The Braves Report - April 11

The Braves have the best record in baseball with a 7-1 mark.

ATLANTA BRAVES

INSIDE PITCH

Spring training may be over, but the Braves' infield practice is not. And the sessions aren't limited to just rehabbing and bench players.

Now that the Braves are home and the wind-chill factor has dissipated, starting infielders and backups alike are on the field from 2 p.m. on, taking groundballs hit by coaches Glenn Hubbard and Brian Snitker, and even by retired bullpen coach Bobby Dews, now a special instructor.

Second baseman Kelly Johnson, a converted outfielder (after having been converted from shortstop), continues the workouts he went through so diligently all winter with Hubbard. But veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria is out there, too, acclimating himself to his new double-play partner.

Utility man Pete Orr and Chris Woodward take part -- they need to, as little playing time as they get. Not to mention how uncomfortable Woodward has looked at second base in the two games in which he has played defense.

Infielder Willy Aybar, on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right hand, has been working out at short. He has been taking groundballs for a week or so; now he is throwing to first with some authority.

Most interesting the other day was backup catcher Brayan Pena taking grounders at third base. Center fielder Andruw Jones had been known to position himself in the infield during batting practice, just for fun. Pena taking early, extra work at third is no laughing matter.

Veteran third baseman Chipper Jones is fine, but the Braves want credible backups at every position, just in case. They didn't need to lose left-hander Mike Hampton -- again -- to understand that.

The workouts are also another sign that manager Bobby Cox is expecting low-scoring games where pitching and defense will have to carry the day.


BRAVES 8, NATIONALS 3: Left-hander Chuck James's biggest problem in Wednesday's drizzle was waiting out the lengthy top of each inning. Third baseman Chipper Jones finally drove in a run -- two of them, in fact -- with his first home run of the season. Center fielder Andruw Jones capped the night with a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Lance Cormier threw from a distance of 115 feet Wednesday, up from his 90-foot tosses two days earlier. He didn't time the session or the number of tosses, but it was enough for him to work up a sweat. Cormier is on the disabled list due to a sore right shoulder.
--RF Jeff Francoeur continues to look awkward at the plate, the result of his altered batting stance still feeling new to him, but he is getting the results he wants lately -- like Tuesday's career-high-tying five-RBI game -- which is more important than how the swing looks.
--3B Chipper Jones drove in his first run of the season with a first-inning, two-run homer Wednesday. He did, however, have a .406 on-base percentage coming into the game.
--The Braves' 7-1 record in their first eight games came despite the fact that only in the last two games -- against the Nationals -- did they out-hit an opponent.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Number of runs by which the Mets beat the Braves in the home opener at Turner Field, the worst home opener loss since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you're gonna get beat you might as well get the snot knocked out of you." -- Right-fielder Jeff Francoeur after the Braves lost their home opener to the Mets 11-1.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:
RHP Lance Cormier (stiff shoulder) went on the disabled list retroactive to March 31. He threw from 115 feet on April 11.

LHP Mike Hampton (torn flexor tendon in left elbow) had surgery April 10 and is out for the season.

RHP Tanyon Sturtze (right shoulder) opened the season on the disabled list.

INF Willy Aybar (sprained right hand) opened the season on the disabled list.

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