Opening Day. For baseball fans, April 1, 2013 will feel like Christmas morning. Spring Training is now in the rear view mirror and the marathon starts Monday as the Braves play host to their division rival Phillies. In 2012, Philadelphia’s offense struggled as both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard missed significant time early on. However, both Utley and Howard enter this season healthy and the Phillies remain optimistic that they have enough pieces to compete with the Nationals and Braves in an extremely competitive NL East. For the Braves, life after Chipper officially begins as a new regime is set to carry the torch left by the future Hall of Famer.
After nearly seven weeks and 36 exhibition games in Orlando, they all count for real starting on Monday. In 2012, the Braves struggled against lefties, however this year the lineup has a much different look to it. BJ and Justin Upton help provide much needed balance to what was a lefty heavy lineup one season ago. Also, the acquisition of Gerald Laird will help fill the void left as David Ross signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox this offseason. Laird is expected to split time with Evan Gattis who tore up both the Venezuelan Winter League, as well as the Grapefruit League this Spring.
Probable Starters vs the Phillies:
Cole Hamels (17-6, 3.05) vs Tim Hudson (16-7, 3.62)
Roy Halladay (11-8, 4.49) vs Paul Maholm (13-11, 3.67)
Cliff Lee (6-9, 3.16) vs Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57)
*stats from 2012*
Braves Bits: Jonny Venters will visit Dr. James Andrews Monday to have his sprained left elbow examined…Julio Teheran, who won’t make his first start until Saturday against the Cubs, will be available from the bullpen the first few days if need be…expect to see Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson split time at third as the Braves will open the season with a platoon…Chipper Jones will throw out the first pitch Monday while Dale Murphy will serve as honorary team captain…the Braves blanked the Future Stars 10-0 in Pearl, MS on Saturday in front of the largest crowd in Trustmark Park history (8,217)
For the latest on the Braves, follow Braves Radio Network Reporter Kevin McAlpin on Twitter (@KevinMcAlpin).
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