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Conrad, Sammons, Valdez headed to major leagues

Gwinnett entered Tuesday trailing by one game in the International League South Division after ending a two-game skid against leader Durham.

The G-Braves had one game left against the first-place foe. But before that game started, they lost a bit of their punch.

Sept. 1 meant major-league roster expansion and the opening of more spots in the big league dugout. The Atlanta Braves wasted no time, calling up infielder Brooks Conrad, catcher Clint Sammons and closer Luis Valdez. All three spent some time with the big club this season.

Gwinnett filled its empty roster with three from the Class AA Mississippi Braves, outfielder Matt Young, catcher Benji Johnson and right-handed pitcher Jeff Lyman.

The G-Braves signaled the loss of Valdez at the end of the bullpen Monday night when they left recently assigned Manny Acosta in to pitch the ninth against Durham. Acosta picked up his first save in Class AAA. He needs 25 more to match Valdez' IL leading mark of 26.

Despite the saves, Valdez has been inconsistent for Gwinnett. He leaves with an ERA of 3.33 on the year and 7.84 in his last 10 appearance. One of those recent outings included allowing two runs in the ninth to Durham on Saturday that forced extra innings and ended in a G-Braves loss. But when Valdez is on he can be hard to hit, with 74 strike outs.

Conrad ended the year with Gwinnett going 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI Monday night and leaves for the second time this year hitting .269 with 64 RBIs and 12 home runs. During the utility infielder's first stint with the big club, he hit .344 in 14 games, including a game-winning home run in his first at-bat.

This will be Sammons third time with Atlanta. He started the year there when David Ross was on the disabled list and returned when All-Star Brian McCann was dealing with his vision issues. He only hit .200 in the majors, but the Parkview grad is a solid defensive catcher with only three errors on the season with Gwinnett.

All but one of the new additions are new to Class AAA this year, but Lyman was a starting pitcher when he was up with the G-Braves in June. The righty now throws from the bullpen and has a 2.51 ERA in his last 10 appearance. The outfielder Young brings stolen base acumen to Gwinnett, with 42 this season in Mississippi. The center fielder hit .289 with 33 RBIs and 10 triples in Mississippi and comes up even hotter, hitting .394 in his last 10 games.

Johnson gets the call in place of typical Sammons replacement J.C. Boscan, who has not played since Aug. 15 with an injured wrist. Johnson spent most of the year with Class A Myrtle Beach hitting .221 in 61 games.

SideBar: Valdez, Canizares earn IL honors

Only two Gwinnett Braves found spots on the International League's postseason All-Star team.

Luis Valdez made the team as a closer and Barbaro Canizares took designated hitter honors.

Valdez leads the IL with 26 saves on the year and Canizares is tops in hits with 143 to go with his .297 batting average.

The Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees took two of the top individual honors with Austin Jackson earning rookie of the year and Shelly Duncan claiming most valuable player. Lehigh Valley and Louisville Bat pitcher Justin Lehr took most valuable pitcher and his current manager Rick Sweet at Louisville won manager of the year. Sweet already led the Bats to an IL West championship.

- Ben Beitzel