Braves start spring with intriguing new pieces

Rotation additions Colon, Dickey, Garcia could accelerate return to contention

Braves start spring with intriguing new pieces

ATLANTA -- Though it is not easy to endure the frustration felt during the early portion of a rebuilding effort, the events that unfold within this span provide the context necessary to fully understand and appreciate what transpires once the plan takes shape and potentially leads to an extended era of success.

As the Braves welcome their players to Spring Training this week, they'll prepare to experience the next chapter of their massive rebuild. The story took a turn with last season's strong finish and it gained a few new intriguing characters as this offseason was highlighted by the revamping of what is now a more formidable and experienced starting rotation.

With the addition of three veteran starters -- Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia -- the Braves have provided themselves a legitimate chance to at least record their first winning record since 2013. They won 20 of their final 30 games last season and in the process gained a glimpse of what their lineup could do with Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson aiding the efforts of Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis.

Last year's strong finish influenced the Braves to stick with Brian Snitker, who is preparing to enter a season for the first time as a Major League manager.

"We're not going to put any limits or expectations on this team," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "We were encouraged by how last season ended and we are all excited about the chance to see what this team looks like when Spring Training begins."

Braves hopeful in 2017

The Braves were still trying to simply piece things together last year when they entered a season with Bud Norris, Williams Perez and Jhoulys Chacin in their rotation. Colon, Dickey and Garcia might also prove to be quick fixes who are in Atlanta for just one season. But in the process of bridging the gap to the future, this trio has the potential to provide the club the stability and success it hasn't consistently tasted over the past two years.

What follows is a glance at the Spring Training picture for the Braves as camp opens.

Pitchers and catchers report: Tuesday

Position players report: Thursday

First Grapefruit League game: Home vs. Blue Jays on Feb. 25 at 1:05 p.m. ET

New faces: Given how much Mets fans and players already seemingly miss Colon, the Braves are looking forward to life with the affable 43-year-old pitcher, who had a positive impact on Noah Syndergaard and some of New York's other starters over the past few years. Dickey has a chance to prove his knuckleball still possesses some magic as he fulfills his childhood dream of playing for the Braves. Garcia also could be a valuable addition if he can distance himself from the injuries that have plagued his career. Second baseman Brandon Phillips and utility man Sean Rodriguez are a couple other key newcomers. Phillips was acquired from the Reds on Sunday because the Braves are concerned Rodriguez could be sidelined through at least the first couple months while recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in a Jan. 28 auto accident.

Outlook: Colon, SP, ATL

Interesting non-roster invitees: The bullpen battle will be one of the most intriguing in camp as the Braves enter Spring Training with more viable options than they have had at any point in the past decade. Still, there is seemingly a good chance one of the eight bullpen spots will go to Blaine Boyer, a suburban Atlanta native who returns to the Braves for the first time since playing for his hometown team from 2005-09. Emilio Bonifacio stands as the other non-roster invitee who appears to have a legit chance to be on Atlanta's Opening Day roster. Bonifacio has struggled at the big league level over the past two years and he spent most of last season with Triple-A Gwinnett. But he could battle Micah Johnson for the final roster spot reserved for a position player.

Braves add Bonifacio, Boyer

Prospects to watch: Each of MLB Pipeline's top three Braves prospects -- Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Sean Newcomb -- are coming to Atlanta's big league camp for the second straight year. Swanson has established his place at the Major League level and Newcomb will bid for a rotation spot at some point this year. Albies will draw attention over the next few weeks as he shows how he has recovered from a fractured elbow suffered in September. Some of the talent-rich system's most highly regarded prospects coming to camp for the first time include infielder Travis Demeritte, outfielder Dustin Peterson, left-handed starter Max Fried and left-handed reliever A.J. Minter, who has an outside chance to gain a spot on Atlanta's Opening Day roster.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.