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After grief and injury, Gohara sets the bar high

Braves pitcher wants to thrive in 2019 for his family, teammates
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Luiz Gohara watched his father take his last breath and then spent the remainder of last year's offseason aiding his grieving mother as she developed a heart ailment. The grief and responsibility debilitated the 21-year-old pitcher ahead of what became a lost season.

Having seen what Gohara had done upon his introduction to the big leagues the previous September, Freddie Freeman told Alex Anthopoulos the big left-hander might immediately become an All-Star. Instead, it became a year of awakening for the young hurler, who remains fueled by last year's disappointments.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Luiz Gohara watched his father take his last breath and then spent the remainder of last year's offseason aiding his grieving mother as she developed a heart ailment. The grief and responsibility debilitated the 21-year-old pitcher ahead of what became a lost season.

Having seen what Gohara had done upon his introduction to the big leagues the previous September, Freddie Freeman told Alex Anthopoulos the big left-hander might immediately become an All-Star. Instead, it became a year of awakening for the young hurler, who remains fueled by last year's disappointments.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I really apologize to those guys who said I was going to be an All-Star and those who were thinking positive things about me," Gohara said. "It didn't happen last year, but I can work to make it happen this year."

Told he didn't necessarily need to apologize for the effects of events outside of his control, the rejuvenated hurler added, "It's more about the respect and great positive energy they were giving me. It stunk to be pitching poorly, but all of those injuries didn't help me."

Approximately two months after his father had died in his arms outside a hospital in his native Brazil, Gohara reported to last year's Spring Training weighing approximately 320 pounds. Thanks to an improved diet, the decision to stop drinking alcohol and a commitment to conditioning, the 22-year-old hurler has returned this year at what he approximates to be 40 pounds lighter.

"He's worked hard," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He spent a lot of time [at the Braves' Spring Training complex] in the offseason, and he dedicated himself to turn some things around. It will be good to see, because we all know what he's capable of when he's right."

Video: Gohara, Inciarte discuss their offseason strides

As Gohara aims to be an asset in Atlanta's rotation or bullpen this season, the Braves are hoping to see more of what displayed when he completed at least six innings in four of the five starts made in September of 2017. His four-seam fastball averaged 96.8 mph, which was the sixth-highest average mark produced by a left-hander who threw at least 400 pitches that season.

Gohara's bid to build upon that strong first impression began to fade when he tweaked his groin and sprained his ankle within the first three weeks of last year's Spring Training. His four-seamer averaged 94.0 mph as he totaled just nine big league appearances (one start). When he developed shoulder discomfort in August and was sent to the Braves' Spring Training complex, he realized the need to alter his lifestyle.

"I knew I had to start working, because at some point, it might be too late," Gohara said. "I had to take advantage of the opportunity they've given me to show them I can play 10, 12 or 13 years in the big leagues."

Concerns about Gohara's alcohol consumption preceded the Braves acquiring him from the Mariners before the 2017 season. The rejuvenated hurler says he hasn't had a drink since August. He's also curbed the temptation for late-night meals and chosen to occasionally run twice a day.

Gohara's motivation is fueled by the reality he has the chance to provide both emotionally and financially for his mother Maria, who has made steady improvement since recovering from the medically-induced coma she entered after undergoing a heart procedure in May.

A December trip to his native Brazil allowed Gohara to spend time with his mother and provide her a chance to see he is determined to stay on what now appears to be a good path.

"She's really happy about the job I've been doing and how I'm taking things more seriously," Gohara said. "I think that has really helped her with her health."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Luiz Gohara

Inciarte's key to success in 2019? Consistency

Braves center fielder fought off first-half slump last season; Camargo preps for super-utility role
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After leading Atlanta United to a Major League Soccer championship in December, Josef Martinez told his good friend Ender Inciarte it was his turn to help the city claim another title.

"He always messes with me by saying he was the Venezuelan guy who got the ring," Inciarte said. "He's really happy to represent Atlanta and represent Venezuela. Hopefully, I'm going to be able to do it in baseball, too."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After leading Atlanta United to a Major League Soccer championship in December, Josef Martinez told his good friend Ender Inciarte it was his turn to help the city claim another title.

"He always messes with me by saying he was the Venezuelan guy who got the ring," Inciarte said. "He's really happy to represent Atlanta and represent Venezuela. Hopefully, I'm going to be able to do it in baseball, too.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

It could be argued that Inciarte stands as the X-factor in regard to the Braves' bid to defend last year's National League East crown and experience a successful postseason. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner should once again provide regular assistance to the pitching staff. He has also proven to be an offensive asset, but last year's disappointing first half tempered the positive vibes created by his 200-hit season in 2017.

"Hopefully, I'm going to be more consistent this year," Inciarte said. "That's the most important part of this game. It's a tough game and it's a long season. Consistency is the biggest part."

When Inciarte slashed .241/.312/.337 during last season's first half, he was replaced by Ronald Acuna Jr. in the leadoff role. But the veteran center fielder bounced back to post a .302/.345/.448 line during the second half. That slash line was very similar to the one he produced over the course of the 2017 season, when he hit .304/.350/.409.

Video: Gohara, Inciarte discuss their offseason strides

Braves manager Brian Snitker will spend the next few weeks evaluating whether it makes sense to keep Acuna in the leadoff role or put him in the cleanup spot. The latter would open the door for Inciarte to be given another chance to prove productive at the top of Atlanta's lineup.

"It's the manager's job to put the best lineup together to win games," Inciarte said. "Last year, it wasn't working, and he had to change. If it's working, then we'll continue with the same lineup. If it's not, we've got to make some changes. I'm only worrying about winning. I want to do my part. Wherever I'm at in the lineup, I'm going to be OK."

