Kimbrel plans to pitch for Team USA

NASHVILLE — Craig Kimbrel is planning to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in March, meaning the All-Star closer could miss a couple of weeks of Braves spring training if Team USA advances to the championship round.

Braves pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 11, and their Grapefruit League opener is Feb. 22. Team USA’s players will have a March 4-6 training camp before playing first-round games March 8-10 in Phoenix.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said he didn’t think it would be a problem, and that there would be plenty of communication with a Team USA staff that includes manager Joe Torre and three former Braves as coaches: Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux and Gerald Perry. Maddux will serve as pitching coach.

“I think we’re coming in early enough [for spring training] that by the time they have to actually perform [in the WBC], you feel pretty good about it,” Wren said. “And I probably feel better about a closer than a starter in this case. …

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While looking for bats, Braves fortify ‘pen

NASHVILLE — While the Braves still need to find a left fielder to round out their lineup, they’ve already made moves this winter to assure their bullpen remains one of baseball’s best. If they had gotten past the wild card game and into the meat of the postseason this past season, I think we would have seen how important that bullpen would’ve been in helping them advance.

In Walden, the Braves have added another to the collection of power arms in their strong bullpen.

In Walden, the Braves have added another to the collection of power arms in their strong bullpen.

Alas, the Braves kicked the ball around in a terrible inning and never recovered in a wild-card loss to the Cardinals. So the bullpen wasn’t a factor in the biggest game of the year.

But that shouldn’t make the ‘pen any less of a priority as they prepare for 2013, and it hasn’t.

The trade of Tommy Hanson for reliever Jordan Walden last week gave the Braves another power arm for back-end depth that should help manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell avoid overworking closer Craig Kimbrel and setup …

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Teheran, Delgado available if trade ’significant’

NASHVILLE – The free-agent field thinned some and Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t seem any closer to acquiring a left fielder after his first 24 hours at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. But he didn’t sound overly concerned.

Braves front-office officials spent Monday morning poring over (again) lists of all outfielders in every organization who could play left field and preferably bat leadoff, then narrowing it down to players realistically available.

The list was not extensive, and Wren said those remaining free agents who fit the description ranked below trade options for various reasons. That included price in some cases.

For example, the Braves have interest in free agent Shane Victorino, but not as long as the 31-year-old is asking for a contract as big as the four-year, $40 million deal that San Francisco re-signed Angel Pagan to on Monday. Pagan was another free-agent targeted by the Braves.

Wren didn’t name any specific trade possibilities remaining on the …

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Braves sign Janish to 1-year contract

NASHVILLE – The Braves quietly avoided arbitration with backup infielder Paul Janish, signing the veteran earlier in the offseason to a one-year contract believed to be worth a little less than $1 million.

The deal went unannounced and came about after Janish agreed to put off having shoulder surgery so he would potentially be available to play for the Braves if they advanced deep into the postseason.

He had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder soon after their loss to St. Louis in the NL wild card game. Braves general manager Frank Wren said Janish might be back by late April, but they won’t have a better idea of the timetable until spring training.

Janish hit just .186 with a .269 on-base percentage and career-worst .502 OPS in 55 games for the Braves, but was a valuable contributor with steady defense at shortstop while filling in for injured rookie Andrelton Simmons. The Braves got Janish from Cincinnati in a trade after Simmons broke his hand sliding in the last …

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Braves will look for LF at Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE – After the Braves signed free agent B.J. Upton last week, manager Fredi Gonzalez noted the range of the new center fielder and Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward and joked, ‘We may not even need a left fielder.”

Of course the Braves do need a left fielder, and they will continue to search for one during the major league Winter Meetings that begin Monday at the sprawling Opryland Resort.

With previously targeted Minnesota outfielder Denard Span off the board after being traded to Washington, the Braves don’t view leadoff-hitting ability as a requirement, since available and attractive options already are limited.

“I think there’s other options out there,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who arrived in Nashville with his top assistants on Sunday. “We’ll have a good chance to evaluate all of them because now we’re down to very few needs.”

Left field and a couple of bench spots are what the Braves need to fill, and indications are that have a total of about …

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Braves trade Hanson to Angels, cut ties with Jurrjens

Pitchers Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens have been in career-decline mode since the 2011 All-Star break, and by the end of the day Friday both were ex-Braves.

