Johnson working on regaining old form

Third baseman makes mechanical adjustment to improve on tough 2014 season

Johnson working on regaining old form

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Chris Johnson attempts to distance himself from last year's frustrations and regain the consistency when he battled for a batting title in 2013, he has opted to make a mechanical adjustment during the first week of Spring Training.

Per the advice provided by Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, Johnson has dropped the pre-swing placement of his hands from above his shoulder to chest high. The hope is that the adjustment will allow him to lose the loop in his swing and gain a more consistent direct swing path.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Upton tries to take positive out of latest setback

Upton tries to take positive out of latest setback

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he approached Friday's X-ray exam with a slight limp and a moderate level of discomfort in his left foot, Melvin Upton Jr. assumed he would need just a few days of rest. The Braves center fielder's optimistic outlook was erased when he was fitted for a walking cast and informed that he will likely be sidelined until May.

"I went into it thinking [I would be out] a week at the most or a couple days and it would be fine," said Upton, who earlier this week replaced his nickname (B.J.) with his birth name (Melvin). "The doctor saw some things [he] didn't like."

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Quartet vying to fill in for Upton in center field

Quartet vying to fill in for Upton in center field

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Eury Perez spent the past two seasons blocked by Denard Span in the Nationals organization, he established himself as one of those productive Triple-A players who might be just an opportunity away from proving they belong at the Major League level.

With Braves center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. set to miss at least the first month of the upcoming regular season with a left foot injury, Perez now has a chance to take advantage of the opportunity he has been seeking. He stands with Todd Cunningham, Eric Young Jr. and Zolio Almonte as the top candidates to fill Upton's spot in Atlanta's lineup.

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Kimbrel creates introductory T-shirts

Kimbrel creates introductory T-shirts

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the Braves completed their aggressive roster reconstruction process this winter, the popular joke was they would need to adorn their players with name tags during Spring Training. Craig Kimbrel opted to take a lighthearted approach by designing a T-shirt he and his teammates can wear throughout Spring Training.

When Braves players arrived at Champion Stadium on Saturday, they were presented with T-shirts that have a "Hello my name is" name tag on the left chest. The personalized shirts either included a first name or a nickname that was pressed into the rectangular tag.

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Brave words: Saturday, Feb. 28

Interesting quotes from Atlanta's Spring Training

Brave words: Saturday, Feb. 28

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was not too bothered by the steady rainfall that prevented his club from being on the field for Saturday afternoon's workout. Mother Nature's interruption just happened to fall on a day when none of the pitchers were scheduled to throw live batting practice.

Thus, the Braves position players took some swings in the indoor cages located beyond Champion Stadium's left-center-field wall and the pitchers simply conditioned their arms while throwing at one of the vacant gyms located across from the stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fredi excited about Braves' improved farm system

Fredi excited about Braves' improved farm system

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has watched Jose Peraza, Mike Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and some of his other top prospects during the early days of Spring Training, he has gained a better understanding of why the Braves' Minor League system went from being much maligned to highly respected during the hectic offseason.

"All of a sudden you have prospects coming in and you say, 'Wow, that's a big difference in talent than last year,'" Gonzalez said.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kimbrel prints T-shirts for his Braves teammates

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Kimbrel prints T-shirts for his Braves teammates

Is there anything worse than showing up to a party or social gathering where there's no one you know? Sure, your friend may have invited you, but he's nowhere to be found. What do you do -- break into the separate mingle groups and introduce yourself? Hang out in the corner and wait for someone to approach you? 

With the Braves welcoming in a number of new faces including Jonny Gomes, Nick Markakis and Mike Foltynewicz among others, closer Craig Kimbrel decided he didn't want his teammates to have to worry about awkward introductions. Instead, he decided to give everyone a helpful T-shirt with their name tag already on it. 

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Upton to miss rest of spring with inflammation in left foot

Braves center fielder expected to begin baseball activities in early April

Upton to miss rest of spring with inflammation in left foot

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After undergoing an MRI on Friday afternoon, Braves center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. learned that a left foot injury will sideline him throughout Spring Training and likely force him to spend the first few weeks of the regular season on the disabled list.

The MRI showed Upton is dealing with sesamoiditis (inflammation in the bone behind the ball of his foot). The veteran outfielder will spend the next two weeks in a short leg cast and then wear a walking boot for the following four to six weeks. If all goes according to plan with this timeline, he could resume baseball activities around the same time the Braves play their April 6 Opening Day game in Miami.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kimbrel uses changeup to keep mechanics in check

Braves closer likes to experiment with pitch early in spring camp

Kimbrel uses changeup to keep mechanics in check

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While catcher A.J. Pierzynski and opposing batters might have been impressed with the changeups Craig Kimbrel threw during Thursday's live batting-practice session, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell chose to playfully jab his closer about this pitch that will likely not be used during the regular season.

"It's nothing new," Kimbrel said. "I joke around and play with [the changeup] every Spring Training. Roger looked at me yesterday and said, 'You've been working on it for five years, it ought to be working by now.'"

