Freeman the key for Braves as leader, face of team

First baseman credits newcomer Gomes with making him work even harder

Freeman the key for Braves as leader, face of team

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Less than 24 hours after signing with the Braves in January, Jonny Gomes returned to his Arizona home and sent a motivational text message that awoke Freddie Freeman in Atlanta at 8:42 a.m. ET.

"The message was very energetic and I looked at the time and said, 'It's like really early where [Gomes] is,'" Freeman said. "It got me excited. He has pushed me from Day 1."

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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.

Benson hits first spring homer; Teheran closes spring

Outfielder helps Opening Day bid as righty tosses four in final spring game

Benson hits first spring homer; Teheran closes spring

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Chase Utley and the Phillies powered their way to a 9-2 victory over the Braves on Wednesday afternoon at Bright House Field.

Utley hit a three-run home run in the first inning and a solo home run in the third inning, while Freddy Galvis and Rene Garcia hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning against Braves right-hander Julio Teheran.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone. Follow him on Twitter. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone. Follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After final spring outing, Teheran looks forward to Opening Day

Righty surrenders four homers in loss to Phils, hopes to start fresh in regular season

After final spring outing, Teheran looks forward to Opening Day

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Julio Teheran's final start of the Grapefruit League season proved to be much more frustrating than he had hoped. But after surrendering four home runs during Wednesday's 9-2 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field, the Braves right-hander had no choice but to begin looking forward to the chance to start anew during Monday's Opening Day start against the Marlins in Miami.

"I've really got my mind on the next start," Teheran said. "I need to have a good start because they are all going to count from there."

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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.

McKirahan claimed off waivers from Marlins

Acquisition of lefty clears up bullpen questions for Braves

McKirahan claimed off waivers from Marlins

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- By claiming left-handed reliever Andrew McKirahan off waivers from the Marlins on Wednesday, the Braves provided a clearer picture of who might be in their bullpen when the regular season begins on Monday.

Because the Marlins selected McKirahan from the Cubs during December's Rule 5 Draft, the Braves would be required to carry the pitcher on their Major League roster for the entire season or offer him back to the Cubs.

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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.

Benson seizing opportunity to claim Braves bench spot

Center fielder's recent spring success makes him fitting candidate

Benson seizing opportunity to claim Braves bench spot

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Over the past couple weeks, Joe Benson was primarily recognized as the guy who had the misfortune of being hit in the head by a Craig Kimbrel fastball during an intrasquad Minor League game. But if Benson continues to make the most of his unexpected opportunity, he is going to have a much more interesting story to tell.

Benson has never been a part of the Braves' Major League camp until this week. But with Opening Day less than a week away, the 27-year-old outfielder suddenly finds himself as a legit candidate to begin the season as a member of Atlanta's bench.

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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.

Braves face decision in wake of Wandy's final audition

Braves face decision in wake of Wandy's final audition

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Wandy Rodriguez completed his final audition for Atlanta's rotation on Tuesday night, the Braves were given reason to at least debate whether they are willing to pay the $2 million the left-handed pitcher will be guaranteed if he is placed on the Opening Day roster.

Rodriguez proved to be inconsistent as he allowed three runs on eight hits while notching eight strikeouts over five innings of an 8-5 loss to the Astros. In the process, the oft-injured non-roster invitee provided a brief scare when his left shoulder briefly tightened after he reacted to a line-drive comebacker in the third inning.

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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.

To Gonzalez, Braves' run starts with fundamentals

Despite roster turnover, manager encouraged by club's energy in spring camp

To Gonzalez, Braves' run starts with fundamentals

As Fredi Gonzalez prepares for his fifth season as the Braves' manager, he finds himself with a new-look roster and a lineup that will need to manufacture runs without the benefit of the power it possessed the past few years. Still, the presence of a potentially solid rotation has helped maintain a sense of optimism that Gonzalez addressed during a recent conversation with MLB.com.

