It's June 1. It's time for summer baseball, the time when teams start to get more serious about showing us whether they are contenders or pretenders.
Most teams are nearing the one-third mark of the season. The Braves will be there after Friday's game. Most teams know now after two full months what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what their needs might be as we get closer to July 31.
The Braves are 25-25 as we start June, which is a much more competitive record than many believe they would have through May. It has been a dramatic two months, as it is for most teams that struggle to be near .500. They may look good one week and trick you that they may be better than we thought, and then they'll have a rough week and look ordinary.
That's what the Braves have been so far. It's been fun at times, but it's been frustrating as well.
This month the rotation will be under the spotlight. After looking ordinary Sunday in toughing out a start in San Francisco, how will Julio Teheran do in June? His velocity is down and he looks hittable. But Teheran still made it through six innings Sunday, showing how good he can be even when most wonder if he’s 100% healthy.
Can Shelby Miller continue his dominance? He was tremendous in May (0.95 ERA in five starts) and is headed toward the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Alex Wood was solid last month (2.88 ERA) and the Braves need him to deliver innings with there being questions about Teheran’s health.
The two rookies, Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez, joined the rotation and did very well. Fans will love watching these two kids continue to try and establish themselves with the ‘more’ veteran three starters.
There is little doubt the middle relief must do better in June. Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson have stabilized the late-inning relief, but the Braves will count on Brandon Cunniff, Nick Masset and Cody Martin to improve getting late into the games.
Will the manager play rookie Christian Bethancourt more in June? With A.J. Pierzynski coming back down to Earth (.145 in May), the Braves need to see more of what Bethancourt can do.
It will be interesting to see how much Juan Uribe will mean to the lineup. Expect the new third baseman to get more playing time over Chris Johnson. Uribe should be able to give Freeman some protection in the lineup, as long as the manager mover Freeman back to the cleanup spot where he belongs.
Cameron Maybin (.290) and Jace Peterson (.282) were great in May. They need to continue in June to keep center field and second base as improved positions for the Braves. Both are making B.J. (Melvin) Upton and Dan Uggla forgettable.
The Braves need Kelly Johnson back to give the lineup another potent left-handed bat. Johnson was leading the team in home runs when he left with a side injury.
In the minors, we will closely watch the starts of Matt Wisler and Manny Banuelos in Gwinnett. Both were tremendous in May and are making everyone wonder how close they are to being ready for Atlanta. Also, when will the players injured in the bus crash in May be back for Carolina? The Mudcats need them back and the organization needs to see if the accident will impact the seasons for the injured players.
The Braves are in the race, both the division and the wildcard. But June could determine how long the team is still in the conversation as it is usually a swing month to separate contenders and pretenders.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.
Braves start June at .500
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