Peraza set to showcase talent in bid for roster spot

Braves' top prospect has backer in manager Gonzalez

Peraza set to showcase talent in bid for roster spot

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Now that the Braves' coaching staff has had a chance to watch Jose Peraza progress through the early days of his first big league camp, they find themselves among those debating when the heralded top prospect should make his Major League debut.

"Half [of the coaches] say he's ready to go and the other half say, 'Nah, give him a couple months, he hasn't gotten any higher than Double-A,'" Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's always a good discussion. It will play out. We'll see."

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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: Spring competitions beneficial to club's growth

Fredi: Spring competitions beneficial to club's growth

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though he is not among the many players in Braves camp fighting for a roster spot, Jonny Gomes will not simply be going through the motions as he collects plate appearances and reunites himself to the left-field position during the Grapefruit League season.

"If these Spring Training games didn't count, we wouldn't play them," Gomes said. "It's pretty simple. I could have stayed at home with my family in Scottsdale [Ariz.] and gone down to the putt-putt and thrown some tokens in the fast pitch and said I'm ready."

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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.

Multiple southpaws vying for spot in Braves' bullpen

Avilan looking to bounce back after down '13; veterans Russell, Outman among those in mix

Multiple southpaws vying for spot in Braves' bullpen

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Luis Avilan concluded his successful 2013 season, it appeared he was positioned to extend his role as one of Atlanta's valuable late-inning relievers. But after enduring routine frustration and a second-half demotion to the Minors last year, he finds himself as just one of the left-handers competing for a spot in the Braves' bullpen.

Avilan, James Russell and Josh Outman appear to be the top left-handed candidates to fill what might just be two available spots in Atlanta's bullpen. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has added to the intrigue of the competition by indicating he has not closed the door on the possibility of having either non-roster invitee Donnie Veal or high-upside prospect Manny Banuelos begin the regular season in his bullpen.

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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.

No regrets: Ruiz happy choosing baseball over football

No regrets: Ruiz happy choosing baseball over football

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tyrell Jenkins did not know that he and Rio Ruiz shared the distinction of having passed on the opportunity to be a quarterback for one of college football's elite programs. But he was well aware of Ruiz's baseball prowess long before the two were united as part of the impressive prospect crop the Braves brought to this year's Spring Training.

"When I came back from shoulder surgery last year, he hit a home run off me and I was thinking, 'Who is this kid?'" Jenkins said. "Then I faced him in the [Arizona] Fall League and I said, 'I remember him.'"

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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.

Former reliever Meyer hired as rehab coordinator

Former reliever Meyer hired as rehab coordinator

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A little more than 10 years after trading him to the A's in the deal that brought Tim Hudson to Atlanta, the Braves have given Dan Meyer the responsibility of monitoring the progress made by many of their pitchers who are sidelined for extended periods.

Braves assistant director of player personnel Jonathan Schuerholz revealed that Meyer will serve as the club's Minor League pitching rehab coordinator -- a position that was seemingly created in response to the rash of pitching injuries the club has had to deal with over the past few seasons.

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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.

Spring pitching order offers hint at Braves' rotation plan

With Teheran likely set for Opening Day, potential starters fall into place

Spring pitching order offers hint at Braves' rotation plan

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Less than a year after Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy suffered season-ending elbow injuries approximately 24 hours apart, the Braves are not going to announce their rotation plans during the first week of March.

But the club indicated their plans when they announced who will serve as starters through the first five days of the Grapefruit League season.

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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.

'Eager' prospect Jenkins grabs front office's attention

Acquired in Heyward deal, young righty impresses during live BP session

'Eager' prospect Jenkins grabs front office's attention

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Braves acquired Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins in the November trade that sent Jason Heyward to St. Louis, there was reason to wonder if either of these pitchers might become Atlanta's version of Adam Wainwright, who was Atlanta's top pitching prospect before being traded to the Cardinals after the 2003 season.

Miller will have the opportunity to immediately provide some value, as he is projected to be one of Atlanta's top starting pitchers this upcoming season. Given that he has never pitched above the Class A Advanced level, Jenkins will likely need to wait a little longer to make his mark in the Majors.

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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.

