ATLANTA -- Braves pitchers Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters, together with infielder Brooks Conrad, led a skills clinic for the Junior Braves on Tuesday morning.
Held at the Samuel L. Jones Boys and Girls club in Decatur, Ga., 100 kids participated as Kimbrel taught fielding, Venters taught pitching and Conrad taught hitting.
"It was fun. For a lot of the kids, it was their first time," Kimbrel said. "You could tell they hadn't played a lot. But we just interacted with them. I think they enjoyed that more than the baseball stuff itself."
In addition to baseball activities, the trio touched on subjects including teamwork, leadership and respect. The Junior Braves/RBI Youth Baseball League is an outreach program designed to increase minority youth participation in baseball, while developing self-esteem, teamwork and academic achievement.
Teams are formed in underserved neighborhoods where recreation programs are most needed.
Lugo back in Majors; Hernandez to Triple-A
ATLANTA -- Wanting to carry a more experienced backup middle infielder, the Braves reintroduced Julio Lugo to the Major League level Tuesday and optioned Diory Hernandez to Triple-A Gwinnett.
"Some of the guys we've been trying in that role have been younger players," Gonzalez said. "I think that role fits more of a veteran guy. [Lugo] is a guy who has played shortstop at the big league level and had success at the big league level."
The 35-year-old Lugo no longer possesses great range or even the marginal power that helped him produce double-digit homer totals in his first seven Major League seasons (2000-06). He has not played more than 93 games at the Major League level in any of the three previous seasons.
But while batting .231 with four doubles and a homer in 13 games with Gwinnett, he convinced the Braves that he was a better option than Hernandez, who has hit .212 with a homer and a double in 33 at-bats with Atlanta this year.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
Gonzalez said he is thinking about starting Lugo at shortstop for Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Blue Jays. Combined with Thursday's scheduled off-day, this would give starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez a chance to get some much needed rest over two consecutive days.
Hernandez was given this demotion just one day after he was unable to interpret the squeeze sign with one out and David Ross on third base in Monday's 2-0 win over the Blue Jays. But the fact that he didn't get the sign did not seem to factor into the club's decision to send him to Gwinnett.
Teammates enjoy Hudson's home run trot
ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones smirked and chuckled when asked to describe how Tim Hudson reacted after hitting a two-run homer and allowing two hits over eight-plus scoreless innings in Monday's 2-0 win over the Blue Jays.
"He was so basking in his glory last night," Jones said. "He milked that homer for every second that he possibly could."
According to MLB Productions research guru Roger Schlueter, Hudson became just the 13th starting pitcher since 1919 to throw at least eight innings in a team shutout and account for all of his team's runs with a home run (or a pair of home runs).
But Hudson was likely the first one to do so minutes after being hit in the chest with a baseball. As he was sitting in the dugout during the seventh inning, Hudson was suddenly hit in the left chest by Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar's errant throw.
"I was just sitting here when somebody set a pick on me and then all of the sudden, the ball hit me," Hudson said before adding, "I'm tough."
Hudson said he did not feel any pain before he went to the plate and hit his second career homer. But Jones and catcher David Ross have been among those playfully telling him that he might have felt some pain from an opposing pitcher after the slow home run trot he produced.
"It could get him drilled his next time up the next time we face the Blue Jays," Jones said with a smile.
Chipper returns after missing four games
ATLANTA -- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones was back in the lineup Tuesday after missing the last four games with a left adductor strain.
"We were planning on this day," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I talked to him this afternoon on the way here, and he said he was good to go."
Jones received a sodium shot -- similar to the one first baseman Freddie Freeman got after his mild oblique strain -- after straining the muscle Thursday. Jones said that had he not taken the shot, his return date could have been much later.
"I think without the shot, probably looking at least a week and possibly a DL stint," said Jones, who has had two other shots in his knee this season. "Even with the shot, the first couple of days, I was kind of skeptical. The fourth day proved to do the trick and I'm back in."
Jones had swung the bat more and more over the past several days, with the first few times coming only from the left side of the plate. Since then, he says the pain has subsided to the point where he can swing relatively pain-free from the right side.
"Better lefty than righty," he said. "But I was able to swing the bat with some authority [Monday] in batting practice right-handed and I look for today to be better."
Jones says he feels well enough to go from first to third if he has to, but still maintains he'll be cautious of further aggravating while on the basepaths.
"I may have to temper it somewhat, but if I feel anything, certainly I'm going to pull up," he said. "I wanted to get to the point where I could go out there and do all the baseball activities that I need to. I just follow my instincts. If my instincts tell me to pull up, then I'll pull up and if they don't then I'll keep going."
Tommy Hanson said he is confident he will be ready to start the June 28 series finale against the Mariners. That is the day he is eligible to be activated from the disabled list. The 24-year-old right-hander said he has experienced some relief since the Braves sidelined him last week with right shoulder tendinitis.
The Braves will offer free tickets to all military personnel during 4th of July weekend (July 1-4) at Turner Field. All active military, reserve military and veterans can show military ID at the Turner Field box office windows to receive a free upper box ticket. Family members can buy tickets at half price.