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kohn keeping Hamilton in his thoughts

Kohn keeping Hamilton in his thoughts

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves reliever Michael Kohn has spent the past couple of days digesting reports that have suggested Josh Hamilton might have had a drug relapse that could lead to a suspension, he has kept his focus on his former Angels teammate's long-term well being.

"It's one of those things where I'm praying for him and his family," Kohn said. "He's such a good guy and such a good teammate. You hate to see things like that happen. But I think he did the admirable thing of coming out and basically saying he was at fault and he needs help. That's a huge step for him. I wish him the best in getting help and with his recovery."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brave words: Friday, Feb. 27

Interesting quotes from Atlanta's Spring Training

Brave words: Friday, Feb. 27

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Before learning Melvin Upton Jr. will miss the remainder of Spring Training because of a left foot injury, the Braves created some encouraging health-related news when they cleared shortstop Andrelton Simmons to resume all throwing activities.

But because of the unseasonably chilly temperatures that surrounded Friday morning's workout, the Braves limited Simmons to some light tossing. The Gold Glove shortstop, who came to camp with a sore left oblique muscle, also tracked pitches during live batting practice and took some dry swings. The club hopes to clear him for all activities within the next few days.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Veras confident in ability to win bullpen job

Veras confident in ability to win bullpen job

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson received guaranteed contracts after experiencing rough 2014 seasons, Jose Veras had to settle for a Minor League contract. But like Grilli and Johnson, Veras is a former closer who has come to Spring Training more than willing to accept the role to serve as a setup man for Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.

"I'm not a big-time guy or a superstar, but I think the job I've been doing the past five or six years was good enough to get [a guaranteed contract]," Veras said. "Sometimes, you have to step back to keep moving forward."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Andrelton playing it safe with sore oblique

Shortstop hopes to be cleared for full baseball activities by next week

Andrelton playing it safe with sore oblique

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Andrelton Simmons entered Fredi Gonzalez's office on Thursday morning to inform him that he has been recently dealing with a sore left oblique, the Braves' manager viewed this as a sign that his high-energy shortstop is starting to understand the importance of keeping minor ailments minor.

"Two years ago, he wouldn't tell anybody anything, and the next thing, it's a big deal," Gonzalez said. "So good for him that he is starting to know that kind of stuff. … Good for him that he's maturing and growing up. Let's let the little stuff stay little. I'll be the last one that wants him off the field [when he's healthy]."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kimbrel stands out in live batting-practice session

Kimbrel stands out in live batting-practice session

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the Braves completed their first full-squad workout on Thursday, Freddie Freeman was one of the position players who drew the unenviable task of facing Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel in a live batting-practice session.

"I haven't seen live pitching since Sept. 28," Freeman said. "Now I get Teheran and Kimbrel. Sweet."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Keystone competition one to monitor in camp

Callaspo, Gosselin and Peterson join top prospect Peraza in mix for second-base job

Keystone competition one to monitor in camp

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jose Peraza will likely establish himself as Atlanta's starting second baseman and leadoff hitter at some point this season. But until the Braves' top-ranked prospect is deemed Major League-ready, the Braves will have to determine how to best fill that second-base role.

When the Braves concluded their first full-squad workout on Thursday afternoon, manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed that Peraza, Alberto Callaspo, Phil Gosselin and Jace Peterson are all entering camp with the chance to battle for regular playing time at second base. Non-roster invitee Kelly Johnson could also influence the decision if he uses Spring Training to prove he's indeed capable of serving as an effective super utility player.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brave words: Thursday, Feb. 26

Interesting quotes from Atlanta's Spring Training

Brave words: Thursday, Feb. 26

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There was a sense of normalcy as the Braves staged their first full-squad Spring Training workout on Thursday. Andrelton Simmons' participation was limited because of a sore left oblique muscle that he hopes to overcome within the next week.

Before the workout started, Simmons commented on the many offseason changes. Some of his thoughts are included in today's list of intriguing quotes.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cleared for action, Markakis targeting Opening Day

Braves outfielder optimistic upon reporting to camp, but won't rush preparations

Cleared for action, Markakis targeting Opening Day

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nick Markakis hopes to be in the Braves' Opening Day lineup. But as he eases his way back from neck surgery, the veteran outfielder will not accelerate his preseason preparations to the point where he might jeopardize realizing this goal.

"[Opening Day] is one of those things you work for and try to get there from an injury standpoint," Markakis said. "But it's not something you want to rush. A neck injury and neck surgery is pretty serious. You don't want to rush it. I've got five or six weeks to do my thing and try to get ready for Opening Day."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gomes: Mindset of mediocrity is unacceptable

Braves newcomer dismisses talk of low expectations, and has history to back him up

Gomes: Mindset of mediocrity is unacceptable

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Count Jonny Gomes among the Braves' players who are not buying into the thought that he and his new teammates are destined for mediocrity as they approach this upcoming season.

