Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 25:  Erick Aybar #1 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after finding gum in his glove from a prank by teammates between the seventh and eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Turner Field on May 25, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Braves place SS Aybar on DL with bruised foot, recall Blair

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ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night’s game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami’s Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday’s game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday’s game.

My, how times have changed for Braves rotation

norris
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) In the tunnel leading to the dugout at the Atlanta Braves spring training stadium, there’s a picture of John Smoltz being inducted into the Hall of Fame, right above a photo showing Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine holding their Cooperstown plaques.

My, how times have changed.

The Braves head into another rebuilding season with a rotation that figures to be a work in progress well beyond opening day, with manager Fredi Gonzalez conceding it might be the All-Star break before things sort themselves out.

For now, Julio Teheran is the only sure thing, but even the 25-year-old former All-Star is coming off his worst full season in the majors. Bud Norris, who went 3-11 with a 6.72 ERA a year ago, figures to be the No. 2 starter, and the only other pitcher who seems locked into a spot is 23-year-old Matt Wisler, coming off a promising rookie season.

Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.

The Braves will give a long look to a plethora of young pitchers, many of them acquired in trades over the past year as part of a massive roster overhaul that isn’t likely pay dividends for at least another season or two.

“Sometimes that wave is out by the Marshall Islands,” Gonzalez quipped. “But it’s coming.”

This is all rather jarring because starting pitching was the cornerstone of Atlanta’s unprecedented streak of 14 straight division titles. In some ways, the Braves are hoping to pull off a repeat of the late 1980s, when they drafted Glavine and acquired Smoltz in a trade, setting the stage for a worst-to-first turnaround in 1991. They signed Maddux two years later, giving the Braves a trio of Hall of Famers-to-be who would anchor their rotation for the better part of the decade.

No one on the current roster should be expected to fill those massively large spikes, but Gonzalez is hopeful that youngsters such as Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos, Aaron Blair, Sean Newcomb, Williams Perez and Lucas Sims will eventually form the cornerstone of another stellar rotation.

“At least we have some candidates,” the manager said. “A lot of stuff has got to go right. They’ve got to get better and that kind of stuff. But I like the arms, I really do.”

In the meantime, veteran pitchers such as Norris, Kyle Kendrick and Jhoulys Chacin – all of them coming off miserable seasons – may have to fill in the gaps until the youngsters are ready.

“This team is very young,” said Norris, who threw two perfect innings in Saturday’s spring training loss to Pittsburgh. “I just want to do my part, be that veteran presence in the rotation.”

Norris was a 15-game winner for Baltimore in 2014, but he followed up with the worst season of his career. He came down with bronchitis, lost 20 pounds in four days and never recovered. Released by the Orioles in early August, he finished out the season with San Diego and signed a bargain-basement deal with the Braves.

Only 31, there’s still time to get things back on track.

“I had a tough one last year,” Norris said. “I’m here to prove I’m the same guy I was the six years before that.”

Kendrick also has plenty of prove.

He had double-figure wins in six of eight seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies but struggled through a miserable year after signing with the Colorado Rockies, going 7-13 with a 6.32 ERA in the thin air of Coors Field.

Now he’s back in the NL East, getting a chance to pitch in the much more favorable pitching conditions of Turner Field.

“I’m somewhere where I want to be,” he said, “and I’m excited about it.”

Foltynewicz is mounting a comeback of his own. One of the hardest throwers in the organization, the 24-year-old right-hander developed blood clots in his shoulder, a frightening condition that could’ve ended tragically if not diagnosed. He underwent surgery that left a nasty scar under his right armpit and is taking things slowly at the beginning of camp.

While it’s doubtful he’ll be ready for the start of the season, Foltynewicz is one of those guys who could join the rotation during the season. Also, he’s another young pitcher with holes in his repertoire, which were evident as he went 4-6 with 5.71 ERA in 2015.

A 100-mph fastball doesn’t mean much without other pitches.

“These guys get paid to hit the fastball, no matter how hard it is,” said Foltynewicz, who hopes to improve his slider. “You’ve got to have some off-speed pitches, and you’ve got to have command of them.”

Maybe on the way to the dugout, he’ll get some inspiration from those pictures on the wall.

