ATLANTA (AP) — Five things to know about the Atlanta Braves as they start spring training camp:
FRESH STARTS: Two high-priced veterans in need of fresh starts will be in the spotlight. Second baseman Dan Uggla and center fielder B.J. Upton lost their starting jobs last season while hitting below .200. Uggla, who still has two years and $26 million remaining on his contract, has been on an alarming decline, finishing below .240 in three straight seasons.
General manager Frank Wren said Upton may have pressed to show he deserved the biggest free-agent deal in team history — $75.25 million for five years. "We're anxious to see B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, like everyone else," Wren said. "We'd like to see them bounce back. The rest of our club is pretty much the team that won 96 games last year."
FACES OF THE FRANCHISE: Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman were close friends as they rose together through the minor leagues. Now, two years after Chipper Jones' retirement and in the first season after seven-time All-Star Brian McCann signed with the Yankees, they are the new leaders in the lineup.
Freeman was awarded the biggest contract in team history, an eight-year, $135 million deal after only three full seasons. The first baseman hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBIs and finished fifth in the MVP voting last year. Heyward also avoided arbitration when he agreed to a $13.3 million, two-year deal. He had a slow start last season but took off after being moved to the leadoff spot by manager Fredi Gonzalez.
YOUNG GUNS: The departures of two free agents, right-hander Tim Hudson and left-hander Paul Maholm, leave the Braves with a young rotation headed by Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran.