MLB Network is finally getting around to the Atlanta Braves, and will feature the hometown club tonight on their latest installment of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Hosted by Greg Amsinger with Harold Reynolds, John Smoltz and John Hart, the hour-long episode features analysis, interviews and a hitting demo with Chipper Jones. Smoltz also goes one-on-one with Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens about coming back from their injuries. The Braves episode premiers tonight at 11pm. It also re-airs tomorrow at 6am, 12pm, 2pm and throughout the upcoming week.
MLB Network provided me with some quotes from tonight's episode:
Harold Reynolds on the Braves chances in the NL East:
"I think the Braves are going to win the East. They’re going to shock everybody…The youngsters have matured and I think Chipper [Jones] is going to lead them back to the Postseason. I think they win the East. Their bullpen’s lights out. That’s where the game is played now. You got young guys coming on."
Harold Reynolds on Chipper Jones’ future:
"They’re gonna get in and they’re going to make a great run. I think this is it for Chipper."
John Hart on Andrelton Simmons:
"This is the Braves’ shortstop of the future. I think Simmons has the bigger defensive upside and I think, as it goes along, this is the guy that is eventually going to be their Major League shortstop."
Harold Reynolds on Jason Heyward:
"Watching him this spring, he’s back…I really think he’s back to the form we saw his rookie year and even getting better. Sometimes you have to go through a little bit of a struggle to realize how good a player you are and understand yourself."
Fredi Gonzalez on the way the 2011 season ended:
"I was prepared to address the way it ended. All these guys, every position player we had, they were here about five, six days earlier than they should have been. They were working out. We had pitchers and catchers going on the back field and we had to bring coaches up to the main field to work out all the guys that were here. For me, they were telling me that the 2011 season was behind them and we were ready to go forward with the 2012 season."
Much more after the jump...
Fredi Gonzalez on Tyler Pastornicky:
"We’re giving him every opportunity in the world to make our club and he’s showing us at times that he can really play shortstop and give us offensive production off the shortstop position. This kid, [Andrelton] Simmons, is doing a pretty good job, also. We play him every other day and he’s doing a terrific job defending. That’s going to be one of those meetings with the manager and the coaching staff at the end of Spring Training, sit down and see who goes north with us. Those are good meetings because really you don’t want one guy just to go out and win the position because that makes it easy on us. Those hard meetings that last [until] the middle of the night making a decision on who goes and comes with us are always good."
Jason Heyward on how this team can make the Postseason:
"We’ve gotta be healthy, man. We’ve gotta be healthy. It’s tough when you have young guys come up in the end of the season, September, and try and ask them, ‘Hey, let’s go start against the Halladays, the Hamels and everybody else in the National League East and put up some big W’s for a team that’s very young in that aspect.’ But, I think healthy is the biggest part for us."
Chipper Jones on the team’s youth:
"We gotta get young guys like Jason Heyward back in the swing of things. I think Freddie Freeman is going to take his next step towards stardom. We got a couple of young shortstops coming up that are very good in Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons. The future looks bright. I just hope that I’m here to reap the benefits.
Chipper Jones on the strength of the team:
"The strength of our ballclub is our bullpen. The three guys down there at the end of the bullpen, (Eric) O’Flaherty, (Jonny) Venters and (Craig) Kimbrel, we can make it a six-inning game with the best of them. A lot of the good teams in the past, those great teams of the Yankees, they made it a six, seven inning ball game, and we have the ability to do that."
Brian McCann on the team’s mentality this year:
"Just turn the page. We got a whole new team here. Everyone is getting a year of experience, our young guys. Guys like myself are getting a year more into their prime. We got a great mix, so we feel really excited about the team we have. We like our pitching and our lineup can do some damage."