to manager Brian Snitker’s room at the team hotel, and got the news he’s been waiting his whole life for.  “Snit called me up to his room this morning and told me I was going down the road.” Down the road meaning Boston, where the Braves were getting ready to open another two game series against the defending World Series Champs. La Stella’s father and sister had traveled to watch his Minor League Games, but plans quickly changed. His mother and sister also flew up to Beantown to watch Tommy go 2-for-4 in his Major League debut.

The call up of La Stella meant the demotion of infield Tyler Pastornicky to Gwinnett. The move came nearly two years to the day (May 30, 2012) that the Braves brought Andrelton Simmons up from Double-A Mississippi. Pastornicky just so happened to be the odd man out of that transaction as well.

What can we expect from this La Stella kid? First and foremost, he brings a much needed contact hitter to the lineup. Atlanta has plenty of power, but is in desperate need of a guy that can put the ball in play or work a big walk. He also helps balance out a righty-heavy lineup that has had tremendous success against left handed starters. Through his first five Major League games, Tommy is hitting .400 with three multi hit games. While he's not expected to bring much power, he does bring a guy who rarely ever strikes out and can put the ball in play, something this lineup was searching for.

How about his defense? La Stella made 40 starts at second base with Gwinnett and made just two errors. He told me during Spring Training that his defense is an area he has worked extremely hard to improve on. He will get every opportunity to do so at the Major League level.

Kevin McAlpin covers the Braves for the @BravesRadioNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin.

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Offseason Underway...Now What?

Nov 08, 2013 -- 2:19pm

With the World Series now in the rear view mirror, the offseason is officially underway. Now, let the speculation as to the futures of Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, Dan Uggla and more begin! On Monday, the Braves made Brian McCann the ‘qualifying offer’ of 14.1 million dollars for a one year deal (standard around MLB). He will obviously decline the offer, seeking a long term deal that could be worth up to $100 million dollars. While it’s likely Mac ends up in the American League, several NL teams will also be interested in his services.

Now while it’s highly likely McCann has played his last game in Braves uniform, the future is a little brighter when it comes to Tim Hudson. Teams like the Royals, Indians and Red Sox have already expressed interest in the 38 year old Hudson, however, with the roots he has in this town and all the charitable work he’s involved with, I’d be surprised to see Hudson skip town. That is, unless he is just blown away by a ridiculous offer that the Braves don’t feel they can match.

What about Dan Uggla, you ask? Well, with 2 years and $26 million dollars left on his contract, it will take a lot for the Braves to be able to move him. Eating the majority of the contract would be a great place to start. The fact that Uggla didn’t make Atlanta’s NLDS roster should tell you all you need to know about where he stands with the organization at this point in his career. I do expect Uggla to be moved in the offseason, but don’t expect a whole lot in return. Perhaps a change of scenery could do him good? Uggla’s a three time All-Star, however, his last two seasons in Atlanta have been extremely disappointing.

This will certainly be a busy offseason for the Braves brass, and the groundwork to some potential deals could be discussed starting Monday as the GM Meetings get underway in Orlando. Four weeks later, the Baseball Winter Meetings will be held at the Swan & Dolphin Hotel at Disney. Between now and then, we should have a much clearer idea of who the Braves could pursue for 2014 and beyond.

Follow Kevin McAlpin on Twitter @KevinMcAlpin

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It's Finally Game Day!

Oct 03, 2013 -- 8:51am

Welcome to the second season! As we turn the calendar from September to October, the Braves celebrate their first division title since 2005. Tim Hudson and Brian McCann remain as the lone members of the roster who were with the Braves eight seasons ago when they won their last NL East championship. Fredi gave his squad the day off on Monday before getting back on the field for workout days both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Perhaps the biggest news came on Wednesday when it was revealed that Dan Uggla, the teams highest paid player was not part of the roster for the Division Series. This season has been a complete disaster for the three time All-Star who recently broke his own franchise record with 171 strikeouts in 448 at bats. Uggla’s .179 batting average this season was worst in the bigs, and his .137 average with runners in scoring position was second lowest in the Majors. When asked about the decision to leave Uggla off the roster, Fredi Gonzalez  said they needed to “put your best 25 out there to compete” and called the decision “one of the hardest days I’ve ever had to experience as a Major League manager.” Uggla and Fredi go a ways back to their time with the Marlins but Fredi understood this decision had to be what was best for the team.

The series against the Dodgers won’t be easy. Atlanta will have to face a reigning (and probably current) Cy Young pitcher in Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Hun-Jin Ryu in the first three games. However, the Braves hand the ball to the NL Pitcher of the Month for September in Kris Medlen, who went 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five starts last month. Mike Minor has really come into his own since the All-Star Break of 2012, and Julio Teheran put together a strong rookie campaign posting 171 strikeouts which is a new Braves rookie record.

Looking for some good news? Matt Kemp is already ruled out for the postseason, Andre Ethier may be limited to a role off the bench, and both Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez have been dealing with nagging injuries as well. Not to mention the fact that Puig has really struggled offensively over the last month or so.

Can the Braves beat the big bad Dodgers? Of course they can, but it won’t be easy. But then again, they’re not supposed to be easy this time of year. Everyone starts with a clean slate. What happened in the regular season means little now. I do like the Braves in 5 games, but as I’ve said more than a few times, it won’t be easy.

For the latest on the Braves, follow Braves Radio Network Reporter Kevin McAlpin on Twitter (@KevinMcAlpin).

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