Jordan Schafer has new hands to shake in Houston. Good luck to him.
First off, yesterday's trade deadline deal sending the world's No. 1 assassin hunted by a flower thief and a dorky-yet-good-looking computer tracer who once dated Heath Ledger because he sang to her during soccer practice to the Atlanta Braves didn't much impact those striving big-leaguers in Gwinnett.
Gwinnett lost middle reliever Juan Abreu of the 2.25 ERA in 41 appearances and that was it. No Mike Minor or Julio Teheran or whoever else's name I read or heard whispered over the past week. And to replace Abreu, the G-Braves got Mississippi lefty Ben Swaggerty. Swaggerty has a 6.97 ERA across Class AA and Class AAA this season, but in eight appearances with the G-Braves that number balloons to 10.38 in 13 innings. Abreu is certainly a loss at this level, but big-picture, losing the 26-year-old isn't a hit to the overall organization.
The other two pitchers, LHP Brett Oberholtzer and RHP Paul Clemens never reached this level. Oberholtzer had pitched well in his last 10 starts, and really since the All-Star break for Mississippi. He was 6-1 with a 2.15 ERA in seven starts since the break and 9-9, 3.74 overall. Clemens was 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA in 20 starts for the M-Braves. So that's that.
The biggest name, obviously, was the injured CF and former top prospect Jordan Schafer.
The drama surrounding the outfielder swirled around Gwinnett in the three years the team has been here. And I saw every side of Schafer. First he had the 2008 drug suspension. Then he announced his arrival as an opening-day starter in 2009 with a home run in his first at-bat. He injured his wrist and came to Gwinnett as a rehab then was optioned here. He wasn't happy, or healthy, and it showed. He played well enough in his nine games before the injury kept him off the field the rest of the season. In one game he hit the game-winning home run as part of a five-run, ninth-inning comeback. He had surgery on Sept. 5 after one of the most frustrating batting sessions I've watched. He swung and swung in the cage before throwing his gloves as he stormed off the field.
Then came 2010. The lingering wrist injury dovetailed with a less-than-optimistic attitude and he ended up in Class AA, officially on a rehab assignment, but really just sent down. The demotion was official July 23.
Then came this year. He made the G-Braves out of spring training and for the first time in two years said he felt 100 percent. His bat started slow, but hitting No. 1 or No. 2 in the order he did things right. He bunted his way on base. He moved runners over. He hit-and-ran. He played center field with better range and better fundamentals.
After an early-season rainout before an off-day, instead of bolting out of the clubhouse for a free evening, he stayed at the park, hitting balls in the indoor cage.
And not just a lay-person like me. He earned his return to the big-leagues and took the same approach there. Call my glasses whatever shade you wish, but he truly more effective than his numbers.
His power numbers disappeared, a combination, perhaps, of 2008 and the wrist injury. But he was a better baseball player, all-around, and much better to watch.
Will he ever live up the the hype of 2009? Or the No. 3 overall prospect status? Maybe, but probably not. But watching his turnaround to this season was, as I noted yesterday, one of the more pleasant parts of covering this level of baseball.
In other news:
* Gwinnett activated RHP Steven Shell from the disabled list today. He has been on it since July 26 with a sprained left ankle and helps give added depth to a depleted G-Braves bullpen. Before this injury, Shell was 2-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 17 appearances and four spot starts.
* By virtue of yesterday's win the G-Braves remain a half game out of first place in the IL South to the Durham Bulls, who beat Charlotte 3-2. The are a half game up in the Wild Card.
* Catcher Will Nieves gets his second start tonight, and first at Coolray Field, since the Braves paid the Milwaukee Brewers for right-hander from Puerto Rico.