LAWRENCEVILLE — At least for the opening few games, the Gwinnett Braves should be able to score some runs.
The Class AAA season gets rolling today with Gwinnett visiting Durham for the first of four games and the start of an eight game road trip before the team returns to Coolray Field on April 11 for its opener against the same Bulls.
Like every season in the minor leagues there are plenty of new faces underneath Gwinnett Braves logos, but in plenty of places there are faces that have not just worn the G, but also the A on their hat in the big leagues. There is catching prospect Christian Bethancourt (No. 2 overall in the organization) and infielder Phil Gosselin who both played briefly in the big league. But nowhere it the major league experience deeper than the G-Braves outfield. Jose Constanza, who has spent time each of the past three seasons in the Atlanta dugout, understands the back-and-forth nature of an outfielder. Next to him, in centerfield and in right, Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich both returned to the G-Braves coming off seasons where they made their major league debuts. That taste gave each a boost in confidence and acted as a way to calm them down entering spring training.
“Every big league camp I have gone to has been a little bit easier,” said Cunningham who hit .265 with 38 RBIs while playing a stellar center field for the G-Braves in 2013. “The first one I went to, I was amped up the whole time. You start to settle in and you feel a little more comfortable it takes a little of that edge off.”
Both Cunningham and Terdoslavich understood the challenges of returning to the big leagues to start the season. It’s not realistic to assume a spot on a team with an outfield of B.J. Upton, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward. But Terdoslavich kept working, spending his winter in the Dominican playing and Cunningham even ventured into the infield for some work.
Neither admitted disappointment with their Gwinnett assignment, but neither acted satisfied.
“It’s something you dream about everyday growing up and I got to experience that and it makes you want it more,” said Terdoslavich, who played in 55 games with Atlanta, hitting .215. “It was awesome. It’s definitely somewhere I want to be again. And stay. I just try to get back there.”
For now, the two will be central threats in the G-Braves lineup that includes International League all-star Ernesto Mejia and No. 9-ranked prospect infielder Tommy Le Stella. Mejia hit 28 homers a season ago for the G-Braves and La Stella knocked in 41 runs and hit .343 with Class AA Mississippi.
“I think we have a pretty good team this year,” Terdoslavich said.
With the power of Mejia and Terdoslavich (18 homers in 85 G-Braves games) and Edward Salcedo (23 homers, 23 stolen bases with Mississippi) mixed with the bats of La Stella, Cunningham and even Bethancourt the G-Braves have potential. What happens starts now.
“It’s good to see how you stack up with everybody else,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We like the team we have here. Everybody is anxious to get out of (spring training) and get things going.”
• Who: Gwinnett Braves at Durham Bulls
• When: Today, 6 p.m.
• Where: Durham, N.C.
• Radio: WDUN.com