After a 4-2 home stand against Minnesota and Toronto the Royals take to the road for an eight game, three city road trip through Atlanta, Boston and Detroit. With the interleague trip against the Braves we thought it be a good idea to chat with Jeff Schafer who’s the editor at Tomahawk Take, here’s our Q&A.
Kings of Kauffman – Expectations before the season were large in Atlanta, how much have they grown with the start plus road sweep at Washington?
Tomahawk Take – The expectations before the season began were no doubtably huge. With the additions of both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton the Braves seemed to have the youngest most exciting outfield in the game, not to mention maybe the best outfield in the game. Sure we lost Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn this offseason but I believe GM Frank Wren made all the right moves. One of the most interesting story lines for the Braves heading into spring training was the catcher position. With franchise face and backbone of the team Brian McCann starting the season on the DL , the Braves had to find a temporary replacement. We picked up Gerald Laird off free agency but knew he was nothing but a backup. Then coming off a great winter league season, Evan Gattis came to spring training and put on a show. Gattis has a great comeback story as he quit baseball for 4 years working jobs here and there across the country trying to find himself. He finally decided to come back to baseball and the Braves drafted him. Now, an everyday starter either at the catcher spot or filling in at first base to keep his bat in the lineup. If your pitchers don’t know about him, they should start studying….if they can, he’s got a great eye and seems to be able to hit a pitch anywhere he wishes.
Right now, Atlanta Braves fans are astatic about the 11-1 start to the season especially after the sweep of “The Mothership’s” love for the Nationals. But we all know it is real early and we’ve got to keep winning!
KOK – What’s been the key to Atlanta starting 11-1 and having the best record in baseball?
TT – I’d say the Braves have a few keys to the quick start. The pitching has been tremendous with been lead by Paul Maholm who is 3-0 and hasn’t given up a run yet. Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor have all started strong with ERA’s of 2.50, 1.50 and 0.69. Julio Teheran is our 5th starter and our top prospect who has struggled to find a groove but I see him turning it around.
Also, Justin Upton…he’s started off with MVP numbers hitting .348 with league leading seven home runs. We’ve got a platoon at third base with Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson. Both have been keys aspects to the start of the season. Especially Johnson as he’s stepped up to play first base while Freddie Freeman is on the DL. Johnson started a rally during the opening game of the Washington series that changed the entire series around. Then Gattis, as I mentioned before the guy has been unreal to start the season. Batting 4th in our lineup and hitting .324 with four home runs and 10 RBI’s.
Another key has been our bench play. Ramiro Pena has started the season hot off the bench and as our utility player. He’s played so well he started over Andrelton Simmons on Saturday. He’s a key switch hitting guy who can play third, short and second. Jordan Schafer has four hits in seven at bats and the combination of catchers with Laird and Gattis both hitting the ball well.
TT – Kris Medlen will get the ball on Tuesday wearing the #42 jersey for Jackie Robinson tribute. He started off the season against the Phillies and not having his best stuff. Medlen is a location guy and lives off his command. He can throw it by some but where he gets most hitters is with his nasty changeup pitch and where he can spot it. He came back against the Marlins and threw a lot better pitching up his first win of the year. He’s only given up two runs in two starts in 2013 and came off his fantastic 2012 season. I’d look for Medlen to have another stellar start against the Royals.
Mike Minor is a guy who most didn’t see being a top of the rotation guy a few years ago. He has matured into a great young left handed pitcher. He’s started off the 2013 season with two wins in his first two starts and only giving up one run against the Chicago Cubs. His fastball has lots of movement on it and can throw it by hitters. He’s looking for a breakout season and 2013 could be it.
TT – Jeff Francoeur was my favorite Braves player a few years ago, (I even named my dog after him) but he needed a change of scenery. I always pull for him and check the box score on how he’s doing. I’m hoping the rest of Braves Country will accept him with open arms with his return. No hard feelings here at all. I don’t see the Braves fan base booing either of those guys, we just aren’t that type of fans….but call an infield fly, all hell breaks loose!!
Here is the other side of the Q&A at Tomahawk Take
Pitching Match-ups and game times –