29 May

better late

The Mississippi Braves scored three runs in the eighth inning and five in the ninth to beat host Mobile 8-6 on Friday night at Hank Aaron Stadium. Big deal. The M-Braves have done this kind of thing all year. Through 48 games, they’ve scored 214 runs — an amazing 80 of them in the eighth and ninth innings. That’s 37 percent of their runs in the final two frames. It’s not the best way to win games; research has shown that early runs are key there. But the M-Braves have carved out a 24-24 record with this strike-late approach. They’ve won nine times when they’ve trailed after six innings, six times when they’ve trailed after seven.
P.S. Antoan Richardson, the M-Braves’ new center fielder and leadoff batter, has five hits in his two games. Maybe they’ve found something. Of course, there is another possible candidate lurking in the weeds. Atlanta has signed 30-year-old Cuban outfielder Yasser Gomez, and it’s possible he could be in the Mississippi lineup by the end of June. Stay tuned.

28 May

good news, bad news

For the first time in almost two years, Taylor Tankersley pitched in a big league game on Thursday. The former Warren Central star, whose 2009 season was wrecked by surgery on his left elbow, came on in a jam and got two big outs for Florida against the Atlanta Braves in a game the Marlins would lose. Tankersley struck out a batter and walked one. Tankersley was an effective reliever for the Marlins in 2006 and ’07 before suffering a tough 2008 and winding up in the minors in midseason. He missed virtually all of last season and began this year at Triple-A New Orleans, where he posted a 4.19 ERA before getting the call-up on Thursday. … The bad news belongs to former Ole Miss and Hillcrest Christian standout Cody Satterwhite, a rising star in the Detroit Tigers’ system. According to reports, Satterwhite will have surgery on his right shoulder next week and miss the season. The former second-round pick was 4-6 with a 3.47 ERA at Double-A Erie in 2009 and received an invitation to the Tigers’ big league camp this spring. Then, the shoulder problem cropped up. But he’s young — just 23. He’ll be back.

27 May

this just in

Suddenly, the Mississippi Braves have yet another center field candidate — Antoan Richardson. The Double-A club announced today that Richardson, a former San Francisco farmhand who originally signed in the off-season, has been assigned to the roster. He was expected to open the season in Pearl but was released in spring training; now he’s back. Richardson, 26, a former Vanderbilt star, is a 5-foot-8 switch-hitter with great speed but a light bat.

27 May

so far …

It wasn’t exactly Jason Heyward going yard on opening day for the big club, but Michael Daniel made his Mississippi Braves debut on Wednesday night with a home run in his first at-bat. A one-day case of catching lightning in a bottle? We’ll see. Daniel, 25, was released by Washington earlier this month after hitting .182 at Double-A Harrisburg. The Braves signed the North Carolina alum and sent him to Class A Myrtle Beach, where he was hitting .143 when summoned to Mississippi (see previous post). Daniel was once considered a prospect with the Nationals. He can play center field, has some pop in his bat and reportedly runs well. Maybe he’ll help the M-Braves, but doesn’t it seem like Atlanta is just sticking gum on the many leaks in its minor league system? Where is the young talent Braves fans have grown accustomed to seeing in Pearl?
P.S. In his first start since making a trade request, Weir’s Roy Oswalt was lights out for Houston on Wednesday night. He threw eight shutout innings and got the win (a rarity) in the Astros’ 5-0 victory over Milwaukee. For the year, the former Holmes Community College star is 3-6 despite a 2.35 ERA. It’s no wonder, really, that he wants out. Whoever gets him will be significantly improved. He can pitch, obviously, and he battles to the end, a nice combination to have.

25 May

ripple effect

Brent Clevlen goes on the disabled list in Atlanta. Gregor Blanco is promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett. And just like that, the Mississippi Braves lose their center fielder and leadoff batter. Alex Romero, a onetime big leaguer who didn’t really belong in Double-A to begin with, moved up to Gwinnett today to fill Blanco’s spot. Romero was also out of place in center and at leadoff, but he served well in those roles. Now who does M-Braves manager Phillip Wellman turn to? Michael Daniel, a .143 hitter in 11 games at Class A Myrtle Beach, takes Romero’s roster spot, but he’s not likely to start. Look for Willie Cabrera in center perhaps, with Cody Johnson trying right field while the versatile Eric Duncan plays left. Juan Gonzalez might be the best option at the top of the order. In other moves today, backup second baseman Travis Jones went down to Myrtle Beach. He needs to play and the Pelicans, who lost three players to drug suspension last week, need bodies. Also, backup catcher Benji Johnson was released and Chris Anderson, on the DL since the season began, was activated. Bottom line: The club got a little weaker.

24 May

routes

A fourth of the major league season is in the books, and a pair of Atlanta Braves — both Mississippi Braves alums — have emerged as viable All-Star candidates. Martin Prado, in just his second season as a regular, leads the National League in hits, and the amazing rookie Jason Heyward ranks in the top 10 in RBIs while leading the Braves in homers. These homegrown standouts took very different routes to The Show. Heyward was the 14th overall pick in 2007 and was a top-rated prospect from Day 1. He moved smoothly through two levels in each of his first two pro years, bolted through three in 2009 (hitting .352 with seven homers for the M-Braves) and made the Braves’ opening day lineup this spring. Then he homered in his first at-bat. He’s the kind of player Braves officials knew would make the big leagues, the kind you just don’t want to mess up along the way. Prado, on the other hand, is a prime example of a player who was developed into a major leaguer. No one had heard of him when he signed out of Venezuela at age 17 in 2001. He spent two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and another in the Gulf Coast League, the lowest levels of the minors. Placed at low Class A Rome in 2004, he hit .315. He started ’05 at high A Myrtle Beach and showed enough in 75 games that he was bumped to Double-A Mississippi, where he fit like a glove. Then M-Braves manager Brian Snitker raved about Prado. He started ’06 in Pearl and was called to Atlanta in April, getting a triple in his first game. He stuck in the majors in 2008 and finally became a regular at second base last summer, displacing Kelly Johnson. As much hubbub as Heyward has generated the first two months, the soul of this Braves club so far has been Prado.

23 May

time trippin’

Greg Olson, who is being feted by the Mississippi Braves on Monday, is remembered by the Braves fans among us as the light-hitting, defensive-minded catcher on Atlanta’s 1991 and ’92 World Series clubs. Who can forget the Sports Illustrated cover of Oct. 28, 1991, depicting an upside-down Olson and a sliding Dan Gladden, the Minnesota outfielder who upended Olson at the plate? Of course, the Mets fans among us — and there are still some out there — will remember Olson as a key player on the Texas League champion Jackson Mets of 1984 and ’85. Those were two great teams, managed by Sam Perlozzo (now the Philadelphia Phillies’ third-base coach) and featuring a slew of future big leaguers. Olson, who also played part of the 1986 season at Smith-Wills Stadium, never made it to the big leagues with the Mets; he broke through with Minnesota in 1989. He played the next four years with the Braves, making the All-Star Game in 1990. But his big league career was short, only 414 games all told, and he finished his playing days in independent ball in his native Minnesota. Still, Olson made his mark on the game, with two groups of fans.
P.S. Hinds Community College will play LSU-Eunice today for the NJCAA Division II Region 23 title. Play starts at 2 p.m. at Raymond. LSU-E has to beat the Eagles twice to claim the crown. Hinds is seeking its first trip to the Juco World Series since 1989, when the Rick Clarke-coached Eagles became the first Mississippi juco to reach the national finals.