Versatile Camargo 
As the Braves plan to transition Johan Camargo to a super-utility role, Snitker is encouraged by what he saw when Camargo spent some time being introduced to the outfield during Spring Training in 2017.

"I liked what I saw when we worked him out [in the outfield]," Snitker said. "We had that same type of [super-utility] role in mind for him at that time."

Video: LAD@ATL Gm4: Camargo fires strong throw to nab Kemp

When the Grapefruit League season opens, Camargo will draw starts at second base, shortstop, third base and in the corner outfield spots. The experience will prepare him for what he will encounter during the regular season, when he could draw 3-4 starts per week at various positions.

Austin Riley is one of the few position players who have not made an early arrival to Spring Training. But when the first full-squad workout takes place on Thursday, the promising young third baseman will also spend some time in the outfield.

With Josh Donaldson locked at the third-base position, the Braves simply want to have an option if Riley thrives during the season's first few months with Triple-A Gwinnett and provides indication he is ready to bring his power potential to the Major League level.

Ready to resume his climb 
Three days after Sean Newcomb made his Major League debut on June 10, 2017, Patrick Weigel surrendered two hits over seven scoreless innings against Toledo. At the time, he had fashioned a 1.21 ERA over a five-start stretch for Triple-A Gwinnett. But thoughts of being promoted to Atlanta were clouded by the lingering discomfort that led him to undergo Tommy John surgery a couple weeks later.

While spending the past season and a half recovering and rehabbing at the team's Spring Training complex, Weigel enjoyed watching Max Fried, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint and some of his other former Minor League teammates make their respective big league debuts.

Now healthy and looking to impress like he did in camp two years ago, Weigel is hoping he might experience his own debut at some point this year.

"It's a lot of fun watching all your boys make their debuts, but it does make you hungry," Weigel said. "You're happy for them, and I know having played with those guys in the past and seeing the success they've had, hopefully we can replicate that."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ender Inciarte

Donaldson ready to prove GM, Braves right

After two injury-ridden seasons, Bringer of Rain eyes productive 2019
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson did not receive the lucrative, multi-year contract he'd have likely gained had he been healthy last year. But given what Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and some of this winter's other top free agents have experienced, Donaldson has more reason to be thankful for the one-year, $23 million deal the Braves provided in November.

"I feel very blessed to be in this situation that I'm in," Donaldson said. "If I'd have been healthy last year, who knows what would have happened or what situation I'd be in right now. But I'm very confident, and I'm thrilled to be here and be a part of this organization."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Josh Donaldson did not receive the lucrative, multi-year contract he'd have likely gained had he been healthy last year. But given what Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and some of this winter's other top free agents have experienced, Donaldson has more reason to be thankful for the one-year, $23 million deal the Braves provided in November.

"I feel very blessed to be in this situation that I'm in," Donaldson said. "If I'd have been healthy last year, who knows what would have happened or what situation I'd be in right now. But I'm very confident, and I'm thrilled to be here and be a part of this organization.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Still fueled by those childhood days, when Ron Gant was his favorite player and the Braves were his team, Donaldson appreciates the feel-good aspect of his current opportunity. But while playing close to his Alabama home and enjoying a chance to once again work with Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos, the former American League MVP Award winner also understands the importance of rejuvenating his career with his deal.

Donaldson missed two months of the 2017 season with a left calf strain, came to Spring Training last year with a sore shoulder and then sustained a more significant right calf injury that limited him to just 52 games during the 2018 season.

"Honestly, I thought it was a great deal for me, especially coming off the injury-plagued season I had a year ago," Donaldson said. "I was looking forward to proving Alex right again. I proved him right the first time he got me, and now I want to do it again."

Tweet from @Braves: The Wash and Josh Show������ pic.twitter.com/6zRZGCQIhy

While serving as the Blue Jays general manger, Anthopoulos acquired Donaldson from the A's before the 2015 season. The third baseman won the AL MVP Award at the conclusion of that memorable year, during which he helped Toronto reach the AL Championship Series.

Donaldson finished fourth in balloting for the 2016 AL MVP Award and then suffered the left calf strain that limited him to 113 games the next season. Even with that setback, he produced MLB's second-best bWAR (36.1) from 2013-17. Mike Trout was the only player with a higher mark (43.1.).

Now, the 33-year-old Donaldson must prove he is capable and worthy of ranking among the game's elite. He certainly didn't show any limitations as his intense approach was on display while he aggressively took batting practice in the cages and on the back fields at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Sunday.

"I feel like a newborn baby," Donaldson said. "I didn't have to go through that grind last year. I went through the grind mentally, because physically I wasn't able to perform at all really. This offseason, I was able to refresh the mindset, get back to doing what I can do and just focus on staying positive."

Video: Top 100 Right Now on Donaldson on list despite injury

Donaldson missed a portion of Spring Training in 2017 with a right calf strain, then he was bothered by the shoulder discomfort that affected last year's preseason preparations. He has come to this year's camp healthy and cognizant of the fact the preparations made over the next six weeks will significantly influence his bid to avoid yet another injury-plagued season.

"I'd love to play 162 [regular-season games]," Donaldson said. "I'd love that, but the chances of that happening are probably zero. If I could say right now what I think I'm capable of doing and what I'd love to do with everything being perfect, I'd say I could play 150-155. I've done that so many years in the past. The last couple years, that has been difficult because Spring Training has been taken away from me."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Josh Donaldson

Minter wants to be Braves' high-leverage option

McCann receives praise from former teammates; Snitker getting to know pitching prospects
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker evaluates who might serve as his closer, A.J. Minter has made it clear he wants to be the guy who is consistently called upon to handle high-leverage threats that develop in late innings.

