The trash-talking started a little early, more than 24 hours before iconic former Braves manager Bobby Cox takes on his protégé Fredi Gonzalez Tuesday when the Braves minor league All-Stars meet the Atlanta Braves for an exhibition Tuesday at Coolray Field.
“We’re out here working on squeezes and rundowns,” said Cox who kidded on a cell phone call with Gonzalez while watching the likes of prospects Joey Terdoslavich, Christian Bethancourt, and Nick Ahmed loosen up at Coolray.
Gonzalez had just landed in Atlanta from Orlando, Fla. after breaking camp with the major league club. Really, he was calling to offer Cox a ride to the Gwinnett ballpark on Tuesday. Cox declined, saying he did not want to trouble Gonzalez with an extra stop.
For the major league team, it’s one last tune-up for starter Mike Minor and a couple of at-bats, presumably, for the projected starting lineup. For Cox it’s a chance to put the spikes on one more time – a shiny new pair of Mizunos.
“I like ‘em,” he said.
For the prospects, it’s a rare chance to play for Cox and also show the fans and front office their developing skills. Ahmed, a shortstop and second-round pick last June from Connecticut, got one major league at-bat during spring training and struck out on three pitches from Brad Lidge. He won’t mind facing a few more major league pitchers Tuesday night, even if they’re in Braves uniforms.
“It’ll be fun to face those guys and a good way to showcase what we can do, us minor league guys, in front of the big league coaches and front office,” Ahmed said. “It’ll be fun and exciting.”
Nearly 8,000 tickets have sold, and walk-up sales Tuesday could push it close to the 10,000 capacity. Fans will get a glimpse of last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick Sean Gilmartin, who is scheduled to start for the minor leaguers and pitch two innings.
He’ll be followed by one inning each from David Hale, Matt Chaffee, J.R. Graham, Gus Schlosser, Mark Lamm, Ryan Buchter, and Jaye Chapman. Cox will announce his starting lineup on Tuesday.
“In some ways it’s like an intrasquad game, but at the same time it’s not really,” Gilmartin said. “…This is probably as big as it gets for us and to them it’s just another game.”
Each minor league player will wear the uniform of the team he’s been assigned to, so Gilmartin will be in a Mississippi Braves uniform.
Terdoslavich will be in Gwinnett Braves uniform, after the Braves surprised him by assigning him to the Triple-A team, allowing him to skip Double-A altogether. That’s something even Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Chipper Jones never experienced.
But Jones’ impending retirement at the end of 2012 gives the Braves reason to want to take a closer look as Terdoslavich returns to third base this season.
While playing first base last year in high-A Lynchburg, he hit .286 with 20 home runs and a league-record 52 doubles.
“I was shocked,” Terdoslavich said about his assignment, then smiled. “I’m not complaining. But I’m excited to make adjustments and learn how to play the game up here…Try to get better every day and just see what happens.”
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