Braves' Mueller Finishes Whirlwind Season





ATLANTA—Forgive Tony Mueller if he rolls out of bed and says good morning to the night. After all, the past four months have been a whirlwind for the center fielder.

He has become quite familiar with the Southeast, beginning with Winona State's (Minn.) unexpected trip to the Division II World Series in Cary, N.C., and continuing as a member of low Class A Rome.

"I was playing for the national championship on Saturday and was drafted on Tuesday," Mueller said. "That was a real cool experience for me and probably the best part of my baseball life. I'm still sort of getting used to the pitching because it's different than the Division II level."

Drafted by the Braves in the 13th round, Mueller, 21, has become the starting center fielder at Rome since joining the team on July 2. Though Mueller finished the minor league campaign hitting just .217/.242/.255 in 184 at-bats, he teamed with leadoff hitter Matt Lipka to give the R-Braves outstanding speed in back-to-back spots by hitting in the nine hole.

"It's been everything I expected it to be," Mueller said. "You're on the field every day. You get to play alongside great players and learn from a great coaching staff. I even got the chance to play with Chipper Jones for two games."

The 6-foot, 190-pound Mueller understands that baseball is a game of adjustments. He went through his share of ups and downs in college, though such stretches were few and far between during his junior year.

Mueller led the Warriors with a .394 average, 48 runs and six triples while ranking second with 11 steals and tied for third with 33 RBIs. In addition to serving as the leadoff hitter for head coach Kyle Poock's team, Mueller also started 11 games on the mound and pitched in 15 contests, going 6-3, 3.20.

"It's a little sad leaving Winona because I was two hits away from setting the record for career hits, and I needed 50 more strikeouts to set that mark," Mueller said.

"But I wanted to play pro ball, which made it an easy decision, and it's been everything I hoped it would be."

Wigwam Wisps

• Rome had the worst record at the low Class A level for the first three months of the season but was 24-17 since Rick Albert replaced Matt Walbeck as manager in early July.

• The Braves' depth of starting pitching could bode well for the major league playoffs. In addition to rookies Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor contributing to the big club, Julio Teheran ranked second in the minors with 15 wins and finished with a 2.55 ERA at Triple-A Gwinnett.