Gonzalez ready for games to begin
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After watching his team take countless rounds of batting practice and complete fielding drills over the past two weeks, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is looking forward to the chance to see his team open the Grapefruit League season Friday afternoon against the Tigers.
"After a certain amount of time, you want to see somebody with a different-colored uniform," Gonzalez said. "These guys are ready to go and play some games. We'll still get our work in. But we'll be able to play some games."
Tim Hudson is scheduled to throw the first pitch at Champion Stadium at 1:05 p.m. ET. Hudson is scheduled to pitch two innings. Craig Kimbrel and Cory Gearrin are among the Atlanta relievers who are expected to pitch one inning.
With Andrelton Simmons batting leadoff and Freddie Freeman in the cleanup spot, Gonzalez's lineup for Friday's game looks much like his projected Opening Day lineup. Jason Heyward will bat second, and Justin Upton will bat third. B.J. Upton will bat fifth and be followed by Dan Uggla, Juan Francisco and Gerald Laird.
Like last year, the Braves are expected to use a designated hitter during the early weeks of the Grapefruit League season. Blake DeWitt will begin Friday's game as the DH. After a couple of plate appearances, he will be replaced by the powerful Evan Gattis, who will most likely continue to draw attention over the next few weeks.
If Gattis impresses with his bat during the Grapefruit League season and proves he can play left field and first base when necessary, the Braves might be tempted to put him on the Opening Day roster. The 26-year-old's defensive skills as a catcher are likely not sound enough for him to play the position on a regular basis. But his offensive potential has given the Braves motivation to attempt to find a potential role for him at the big league level.