"I want to be in the game when the game is on the line, the best hitters are up," Minter said. "Whether that's the seventh, eighth or ninth inning, I want to be facing the toughest part of the lineup. Of course, I want to be the closer who is closing games out and getting saves. But the way baseball is going now, I want to be the Josh Hader. I want to be the guy who when he comes in the ballgame, you know it's over."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker evaluates who might serve as his closer, A.J. Minter has made it clear he wants to be the guy who is consistently called upon to handle high-leverage threats that develop in late innings.

"I want to be in the game when the game is on the line, the best hitters are up," Minter said. "Whether that's the seventh, eighth or ninth inning, I want to be facing the toughest part of the lineup. Of course, I want to be the closer who is closing games out and getting saves. But the way baseball is going now, I want to be the Josh Hader. I want to be the guy who when he comes in the ballgame, you know it's over.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Though the Braves are not going to suddenly make Minter a multi-inning option like Hader, they do have the comfort of knowing both he and Arodys Vizcaino have already proven capable of handling any late-inning role.

"In our world here, hopefully there are too [many save opportunities] for one guy to handle," Snitker said. "That would be the best scenario. On any given day we could do a little bit of what we did last year when we went with matchups in the eighth and ninth. That would be pretty good."

Barring the slim possibility Craig Kimbrel's free-agent market drops to the point where the Braves may be comfortable with his ask, Vizcaino and Minter stand as the primary options to serve as Atlanta's closer.

Ten Braves to watch this spring

Vizcaino will need to prove he has distanced himself from the right shoulder discomfort that sidelined him last summer and led to Minter handling the closing duties during most of the season's final three months.

Video: Must C Conclusion: Vizcaino holds off Dodgers in 9th

Multiple MRIs showed no structural damage last year, and Vizcaino has progressed through the early days of Spring Training without any restrictions. But time will tell whether his shoulder can handle a reliever's normal regular-season workload.

"I want to be the closer," Vizcaino said. "But we have other guys who can do the job. It doesn't matter if it's the seventh inning or the ninth, I just want to pitch."

Endorsing McCann 
Dallas Keuchel was among the former Astros teammates who texted Mike Foltynewicz to let him know how much he will appreciate the chance to work with veteran catcher Brian McCann this season.

"I got multiple texts saying that when we got McCann, not only how much the team got better, but how much better I was going to get this year," Foltynewicz said. "When I met him, it felt like I'd already known him for 10 years. I think that relationship he has with me and some of the other younger pitchers is going to be a special one."

Video: McCann, Flowers on Braves' chances in 2019

While spending the past five seasons with the Astros and Yankees, McCann kept close tabs on the Braves and longed for the opportunity to rejoin the organization. After gaining the opportunity in November, the seven-time All-Star went to SunTrust Park a few times to watch video of Foltynewicz and some of the other pitchers he will work with this season.

Early impressions 
The Braves will not stage their first full-squad workout until Thursday. But Nick Markakis and Charlie Culberson are the only two position players projected for the Opening Day roster who have not yet arrived in camp.

While Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Ender Inciarte and other position players are spending these early days focusing on hitting, Snitker has taken advantage of the chance to get a better feel for his club's impressive collection of pitching prospects.

This collection of arms is led by Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson and Touki Toussaint, who all rank among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects. But some of the lesser-known prospects like Kyle Muller and Joey Wentz have also made a good impression.

Video: Top Prospects: Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves

"I can't wait to get the games started to watch these kids play because it's a very impressive group," Snitker said. "You don't know who is going to do what. When you look out at this time of year and see these kids, from an overall organization standpoint, it's pretty impressive."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, A.J. Minter

Reasons for optimism for each MLB club

MLB.com @RichardJustice

On this opening week of Spring Training, all 30 Major League teams have one thing in common: optimism. You've read a lot about teams being all-in for 2019 and also about some teams rebuilding. Here's what's also true: When players and coaches get to work in Florida and Arizona, optimism is infectious.

That's the very nature of the sport. Every single team is excited about something. Some teams want to get a look at the new acquisitions. Others want to see prospects or returning veterans or unheralded players hoping for a new start.

On this opening week of Spring Training, all 30 Major League teams have one thing in common: optimism. You've read a lot about teams being all-in for 2019 and also about some teams rebuilding. Here's what's also true: When players and coaches get to work in Florida and Arizona, optimism is infectious.

That's the very nature of the sport. Every single team is excited about something. Some teams want to get a look at the new acquisitions. Others want to see prospects or returning veterans or unheralded players hoping for a new start.

Some of it is the warmer weather of Spring Training. Some of it is the guys seeing one another again. And some of it is simply putting the uniform on and getting back out on the field and doing the thing they love more than anything.

Here's an optimism cheat sheet for all 30 teams:

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Josh Donaldson
To a young team that won the NL East and has a deep farm system comes a 33-year-old former American League Most Valuable Player ready to prove he's still one of the best players in the game.

Video: Donaldson thrilled to be with the Braves

Marlins: Youth
Manager Don Mattingly's Opening Day lineup probably will have at least six players in their 20s, and it's going to be fun watching those young guys grow and begin to prove themselves.

Mets: Expectations
The Mets finally have some after an offseason in which they've been upgraded all over the place while holding onto a rotation that might be baseball's best.

Nationals: Max Scherzer
His every start is a must-see event, and now he's the biggest name on a team that has had a tremendous offseason and might just be the NL's best team whether Bryce Harper returns or not.

