Entering camp, Braves optimistic about '17

Coming off three straight losing seasons, offseason additions have team hoping for more this year

Entering camp, Braves optimistic about '17

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The offseason is over, the roster has been remade and Spring Training has arrived. Soon, the Braves will have an opportunity to prove whether there is legitimate reason to believe they're ready to enter the next phase of their rebuilding process.

"For me, it's legit," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I think, with our club, what we did and what we accomplished last year and how we ended and going into this year, I think it's a legit feeling. There's a positivity and a want to get after it. We haven't even worked out, and I'm ready to get the games going."

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Veteran starters R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia were among the newcomers present as Braves pitchers and catchers reported to ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Tuesday afternoon. Bartolo Colon is expected to make his much-anticipated arrival before pitchers and catchers hold their first workout on Wednesday.

Matt Kemp arrived early Tuesday afternoon with a smile on his face as he greeted new third-base coach Ron Washington, whose high-energy approach had already been on display: He had spent the morning working with Micah Johnson, Jace Peterson, Rio Ruiz, Adonis Garcia and some of the other infielders who arrived early to camp.

Coming off three consecutive losing seasons, the Braves have entered camp with an optimistic outlook rooted in last year's 20-10 finish and an offseason highlighted by the additions of Dickey, Garcia, Colon and second baseman Brandon Phillips, who was acquired from the Reds on Sunday, after the team learned Sean Rodriguez could miss a significant portion -- if not all -- of the upcoming season with a left shoulder injury.

"I knew [Braves general manager John Coppolella] had big plans," Dickey said. "When he recruited me, he kind of laid out what his hopes were. In your mind, you're thinking, 'If they get a couple of these guys, it would be great.' As the offseason went on, I saw Bartolo signed and then the trade for Jaime and the Kurt Suzuki signing and the Brandon Phillips trade. So it felt like there were a lot of pieces that were falling in place to allow him to really complete a team that can be competitive for the Atlanta fan base. It was really neat to see."

Justice on Phillips to Braves

Snitker says he hasn't decided who will serve as Dickey's catcher, but Tyler Flowers spoke with the veteran knuckleballer a few times this winter and expressed interest in accepting the role.

"I haven't seen [Suzuki] yet, but I've talked to Tyler, and he's got a glove," Snitker said. "We're probably just going to let those guys determine [who catches Dickey]. I can't just say you're going to catch that guy and then have to change if it doesn't work."

Snitker is looking forward to sorting through the enviable depth in the competition for the bullpen roles, and he confirmed that instead of guaranteeing Mike Foltynewicz a rotation spot, he wants to see him compete with Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler throughout camp.

"I'm not giving it away," Snitker said. "The competition is good. I think everybody needs to feel like they can be that guy. We have seven weeks from tomorrow when we break. A lot can happen."

Braves to lean on veteran arms

As recently as Friday, the Braves were planning for Rodriguez to serve as their primary second baseman, as well as a backup option at every position except catcher and pitcher. Peterson and Chase d'Arnaud are capable of compensating for the absence of Rodriguez's versatility, and Phillips, despite his age, still has the potential to be a valuable last-minute fix to the everyday lineup.

"He's still a really good player," Snitker said. "He's still one of those guys I hated to see come up. I've always marveled at how easily he plays the game. He's a good player. He just further legitimizes our lineup and lengthens it. I don't think it will be anything but a good thing to have him in our lineup."

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