Another confirmation of a new era in Atlanta comes Monday night, when Jones throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the Braves open their season against Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies .
While Jones has retired, expectations are high in Atlanta after the Braves added brothers Justin and B.J. Upton to join Heyward in the outfield. The Braves are looking for a repeat trip to the playoffs after a wild-card loss to St. Louis last season.
Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson , who will platoon at third base, combined for nine home runs in spring training. First baseman Freddie Freeman , the Upton brothers and rookie catcher Evan Gattis also had big springs as the Braves led the NL with 49 homers.
Gattis hit a homer that landed in the parking lot outside the Braves' Double A Mississippi park in the team's final exhibition game on Saturday night. The big catcher had teammates yelling and pointing as he hit more long homers during batting practice at Turner Field on Sunday."Batting practice should be fun for the fans to see," Heyward said. "We've got some young guys who can put the ball out of the ballpark at will in BP."
Heyward said he had little choice when asked to move into Jones' locker. Jones spent his full career with the Braves and was the last link to the 1995 World Series championship team."I was kind of pushed here a little bit," Heyward said with a smile. "No one else wanted to come to this spot. I don't mind. It's a good spot."
Heyward said it will be different to see Jones out of uniform, throwing out the first pitch."More than anything we're happy for him that he was able to leave the game on his own power," Heyward said. "He did everything there is to do in this game. We're going to miss him as a friend and family member, but at the same time we've got a good group right here."
Gattis, who hit six spring training homers, and Gerald Laird will share time as the Braves await the return of catcher Brian McCann , who is recovering from shoulder surgery. McCann is expected to rejoin the active roster by the end of April.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Laird will catch the opener as Tim Hudson makes his sixth season-opening start, including his third with Atlanta. Johnson will start at third base because the Braves are facing Hamels, a left-hander who will begin his first season opener.
The Braves and Phillies also will play in their regular-season finales in Atlanta."They are gonna be a team that we're gonna battle the whole year," Hamels said. "To open with them and end with them, it's going to be a significant series to see where we stand and set the tone as to where we're going to be in the division."
Hamels said the Braves look like contenders."They've done a really good job with the loss of Chipper filling their needs to be a winning team," Hamels said. "Shoot, they've been a winning franchise for a really long time. We're going to have to battle them really hard this year."
Philadelphia went 81-81 last season, ending their streaks of five straight division titles and nine consecutive winning seasons as they finished third in the NL East behind Washington and Atlanta. Center fielder Ben Revere and third baseman Michael Young are the team's key additions.
Atlanta set its 25-man roster Sunday when the Braves placed left-hander Jonny Venters on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained elbow. Venters felt tightness in his elbow in his last spring training game and is to be examined by Dr. James Andrews. Andrews performed ligament-replacement surgery on Venters' elbow in 2005.There are concerns about the status of Venters, who has been a top setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel . Otherwise, Gonzalez said it has been a "great" spring for the team. "I thought it was seven weeks of maybe the best club I've ever had as a manager," Gonzalez said. "We were healthy. We got a lot of stuff accomplished, other than Jonny."
|March 22, 2013||Delmon Young||15-Day DL||Recovery from right ankle surgery|
|March 27, 2013||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Sprained left elbow|
|March 22, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Brian McCann||15-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Paul Janish||15-Day DL||Recovery from left shoulder surgery|
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Braves brought their home-run bats north from spring training to spoil Cole Hamels ' first opening day start.
Freddie Freeman drove in three runs with three hits, including the first of three Atlanta home runs Monday night, and the Braves beat Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies 7-5 on opening day.
Dan Uggla and Justin Upton , making his Braves debut, also homered for Atlanta, which led National League teams with 49 in spring training.
Some observers have suggested the free-swinging Braves might lead the NL in strikeouts instead of home runs. Uggla says the positive results will make up for the whiffs.
"We're not trying to hold back," Uggla said. "If it costs some strikeouts in situations, then that's what it's going to take, because we have the power to go blow for blow with anybody."
Hamels (0-1) gave up five runs on seven hits, including the three homers, with five strikeouts and one walk in five innings. The three homers allowed matched his high from last season.
"They're going to hit a lot of home runs," Hamels said. "Obviously, to keep them from hitting home runs you have to keep the ball down. I wasn't able to do that."
The left-hander said he had trouble locating his fastball.
"You have to be able to establish the fastball and I wasn't able to do that as much as I would like," Hamels said.
Freeman led the Braves with seven home runs in spring training. Hitting cleanup in Atlanta's new-look lineup which includes outfielders Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, Freeman gave Atlanta the lead with his two-run homer into the Braves' bullpen in the first inning. The two-out homer drove in Jason Heyward , who walked.
Uggla led off the second inning with the Braves' second homer into the left-field seats. Justin Upton added a line-drive homer to left-center in the fifth.
The power display was encouraging to Tim Hudson , even though he didn't remain in the game long enough to earn the win.
"It's going to be great to watch all year," Hudson said. "I feel very happy with what we're throwing out there one through nine. I'm excited to see what we're going to do all year."
Hudson gave up six hits and three runs in 4 1-3 innings. Hudson had a 4-0 lead before Chase Utley led off the fourth with a homer and drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the fifth. Utley tripled in the seventh for his third hit and scored on Ryan Howard 's groundout.
Luis Avilan (1-0) took over for Hudson and pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings. Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth inning for the save.
The Braves brought out some of their past stars for pregame ceremonies. Dale Murphy was the honorary captain, newly retired Chipper Jones threw out the first pitch - firing a strike to Brian McCann - and Phil Niekro was handed a microphone and yelled "Play ball!"
Jones retired after last season, ending a career that lasted almost two decades - all with the Braves. "I'm missing it today, but I won't miss it tomorrow," Jones said as he sat in the Braves' dugout before the game.
Upton's homer came after Utley's bases-loaded single off Hudson in the top of the fifth cut Atlanta's lead to 4-3.
Atlanta scored two runs off Chad Durbin in the sixth. Durbin walked Uggla, who moved to third on Chris Johnson 's double. Gerald Laird added a run-scoring single and Johnson scored on pinch-hitter Reed Johnson 's double-play grounder.
John Mayberry Jr. doubled off Jordan Walden in the eighth, moved to third on Walden's wild pitch, and scored on a single by Eric Kratz.
Notes: Attendance was 51,456, a sellout. ... SS Jimmy Rollins made his 13th consecutive opening day start, the longest active streak in the majors. He passed Larry Bowa (1970-81) for the Phillies' longest streak by a shortstop. ... The Braves had no update on LHP Jonny Venters , who opened the season on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained elbow and was examined Monday by Dr. James Andrews. ... The teams are off Tuesday. Philadelphia RHP Roy Halladay will face Atlanta LHP Paul Maholm on Wednesday night. ... Hamels ended Halladay's streak of 10 straight opening-day starts. ... Former Braves manager Bobby Cox , sitting near the Atlanta dugout, drew an ovation when he was shown on the video board. Cox stood and waved to the fans.