Phillies: Anticipation
The Phillies made a string of solid acquisitions and remain in the middle of the race for Harper and/or Manny Machado. Regardless of how that plays out, the additions of J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson have moved them closer to a postseason berth.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: NL's best record
The Brewers were one win from going to the World Series and are bringing back the core of that 2018 team, in addition to upgrades behind the plate (signing Yasmani Grandal) and in the rotation (the return of injured ace Jimmy Nelson).

Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt
He's on the short list of baseball's best offensive players and could transform the lineup, if not the entire team. With the signing of lefty reliever Andrew Miller and a slew of young arms, the Cardinals probably could not feel better about 2019.

Video: Paul Goldschmidt gets formally introduced

Cubs: Yu Darvish
He's ready to be the ace the Cubs projected he would be in 2018, when he was limited to just eight starts in his first year with the club due to injury. If the Cubs can keep Darvish and their other core guys on the field, there may not be a better NL team.

Pirates: Youth
Don't sleep on this team. The starting rotation could be very good. If third base prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes makes his debut in the first half of the season, he'll join first baseman Josh Bell to give the Pirates a solid pair of corner infielders to go with a potentially very good outfield.

Reds: Rotation
The Reds could turn a big corner with the addition of Alex Wood, Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark to the rotation. Watching new right fielder Yasiel Puig hit in Great American Ball Park could be one of the best shows in baseball.

NL WEST

D-backs: Rotation
There are legitimate reasons to be excited about this club, thanks to a rotation that could be as good as any in the NL with Taijuan Walker back from Tommy John surgery and Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Zack Godley all returning.

Dodgers: Corey Seager
With six straight division championships and back-to-back NL pennants in their pocket, the Dodgers are getting potentially their best player back from Tommy John surgery.

Video: BP, throwing across diamond next on docket for Seager

Giants: Madison Bumgarner
He's healthy again after injuries limited him to 38 starts the last two seasons. Last time he pitched a full season was 2016 when he threw 226 2/3 innings, and the Giants made the playoffs. Go ahead and connect the dots.

Padres: Youth
The Padres have 10 of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects, a record. Even better is that at least four of them, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 2 overall), are projected to play in the big leagues this season.

Rockies: Nolan Arenado
Both sides are publicly optimistic he'll be signed to an extension before reaching free agency after the season. Meanwhile, his team is positioned for a third straight postseason appearance, thanks to what should be the best rotation in franchise history.

AL EAST

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
He's the top prospect in the sport and one of the best hitting prospects ever, according to MLB Pipeline, and will be playing third base for the Blue Jays at some point this season. He's the face of a wave of kids that will usher in a new chapter of baseball in Toronto.

Video: Top Prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays

Orioles: The future
The Orioles are being rebuilt by two of the men -- Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal -- who helped make the Astros a powerhouse. This season will be devoted to throwing young kids on the field and giving them a chance to show they belong, much the way Houston did a few years before winning a World Series.

Rays: Front office
Smartest in baseball? It's in the conversation. Same thing with manager Kevin Cash. Last season's 90-win team reinforced both those notions. They've gotten better this offseason with depth and flexibility up and down the roster.

Red Sox: Trophy case
Why would the Red Sox be optimistic? Other than winning the World Series four times in 15 seasons. Other than having the reigning AL MVP (Mookie Betts) and an offense and rotation that could be baseball's best.

Yankees: Bullpen
General manager Brian Cashman upgraded his team all over the place, especially in the bullpen, which has a chance to be one of the best ever. No division has three teams as good as the top three in the AL East.

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Rotation
There may not be one better, and that's why the front office resisted the temptation to trade a starter for a hitter. The Indians are solid favorites to win the AL Central again, and that rotation could make them a formidable October opponent.

Royals: Kyle Zimmer
What a story. He is a former top pitching prospect whose career appeared to be over after four surgeries. He was sent to the Driveline Baseball program in Seattle as sort of a last-chance saloon. Now at 27, he's throwing hard and without pain and should make his Major League debut in 2019.

Video: Kyle Zimmer on returning to form going into 2019

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
His 2018 season ended after 38 games when he underwent biceps surgery. Now 35 years old, he's ready to continue building on a Hall of Fame resume.

Twins: Byron Buxton
He has added 21 pounds of muscle and seems confident he'll get his career back on track after a tough 2018 season that was mostly spent in the Minor Leagues. He's still only 25, and the Twins are hopeful he can be the electrifying presence he was once projected to be.

White Sox: Eloy Jimenez
He's the crown jewel of a very good farm system and ranked No. 3 overall by MLB Pipeline. Injuries delayed his debut last summer, and now that he's healthy again, he'll be the most-watched player at Sox camp.

AL WEST

Angels: Mike Trout
OK, this is stating the obvious. We could be watching one of baseball's 10 greatest players ever at his peak, and the Angels may have constructed a team that'll help put Trout on display in October.

Astros: Alex Bregman
He did more than emerge as a great player in 2018. He also became a huge presence in his community, giving of his time and money and making himself a role model for every other professional athlete.

Athletics: Matt Chapman
If you're not completely familiar with his game, you soon will be. He's a generational defensive player at third and on his way to becoming one of the players every other is compared to.

Mariners: Yusei Kikuchi
He was the most interesting addition in an offseason of change for the Mariners and will slot between Marco Gonzales and Mike Leake in a rotation that will give Seattle a chance to be competitive.