MLB.com: Now that you've had a chance to see your club during Spring Training, what gives you reason to believe this team will be competitive?

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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.

Pierzynski drives in two under lights vs. Astros

Pierzynski drives in two under lights vs. Astros

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jose Altuve recorded three hits and Colby Rasmus highlighted his own multihit performance with a three-run homer that propelled the Astros to an 8-5 win over the Braves on Tuesday night at Champion Stadium. A.J. Pierzynski went 2-for-5 with two RBIs for Atlanta.

Rasmus' shot in the sixth inning off Brandon Cunniff proved to be decisive for the Astros, who also benefited from Jed Lowrie's leadoff homer in the fourth against former Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez. 

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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.

Almonte outrighted; Braves' outfield competition shrinks

Almonte outrighted; Braves' outfield competition shrinks

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the Braves spend the next few days determining who will enter the season as their backup outfielders, they will no longer consider Zoilo Almonte to be a candidate.

Almonte cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday. The 25-year-old seemingly had the benefit of being out of Minor League options. But after watching him hit .245 with just one extra-base hit in 49 at-bats during the Grapefruit League season, the Braves were willing to take the risk of having another club claim him off the waiver wire.

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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 Jr. set for checkup on left foot

Braves outfielder waiting for green light to remove boot, increase activities

Upton Jr. set for checkup on left foot

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As most of his Braves teammates are eagerly anticipating the start of the regular season, Melvin Upton Jr. is simply looking forward to ridding himself of the walking boot that has significantly limited his activities over the past month.

Upton's hope of a promising Spring Training evaporated during the Braves' second full-squad workout on Feb. 27, when he was diagnosed with sesamoiditis in his left foot. The center fielder was placed in a cast for two weeks and forced to spend the past month wearing a walking boot. Upton will be evaluated again on Friday.

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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.

Happy 76th birthday to Niekro and his knuckleball

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Happy 76th birthday to Niekro and his knuckleball

Before Steve Sparks. Before R.A. Dickey. Before Tim Wakefield there was Phil "Knucksy" Niekro.

The Hall of Fame knuckleballer celebrates his 76th birthday on Wednesday. For 24 years, Niekro twirled his magical pitch to five All-Star Games and five top 10 Cy Young vote finishes. He led the league in innings pitched four times, strikeouts once, ERA once and wins twice. He topped the league in wins (21) and losses (20) in 1979, while still managing to finish 6th in the Cy Young vote and 20th in the MVP race.

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Braves' new-look lineup aims to cut down strikeouts

Club will rely more on speed, consistent contact to generate offense

Braves' new-look lineup aims to cut down strikeouts

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the Braves prepare to enter this season without the power they lost by trading Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis in the offseason, they are hoping their new-look lineup will prove to be much more efficient than the free-swinging lineup that consistently produced frustration last year.

The Braves have produced the franchise's four-highest strikeout totals each of the past four seasons and been set down by whiffs during 22.6 percent of their plate appearances both of the past two years. Atlanta's reliance on power proved effective when it won the National League East with the help of an NL-best 181 homers in 2013. However, the Braves died by the sword, too, as they totaled just 123 homers en route to recording 79 wins last year.

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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.

Foltynewicz's chances hinge on Stults, Wandy decisions

Right-hander allows two runs over 3 2/3 innings vs. Tigers

Foltynewicz's chances hinge on Stults, Wandy decisions

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Even as Mike Foltynewicz has showed his youth through the inconsistency he has displayed over the past month, the Braves have provided every indication that they would like him to begin the upcoming season in Atlanta's rotation.

Foltynewicz passed his most important test thus far, as he displayed better composure during Monday's start against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. But his rotation candidacy is influenced by the decisions the Braves have to soon make regarding their two veteran candidates -- Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults.

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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.

