Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 3/2/12
The games are starting, so lets answer a few questions you might have about the Braves, who open the spring portion of their schedule against Detroit at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Champion Stadium at ESPNs Wide World of Sports. Q: What can we expect from Tyler Pastornicky? A: Hes a guy who grew up around the game. His dad was a pro player and the 22-year-old rookie shortstop knows that the Braves expect him to work hard and play hard. He might struggle at the plate as a rookie, although Pastornicky had his best year in 2011. He hit .314 with 27 steals combined at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. Even if he doesnt hit well, Pastornicky will be aggressive in the field and one the bases. Q: Will Chipper Jones play a lot this spring? A: Jones will play as much as he needs to play to be ready for opening day. Hes healthy this spring, instead of coming back from knee surgery like in 2011. So instead of rehabbing and testing a balky knee, Jones can work on his game. Hell get enough action so that hes comfortable with his swing and feel like hes moving well in the field without tiring himself out. Q: Who is somebody to keep an eye on, other than one of the top pitching prospects? A: There are a couple of intriguing young catchers in camp. Christian Bethancourt and Evan Gattis arent going to take Brian McCanns job, but they are worth taking a look at this spring. Bethancourt, 20 is one of the best catching prospects in baseball. He is maturing offensively he hit .306 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 19 games in the Arizona Fall League to go with his strong arm. Gattis is 25 and has bounced around, in and out of baseball, but dominated at Single-A Rome with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs. Hes already impressed some of the Braves pitchers with his batting practice home runs. Q: What will the rotation look like this spring? A: Mike Minor will start the opening game against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, but most likely will be the fourth or fifth starter when the regular season begins next month. Right now, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran will share the starting spot after Minor, to be followed by Jair Jurrjens, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. Medlen likely will work out of the bullpen during the season, but will start while Tommy Hanson (concussion) and Tim Hudson (back surgery) recover. Hanson could pitch as early as next week, but Hudson isnt expected back until May. Jurrjens could the opening day starter, to be followed by Hanson, Beachy, Minor and either Medlen, Delgado or Teheran. Q: What spots are still open in the bullpen? A: Craig Kimbrel, who was the NL rookie of the year, is the closer. Jonny Venters is the setup man and Eric OFlaherty was invaluable bridging the gap from the starters to Venters and Kimbrel last year. Medlen figures to move to the bullpen once Hanson and Hudson are healthy, leaving at least three spots open. Expect Arodys Vizcaino, Jairo Asencio and Cristhian Martinez to get plenty of work as the Braves try to figure out the best combination. Right-hander Cory Gearrin spent half of 2011 with the Braves, finishing 1-1 with a 7.85 ERA, and hell be batting for a spot along with Jaye Chapman, J.J. Hoover, Anthony Varvaro, Adam Russell and Robert Fish. Varvaro and Russell have major league experience. Q: Will Kimbrel, Venters and OFlaherty pace themselves? A: Theyve already talked about pacing themselves this spring instead of going out and feeling like they have to make the team. Theyre assured of their spots on the team and now know how to pace themselves over the course of a season, unlike last year, when Venters led the majors with 85 appearances and Kimbrel was second with 79. OFlaherty pitched in 78 games, but he was more used to it after also pitching in 78 games in 2009. Q: Will Jason Heyward return to his rookie form? A: By all accounts, Heyward is healthy and punishing pitches the way he did in 2010 and last spring, when the Braves erected tents to keep his monstrous blasts from damaging cars in the employee parking lot. He worked hard to restructure his swing after his mechanics went astray after a shoulder injury. If you head to spring training, park at your own risk. Follow Andy Johnston on Twitter @aj_writes.
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