The Braves traded Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday for hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden, and non-tendered Jurrjens before Friday’s deadline for teams to offer contracts to their unsigned arbitration-eligible players.

Atlanta reliever Peter Moylan was also non-tendered. He and Jurrjens are now free agents and the Braves haven’t ruled out re-signing Moylan, perhaps to a minor-league deal.

The Hanson trade clears up more than $3 million in payroll that could help the Braves fill their remaining needs in left field and a couple of bench spots. But general manager Frank Wren said money wasn’t the reason for the trade.

He said it was about opening a rotation spot for one of the Braves young starters. Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado might now compete for the fifth spot in the rotation behind  Kris Medlen, Tim …

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Newest Brave Upton excited about fresh start

B.J. Upton finalized a five-year, $75.25 million contract with the Braves makes him the highest-paid player in franchise history, but his dad Manny was most pleased that he signed with Atlanta, a short flight from the family’s home in Chesapeake, Va.

“Put a little word in Frank’s ear so we can get the other one here,” Manny Upton said after a news conference Thursday at Turner Field, where center fielder B.J. donned a Braves jersey and posed for pictures with his new manager, Fredi Gonzalez, and general manager Frank Wren, who gave him the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

Manny and Yvonne Upton were smiling, proud parents on the day their 28-year-old son put Tampa Bay behind him and started with a clean slate and a team that moved aggressively.

The “other one” that Manny Upton spoke of bringing to Atlanta? That’s Justin Upton, 25, the Diamondbacks slugger who finished fourth in MVP balloting in 2011 and has been mentioned in trade rumors that Arizona general …

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Braves sign Upton to 5-year, $75 million deal

The Braves made baseball’s first big offseason move when they agreed to terms with former Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton on a five-year contract worth $75.25 million, the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

The deal was agreed to Wednesday and became official Thursday after Upton passed a physical exam. He will be introduced at a 2 p.m. Thursday news conference at Turner Field.

Upton had already changed the avatar on his Twitter page to a Braves script “A” by early Wednesday evening, long before the Braves made an announcement.

Upton, 28, has spent his entire career with the Rays and hit .246 with a personal-best 28 homers along with 31 stolen bases in 2012. He will provide the Braves a badly needed right-handed presence in the middle of the lineup and team with right fielder Jason Heyward to give them a pair with the potential to go 30-30 (homers and stolen bases).

In a press release announcing the signing on Thursday, Braves general manager Frank Wren …

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Braves get nearly $20K per man for Wild Card

The Braves only played one game in the postseason, but every player who helped them get there received nearly $20,000 as a share of the players’ postseason pool.

For reaching the Wild Card Game against St. Louis, Braves players got a total of $980,452.04, which they distributed in 46 full shares of $19,609, and four partial shares.

The World Series champion San Francisco Giants handed out 50 full shares of $377,002.64 apiece, topping the previous record of $362,173 per share for the 2006 Cardinals. AL champion Detroit handed out 48 full shares worth $284,274.50.

The players from every postseason team vote how to distribute their portion of the postseason pie, often giving full shares to every player who spent time on the major league roster during the season, along with full or partial shares for some team employees such as clubhouse attendants.

The players’ pool is funded by gate receipts from postseason games, including 50 percent of the receipts from wild card games, 60 …

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Bossman Junior, El Oso Blanco & other matters

While we wait for a decision as soon as this week from the guy with the second-best nickname currently associated with a Brave or potential Brave, free-agent center fielder B.J. “Bossman Junior” Upton, let’s consider the ongoing winter-ball performance in Venezuala by the guy with the even better nickname, Evan Gattis, aka “El Oso Blanco” (The White Bear).

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear), in a recent Venezuelan Winter League game.

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear), in a recent Venezuelan Winter League game. Notice the lack of batting gloves. (AP photo)

(Coincidentally and apropos of nothing, there are El Oso Blanco supermarkets in Miami and the Tampa area, where Bossman Junior has spent his major league career until now with the Rays.)

While we’re on the subject, just imagine a Bossman Junior and El Oso Blanco (along with a J-Hey) in the same outfield some day. Hey, it might not be so far-fetched, considering the Braves and Phillies are believed to be frontrunners for Upton, and considering Gattis is once again answering the latest …

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