Shelby Miller’s winless streak extended to 20 games

Shelby Miller
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Braves starter Shelby Miller lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Nationals on Saturday night, allowing seven runs on seven hits and three walks with four walks. The poor start extends Miller’s winless streak to 20 games. He last won on May 17 in Miami against the Marlins.

The lack of wins isn’t Miller’s fault. During the 20-game stretch, he has a 3.53 ERA with a 108/45 K/BB ratio in 122 1/3 innings. He’s received a total of 37 runs of support, an average of fewer than two runs per start.

Miller, on the season, has a 2.86 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP and a 151/61 K/BB ratio over 176 1/3 innings. He was the big return for the Braves when they sent outfielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals back in November.

The 54-82 Braves have lost 11 games in a row and are only one game behind the Phillies for the worst record in baseball, which would net them the first overall draft pick in 2016.

Settling the Score: Friday’s results

Washington Nationals' Michael Taylor, right, celebrates with relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58), and Jayson Werth, back center, as he comes home for his game-winning three-run homer during the10th inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Washington. The Nationals won 5-2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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The Nationals still have a lot of work to do, but they are trying to make things interesting in the National League East.

Michael Taylor slugged a pinch-hit, walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning last night as part of a 5-2 win over the Braves.

The Braves held a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth before Matt den Dekker delivered a game-tying pinch-hit single with two outs against Arodys Vizcaino. After Jonathan Papelbon pitched his second straight scoreless inning, Bryce Harper led off the bottom of the 10th with a walk against Matt Marksberry. Brandon Cunniff entered the game to pitch to Ryan Zimmerman, but gave up a single to move Harper to third. Taylor, who has been dealing with a knee issue over the past two days, then hit for Papelbon and sent everyone home happy.

The Nationals have won three straight games and sit at 69-65 on the year. The Mets lost to the Marlins last night, so Washington is five games back in the NL East with 28 games to play. The two teams will begin a huge three-game series Monday in Washington, D.C., but the Nationals will try to pick up more ground by beating up on the Braves this weekend.

Your Friday box scores and AP recaps:

Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 14

Rays 2, Yankees 5

Orioles 10, Blue Jays 2

Indians 8, Tigers 1

Phillies 5, Red Sox 7

Braves 2, Nationals 5 (10 innings)

Mets 5, Marlins 6 (11 innings)

White Sox 12, Royals 1

Pirates 9, Cardinals 3

Twins 0, Astros 8

Rangers 2, Angels 5

Giants 1, Rockies 2

Mariners 11, Athletics 8

Dodgers 8, Padres 4

Brewers/Reds – postponed

The Atlanta Braves: baseball’s crappiest team

Ryan Kelly
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In some ways the Braves self-immolation in the second half has been a blessing. I’ve gotten more reading done lately. Last night I went out for drinks and dinner with my girlfriend. When got home and looked at the box scores I no longer had that “ugh, I wonder how bad they lost tonight” feeling as it has since been replaced by the dead assumption that they lost by a dozen or more thereby allowing me to be pleasantly surprised when they only lose by six or seven or something.

Really: rooting for a godawful team can be incredibly liberating.

But let us not pretend for a second that this weird feeling of zen relief means that the Atlanta Braves are anything other than horrifyingly terrible. Because boy-howdy they are. From Mark Bowman at MLB.com:

The Braves have lost 16 of their past 17 games, and they have now surrendered at least 15 earned runs in three of their past seven games. To put this alarming stat in perspective, they had allowed 15 earned runs in just 10 of the 3,948 games played from the start of the 1991 season through the beginning of this troubling stretch.

Bowman further notes that Braves’ starters have lasted fewer than five innings in seven of their past 14 games, and fewer than three innings in four of their past 11 games. They’re putting known arsonist Mike Foltynewicz back in the rotation next week and . . . that may actually improve things. It’s been quite a stretch.

So here we stand on September 4, and the Braves are only a game ahead of the Phillies for the worst record in baseball. But they’re charging hard:

  • They currently have the worst run differential in baseball at -164;
  • Since the All-Star break they are tied with the Tigers for the most runs allowed out of any team in baseball;
  • For the entire season they have scored fewer runs than any team in baseball (and no one has played more games than they have);
  • They have 83 home runs, which is 16 fewer than the next worst team and 102 fewer than the Blue Jays, who lead MLB in homers;
  • They have the lowest OPS in all of baseball;

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves. The crappiest team in the land.