Posted: 11:20 am Monday, March 31st, 2014

LIVE BLOG: 5 questions going into Braves’ season 

By Jeff Schultz

Ready or not, It's opening day for the Braves.

Ready or not, It’s opening day for the Braves.

MILWAUKEE — Let me start with this: I walked into Miller Park at the same time as Julio Teheran and his arm was not in a sling. So at least one projected Braves’ starter made it to opening day healthy.

Is he ready? Is this team ready?

To quote manager Fredi Gonzalez, when asked how he felt about his team, “Good. Good. I feel good. Whether I do or not isn’t going to matter. The season opens on Monday. Here we go.”

It’s opening day in Milwaukee.

Why does it feel like the Braves already are in a hole?

From Gonzalez before the game when asked how he slept last night: “I slept like a baby. Slept three hours and woke up crying.”

He was joking. I think

Here are five story lines going into this series and this season:

Julio Teheran: Sudden No. 1 starter.

Julio Teheran: Sudden No. 1 starter.

1. Is Julio Teheran ready for this? I reference this in a MyAJC column linked here. But if Teheran, the unlikely opening day starter after season-ending injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, can open the season with a strong outing, it would ease concerns about the team’s rotation. (At least, temporarily.) Teheran had a great rookie season (14-8, 3.20) but this is the most pressure he’ll face, other than in last year’s divisional playoff disaster in Los Angeles (six runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings of a 13-6 loss). Pitching coach Roger McDowell on Teheran: “He has great athleticism. He has that extra gear that he’s able to go to during the course of a game. He can pitch it 90-to-92, then go to 94-to-96 in a hurry. And he’s still learning. He has that quote/unquote potential (to be an ace) and tremendous drive.”

Dan Uggla: Bounce back or bust again?

Dan Uggla: Bounce back or bust again?

2. Who would you bet on: Uggla or Upton? Dan Uggla hit .179 last season. B.J. Upton hit .184. Will 2014 represent a bounce-back season for both or will it be more of the same? Given the uncertainty in the rotation, it seems safe to assume the team will need more offense, and therefore they’ll need more from Uggla and Upton. According to the online odds site Bovada, the over/under on Uggla’s batting average for this season is .220. The over/under for Upton: .230. Other over/unders: Freddie Freeman (.305, 25½ homers, 103½ RBIs); Jason Heyward (21½ HRs, 94½ RBIs); Justin Upton (.279, 26½ HRs); Evan Gattis (23½ HRs); Chris Johnson (.299); Julio Teheran (13½ wins); Mike Minor (13½ wins); Ervin Santana (9½ wins); Craig Kimbrel (46½ saves).

Jason Heward: Back in the leadoff spot.

Jason Heward: Back in the leadoff spot.

3. Can Heyward replicate 2013 (the healthy part)? Heyward — when he wasn’t sidelined because of a broken jaw (hit by a pitch) or an emergency appendectomy — saved the Braves last season with his performance as a leadoff hitter (.322). The Braves need that again because there’s no obvious replacement if something goes wrong. (Next options: Andrelton Simmons or Ramiro Pena, when he returns). The biggest question mark in the lineup: Upton batting second. But manager Fredi Gonzalez won’t hesitate to make changes if/when it’s necessary. Today’s lineup: Heyward (9), B.J. Upton (8), Freeman (3), Chris Johnson (5), Justin Upton (7), Uggla (4), Evan Gattis (2), Simmons (6), Teheran (1).

4. Is Gattis ready to take over? The bigger question is not whether he can follow-up on his offensive miracle moments of a year ago but whether he is ready to take over as the starting catcher, after the free agency departure of Brian McCann. We can debate whether the organization really believes he’s ready for this or if the McCann decision was based solely on economics. At the very least, they team needs a potential bridge for prospect Christian Bethancourt. The absence of Medlen and Beachy and the fact three young pitchers (Teheran, Alex Wood, David Hale) all are in the early four-man rotation puts even more pressure on Gattis’s performance behind the plate.

Ryan Braun: liar, cheater, back from suspension.

Ryan Braun: liar, cheater, back from suspension.

5. Will Ryan Braun face plant? I’ll finish with this just because the Braves open against Milwaukee. Serial liar and PED-user Ryan Braun returns from a 65-game suspension. He has never really showed remorse for his actions and many probably won’t forgive him. But if he continues to hit home runs as a “clean” player, expect him to be embraced as a conquering hero in Milwaukee, even if he’s booed elsewhere (similar to Barry Bonds when he was in San Francisco). The big question is whether Braun can replicate the numbers he put up as an MVP in 2011 (.332, 33, 111) and MVP runner-up in 2012 (.319, 41, 112). Personally, I’d be fine if he hits .118. I’m not big on liars and cheaters.

OK, that’s it for now. I’ll be here during the game if you want to chat, old live-blog style.

