Manager Fredi Gonzalez has set his second-half rotation with right-hander Tim Hudson pitching versus the Mets on Friday, followed by right-hander Tommy Hanson. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens will face the Giants in the first of a three-game series beginning on July 17. Who starts on July 15 depends on how right-hander Ben Sheets progresses with his minor league starts.
Currently, Sheets is projected to get that start, after two appearances with the Double-A Mississippi Braves. His first start was on July 4, when, a little too amped up being on the mound competitively for the first time in two years, he gave up five hits and four earned runs in the first two innings, including back-to-back triples in the first. Then he struck out three of the next four to get out of the inning. By the time he had completed five innings, he had used only 74 pitches — 46 strikes — and struck out five batters. The Braves are expecting a more accurate assessment in his next start for the M-Braves, which is scheduled for Monday.
If for some reason both right-hander Randall Delgado and left-hander Mike Minor are both in the rotation, Gonzalez will split up the rookies in the rotation. But if Sheets is in the mix, expect Delgado to be the one optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. Minor has been more consistent; he and Hudson are the only Braves’ starters to pitch into the fifth inning in every start in the first half.
Until the day before the All-Star break, the Braves, to a man, were excited about having rookie Andrelton Simmons at shortstop in the second half. His defense has been superlative, and his unexpected offense, gravy.
However, he won’t be back in action until at least mid-August. Simmons fractured his right little finger sliding into second base in the fourth inning Sunday. He successfully stretched a single into a double, but when he slid head first, he rammed his hand on the bag and the back of Phillies second baseman Chase Utley’s foot. He was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture.
Still, the Braves’ pivotal player is center fielder Michael Bourn. No less an authority than third baseman Chipper Jones calls Bourn “probably the most valuable player on the team,” because he can make things happen whether he leads off an inning, as he does to begin every game, or comes up with runners on.
Bourn was 2-for-5 Sunday in the 4-3 win over the Phillies, giving him 32 multi-hit games.
The bench remains suspect, although third baseman Juan Francisco has responded to the tutoring of hitting instructors Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher. Infielder Jack Wilson and infielder/outfielder Eric Hinske, however, are not what they used to be, even in diminished roles. Look for Tyler Pastornicky, being re-cast as a utility man instead of purely a shortstop at Gwinnett, to come up now that Simmons will be out. And possibly first baseman Ernesto Mejia, 27, who was leading the G-Braves in the Triple Crown categories with a .308 batting average, 15 home runs and 52 RBI, when he was chosen on June 27 to represent the team in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
–SS Andrelton Simmons fractured his right little finger sliding into second base in the fourth inning Sunday. He successfully stretched a single into a double, but when he slid head first, he rammed his hand on the bag and the back of Phillies 2B Chase Utley’s foot. He must wear a cast for four weeks before being re-evaluated. He’s likely to need at least seven days to rehabilitate.
–C Brian McCann, who had homered in every game played against the Phillies this season, was in the cleanup spot Sunday, with 3B Chipper Jones getting the day off. And he did it again, hitting a solo home run in the seventh to put the Braves up 4-3 after driving in the run that tied the game 3-3 in the fifth.
–RHP Randall Delgado and LHP Mike Minor were available in the bullpen for Saturday’s and Sunday’s games against the Phillies thanks to the All-Star break. Once the season resumes, if both rookies are still in the rotation, manager Fredi Gonzalez will be arranging it so that they don’t start back-to-back games.
–RHP Tim Hudson is one of only three Braves pitchers in the last 40 years to throw at least seven innings without a run or striking out a batter, as he did in Friday’s start against the Phillies. The other two were Tom Glavine, who did it twice, in 1989 (9 innings) and 1993 (7 innings); and Craig McMurtry in 1984 (8 innings).
–Manager Fredi Gonzalez has set his second-half rotation with RHP Tim Hudson pitching versus the Mets on Friday, followed by RHP Tommy Hanson. RHP Jair Jurrjens will face the Giants in the first of a three-game series beginning on July 17. Who starts on July 15 depends on how RHP Ben Sheets progresses with his minor league starts.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I feel like I haven’t really had a good swing on the ball since Miami.” — 2B Dan Uggla, who homered against the Phillies on Sunday. The Braves were in Miami June 5-7.