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.

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.

Braves bench rounding into form

Braves bench rounding into form

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Kelly Johnson further strengthened his bid to gain a spot on Atlanta's Opening Day roster when he homered off Clay Buchholz in the sixth inning of Friday's rain-shortened 4-2 win over the Red Sox at Champion Stadium.

"That's something he can do for the club, hit one out of the ballpark from the left side," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "So, it's going to be kind of interesting as this last [week] winds down."

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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.

Teheran sharp, Ciriaco strong in rain-shortened game

Starter allows just two runs over 5 2/3 innings

Teheran sharp, Ciriaco strong in rain-shortened game

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pedro Ciriaco cleared the bases with a three-run double off Clay Buchholz and Julio Teheran completed six strong innings as the Braves claimed a 4-2 win in a rain-shortened game over the Red Sox on Friday afternoon at Champion Stadium. Ciriaco's second-inning double accounted for the only runs Buchholz allowed until his day concluded with Kelly Johnson's leadoff homer in the sixth inning. The only two runs Teheran allowed over 5 ⅔ innings came via Mookie Betts' fourth-inning homer.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

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Mark Bowman and Ian Browne are reporters for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Backup search still on as Braves option E. Perez

Outfielder among three sent to Triple-A; club considering how to handle center

Backup search still on as Braves option E. Perez

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves are still looking both internally and externally for a backup outfielder who can handle the center-field position. But Eury Perez is no longer in that mix.

Before Friday's game against the Red Sox, the Braves optioned Perez, left-handed pitcher Manny Banuelos and right-handed pitcher Williams Perez to Triple-A Gwinnett.

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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.

C. Johnson, Gomes go deep as Braves best Bucs

Given early five-run cushion, Wandy allows four runs over five innings

C. Johnson, Gomes go deep as Braves best Bucs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Braves jumped out to a big lead in the first inning and beat the Pirates, 7-5, on Thursday afternoon at McKechnie Field.

After the Pirates chipped away at a five-run deficit and eventually tied the game at 5 in the eighth inning, Jonny Gomes led off the ninth with his first Braves homer, a blast to left field off lefty Clayton Richard. Later in the inning, Jesus Flores singled home Chris Johnson to make it 7-5.

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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.

Bench spots yet to be determined as season draws near

Almonte, Gosselin, Perez, K. Johnson and Terdoslavich among Braves in running

Bench spots yet to be determined as season draws near

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has a pretty good feel for how his Opening Day lineup will look and who will serve as his starting pitchers for the first three games of the season. But over the next week, he will have to determine exactly how he wants to round out his bench.

"There are some situations if we make a decision, the other guy doesn't go away," Gonzalez said. "So it buys us another month or two weeks or three weeks to keep evaluating him. For example, if we break with a certain outfielder and it doesn't work, the other outfielder that didn't make the club is still with us in the organization. So we've got some flexibility 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.

Fredi unlikely to implement strict platoon in left or at third

Braves manager says he'll 'play it by ear' with Gomes, C. Johnson

Fredi unlikely to implement strict platoon in left or at third

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Though there will be some days when left fielder Jonny Gomes and third baseman Chris Johnson will not play against select right-handed starters, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has maintained that he does not see the need to employ a strict platoon at either of those positions.

"You pick your spots with kind of like soft platoons," Gonzalez said. "You pick your best eight [position players] every single day. Some days, you go with a matchup. Sometimes you feel that even though he's right-handed [and you're facing a right-hander], if you feel like he can give you some good at-bats, you go with it. For me, it's not a strict platoon situation. We'll play it by ear."

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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.