A few recent ramblings, on replay . . .
– MyAJC: Strong opener by Teheran would ease some Braves’ concerns
– MyAJC ($): Injuries means Braves have little margin for error
– MyAJC ($): NCAA needs to take the hint, start paying players
– Blog: Mike Mills’ song pushes Dale Murphy for Hall of Fame
– MyAJC ($): Did Dimitroff lose benefit of doubt after bad season?
– Blog: Dimitroff on Falcons, failure, his draft board and Umenyiora
– Blog: Mercer (Georgia’s shining light) stuns Duke
– MyAJC ($): SEC needs to go to nine-game schedule, eliminate cupcakes
– Blog: SEC needs to expand conference schedule (column preview)
– MyAJC ($): Richt has been tough, even if some haven’t noticed
– Blog: More arrests at UGA, and Herbstreit jumps Richt
– Blog: NFL must deal with Irsay (and Roddy White has his say)
– MyAJC ($):Georgia loses but Fox goes down swinging at NCAA
– MyAJC ($): Florida proving football school can win at hoops
– Blog: Bad sign? Florida struggles in win over Tennessee
– MyAJC ($): Georgia is given its chance to shine
– MyAJC ($): Page 2 special: College playoff arguments don’t make it wrong
– MyAJC ($): Falcons’ makeover has nice start but there’s more to do
– Blog: Braves make move for Santana, credit to Wren
– Blog: Falcons’ moves should improve both lines
– Blog: Braves now being bit by offseason decisions
82 comments
Savdon
Savdon

Wail hail.  See y'all next time.

Baghead
Baghead

This is what it looks like when you build a team on big arms and glamour.  What a joke.  Typical Atlanta Braves offense.  Uggs and BJ are comical.  

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Please bat Blue Job 9th, the pitchers have a better average then he does, IF and that is " IF " he ever gets a hit or on base, then it will be like he is leading off !

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

Yikes, very ho hum at the plate.  BJ and Uggla 0 for everything (well - Uggla did get the FC in the 9th), closely followed by a lost looking Gattis.  And that ladies and gentlemen appears to be the crux of the early season issues - getting those 3 going.  Doesn't help that the lone mistake made at 3rd cost us a run but getting shutout by a marginally good Brew-crew stings...

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

And that is how the season begins boys and girls!

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Shut out on opening day.............o well go get them tomorrow Braves! 161 left! I for one was sure we were not going to go undefeated............:)

cmac22
cmac22

Way to hustle up the line in the 8th inning Freeman ..... NOT!!!

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

Barves R loosing. I done told U all they were domed this season. Domed 2 loss

kerryb
kerryb

The Braves cannot hit this starting pitcher for the Brewers.  They faced him last year when he had almost a .500 season and they made him look like Cy Young and he is looking like it again today.

JSSN
JSSN

Fredi may have finally found his calling: "the replay challenge!" 

kerryb
kerryb

Has anyone yet seen anything different from Upton and Uggla today that we didn't see last season?

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Schafer to hit instead,

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Doumit on deck to hit for Teheran

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Kinsler coming in to pitch for Brewers. Gallardo: 6 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 4 Ks.92 pitches.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Fredi Gonzalez with his first challenge in Brewers' 6th. Ump says safe. Braves: out. Replay says: out. Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! That took only 58 seconds.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

We've got a challenge! We've got a challenge! (I think he was out but it's close)

jschultz
jschultz moderator

I don't want to seem like I'm panicking or anything but it's quite possible the Braves will never score a run this season.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

The new B.J. Upton is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Calel
Calel

DAMN! He failed...............


Calel
Calel

BJ's first big test of the year..........

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Teheran limits damage to 2 runs after walk-single-double. That lack of panic is worth something.

p-h-i-l
p-h-i-l

The fix is in so Selig can win the last home opener before he retires...jk

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Aramis Ramirez 2-run double in 4th off Teheran, Braves trail 2-0.

p-h-i-l
p-h-i-l

Another season, a few hundred more strikeouts...sigh

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Gallardo has retired seven straight Braves and nine of 10 since walk to open 2nd.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Scooter Gennett. Now that's a baseball name.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Baseball replay rule: Teams get one in first six innings. If they win challenge, they get another. Seventh inning and beyond replay up to crew chief.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Ramirez might've been safe, via replay, but Brewers chose not to use replay challenge

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Great stab and throw to second by Freeman. Double play. Or is it?

Savdon
Savdon


A 15 minute replay delay coming up?

jschultz
jschultz moderator

I've never liked DH but I'm, you know, old.

Calel
Calel

Instant replay is a good addition to baseball, but when the heck are they going to get rid of pitchers hitting? Automatic rally killers--nothing against Teheran. 

StingerSplash
StingerSplash

Seems Jimmy Rollins' Grapefruit League benching is ... bearing fruit. (Cue Roger Daltrey scream and removal of sunglasses from David Caruso's mug).

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Braves have wasted the leadoff man getting on base, and reaching second, in both innings

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

Andrelton Simmons is hitting 1.000 also.

StingerSplash
StingerSplash

Struggla just took a pitch for a strike? Is LaStella ready?

jschultz
jschultz moderator

And on the 12th, he walks.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

That's 11 pitches so far on this at-bat for JUpton

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

Ryan Braun, 

................... Milwaukee's Worst pops out.

Calel
Calel

Big applause for Braun? Wow...

jschultz
jschultz moderator

Ryan Braun cheats. But Brewers fans give him ovation because he's their cheater.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@JSSN

He was not afraid to pull the trigger on that was he...........I could not let it rest.........he was afraid to put the best closer in baseball in in the playoffs in a do or die game...........but game 1 of the season and he jumped off the bench to make sure he got that call?

kerryb
kerryb

@AnsweredTHIS  Every season you watch them it's the same thing.  They can't hit in the clutch with runners on.

Calel
Calel

@jschultz  


In an effort to be PC and optimistic about BJ, I'll say he's "without hit" in three "efforts."


Seriously, this is going to be another long season for him. I see the new batting stance, but that swing looks the same. It's only game one in 162, but this looks like a movie I've seen before--we've all seen before. 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@kerryb @AnsweredTHIS

O so true.......I know its the first game but looks like the SOB's to me.........and no JS that is not cursing it means Same Old Braves.