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Competition at third is even for now


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to alternate Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson as his starting third basemen on an every-other-day basis during the early portion of Spring Training. He used a similar arrangement when Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons were battling for the starting shortstop job last year.

The Braves could begin the regular season with Francisco and Johnson platooning at third base. But Gonzalez said there was a chance that one of them could exit the Grapefruit League season with an everyday role at the position.

"The best case, maybe one of those guys wins the job, which is OK," Gonzalez said. "It's open for that also. I think Spring Training will take care of that."

Johnson combined to hit .281 with 15 home runs and a .777 OPS in 136 games with the Astros and D-backs last year. The concerns about him center around his defense. He had a -10.7 UZR/150 defensive rating last year. The only player with a lower mark was Detroit's Miguel Cabrera with a -11.2.

Francisco batted .234 with nine homers and a .710 OPS in the 93 games he played for Atlanta last year. One of the knocks against him as an everyday player comes from the fact that he has hit .190 while totaling just 67 of his 386 career plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. There are also some concerns about his durability. The Braves were hoping that he would have arrived at Spring Training having lost a few more pounds than he did during the winter.

"You want competition in Spring Training, and you want somebody to win the job," Gonzalez said.

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