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Michael Tucker will be the Braves Number 2 hitter this season, which means he's got a Roseanne-sized responsibility on his shoulders. When Tucker joined Atlanta last season, he was the perfect spray hitter to bat behind the explosive and jet-propelled Kenny Lofton. That worked fineTucker hit .283, smacked 14 homers and stole 12 bases. With Lofton gone, however, new shortstop Walt Weiss will lead off. For the Braves to score enough runs to repeat last year's success, Tucker, who had 116 Ks in '97, has to consistently move Weiss over. To do that, Tucker must have fewer than 80 strikeouts.
What They Needed: Not mucha new double-play combo to replace Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser, a first baseman to replace Fred McGriff and some outfield depth.
What They Got: Ex-Rockies Andres Galarraga and Walt Weiss are the new guys at first and short, respectively. Gerald Williams from Milwaukee will be the backup outfielder.
What it All Means: No matter what the Braves do, things always seem to work out. So even though Galarraga hit most of his dingers in thin air, Weiss is a less-than-desirable leadoff hitter, Williams is little more than a modern-day Brad Komminsk, Kenny Lofton was speed and glove personified, and Andruw Jones is still young and unprovenyou just know they'll be fine.
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