Video: Yusei Kikuchi discusses his first bullpen session

Rangers: Joey Gallo
There's a buzz the moment he steps into the batter's box. His 81 home runs the last two seasons are the fourth most in the Majors. His 93.9 mph average exit velocity is third highest.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Acuna: 'I'd like to stay in the leadoff spot'

Braves plan to be cautious with Swanson; Waters fulfills childhood dream at Spring Training
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Braves re-signed Nick Markakis in January, they began leaning toward putting Ender Inciarte in the leadoff spot and moving Ronald Acuna Jr. to the cleanup role. But manager Brian Snitker said Acuna may still get his wish to stay at the top of the lineup.

"There's a few different ways we could go that are all really good," Snitker said. "We're just going to wait to see where we're at in a couple weeks. All those things will play itself out. You've got to start somewhere with a lineup. Then you kind of adjust and adapt as it goes and as players go, kind of similar to last year."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Braves re-signed Nick Markakis in January, they began leaning toward putting Ender Inciarte in the leadoff spot and moving Ronald Acuna Jr. to the cleanup role. But manager Brian Snitker said Acuna may still get his wish to stay at the top of the lineup.

"There's a few different ways we could go that are all really good," Snitker said. "We're just going to wait to see where we're at in a couple weeks. All those things will play itself out. You've got to start somewhere with a lineup. Then you kind of adjust and adapt as it goes and as players go, kind of similar to last year.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The question is whether it would be best to keep Acuna at the top of the lineup or move him into a run-producing spot while providing Inciarte a chance to prove he can once again produce at the top. After Inciarte struggled during last season's first half, the Braves saw Acuna flourish with his move to the leadoff spot. The National League Rookie of the Year Award winner hit .328 with 19 homers and a 1.042 OPS over 301 plate appearances when batting first.

Acuna's surge was also influenced by the mechanical adjustments he made just before the All-Star break. But there's something to be said about the fact he immediately took to this role, which would likely provide him at least 30 more plate appearances than he would draw as the cleanup hitter.

"If it was up to me personally, I'd like to stay in the leadoff spot, simply because I like hitting there," Acuna said. "But obviously those types of decisions are out of my control. The only thing I can control is to work hard and do my best."

Slated to once again fill the third spot, Freddie Freeman likes the thought of having both Acuna and Josh Donaldson hit in front of him during the first inning on a nightly basis. Offseason conversations with Ryan Howard have also led Freeman to wonder if a move to the cleanup role could be mentally detrimental to the 21-year-old Acuna.

But at the same time, Freeman understands the potential value of once again filling the leadoff spot with Inciarte, who capably handled the role while recording a 201-hit season in 2017. The Gold Glove center fielder hit .241 with a .312 OBP during last year's first half and .302 with a .345 OBP in the second half.

"If Ender is hitting like he was during last year's second half and in 2017, he's a perfect leadoff hitter," Freeman said.

Video: PHI@ATL: Inciarte ties the game with an RBI double

The plan for Swanson
Dansby Swanson made an early arrival to Spring Training on Saturday and took advantage of the chance to take some swings in the indoor batting cage. Swanson has made steady progress since damaged cartilage was removed from his left wrist in November, but the Braves still plan to be cautious with him during the early part of Grapefruit League play.

"I think he's going to have plenty of time," Snitker said. "I think he feels good. We're just going to go through and check off all the boxes and go through the proper procedure before we push him. I think he'll be right on time."

All indications are the Braves' Opening Day lineup will once again include Swanson, who showed some offensive progress before his wrist began bothering him during a frigid April 14 game at Wrigley Field. The shortstop played through discomfort, but he aggravated the injury during the regular season's final week and was unavailable for the NL Division Series.

Dream comes true 
Growing up in suburban Atlanta, Drew Waters remembers getting excited each year about the start of Braves Spring Training workouts. He even has faint memories of being 6 or 7 when his dad brought him to ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex to see Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones play.

Now, as the Braves' No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Waters is getting a taste of what it's like to be with the Braves as they prepare for the regular season. The 20-year-old outfielder earned a non-roster invite to attend what is his first big league Spring Training. He is just two years removed from helping Etowah High School win Georgia's Class 7A state championship in baseball.

Video: Top Prospects: Drew Waters, OF, Braves

"I tell kids all the time, 'You never know. We might be playing together 10 years from now,'" Waters said. "At one point in my life, I was their age watching guys and thinking, 'This is awesome. I wish I was a part of it.' Now, I am."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.

Projected 2019 lineups, rotations for every team

MLB.com

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS
Lineup:
1. Devon Travis, 2B
2. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., SS
3. Justin Smoak, 1B
4. Kendrys Morales, DH
5. Randal Grichuk, RF
6. Teoscar Hernandez, LF
7. Kevin Pillar, CF
8. Brandon Drury, 3B
9. Danny Jansen, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
3. Ryan Borucki, LHP
4. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
5. Clayton Richard, LHP
Closer: Ken Giles, RHP

ORIOLES
Lineup:
1. Cedric Mullins, CF
2. Jonathan Villar, 2B
3. Trey Mancini, LF
4. Mark Trumbo, DH
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Renato Nunez, 3B
7. DJ Stewart, RF
8. Richie Martin, SS
9. Chance Sisco, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Andrew Cashner, RHP
3. Alex Cobb, RHP
4. David Hess, RHP
5. Nate Karns, RHP
Closer: Mychal Givens, RHP

RAYS
Lineup:
1. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
2. Matt Duffy, 3B
3. Tommy Pham, LF
4. Ji-Man Choi, DH
5. Willy Adames, SS
6. Yandy Diaz, 1B
7. Austin Meadows, RF
8. Mike Zunino, C
9. Joey Wendle, 2B

