* Well this is what the baseball season is all about. The Braves return home Monday to start a four game series with the Washington Nationals. Atlanta has 32 games remaining this season, and 26 are against teams in their own division. The Braves are 29-20 on the season thus far versus those other four teams in the N.L. East.
* The first priority, of course, is to win the division. But the Braves have got to also be looking at the wildcard race. They know Houston could once again be the most dangerous team in a playoff series. If the Phillies or Marlins were to win the wildcard, that would put the Braves against the N.L. West winner. While that may seem like the easier match up, remember how tough the Padres were for us this season. But the preference is simple: bring on the NL West.
* Tim Hudson showed us again Sunday why he is so valuable. He now has two straight complete games, which also gave the bullpen needed rests on both occasions. Let's just hope he stays hot for the next eight weeks. Huddy is awfully fun to watch when he's on. He's the type of pitcher that can win a team a World Series, and that's why he was acquired.
* Who says the Braves don't develop pitchers? There were a number of former Braves pitching on Saturday. Greg Maddux, Jason Marquis, Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood, and Jason Schmidt. Man, if I were the GM of another team, I'd camp out at Turner Field until John Schuerholz traded me a pitcher.
* I've heard whispers again that the Yankees might come after Leo Mazzone to be their pitching coach next season, replacing the retiring Mel Stottlemyre. Who knows what will happen, but I think the more interesting story would be the selection of a replacement for Mazzone. Guy Hansen, the current pitching coach in Kansas City, might be a candidate to come back to the Braves. Other than him, I'm not sure who else would be considered.
* September callups will happen this week, and since neither Richmond nor Mississippi are in the playoffs, the Braves could get some help on the 1st. Kyle Davies, Adam Bernero, and Andy Marte are probably certain to be called up. I would think with Johnny Estrada still battling the back trouble they'd bring up Brayan Pena as well. Jim Brower would have to be put back on the 40-man roster to come up, and that might be a bit tricky. The other possibility is left-hander Chuck James, who has had a dominating season at three levels. I'd call James up. He's extremely tough on lefties.
* I guess they'll bring up Brian Jordan as well. I hope he enjoys believing he'll be on the playoff roster. I guess they could go with 11 pitchers in the first round and have five outfielders. But the best part about Jordan being back is that it's only closer to when he'll be gone for good.
* Scott Thorman should get a look, but it's doubtful. The left-handed hitting first baseman has had a great season between AA Mississippi and AAA Richmond. He entered Sunday with a .298 average, 21 home runs, 90 RBI, and 29 doubles.
* Another one that should be brought up is Jorge Vasquez, who did well in his stint in Atlanta in mid-summer. Vasquez has pitched most of the season in AA, and his numbers are solid. Expect him to battle for a spot in the Atlanta bullpen next spring.
* Former Braves' prospect Zach Miner has done well so far for the Toledo Mud Hens. Miner has made five starts and is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA. Hopefully the Tigers will bring Zach up to the big leagues this week. He deserves a shot.
* Myrtle Beach lefty Chris Waters pitched well again Sunday, despite losing to Frederick. Waters is a pitcher that should not be forgotten. He missed a full season with shoulder surgery, and while he's made sixteen starts for the Pelicans, it might not be until next spring until he's fully recovered from the injury. If the Braves were to need a lefty reliever sometime next season, Waters might well be a candidate.
* James Parr pitched well again Sunday. This guy has had a remarkable season for the Rome Braves. When he was drafted, the Braves compared him to Kyle Davies. He has the same makeup, the same bulldog attitude on the mound. Parr could be the Braves' best pitching prospect by this time next year.
*While Joey Devine has gotten all the publicity, we should not forget about Will Startup. The former Georgia Bulldog has had a tremendous rookie season for the Rome Braves. He's currently in the midst of not allowing an earned run in his last 17.1 innings of work. Startup could be a candidate to skip Myrtle Beach next season and head straight to Double-A Mississippi. And if he does well there, he might not be far away from the big leagues. Startup could be a Mike Remlinger-type reliever - with a big leg kick!
* The Danville Braves have had quite a season. Eric Campbell, Max Ramirez, Manny Rodriquez, and Jon Mark Owings have all had tremendous seasons. And the pitching? Phenomenal. One of the pitchers that has really improved this season is righty Asher Demme, who has a 3.76 ERA in 12 games (8 starts). Demme struggled last season in the Gulf Coast League, with an ERA of 8.90. He's got good stuff, and now he seems to be seeing some of the results of his labor. It's good to see a kid make improvements in his development.
* Yes, I still think we're going to win the National League East. And with the energy these kids have brought to this team, I think we're going to be very dangerous in the playoffs. These kids are winners, and they could well lead us to a World Series. The next two months should be a lot of fun.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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