Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

February 11, 2013

Braves have few questions for spring training

ATLANTA — Fredi Gonzalez says it's easy to see why he has never been more optimistic at the start of spring training.

With pitchers and catchers reporting Monday in Kissimmee, Fla., the Braves' manager already has a clear picture of what his team should look like in April.

Barring any surprises, the only question is third base, where there likely will be a platoon to replace the retired Chipper Jones. The third baseman — Chris Johnson or Juan Francisco — probably will hit eighth. Every other position looks set.

"If everything falls right and everybody is doing what they're supposed to be doing, to worry about the No. 8 spot in the lineup and the third base platoon situation, that's not bad at all, really," Gonzalez said.

Thanks to offseason moves that added the Upton brothers, B.J. and Justin, to the Braves' outfield, the spring training schedule for Gonzalez could look something like this:

— Check on catcher Brian McCann's rehab from shoulder surgery.

— Update the third-base competition.

— Take a look at the battle for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

— Play golf.

Gonzalez is confident the Uptons will replace the offense lost when Jones retired, Martin Prado was traded and Michael Bourn was not re-signed.

The rotation is almost set. Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Paul Maholm are the top four starters. Brandon Beachy is expected to return from elbow surgery by midseason. Julio Teheran may be the leading candidate for the No. 5 spot until then.

After that, the only questions are the last spot or two on the bench and in the bullpen.

Gonzalez and Braves general manager Frank Wren believe the team is stronger after winning 94 games and losing to St. Louis in the wild-card game last season.

"I'm really excited about the team, more excited than I've ever been really about a team going into spring training," Gonzalez said. "It still boils down to you've got to play the schedule, and it still boils down to you've got to stay healthy."

McCann, a six-time All-Star, is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Gonzalez said McCann should be cleared for hitting and throwing from the start of spring workouts, but he may be kept out of exhibition games until he also is given the go-ahead for sliding and diving.

The full clearance may not come until mid-April, which would force McCann to miss the first two weeks of the season.

"I wouldn't put it past Mac to be ready for opening day," Gonzalez said. "He's talked about doing it and he feels good and he could do it. I think the only thing is how spring training goes."

Veteran Gerald Laird, signed as a free agent, is the new backup to McCann.

At third base, Johnson came to Atlanta with Justin Upton in the seven-player trade that sent Prado, right-hander Randall Delgado and three minor leaguers to Arizona.

Johnson hit .281 with 15 homers and 76 RBIs last season. Francisco hit .234 with nine homers with 32 RBIs while playing behind Jones.

Johnson, 28, said he is not willing to assume there will be a platoon.

"Going into spring training, obviously I'm eyeing that starting job," Johnson said following a workout at Turner Field last week. "I know there's going to be a battle in spring training to figure out if someone can take it."

The 6-foot-2 Francisco is listed at 245 pounds, and the Braves would like to see a slimmer version report to Kissimmee.

Gonzalez said Francisco "looked fine" when he saw the third baseman in December.

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • Trojans get one hit, but win region title

    If high school baseball games lasted six innings, Zack Bullard would have had a no-hitter and the Tift County Blue Devils would have been on top of the region standings. It was the last inning that cost both player and team. Coffee only had one hit, but it was all they needed for a 2-1 victory that clinched the 1-AAAAAA title.

    April 17, 2014

  • Remembering Miss Mattie

    The year was 1991.
    My father and I were at McDonald's on Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta on the way to a Braves game. We were standing in line when a big man behind him just out of the blue started up a conversation.

    April 17, 2014

  • Coffee can’t brew any offense against Tift’s McCray

    For at least a few hours, the Tift County Blue Devils will be able to say they share part of the Region 1-AAAAAA baseball lead. They were winners of the first game of a doubleheader Thursday over the Coffee High Trojans, 4-0. The sides were even with two division losses.

    April 17, 2014

  • Panthers outlast Warriors, 2-1

    The Tiftarea Academy Panthers provided a little more separation in the Region 3-AAA race Wednesday evening. Fresh off a 2-1 win Monday, they added another one, this a 2-1 win over the Brookwood School Warriors.

    April 17, 2014

  • Devils to dine on Coffee and Crisp

    Big games and a big trip. Life takes an exciting turn over the next few days for the Diamond Devils of Tift County High. They start with a doubleheader this afternoon at 4:30 with the Coffee Trojans. Two days later, they will sliding into bases at Turner Field.

    April 16, 2014

  • Lady Panthers gouge GCS, 7-1

    The Tiftarea Academy soccer teams had a windy Tuesday night for Senior Night but they didn’t let the chill in the air stop them from keeping the scoreboard heated up. Seniors Neeli Fortson, Lauren Goforth, Ali Rippy, Britton Robitzsch and Austin Tenneson were recognized after the Lady Panthers sealed a 7-1 victory against the Georgia Christian Lady Generals. The Panthers had to settle for a 1-1 tie.

    April 16, 2014

  • Nashville hosts 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon

    The 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon will be held on Saturday, May 3  at the Berrien County Parks and Recreation Department.  The Duathlon Race course will consist of a 2.3-mile run into an 18.5-mile bike ride and end with a 2.3-mile run.

    April 16, 2014

  • McMinn, Beier shut down Glenwood

    The Tiftarea Academy Panthers mustered only five hits Monday night, but that would be enough for them. Behind the arm of Noah McMinn, clutch hitting from Zach Beier and a big trick play, they bested the Glenwood (Ala.) Gators by a 2-1 score.

    April 15, 2014

  • Panthers ready for region track championships

    Through early Tuesday, the track team at Tiftarea Academy knew they would be participating at a region track meet today. They just were not sure where.
    Coach Ryan Branch said Monday that the meet was scheduled for Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany, but if the event it was hosting was rained out Tuesday, TIftarea would be the hosts. The rains came, but it was not enough to change plans. Branch confirmed Tuesday afternoon that they would be on the road.

    April 15, 2014

  • Tift wins Lady Trojan tourney

    April 15, 2014

Business Marquee
House Ads
Weather Radar
Video
Poll

Do you plan to watch any of the Republican National Convention?

Yes
No
     View Results