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Gonzalez to juggle Braves' spring lineups

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Faced with the task of making a multitude of roster decisions, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will spend the next few weeks juggling his lineup in an attempt to get a feel for what Eric Young Jr. and many of his new players can offer.

Young got his first chance to audition for the center-field role when he batted leadoff in Wednesday afternoon's Grapefruit League season opener against the Mets. Over the next few days, the two other top candidates -- Eury Perez and Todd Cunningham -- will get chances to serve as the starting center fielder.

Along with attempting to get a feel for what his players can provide, Gonzalez has to construct his lineups in a manner that will provide his players sufficient rest and also give some of his most seasoned veterans opportunities to miss a few road trips.

Given that the Braves are traveling to Lakeland on Thursday, it certainly was not surprising to see that A.J. Pierzynski was behind the plate for Wednesday's game. Projected starting catcher Christian Bethancourt will continue to earn his stripes when he makes the short drive to catch Julio Teheran during Thursday's contest against the Tigers.

With Andrelton Simmons (sore oblique), Nick Markakis (returning from neck surgery) and Melvin Upton Jr. (left foot injury) all currently sidelined, Gonzalez will take advantage of the chance to provide more innings to some of his other players like Jace Peterson and Zoilo Almonte. During Wednesday's game, Peterson started at shortstop and Almonte was positioned in right field.

Simmons has continued to make steady progress over the past few days, but Gonzalez did not know when his Gold Glove shortstop might be cleared to play. Markakis has spent the past week running and completing other conditioning exercises, but he still has not been on the field in uniform.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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