Bethancourt's homer highlights Braves' rally vs. Tigers

Catcher hits game-tying blast; Foltynewicz allows two runs over 3 2/3 innings in bid for rotation

Bethancourt's homer highlights Braves' rally vs. Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Alfredo Simon delivered six-plus innings of one-run ball for his best outing this spring, the Braves rallied off Detroit's bullpen, including a Christian Bethancourt game-tying home run and a pair of runs off Joba Chamberlain in the eighth, for a 4-2 Atlanta win Monday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Yoenis Cespedes' fifth home run of the spring extended Detroit's lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning while Simon was cruising.

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Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bullpen spots open after Vizcaino, Kohn get sent down

Bullpen spots open after Vizcaino, Kohn get sent down

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Though they have entered Spring Training's final week with three available bullpen spots, the Braves determined they had seen enough of Michael Kohn and Arodys Vizcaino to determine they will not begin the upcoming season at the Major League level.

The Braves optioned Vizcaino to Triple-A Gwinnett and reassigned Kohn to Minor League camp before Monday afternoon's game against the Tigers. Both right-handers were among the club's bullpen candidates who have struggled to consistently throw strikes since the start 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.

Miller hopes to take recent success into regular season

Right-hander's six-inning outing vs. Pirates strongest this spring

Miller hopes to take recent success into regular season

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Since brushing off the brief frustration he felt during his ugly Grapefruit League season debut, Shelby Miller has shown why the Braves are looking forward to having him in their rotation for at least the next four seasons.

Miller produced his most dominant outing of the spring as he limited the Pirates to one hit over six innings on Sunday afternoon at Champion Stadium. The 24-year-old right-hander retired 18 of the 20 batters he faced and surrendered just one run, which was tallied when Austin Meadows tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the third inning.

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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 encouraged by results of altered stance

Third baseman hits two home runs in span of four days after adjustments

Johnson encouraged by results of altered stance

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Those who have seen Chris Johnson display his frustrations with a few outbursts in the dugout over the past few years had reason to wonder if he had the patience necessary to deal with the early struggles he was destined to experience after altering his batting stance during the first day of Spring Training.

But much to his own surprise, Johnson proved patient through the early part of the Grapefruit League season and now finds himself heading into Spring Training's final week with a sense of confidence that was enhanced by the solo homer he hit during Sunday afternoon's 4-2 loss to the Pirates at Champion Stadium.

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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.

Pendleton's ejection vs. Bucs marks third for Braves this spring

Righty Grilli also called for two balks during game

Pendleton's ejection vs. Bucs marks third for Braves this spring

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez sat with Bobby Cox in the dugout before a March 13 Grapefruit League game at Champion Stadium, he playfully told team president John Schuerholz that he had been ejected in the first inning of the previous night's game against the Yankees because he wanted to get back to "The Braves Way."

Gonzalez was jokingly making reference to the record-setting ejections total Cox amassed during his managerial career with the Braves. But it looks like he is not the only member of the franchise who has a tendency to conjure memories of the Hall of Fame skipper, who for the record does not remember ever being tossed from a Spring Training game while managing 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.

Johnson's homer backs Miller's strong six innings

Third baseman launches solo shot as righty allows one run on one hit in solid start

Johnson's homer backs Miller's strong six innings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pirates second baseman Jung Ho Kang halted his recent woes with a two-hit performance that was highlighted by the two-run, ninth-inning home run he drilled off Michael Kohn during Sunday afternoon's 4-2 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium.

"A very, very good day at the plate for him," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of Kang. "He stayed on a breaking ball and lined out hard, singled sharply to center, then got all of that fastball. Nothing can breed confidence like success."

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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.

Braves release left-hander Russell

Braves release left-hander Russell

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Instead of waiting to see if James Russell could turn things around during the final week of Spring Training, the Braves gave the veteran left-hander his unconditional release on Sunday morning.

