Posted March 31, 2013 on AP on Fox
Jason Heyward moved into THE locker on Sunday - the spot in the Atlanta Braves clubhouse used by Chipper Jones. 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.''
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Chipper Jones Getting Drunk At Tonight’s Braves-Phillies Opener

As we’ve shown you guys over the last few months, Chipper Jones is really enjoying retirement. Larry is at tonigh…

News not good on Jonny Venters, surgery possible

The latest news on Braves reliever Jonny Venters is not encouraging. Venters met with Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Andrews performed ligament-replacement surgery on Venters’ left elbow in 2005. The best case scenario for Venters is a disabled list stint of a month notes Jon Heyman. The clear concern is that Venters will need to undergo Tommy John surgery. Venters has been one of...

Braves blank Future Stars before record crowd

PEARL, Miss. Joe Terdoslavich hopes he doesnt have to come back to Trustmark Park. "Unless we do this again in the future sometime, he said. It's not because Terdoslavich doesnt enjoy the Double-A Braves' park. He's just one of several promising minor leaguers ready to make Turner Field a permanent home. Terdoslavich was one of 23 Braves prospects taking on the...

Braves place Venters on DL, add Gattis

The Atlanta Braves have placed left-hander Jonny Venters on the 15-day with a sprained elbow and purchased the contract of catcher Evan Gattis as they set their opening day roster. Gattis will share time with Gerald Laird as the Braves await the return of catcher Brian McCann, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. McCann is expected to return by the end of April. Gattis hit six...

Five burning questions for Braves in 2013

A splashy offseason has made this one of the most highly anticipated Braves seasons in recent memory. With Opening Day just hours away, here are the five biggest questions facing the team. 1. Could this be the most prolific offense in franchise history? The 2003 Braves are the measuring stick for potency, holding 12 team records including most home runs (235), runs (907), hits...

Braves lineup lives up to billing in opener

ATLANTA They ran out onto Turner Field amid fireworks and confetti and the sounds of a marching band that stood in center field raining down, while the sellout crowd of 51,456 chanted and Tomahawk Chopped. It was the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day that greeted the Braves, punctuated by appearances by greats Dale Murphy and Phil Niekro, while Chipper Jones, in his first year...

Braves beat Future Stars 10-0 in exhibition

Dan Uggla and Evan Gattis each hit a three-run homer, Mike Minor threw four scoreless innings and the Atlanta Braves beat a team comprised of the organization's Future Stars 10-0 on Saturday in an exhibition game at Trustmark Park. Chris Johnson had a solo shot for the Braves, who played their final game before Monday's home opener against Philadelphia. Andrelton Simmons...

Troy Snitker

TROY SNITKER CATCHER Born: December 5, 1988 Height: 6′ 2″ Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right Drafted: 19th round, 596th overall, 2011 (Braves) How Acquired: Trade for cash considerations (from Braves) College: North Georgia College and State University Agent: N/A WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES The Braves drafted Snitker as a junior out of college, where...

Braves 7, Phillies 5

Freddie Freeman drove in three runs with three hits, including the first of three Atlanta home runs Monday night, and the Braves beat Cole 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. Hamels (0-1) struggled in his first opening day...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.