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Simmons focused on playing, not extension

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Andrelton Simmons hopes to become the latest member of the Braves talented young core to receive a multi-year contract. But when the talented shortstop reported to Spring Training on Tuesday, he said he will allow his representatives to worry about a potential deal.

"I understand the whole thing," Simmons said. "But I know I've got to do my work, and I've got to earn whatever. I'm just focused on playing. If it happens, great, I love Atlanta. Hopefully something gets done, but you never know."

While there is mutual interest, the two parties will need to continue working toward agreeing to the total value Simmons brings with his tremendous defensive skills and offensive potential, which remains debatable through the shortstop's first 206 career games.

Along with being credited with the most defensive runs saved (41) since the inception of that stat in 2003, Simmons also opened some eyes with surprising power that came in the form of the 17 home runs he hit last year, his first full Major League season. The Curacao native entered last year with a total of nine home runs in 1,224 professional at-bats.

Simmons ended the 2013 season with a .248 batting average and .296 on-base percentage. While these numbers appear pedestrian, he steadily improved at the plate and produced a .789 OPS after the All-Star break.

"He's still going to get better," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Talking to our hitting coaches [Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher], he's still going to have some young at-bats. I'm not going to say he's going to be a 30-home run guy or a 20-home run guy for a lot of years. But if you make a mistake, he can hit one out of the ballpark."

Over the past two weeks, the Braves have signed Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Julio Teheran to multi-year extensions that position each player to still be with the club when it moves to its new stadium in 2017.

"You've got to love what the Braves have done," said Simmons, who is hoping to eventually be added to this list.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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