Because Russell is still arbitration-eligible, the Braves will have to pay him $606,250 -- 45 days' worth of the $2.4 million salary that he agreed to via the arbitration process in January. The club's willingness to eat this money developed as the southpaw labored through two of his three Grapefruit League appearances and provided indication that he might extend the struggles he had against left-handed hitters last year.

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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.

Feigl, Benson have chance at Opening Day roster

Although in Minor League camp, manager Gonzalez giving both players additional looks

Feigl, Benson have chance at Opening Day roster

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Although he was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 16, left-handed reliever Brady Feigl has entered the final week of Spring Training with a chance to begin the regular season in Atlanta's bullpen.

"He's in the mix," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "From now on, everybody who comes back [from Minor League camp] is in the mix."

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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 ready for a new challenge

Miller ready for a new challenge

The 2015 season is going to a whole different kind of new for Shelby Miller.

The right-hander is beginning his first season with a team other than the Cardinals, who traded him to the Braves this offseason.

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

Peterson's go-ahead double gets Braves past Jays

Infielder delivers decisive knock in 8th inning; Wood goes 6 solid frames

Peterson's go-ahead double gets Braves past Jays

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- After Alex Wood delivered six solid innings of three-run ball, Jace Peterson ripped a go-ahead two-run double in the eighth as the Braves defeated the Blue Jays, 5-3, on Saturday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Atlanta opened the scoring in the top of the second inning after Kelly Johnson led off with a double. Two batters later, Phil Gosselin collected an RBI single with right-hander Marco Estrada on the mound for Toronto.

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Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Wood throws 6 innings vs. tough Blue Jays lineup

Braves lefty allows three runs, feels he's close to ready for regular season

Wood throws 6 innings vs. tough Blue Jays lineup

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Braves left-hander Alex Wood felt like it had been "an eternity" since he last pitched. He went 12 days between Grapefruit League outings, breaking up the time off with a game in Minor League camp a week ago.

But with his first regular-season start a little more than a week away, Wood feels like he's just about ready to go.

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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.

Braves still figuring out rotation behind Teheran

Braves still figuring out rotation behind Teheran

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Braves named right-hander Julio Teheran their Opening Day starter on Friday, but they still have a few details about their rotation to iron out before Teheran takes the mound April 6 in Miami.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday that the fifth spot in the rotation is "still up in the air," and the team isn't ready to officially announce how the other starters will line up behind Teheran.

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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.

EY's versatility on full display in Braves' win

Speedy outfielder collects 2 hits, stolen base, makes 2 stellar catches

EY's versatility on full display in Braves' win

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Eric Young Jr. has done everything the Braves could have hoped for this spring, emerging as the starting center fielder amid Melvin Upton Jr.'s absence and perhaps even their leadoff hitter.

Young's talent was on full display during Saturday's 5-3 win over the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium as he tallied two hits, stole his sixth base of the spring and made two highlight-reel plays in center.

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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.

Teheran earns Opening Day assignment for Braves

April 6 start vs. Marlins will be second consecutive nod for right-hander

Teheran earns Opening Day assignment for Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been among the many who have long assumed Julio Teheran will make his second consecutive Opening Day start for Atlanta this year. But Gonzalez did not make it official until he shared a brief casual exchange with his young right-hander after Friday's rain-shortened win over the Red Sox.

Teheran responded with a smile and then prepared to speak to the group of reporters who were standing nearby waiting to ask him about being given the chance to start the April 6 season opener 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.

Left side of 'pen still unsettled for Braves

Left side of 'pen still unsettled for Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- James Russell and Josh Outman came to Spring Training with definite reasons to believe they would begin the upcoming season in Atlanta's bullpen. But the struggles these two left-handers have experienced over the past couple weeks have simply added to the many Opening Day roster decisions the Braves still have to make.

Though the Braves could choose to keep both Russell and Outman, they also have the option to release either, and then pay them what would amount to approximately a quarter of their salary for the upcoming 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.