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Braves moves appear to be good ones

During the last number of weeks I have been taking a look at some of the Atlanta Braves offseason moves, and I’ll have to say that I am somewhat impressed.

First of all I think the Braves should have much more offensive firepower in their lineup this summer. Troy Glaus, who they signed as a free agent, will replace Adam LaRoche at first base.

While LaRoche really helped the Braves down the stretch last season after they reacquired him from the Boston Red Sox, he has been a notoriously slow starter throughout his career. He always has strong finishes, but he can never seem to get his bat going in April and May.

Glaus, on the other hand, has had consistently strong offensive numbers throughout his career. The question is will he be able to bounce back after missing the majority of last season with the St. Louis Cardinals due to injury. He hit 270 with 27 home runs with the Cardinals 2008.

The 33-year Major League veteran has hit at least 25 home runs in three of the past four seasons. Glaus has played third base most of his career.

The left side of the infield will have a couple of familiar faces. Thirty-seven-year-old veteran third baseman Chipper Jones and slick fielding young Cuban shortstop Yunel Escobar, who hit .299 with a career-high 14 home runs last season.

Martin Prado will be playing his first full season as the Braves starting second baseman in 2010. He came up with many clutch hits for the Braves all last season.

A major key to how the Braves outfield progresses this year could depend on the progress of 20-year-old Jason Heyward, who is rated the game’s No. 1 prospect by MLB.com.

He will be given every opportunity to win the starting right field position during spring training, and if he does, the outfield, with Nate McClouth in center and Matt Diaz or Melky Cabrera, obtained from the New York Yankees, could be pretty potent offensively and defensively.

The starting pitching appears solid with Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens all returning. And with All-Star catcher Brian McCann back to handle the pitching staff, they should be even more of a strength.

Another off-season acquisition I am very excited about is the signing of left-handed, fire-balling closer Billy Wagner. If he has completely recovered from surgery and able to return to the form he had when be was recognized as possibly the top closer in the game while closing for the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, the Braves bullpen could be a major strength.

You can’t talk about the Braves without mentioning their inspirational leader and future Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox. He has announced his retirement effective following the 2010 season and I wish him nothing but the best. His teams have brought me and a lot of other Braves fans untold hours of enjoyment through the years.

It is just a matter of days until pitchers and catchers report to all major league baseball spring training camps and just a matter of a few weeks until entire rosters will be at camps in Florida and Arizona. I can hardly wait.