Rotation and closer:
1. Blake Snell, LHP
2. Charlie Morton, RHP
3. Opener
4. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
5. Opener
Closer: Jose Alvarado, LHP

RED SOX
Lineup:
1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
2. Mookie Betts, RF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. Christian Vazquez, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Chris Sale, LHP
2. David Price, LHP
3. Rick Porcello, RHP
4. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Closer: Matt Barnes, RHP 

YANKEES
Lineup:
1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Gary Sanchez, C
6. Miguel Andujar, 3B
7. Gleyber Torres, 2B
8. Luke Voit, 1B
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Luis Severino, RHP
2. James Paxton, LHP
3. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
4. J.A. Happ, LHP
5. CC Sabathia, LHP
Closer: Aroldis Chapman, LHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

INDIANS
Lineup:
1. Leonys Martin, CF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Carlos Santana, DH
5. Jake Bauers, 1B
6. Tyler Naquin, RF
7. Jordan Luplow, LF
8. Roberto Perez, C
9. Yu Chang, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Corey Kluber, RHP
2. Trevor Bauer, RHP
3. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
4. Mike Clevinger, RHP
5. Shane Bieber, RHP
Closer: Brad Hand, LHP

ROYALS
Lineup:
1. Whit Merrifield, 2B
2. Adalberto Mondesi, SS
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Jorge Soler, DH
5. Salvador Perez, C
6. Ryan O'Hearn,1B
7. Hunter Dozier, 3B
8. Brett Phillips, RF
9. Billy Hamilton, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Danny Duffy, LHP
2. Brad Keller, RHP
3. Jakob Junis, RHP
4. Ian Kennedy, RHP
5. Jorge Lopez, RHP
Closer: Brad Boxberger, RHP

TIGERS
Lineup:
1. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
2. Christin Stewart, LF
3. Nicholas Castellanos, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Niko Goodrum, 2B
6. John Hicks, DH
7. Grayson Greiner, C
8. JaCoby Jones, CF
9. Jordy Mercer, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Matthew Boyd, LHP
2. Michael Fulmer, RHP
3. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
4. Matt Moore, LHP
5. Tyson Ross, RHP
Closer: Shane Greene, RHP

TWINS
Lineup:
1. Jorge Polanco, SS
2. Eddie Rosario, LF
3. Miguel Sano, 3B
4. Nelson Cruz, DH
5. C.J. Cron, 1B
6. Max Kepler, RF
7. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
8. Jason Castro, C
9. Byron Buxton, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Jose Berrios, RHP
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP
3. Michael Pineda, RHP
4. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
5. Martin Perez, LHP
Closer: Trevor May, RHP

WHITE SOX
Lineup:
1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Yoan Moncada, 2B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Yonder Alonso, DH
5. Welington Castillo, C
6. Daniel Palka, LF
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Yolmer Sanchez, 3B
9. Adam Engel, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
2. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
3. Ivan Nova, RHP
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP
5. Manny Banuelos, LHP
Closer: Alex Colome, RHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

ANGELS
Lineup:
1. Zack Cozart, 3B
2. Mike Trout, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Justin Bour, 1B
5. Albert Pujols, DH
6. Andrelton Simmons, SS
7. Kole Calhoun, RF
8. David Fletcher, 2B
9. Jonathan Lucroy, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
2. Andrew Heaney, LHP
3. Matt Harvey, RHP
4. Trevor Cahill, RHP
5. Jaime Barria, RHP
Closer: Cody Allen, RHP

ASTROS
Lineup:
1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Michael Brantley, LF
6. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
7. Josh Reddick, RF
8. Tyler White, DH
9. Robinson Chirinos, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Justin Verlander, RHP
2. Gerrit Cole, RHP
3. Wade Miley, LHP
4. Collin McHugh, RHP
5. Josh James, RHP
Closer: Roberto Osuna, RHP

ATHLETICS
Lineup:
1. Nick Martini, LF
2. Matt Chapman, 3B
3. Matt Olson, 1B
4. Khris Davis, DH
5. Stephen Piscotty, RF
6. Jurickson Profar, 2B
7. Ramon Laureano, CF
8. Marcus Semien, SS
9. Chris Herrmann, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Fiers, RHP
2. Marco Estrada, RHP
3. Brett Anderson, LHP
4. Daniel Mengden, RHP
5. Paul Blackburn, RHP
Closer: Blake Treinen, RHP

MARINERS
Lineup:
1. Mallex Smith, CF
2. Mitch Haniger, RF
3. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
4. Kyle Seager, 3B
5. Domingo Santana, LF
6. Ryon Healy, 1B
7. Omar Narvaez, C
8. Tim Beckham, SS
9. Dee Gordon, 2B

Rotation and closer:
1. Marco Gonzales, LHP
2. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
3. Mike Leake, RHP
4. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
5. Felix Hernandez, RHP
Closer: Hunter Strickland, RHP

RANGERS
Lineup:
1. Delino DeShields, CF
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, DH
4. Nomar Mazara, RF
5. Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B
6. Joey Gallo, LF
7. Rougned Odor, 2B
8. Ronald Guzman, 1B
9. Jeff Mathis, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Minor, LHP 
2. Lance Lynn, RHP
3. Drew Smyly, LHP
4. Edinson Volquez, RHP
5. Shelby Miller, RHP
Closer: Jose Leclerc, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES
Lineup:
1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Ronald Acuna Jr., LF
5. Nick Markakis, RF
6. Tyler Flowers, C
7. Ozzie Albies, 2B
8. Dansby Swanson, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
3. Kevin Gausman, RHP
4. Julio Teheran, RHP
5. Touki Toussaint, RHP
Closer: Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

