0

G-Braves add several fresh faces
Gwinnett makes playoff push with seven new players

It will be fan appreciation weekend when the Gwinnett Braves return home to finish the regular season against Charlotte and maybe the team should have discounted programs as well as tickets and hot dogs.

Even the most loyal regulars at Gwinnett Stadium will have trouble identifying all of the new faces.

The race for first place in the South Division may go right down to the last game on Labor Day and it has been roster roulette for the G-Braves as well as other International League teams.

Gwinnett, fighting Durham for first place, has added seven players since leaving for a 10-game road trip that ends tonight in Norfolk. Of course, that means they also have lost seven.

The main culprit is the expansion of major league rosters, with second baseman Brooks Conrad, International League all-star closer Luis Valdez and catcher Clint Sammons joining Atlanta. But the G-Braves also have lost starting pitcher Todd Redmond to Team USA for the World Cup and have been hit by injuries.

Left-handed reliever Mariano Gomez strained his groin and had to be put on the disabled list. Already on the DL were center fielder Jordan Schafer (wrist), second baseman J.C. Holt (knee) and starter James Parr (oblique), all lost for the rest of the season. Schafer had surgery Monday.

Matt Young has been the G-Braves' regular left fielder since being promoted from Class AA Mississippi and right-hander Ryne Reynoso may get a start this weekend against Charlotte after pitching well in his last outing for the M-Braves. Reynoso was promoted instead of former Parkview and Georgia Tech pitcher Tim Gustafson.

Manny Acosta rejoined the G-Braves bullpen when Buddy Carlyle was promoted to Atlanta. Added to the relief corps from Mississippi were Craig Kimbrel, Jeff Lyman and Deunte Heath. Kimbrel is one of the top strikeout pitchers in the minors.

With Sammons called up to Atlanta, catcher Benji Johnson advanced from Mississippi to back up Alvin Colina with the G-Braves. J.C. Boscan, with Gwinnett early this season, would have been promoted, but he is hurt.

The Governors' Cup playoffs open Wednesday, with Gwinnett at home for the first two games whether they beat Durham for first place or make it as the International League's wild-card team. The semifinals and championship are both best-of-five series.

SideBar: Meet the new G-Braves

Six players have been promoted from Class AA Mississippi to fill out the Gwinnett roster:

Deunte Heath

Position: RHP

Age: 24

Size: 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

Birthplace: Atlanta

2009 stats: 2-5 with a 4.16 ERA in 25 games with Mississippi. Spent time earlier in the season with Gwinnett.

Benji Johnson

Position: C

Age: 23

Size: 6-foot-1, 195 pounds

Birthplace: Pittsboro, N.C.

2009 stats: .221 with seven homers and 30 RBIs for Class A Myrtle Beach before playing eight games at Mississippi.

Craig Kimbrel

Position: RHP

Age: 21

Size: 5-foot-11, 205 pounds

Birthplace: Huntsville, Ala.

2009 stats: 18 saves with Mississippi, Myrtle Beach and Rome. Had 100 strikeouts in 58 innings.

Jeff Lyman

Position: RHP

Age: 22

Size: 6-foot-3, 215 pounds

Birthplace: San Francisco

2009 stats: 5-7 with 3.12 ERA in 33 games for Mississippi, eight of them starts. Also pitched in three games with Gwinnett earlier.

Ryne Reynoso

Position: RHP

Age: 24

Size: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds

Birthplace: Sun Valley, Idaho

2009 stats: 7-9 with 3.47 ERA in 25 games for M-Braves with 89 strikeouts.

Matt Young

Position: OF

Age: 26

Size: 5-foot-8, 180 pounds

Birthplace: Temple, Texas

2009 stats: .289 with 81 walks, 10 triples and 42 stolen bases for M-Braves. Led the Southern League in walks, triples and stolen bases, and was second in on-base percentage (.421).