FOXSportsSouth.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to discuss the latest surrounding the Braves.
FOXSPORTSSOUTH.COM: Voting for the All-Star Game still has a few days remaining and while he’s been out the past few days, Evan Gattis has a strong argument with some impressive numbers. How would you make the case for Gattis to be in Minnesota?
CHIP CARAY: No. 1, batting average. He’s hitting .290, he leads all major league catchers in homers and he’s up there in RBI as well. From an offensive-standpoint, if you’re looking for power, there’s no more powerful catcher in Major League Baseball.
No. 2, the fact that he’s doing this at such an inexperienced major league or even professional catching age, I think is really remarkable.
No. 3, from an entertainment standpoint, what better way to showcase our game and let everybody know that your path to the major leagues doesn’t have to be a conventional one. I can’t think of anyone who has a story even remotely to what Evan Gattis has done.
I think it would be a wonderful opportunity for that to be showcased and talked about and celebrated. I mean, here’s a guy that has overcome a lot of different things and has found himself and established himself very quickly to become one of the more feared offensive players in the National League.
The old Atlanta saying ‘chicks dig the long ball,’ well, he’s got it spades. He hits it a long way and I think a lot of people would be entertained to watch that. However, having said that, the catcher position in the National League is a very difficult one.
You’ve got the Cardinals’ Yaider Molina, you’ve got Jonathan Lucroy, who not too many people outside of Milwaukee know about — an extremely talented player — and you’ve got the Giants’ Buster Posey.
That’s one issue, then Gattis has to be healthy. The shoulder thing is a concern, and if he can’t play or is reluctant to play or the Braves want to be cautious with him, the last thing I think they want him to do is to play in an All-Star Game or participate in the Home Run Derby and risk aggravating the shoulder.
There are arguments to be made on both sides. We’d all like to see him make the All-Star team for a lot of reasons, but it ultimately has to come down to health for Evan and hopefully that’s first and foremost for everybody concerned.
FSS.COM: Read in ‘Atlanta Journal-Constitution’ where the Braves themselves are pushing for Julio Teheran to make his first All-Star Game. The numbers — he’s fifth in the National League with a 2.34 ERA and third in WHIP (0.95) — certainly put him in that conversation. Having seen Teheran the last three seasons, what has been the biggest change in him in 2014?
CC.COM: Confidence. We’ve talked about it a million times that the start in Colorado last April was the turning point, I think, in his career; to be able to pitch in 27 degree weather in that ballpark and dominate, I thought, was remarkable.
He already has a couple one-hitters in his big-league career. The stuff is there, the command is there. Now he has the ability to control the game, control the emotions of the game. He knows the league a lot better now.
He’s just a very confident, self-assured guy and guys like him don’t come around very often. I’m not saying he’s a once-in-a-generation guy, but he’s a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy and he’s only going to get better an better as he gets bigger and stronger and even more knowledgeable.
He knows how to pitch and I think when he pitches angry he’s even better. I’ve talked about this with Andrelton Simmons, and I mean this in a complimentary way, Julio plays with and pitches with the same type of arrogance that Andrelton Simmons plays shortstop with. That is Andrelton doesn’t believe there’s a play he can’t make and I, in watching Teheran, see a guy who thinks ‘There isn’t a hitter I can’t get out.’
It’s refreshing to see. He goes right after hitters and he knows what he’s doing. If the Braves can get him some runs, he can get a couple of more wins before the All-Star break and help make the case for him. I’m sure manager Fred Gonzalez, being on Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s staff, will do some lobbying too, because I think you have to have him in the mix for sure.
FSS.COM: During a successful road trip, the Braves showed an ability to manufacture runs, scoring 40 in 11 games and they only hit six home runs in that span. What stuck out with you the most with the way the Braves were able to get runs across the plate?
CC:For a team that doesn’t an ideal leadoff hitter, you have to give props to B.J. Upton.
At the top of the order he scored runs in four consecutive games. He’s gotten some big hits out of the leadoff spot. He breaks up the three lefties that Fredi Gonzalez is worried about if you hit Tommy La Stella first or go back to Jason Heyward first. That’s No. 1.
No. 2, I think Fredi likes the idea of Jason Heyward protecting Justin Upton and hitting back behind Freddie Freeman. A lot of the Braves believe that Jason Heyward is and is going to be a better run-producer than he was as a leadoff guy and that’s what’s so exciting.
If you look at the ball club a couple of years down the road, if everything goes according to plan, Jose Peraza is going to be this team’s leadoff guy. He was just promoted to Double-A. He’s a second baseman — a converted shortstop — he can hit, he can hit for average, he can run and he’s a plus-defender.
For what this team has needed — 29 different leadoff guys since Rafael Furcal left the ball club — they’ve been looking for something at the top of the order. They don’t need guys to hit home runs leading off; they just need them to get on.
If B.J. can get on base, he can steal a base, he can go from first to third. That then forces Simmons or La Stella to hit behind the runner and Simmons, when he hits the ball to right field, is a much better hitter. If he’s capable of doing that then you have two guys on for Freddie Freeman and we know how hot Freddie has been.
The experimentation, if you will, with the lineup, the shuffling of the lineup — sometimes it takes time to find the right combination of guys that can do some things. I think it’s given Fredi a lot more flexibility, a lot more offensive weapons and cards to play with that he didn’t have in the first part of the season.
Subtle things like that may add up to big things for the Braves and hopefully they will in this final home stand before the break.