MARLINS
Lineup:
1. Lewis Brinson, CF
2. Curtis Granderson, LF
3. Starlin Castro, 2B
4. Brian Anderson, 3B
5. Peter O'Brien, RF
6. Neil Walker, 1B
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. JT Riddle, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jose Urena, RHP
2. Dan Straily, RHP
3. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP
4. Sandy Alcantara, RHP
5. Trevor Richards, RHP
Closer: Drew Steckenrider, RHP

METS
Lineup:
1. Brandon Nimmo, RF
2. Jed Lowrie, 3B
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Wilson Ramos, C
5. Michael Conforto, LF
6. Todd Frazier, 1B
7. Juan Lagares, CF
8. Amed Rosario, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jacob deGrom, RHP
2. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP
4. Steven Matz, LHP
5. Jason Vargas, LHP
Closer: Edwin Diaz, RHP

NATIONALS
Lineup:
1. Adam Eaton, RF
2. Trea Turner, SS
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Juan Soto, LF
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
6. Brian Dozier, 2B
7. Victor Robles, CF
8. Yan Gomes, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Max Scherzer, RHP
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP
3. Patrick Corbin, LHP
4. Anibal Sanchez, RHP
5. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
Closer: Sean Doolittle, LHP

PHILLIES
Lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. J.T. Realmuto, C
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Andrew McCutchen, LF
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Nick Williams, RF

Rotation and closer:
1. Aaron Nola, RHP
2. Jake Arrieta, RHP
3. Nick Pivetta, RHP
4. Zach Eflin, RHP
5. Vince Velasquez, RHP
Closer: David Robertson, RHP, or Seranthony Dominguez, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

BREWERS
Lineup:
1. Lorenzo Cain, CF
2. Christian Yelich, RF
3. Ryan Braun, LF
4. Travis Shaw, 3B
5. Jesus Aguilar, 1B
6. Yasmani Grandal, C
7. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
8. Orlando Arcia, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
2. Chase Anderson, RHP
3. Zach Davies, RHP
4. Jimmy Nelson, RHP
5. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Closer: Corey Knebel, RHP

CARDINALS
Lineup:
1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Paul DeJong, SS
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Dexter Fowler, RF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
8. Harrison Bader, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Miles Mikolas, RHP
2. Carlos Martinez, RHP
3. Jack Flaherty, RHP
4. Michael Wacha, RHP
5. Adam Wainwright, RHP
Closer: Andrew Miller, LHP

CUBS
Lineup:
1. Ben Zobrist, 2B
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Javier Baez, SS
5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
6. Willson Contreras, C
7. Jason Heyward, RF
8. Albert Almora Jr., CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Jon Lester, LHP
2. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
3. Cole Hamels, LHP
4. Yu Darvish, RHP
5. Jose Quintana, LHP
Closer: Pedro Strop, RHP

PIRATES
Lineup:
1. Adam Frazier, 2B
2. Starling Marte, CF
3. Corey Dickerson, LF
4. Josh Bell, 1B
5. Francisco Cervelli, C
6. Colin Moran, 3B
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
8. Erik Gonzalez, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
2. Chris Archer, RHP
3. Trevor Williams, RHP
4. Joe Musgrove, RHP
5. Jordan Lyles, RHP
Closer: Felipe Vazquez, LHP

REDS
Lineup:
1. Jesse Winker, LF
2. Jose Peraza, SS
3. Joey Votto, 1B
4. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
5. Scooter Gennett, 2B
6. Yasiel Puig, RF
7. Scott Schebler, CF
8. Tucker Barnhart, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Sonny Gray, RHP
2. Tanner Roark, RHP
3. Alex Wood, LHP
4. Luis Castillo, RHP
5. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
Closer: Raisel Iglesias, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-BACKS
Lineup:
1. Ketel Marte, CF
2. Eduardo Escobar, 3B
3. David Peralta, LF
4. Steven Souza Jr., RF
5. Jake Lamb, 1B
6. Wilmer Flores, 2B
7. Nick Ahmed, SS
8. Alex Avila, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Zack Greinke, RHP
2. Robbie Ray, LHP
3. Zack Godley, RHP
4. Luke Weaver, RHP
5. Merrill Kelly, RHP
Closer: Archie Bradley, RHP

DODGERS
Lineup:
1. A.J. Pollock, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Justin Turner, 3B
4. Cody Bellinger, RF
5. Max Muncy, 1B
6. Chris Taylor, 2B
7. Joc Pederson, LF
8. Austin Barnes, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Walker Buehler, RHP
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP
4. Rich Hill, LHP
5. Kenta Maeda, RHP
Closer: Kenley Jansen, RHP

GIANTS
Lineup:
1. Steven Duggar, CF
2. Joe Panik, 2B
3. Buster Posey, C
4. Brandon Belt, 1B
5. Evan Longoria, 3B
6. Brandon Crawford, SS
7. Gerardo Parra, LF
8. Mac Williamson, RF

Rotation and closer:
1. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
2. Derek Holland, LHP
3. Dereck Rodriguez, RHP
4. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
5. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
Closer: Will Smith, LHP

PADRES
Lineup:
1. Manuel Margot, CF
2. Luis Urias, SS
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Franmil Reyes, RF
5. Wil Myers, LF
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Austin Hedges, C
8. Ty France, 3B

Rotation and closer:
1. Joey Lucchesi, LHP
2. Eric Lauer, LHP
3. Robbie Erlin, LHP
4. Bryan Mitchell, RHP
5. Matt Strahm, LHP
Closer: Kirby Yates, RHP

ROCKIES
Lineup:
1. Charlie Blackmon, LF
2. David Dahl, RF
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Trevor Story, SS
5. Daniel Murphy, 1B
6. Ian Desmond, CF
7. Ryan McMahon, 2B
8. Chris Iannetta, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Kyle Freeland, LHP
2. German Marquez, RHP
3. Tyler Anderson, LHP
4. Jon Gray, RHP
5. Chad Bettis, RHP
Closer: Wade Davis, RHP

Freeman pleased with Braves' offseason deals

Atlanta vet lobbied for McCann, excited to play with Donaldson
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Freddie Freeman spent the offseason sharing excitement about the possibility that Josh Donaldson would not end up being the Braves' only significant addition.

