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Eager to start season, Braves work out

Eager to start season, Braves work out

ATLANTA -- A beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon at Turner Field provided the perfect backdrop for the final day of the Braves' exhibition season.

The crack of the bat echoed, providing a perfect soundtrack, as Atlanta took the field for an hour-long practice.

To a man -- and a manager -- the exhibition season seemed way too long, but Sunday provided a perfect release. Call it the calm before the storm, which begins officially Monday afternoon at 4:10 ET against the Cubs.

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"I think it keeps us on the season schedule," said third baseman Chipper Jones. "I think most of us would prefer to have had the entire day off, kind of recharge the batteries heading into tomorrow. But you know, you sit home all day, anxious, a lot of nervous energy coming into tomorrow. I think it's good to come out here and kind of burn it off."

"It just takes a little bit of the edge off because we're all going to be pretty geeked for Opening Day tomorrow," added closer Billy Wagner. "You pretty much try to knock the edge off by throwing a light bullpen, doing some running, getting your work in and just being around the guys."

Included in the "being around the guys" was a boisterous discussion by some of the pitchers and catcher David Ross about growing mustaches, to, according to pitcher Tim Hudson, "look more like men."

Then, following practice, players and coaches came back to their lockers to find T-shirts had been draped over their chairs. On the front of said T-shirts read, "153..." while on the back was a screened picture of manager Bobby Cox being ejected by umpire John Shulock. Cox begins his final season with a Major League record 153 ejections.

"It's the first official work day before the games actually start," said Hudson. "We have our 25-man roster set, we know what our team's going to be, we know who we're going to be battling with all year. There's a lot of camaraderie, a lot of hanging around, a lot of working out. A lot of game plan stuff going on. We're excited."

Atlanta did take care of some serious business, as it held an hour's worth of meetings before taking the field.

While meetings aren't fun, they are necessary. Left fielder Matt Diaz was glad to face it Sunday instead of having it clutter up Monday.

"You want to cover all your bases going into Opening Day," said Diaz. "You don't want to come out flat on Opening Day. We're getting a lot of the meetings and stuff out of the way, so it takes a lot of the distractions away so we can just concentrate on the game."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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