The Durham Bulls should be arriving soon (that’s if they didn’t drive all last night). Three games there and then, finally, home.
The Gwinnett Braves have renamed their field since the last time I looked, but Google still hasn’t gotten around to getting an overhead shot. It’s only a few miles from downtown Atlanta. Rumor has it that the Braves have a truck with a really long bed that’s got a pitching mound at one end. That way they can have a reliever from Gwinnett warming up on the back of the truck while they are getting the paperwork done to officially call him up. A really forward-looking prospect can just rent an apartment midway and plan on staying there the entire season.
In the meantime, Brian Merzbach doesn’t think much of the park.[ballparkreviews] Here’s a link to some photos. [GwinnettBraves]
The Braves split their opening games with the Charlotte Knights: 8-6, 1-3, 5-1, 2-8. The Braves are apparently starting out with a 4-man rotation since the listed starter is the same pitcher who pitched on 8 April.
Update: Well, I got that wrong. Venters is the Braves fifth starter. I figured that since he got the win that he had started the game on 8 Apr. Not so. He came in for a couple of innings in relief, just to keep sharp, and ended up with the win.
Something of a homecoming for our catcher, Alvin Colina, who played for the Braves last year.
Here’s the IL’s preview commentary on the Gwinnett Braves:
Probable Starters: 1B – Barbaro Canizares; 2B – J.C. Holt; SS – Brandon Hicks; 3B – Wes Timmons; C – Clint Sammons; LF – Matt Young, CF – Gregor Blanco; RF – Brent Clevlen; DH – Mitch Jones.
Key Pitchers: Starters – RH Todd Redmond, RH James Parr, LH Scott Diamond, RH Kyle Cofield, RH Ryne Reynoso. Relievers – RH Craig Kimbrel, LH Mariano Gomez, LH Mike Dunn, RH Jeff Lyman, RH Vladimir Nunez. RH Luis Valdez, who led the IL last year with 27 saves, is still home in the Dominican Republic because of visa problems. He is expected to miss at least the first month of the season.
Strengths of the Club: The bullpen again looks strong even without Valdez to start the season and the team should be better offensively with the addition of Jones, who hit 35 homers last season for Albuquerque. A key will be how quickly CF Jordan Schafer and SS Diory Hernandez get into the lineup. Schafer is recovering from wrist surgery and Hernandez from shoulder surgery.
Weaknesses of the Club: The rotation, the team’s strength at the start of last season, goes into 2010 as a question mark. Three of the potential starters are up from Double-A and none are considered prime prospects.
Top Prospects: RHP Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta’s closer of the future, is making a bid to stick in Atlanta...... RF Jason Heyward, who played three games for Gwinnett towards the end of spring training, made it impossible this spring for the Braves to send him back to the minors. He will be opening the season with Atlanta.
Other Organizational Prospects: 1B Freddie Freeman may start the season at Double-A Mississippi, but he is sure to make it to Gwinnett by mid-season. He may be Atlanta’s first baseman as soon as 2011.
Veterans to Watch: 3B/2B Joe Thurston, who spent all last season with St. Louis, was battling Brooks Conrad for the final roster spot in Atlanta. It is likely one or the other will open the year with the G-Braves...... C/1B J.R. House, who has MLB time with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Houston, was signed as a free agent, as was former New York Yankees first-round pick (and former SWB Yankee) 3B/1B Eric Duncan and 2B/SS Luis Bolivar, who played at Louisville last year...... 1B/DH Barbaro Canizares has been an All-Star in the International League in each of the last two seasons. In 2009 he was 3rd in the League with 149 hits, 4th with 79 RBI, and 6th with 130 games played.
Items of Interest: North Johnson takes over as General Manager, replacing Bruce Baldwin, who retired after a tenure of 23 seasons with the organization. Johnson arrives from Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League. Previous to Myrtle Beach he was General Manager of Kinston in the Carolina League and Rancho Cucamonga in the California League...... The home of the Gwinnett Braves, formerly known as Gwinnett Stadium, is now known as Coolray Field. Coolray Heating and Cooling signed a 16-year agreement with the Braves.
At least one writing thinks the Rays need Durham reliever Joaquin Benoit right now. [RaysIndex]
Goerge F. Will waxes philosophical about baseball and democracy. [Wall Street Journal]