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Braves looking for veteran bat for bench

Braves looking for veteran bat for bench

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren compares the second day of the annual Winter Meetings to "moving day" in the golf world. In other words, he recognizes it as a day when clubs gain a better sense of where they are going to stand at the end of this four-day event.

While Wren and his staff members might have made progress in some of their pursuits on Tuesday, there was no clear indication that they were on the brink of crossing one of the items off their wish list.

"[On Monday], you're kind of feeling your way and getting a feel for what opportunities are going to progress," Wren said. "Today is the day you actually start moving things up the board. You start moving up the level of conversations. We got a little better sense of things today."

The Braves have maintained contact with Eric O'Flaherty and remain hopeful he will decide to return to Atlanta. But the Nationals and Yankees are among the other teams that have continued to show interest in O'Flaherty, who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery during the latter part of May.

In their attempt to strengthen their bench, the Braves primarily are focusing on offensive capability, and it appears Eric Chavez could be the top target on the free-agent market. 

Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez said they would like a player capable of providing the same kind of leadership Eric Hinske provided while strengthening Atlanta's bench and clubhouse atmosphere from 2010-12.

Chavez hit .281 with nine home runs and an .810 OPS in 254 plate appearances with the D-backs in 2013. In limited duty as a pinch-hitter, he batted .313 (5-for-16). The 36-year-old veteran, who is one of former Braves pitcher Tim Hudson's closest friends, has always been recognized as a popular player among teammates.  

The Braves have expressed some interest in Jerry Hairston Jr., who has proven to be a valuable clubhouse presence throughout his career. But the 37-year-old veteran hit .211 in 226 plate appearances for the Dodgers this past season.

Hairston underwent hip surgery late in the 2012 season and then battled a variety of injuries in 2013 before being left off Los Angeles' postseason roster. The odds of Hairston ending up in Atlanta are also hindered by the fact that he said his late-season struggles were a product of him being primarily used as a pinch-hitter -- which would be his primary role with the Braves.

There has been some speculation that the Braves are interested in Raul Ibanez, who hit .242 with 29 home runs and a .793 OPS for the Mariners this past season. But for now, it does not appear the club is aggressively pursuing the 41-year-old veteran.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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