Orioles Preview - Page 47 - The Braves

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The Braves

Associated Press

 

Freddie Freeman believes the Phillies, Nationals and Mets made so many moves this offseason because they wanted to catch up to the 2018NLEast champion Braves.

 

But if hype matters, those division rivals already passed the Braves, who may find it more difficult to repeat as division champs than it was to surprise everybody last season

 

The Braves face new challenges from the division’s impressive wave of new talent, led by the Phillies’ Bryce Harper, the Nationals’ Patrick Corbin and the Mets’ Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano.

 

Freeman just wants to remind fans the Braves haven’t gone away.

 

“The East is crazy,” Freeman said. “It’s going to be a fight to the end. A lot of people are talking about everybody else, and they forget we won 90 games and got better.”

 

The Braves gave third baseman Josh Donaldson, the 2015 ALMVP, a one-year, $23 million deal, signed catcher Brian McCann for one year and re-signed right fielder Nick Markakis.

 

The Donaldson signing came soon after the World Series. After that, the Braves were mostly quiet. Fans kept hoping general manager Alex Anthopoulos would make more news. But Freeman doesn’t agree with the perception the Braves didn’t do enough to keep pace. He said the perception would be different if the team’s few additions had come later in the offseason.

 

Freeman, who finished fourth in the 2018 NL MVP voting, may hit between Donaldson and Ronald Acuna, last season’s NL rookie of the year. Manager Brian Snitker has the option of using Acuna as the cleanup or leadoff hitter.

 

The lineup should be strong if Donaldson can remain healthy and Markakis can come close to his 2018 first-half production.

 

Ultimately, the Braves’ hopes may rest on a rotation that caused concern in the spring.

 

For openers, it’s Teheran — again: The Braves enter the season without All-Star right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who is bothered by a sore elbow. A healthy Foltynewicz would have been the starter for the opener in Philadelphia. Instead, Snitker announced Julio Teheran would make his sixth straight opening-day start. It’s a vindication of sorts for Teheran, who was left off the postseason rotation last year.

 

New faces: Atlanta is counting on a bounce back season from Donaldson, 32, who had shoulder and calf injuries last season and played only 52 games with the Blue Jays and Indians. McCann, 35, isn’t really a new face. He played his first nine seasons with the Braves before three seasons with the Yankees and two with the Astros. He’ll share the catching job with Tyler Flowers, who similarly split time with Kurt Suzuki the last two years.

 

Rookies to watch: Right-handers Touki Toussaint or Kyle Wright could make the rotation. Mike Sorokamay have been near the top of the list of rookie candidates to win a starting job before he suffered a shoulder injury. He also had a shoulder problem that ended his 2018 season.

 

Clubhouse chemistry: Donaldson brings more than a powerful right-handed bat. He also brings a reputation for adding energy to a clubhouse, which shortstop Dansby Swanson says the Braves need.

 

“A lot of us are a little narrow, straight edge, and he’s not necessarily that way, which is awesome because it provides a different perspective,” Swanson said.

 

Photo: Freddie Freeman, left, and Josh Donaldson provide big bats in the middle of the order.

 

JOHN RAOUX/AP