The Braves 2013 season begins tonight with their home opener vs the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:00 on FoxSportSouth (or ESPN2). Right hander Tim Hudson will be facing the Phillies’ lefty ace, Cole Hamels.
The lineup tonight will be: Simmons SS, Heyward RF, J.Upton LF, Freeman 1B, B.J. Upton CF, Uggla 2B, C. Johnson 3B, Laird C, Hudson P. Chris Johnson gets the start at 3rd over Juan Francisco because we are facing a lefty and Fredi Gonzalez has decided to go straight platoon for now (Johnson starts when we face lefty and Francisco starts when we face righty).
Brian McCann and Jonny Venters begin the season on the DL. I am guessing McCann will not be ready until end of April or first of May as he continues to rehab his shoulder. Venters visited Dr. James Andrews this morning with a left elbow “strain”. Hopefully, he got good news and will just have to rest his elbow and not have to have season ending Tommy John surgery (that could be career ending for him because he has already had that surgery performed on this elbow in 2005). Fingers crossed for Venters.
If you have been watching the Braves this spring, then you know our team has really changed from last year. Positives from spring training have been many. The Uptons have looked really good-Justin especially smacked some towering homeruns. I think Andrelton Simmons is really going to excel as our new leadoff man (he was fantastic in that role for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic). Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco both had great springs hitting the ball. Julio Teheran was really impressive in his outings as our new fifth starter. Evan Gattis made the team as the backup catcher for Gerald Laird (while McCann is on DL). Gattis could provide some late inning pop off the bench as he showed some right handed power this spring.
Of course there were also some negatives this spring. Our pitching was a little scary. It took Hudson a while to get going but he seemed to pull it together by the end of spring training. Not so for Kris Medlen and Mike Minor. They were both atrocious, especially Medlin. My hope is that they will come around and that possibly they were trying pitches in spring that they won’t in real games. Mr. Dependable, Craig Kimbrel, did not have a good spring either. Hopefully his spring training struggles with location will not carry over into the season. And, as always it seems, Dan Uggla struggled at the bat, hitting in the low .200s for the spring. I have been hoping for 2 years that he would snap out of it–maybe this will be the year. He has lost weight but he is still not hitting. If he has another year of hitting .230 or lower then I think it will be time for the Braves to pull the plug on him. But I am rooting for him to turn it around because a good Uggla would really make our lineup awesome.