Spring Training 2013: Atlanta Braves Excited To Open Camp With New Squad Featuring Upton Brothers

2012 Season Marked The End Of The Chipper Jones Era

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Brian McCann will likely miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season as he recovers from right shoulder surgery.
Brian McCann will likely miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season as he recovers from right shoulder surgery.
- photo by Tim Evearitt

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. --  Dan Uggla now has the corner locker that had been previously reserved for Chipper Jones, who retired after last year's National League Wild Card playoff loss to the Cardinals. This marks the first time since 1992 that the Braves have come to Spring Training without the plan of Jones being in Atlanta's starting lineup.

"It was odd looking over and not seeing the old wrinkled bag of bones over there," Hudson said of Jones, joking. "But it is different. He's been a fixture around here for years."

Monday was essentially Justin Upton's first day with the Braves, who acquired him in a seven-player trade with the D-backs on Jan. 24. Though position players are not required to report to camp until Thursday, the talented outfielder was eager to begin the next chapter in his life with his new team.

Upton seemed quite comfortable as he introduced himself to new teammates and interacted with some familiar faces that he has previously only known as opposing players. The 25-year-old outfielder greeted Uggla with a bear hug.

Tim Hudson understands what Upton will experience over the next few days and weeks. He was the center of attention when the Braves acquired him in a blockbuster trade with the A's before the start of the 2005 season.

Eight years later, Hudson is the longest-tenured player on the Braves' roster. Setting a good example, the 37-year-old hurler was the first player to take the field to play catch early Monday morning.

There were no formal workouts, as pitchers and catchers simply had to report to camp on Monday. They will hold their first workout on Tuesday. All position players are required to report on Thursday, one day before the club's first full-squad workout.

Showing some youthful exuberance, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman made early arrivals to camp last week. Upton, Uggla and Chris Johnson, a third baseman also acquired in the blockbuster trade with the D-backs, were all among the early arrivals in camp on Monday.

 The most notable position players who have not yet arrived in camp were shortstop Andrelton Simmons and B.J. Upton, who signed a franchise-record five-year, $75.25 million contract with Atlanta in November.

B.J. Upton plans to make the 45-minute commute from his Tampa-area home during Spring Training. His brother has no interest making those long drives. But the two will have plenty of opportunities to interact as they share adjoining lockers.

Like many of his Braves teammates, Uggla made the drive from Atlanta to the Orlando area this past weekend.

Other key losses from last year's team include backup catcher David Ross, center fielder Michael Bourn and the versatile Martin Prado, who was the key piece used to get Justin Upton from the D-backs. (On Monday, Bourn signed a four-year contract with the Cleveland Indians.)

While those players will be missed within the clubhouse, the Braves will enter this season excited about their new look, which features the addition of the Uptons, who will team with Heyward to form what could be the game's most talented outfield. Each of the outfielders is a Gold Glove Award-caliber defender capable of producing 30 homers and 30 stolen bases.

If catcher Brian McCann and Uggla are able to bounce back from frustrating seasons and return to form, Atlanta could have one of the game's most potent offenses.

------  Source: MLB.com

Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt

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