But now that the Braves have opened Spring Training without adding J.T. Realmuto, Craig Kimbrel or any of the other potential targets some fans clamored for, Freeman believes general manager Alex Anthopoulos has taken the right approach by not potentially tainting the future in an effort to immediately improve what could already be a good product.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Freddie Freeman spent the offseason sharing excitement about the possibility that Josh Donaldson would not end up being the Braves' only significant addition.

But now that the Braves have opened Spring Training without adding J.T. Realmuto, Craig Kimbrel or any of the other potential targets some fans clamored for, Freeman believes general manager Alex Anthopoulos has taken the right approach by not potentially tainting the future in an effort to immediately improve what could already be a good product.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"If we had signed Josh, [Nick Markakis] and [Brian McCann] the last week of the offseason, everybody would be happy right now," Freeman said. "I understand we [made moves] so fast and then other things didn't pan out. You're not going to spend money just to spend money, because then we'll be put in a situation two or three years from now where we won't be able to sign someone who becomes available via free agency then."

The Braves created the offseason's first big splash in late November by signing Donaldson and McCann to one-year contracts. Between the completion of these deals and Markakis' deal with Atlanta on Jan. 22, the Mets (Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie), Phillies (Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson) and Nationals (Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki) each made significant additions.

Braves fans became more disgruntled last week when they learned Realmuto was traded to the Phillies, who could still land either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

Given the Mets, Phillies and Nationals have generated more attention recently, Freeman might be correct in his belief that the sequence of these events has influenced opinions about what has transpired in the National League East. But this doesn't alter the fact that the Braves added one of the game's top players in Donaldson, whose healthy presence should positively impact both the lineup and bench.

"I feel like we've gotten so much better," Freeman said. "I feel like everybody is questioning it because the whole NL East got better. The NL East is crazy. It's going to be a fight to the end. Everybody is talking about everybody else. They forget we won 90 games and got better. They all [made those moves] to catch up to us."

In the frequent conversations he shared with Anthopoulos and assistant general manager Perry Minasian this winter, Freeman successfully lobbied for the Braves to sign McCann. The veteran catcher's willingness to accept a $2 million salary made him a much easier sale than the one Freeman would have to make on behalf of Kimbrel, whose asking price still exceeds Atlanta's range.

Video: Check out Brian McCann's best moments for the Braves

When Freeman saw a social media post of Kimbrel in the Orlando International Airport on Thursday afternoon, he called his friend and former teammate to ask him why he was in town. The accomplished closer's agent lives in Orlando, but he said he primarily came to Florida to golf and spend time with friends.

While there have not been any recent discussions and a reunion appears to be a longshot, there's at least a chance that as time passes, Kimbrel's ask could eventually fit the Braves' comfort level. Anthopoulos still has the financial flexibility to make another significant addition this winter or possibly next summer with an in-season move akin to the ones he struck to bring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto before the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"I like what [Anthopoulos] is doing," Freeman said. "I know the fans don't like it. But I think it's good for what's inside this culture, because once we get going and he realizes what we need, he'll go get it. He's not afraid to do it."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Freddie Freeman

Braves open camp with eyes on the prize

Atlanta will look to defend its NL East title in much-improved division
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If 2018 was the new 1991, the Braves can now hope their National League East rivals endure the same fate as the 1992 Dodgers.

After finishing one game behind the young, upstart, worst-to-first Braves in the 1991 NL West race, the Dodgers added Tom Candiotti to a rotation fronted by Orel Hershiser and acquired Eric Davis, who came home to Los Angeles to share the outfield with his childhood friend, Darryl Strawberry.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If 2018 was the new 1991, the Braves can now hope their National League East rivals endure the same fate as the 1992 Dodgers.

After finishing one game behind the young, upstart, worst-to-first Braves in the 1991 NL West race, the Dodgers added Tom Candiotti to a rotation fronted by Orel Hershiser and acquired Eric Davis, who came home to Los Angeles to share the outfield with his childhood friend, Darryl Strawberry.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

When the 1992 season concluded with the Braves eight games ahead of the second-place Reds and 35 games in front of the last-place Dodgers, there was no reason to focus on the fact re-signing Otis Nixon served as Atlanta's only significant move the preceding offseason.

Braves Spring Training information

"Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make," said Braves manager Brian Snitker, who welcomed pitchers and catchers to Spring Training on Friday before kicking into full gear next week with the team's first full-squad workout (Thursday) and game (Feb. 23 at the Mets in Port St. Lucie).

As the Braves open camp, they'll provide a glimpse of how much they have progressed since claiming an unexpected division crown last year. Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies will once again be in a lineup that has been enriched by the addition of Josh Donaldson, the former American League MVP Award winner who thus far arguably ranks as baseball's top free-agent signee.

After the Braves made this offseason's first significant splash by signing Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million deal, the expectation was there'd be at least one more significant addition to Atlanta's roster. But as the defending NL East champs remain