"I don't think I could look at [former Braves manager] Bobby Cox walking around and be like, 'Hey Bobby, we're trying to go .500, what do you think about that?'" Gomes said. "It's just not going to work. ... We're here to win, and we're here to win it all. That's where I'm at."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gonzalez expects 'controlled chaos' as camp fills up

Braves expecting 65 healthy players as club begins full-squad workouts

Gonzalez expects 'controlled chaos' as camp fills up

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After spending the past few days watching a slew of pitchers' fielding drills and bullpen sessions, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is ready to take another step toward the regular season when he oversees his team's first full-squad workout on Thursday.

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said he usually likes to bring somewhere between 52-55 players to his big league camp. But with some uncertainty surrounding a few different positions, he compiled a multitude of depth options this winter and consequently will have a total of 65 healthy players in camp.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Upton, Gomes reunited in fresh starts with Braves

Former teammates on 2008 AL champion Rays ready to reestablish winning culture

Upton, Gomes reunited in fresh starts with Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As they share adjoining lockers during Spring Training, Braves outfielders Melvin Upton Jr. and Jonny Gomes will have a chance to reminisce about the days when they played in this same stadium together as members of the 2003 Orlando Rays.

"You play this game long enough and you're definitely going to start circling around," Gomes said. "We're teammates again, but different uniforms. It's his third year here and my first year. The last time we were teammates, they were handing out a bunch of trophies back in 2008."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brave words: Wednesday, Feb. 25

Interesting quotes from Atlanta's Spring Training

Brave words: Wednesday, Feb. 25

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After welcoming Nick Markakis and Jonny Gomes to camp on Wednesday morning, the Braves completed their final workout for pitchers and catchers. The club will stage its first full-squad workout on Thursday.

The day's top stories have been published on braves.com. Below are some of the other interesting thoughts that have been expressed recently during camp.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Confident Banuelos fighting for spot with Braves

Left-hander is a candidate for rotation, could also pitch in bullpen

Confident Banuelos fighting for spot with Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The question was simple, but it made Manny Banuelos laugh: "When he's pitching well, what's working for him?"

"I've had a long time since I pitched well, so I forget," he said early Tuesday morning in the Braves' clubhouse.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Several candidates to fill out Braves' rotation

Veterans Rodriguez, Stults competing with young pitchers Foltynewicz, Banuelos

Several candidates to fill out Braves' rotation

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pitchers have yet to begin facing hitters, but Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez already sees an intriguing fifth-starter competition taking shape.

Atlanta's top four starters entered camp with pretty clear positions: Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Mike Minor. But there are at least four pitchers aiming for the final spot: two veterans in Eric Stults and Wandy Rodriguez, and two youngsters in Mike Foltynewicz and Manny Banuelos.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Johnson wants Braves' offense to think small

Third baseman says Royals showed that teams don't need to rely on home runs

Johnson wants Braves' offense to think small

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves third baseman Chris Johnson looks back at last year's Royals team and sees inspiration, but perhaps not in the way you might expect.

The Royals made it all the way to the World Series, sure. They did so on the strength of their lights-out bullpen, a strong rotation and great defense. They also did so while hitting only 95 home runs during the regular season, the only team in baseball to not reach triple digits.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brave words: Tuesday, Feb. 24

Interesting quotes from Atlanta's Spring Training

Brave words: Tuesday, Feb. 24

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It was relatively quiet around Champion Stadium on Tuesday, though it's sure to be busier when the rest of the Braves' full squad reports on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, young left-hander Manny Banuelos was among the pitchers who threw side sessions in the bullpen. He's also one of several pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the Braves' rotation. And third baseman Chris Johnson pondered how a small-ball approach might benefit the Braves.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Upton: Name change not about rebound with Braves

Upton: Name change not about rebound with Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The man formerly known as B.J. Upton reported to Braves camp early Monday morning, and he said his decision to go by his birth name, Melvin Upton Jr., had nothing to do with wanting to distance himself from the struggles he has experienced during his first two seasons in Atlanta.

"This has nothing to do with starting a new chapter," Upton said. "I just wanted to. My father thought enough to give me his name, so why not?"

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hart says underdog Braves expect to contend

President of baseball operations confident in core players, new additions

Hart says underdog Braves expect to contend

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart understands why most National League East prognostications have given more love to the Nationals, Marlins and Mets. But he also seems to wholeheartedly embrace the heavy underdog status his club has gained since parting ways with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis this past offseason.

"Nobody is going to pick the Braves," Hart said. "I understand that. But that doesn't mean the Braves aren't picking the Braves."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gonzalez likes what he sees from Johnson early in camp

Veteran reliever's sinker key to returning to form for Braves

Gonzalez likes what he sees from Johnson early in camp

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though it is far too early to be encouraged or discouraged by anything he sees from his players, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez gained a sense of comfort as he watched veteran reliever Jim Johnson complete a side session on Monday afternoon.

"I saw him today throwing his bullpen from the [catcher's perspective] and his sinker really has some really good depth to it," Gonzalez said. "Again, it's only the second bullpen and it's only Feb. 23, but it really looked good."

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.