04/15/12 2:55 PM ET
Curveball comes through for Kimbrel
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
The latest occurrence was during the ninth inning of Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Brewers. After throwing three fastball strikes on the way to retiring Carlos Gomez to open the inning, Kimbrel started to struggle with his fastball. He issued a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun and later missed the zone with four straight fastballs against Corey Hart.
But with the bases loaded and one out, Kimbrel preserved the Braves' one-run lead with the assistance of catcher Brian McCann, who began calling for more curveballs.
"I thought Craig had a better idea where his curveball was going tonight than his fastball," McCann said. "That kind of became his heater at the end."
With no room for error, Kimbrel threw a first-pitch fastball to pinch-hitter George Kottaras and then used two sliders to conclude a five-pitch strikeout. The reigning National League Rookie of the Year then finished the game with a three-pitch strikeout against Mat Gamel, who saw two curveballs and then missed a 97-mph fastball to end the game.
"If [Kimbrel has] got both of them going, the guy doesn't have much of a shot," McCann said. "It seemed like once he got bases loaded, he bared down and made some great pitches."
Kimbrel did not make an appearance as the Braves lost each of their first four games to open the season. But aided by the club's recent surge, he entered Sunday ranked second in the NL with four saves.
Bourn, Heyward honored to again wear No. 42
ATLANTA -- At an early age, Braves center fielder Michael Bourn started to gain an understanding of the inequalities Jackie Robinson and other former Negro Leaguers faced even after being allowed to play in the Majors. Bourn's own father battled the ugliness of racism while growing up in Louisiana during the 1960s.
Because white players made it know that African-American players were not welcome even after integration had started, Ray Bourn opted not to play baseball for Northeast Lousiana State College (now Louisiana Monroe) after arriving on campus 20 years after Robinson had broken baseball's color barrier.
While the elder Bourn was unable to pursue his personal baseball dreams, he helped his son and Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford achieve their dreams to reach the Majors. He served as father, coach and motivator to both dating back to their Little League days in the Houston area.
"I know he was in that era when it was rugged and totally different than it is now," Bourn said.
Recognizing how much easier life has been for him than it was for his father and Robinson, Bourn was proud to see every Major League player again honor Robinson by wearing No. 42 on Sunday, the 65th anniversary of Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier.
"Every year, you get to wear it; it's an honor to wear that jersey," Bourn said. "It's an honor just to be here, first of all. Then being able to wear that jersey is another honor. It's a special day. There's a reason everybody does it around baseball, and it's just because of all he had to go through -- the abuse [Robinson] went through for all of us."
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward was introduced to Robinson's journey while reading a book about him while in elementary school. Growing up 30 minutes south of Atlanta, Heyward often thought about the fact that Robinson also was raised in Georgia.
Robinson also attended UCLA, the school Heyward committed to before the Braves took him in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Heyward spent Sunday's game against the Brewers wearing shoes Nike made to honor Robinson. The light blue and gold cleats included the Hall of Famer's name and familiar No. 42.
"It's pretty cool to honor him that way," Heyward said. "It's a celebration for us.
Strong quadriceps key for Chipper's knee
ATLANTA -- Braves associate physician Dr. Marvin Royster has performed each of the six surgeries on Chipper Jones' knees dating back to 1994. Royster can also take some credit for being the guy who put Jones in position to return to the Braves lineup just two weeks after undergoing his most recent surgery.
Once he determined that he would be repairing a torn meniscus in Jones' left knee on March 26, Royster told the former National League MVP that it would be in his best interest to strengthen his left quadriceps muscle as much as possible before the surgery.
After learning on March 23 that surgery would be likely, Jones spent the three days before surgery lifting weights and completing exercises that focused on the quadriceps muscle. The added strength allowed him to find relief soon after the surgery.
"I bounced back and got rid of the swelling quickly," Jones said. "I was able to fire my quad within 36 hours. All of that is very important."
Jones was activated from the Braves lineup on Tuesday and helped Atlanta gain two quick wins before missing the first two games of this weekend's series against the Brewers because of fluid that had built up around the knee. He returned to play third base and bat third in Sunday's series finale.
While Jones could return quickly after having his knee drained, he learned last year the significance of making sure his quad muscles were strong before returning. After having a torn meniscus repaired in his right knee last July, he returned 16 days later and injured his right quad in his first game. That ailment primarily limited him to pinch-hit duties for the next two weeks.
"I don't want to do that this time," Jones said. "You learn your lessons."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.