Miller, Wood among 23 Braves to sign 1-year deals

Miller, Wood among 23 Braves to sign 1-year deals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Starting pitchers Shelby Miller and Alex Wood both received slight raises, as the Braves agreed to terms on one-year deals with each of the 23 previously-unsigned members of their 40-man roster who have not yet gained arbitration-eligible status.

Miller will see his salary rise from $521,000 to $535,000 for the upcoming season. The 24-year-old right-hander has posted a 3.33 ERA over 69 career appearances (63 starts).

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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.

Courageous teenager works out with Wood, Braves

Ritter played with titanium rods in back after removal of foot-long tumor

Courageous teenager works out with Wood, Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he has undergone multiple surgeries to remove a foot-long tumor from his spine and continued to play high school sports with titanium rods in his back, Thompson Ritter has maintained a passion for baseball that was enriched when he accepted Alex Wood's invitation to work out with the Braves during Monday's practice.

Wood extended the invite on Sunday night after hearing the 17-year-old Ritter tell his inspirational story to a group of individuals who traveled to the Orlando area to participate in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Birdies and Baseball golf scramble, which was played Monday afternoon.

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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: Monday, March 2

Brave words: Monday, March 2

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though Andrelton Simmons has shown steady improvement since reporting to Spring Training with a sore left oblique muscle, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he plans to take the precautionary route by not playing Simmons during the first few games of Spring Training.

Gonzalez is still not sure when Nick Markakis might be cleared to play in Grapefruit League games, but he said he is still hoping the right fielder will be in the Opening Day lineup. Markakis, who underwent neck surgery in December, has spent the past few days going through a variety of running exercises. However, he still has not participated in the regular workouts with his teammates.

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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.

Rodriguez to make start in Braves' spring opener

Veteran left-hander among those competing for fifth spot in rotation

Rodriguez to make start in Braves' spring opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Now that Mike Minor has provided indication that he has distanced himself from last year's left shoulder discomfort, the Braves have a pretty good idea about how they will fill the first four spots of their starting rotation. The battle for the fifth spot will intensify on Wednesday when Wandy Rodriguez starts the Grapefruit League season opener against the Mets at Champion Stadium.

Rodriguez and Chien-Ming Wang are both scheduled to complete two innings against the Mets. Projected Opening Day starter Julio Teheran and Eric Stults, who is also vying for the rotation's fifth spot, are both scheduled to complete a pair of innings against the Tigers on Thursday.

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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.

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 eye level to slightly below his right shoulder. 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.

Cunningham confident in ability to compete for CF job

Switch-hitting outfielder relying on defensive prowess to state case for starting nod

Cunningham confident in ability to compete for CF job

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Todd Cunningham accepts the fact that he was not given the gift to overwhelm baseball evaluators with his speed or power. But at the same time, he has confidence in his ability to be a fundamentally sound asset if the Braves choose him to fill the center field void in Melvin Upton Jr.'s absence.

"You can call me the safe bet," Cunningham said. "You can say I'm not the sexy pick or whatever you want. But I still feel I can personally bring a lot of value to a team. So, if I get a chance to compete out there, I plan to bring everything that I've got."

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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.

Youngster Murphy impressing behind the plate

20-year-old draws high praise from longtime catcher Eddie Perez

Youngster Murphy impressing behind the plate

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez trumpets his ability to find a diamond in the rough in Spring Training on an annual basis. The longtime Major League catcher did not necessarily go out on a limb when he tabbed Andrelton Simmons, who came to his first big league camp in 2012 and provided clear indication that he was destined to be one of the game's top shortstops.

Perez might have reason to be more proud of the projections he placed on Evan Gattis when the powerful slugger came to his first big league camp in 2012, as a relatively obscure prospect who had just started to gain some attention while playing for Class A Rome the previous summer.

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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: Sunday, March 1

Brave words: Sunday, March 1

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With the Grapefruit League season opening on Wednesday, the Braves are looking forward to the chance to get a better idea of how their Opening Day roster might look. The next few weeks will determine whether Nick Markakis will fully recover from neck surgery in time to participate in the April 6 season opening.

Markakis has spent the past few days jogging and his baseball activities will increase over the next week. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who has been slowed because of a strained left oblique, has increased his activity the past few days and might make an appearance during the early portion of the exhibition season.

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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.