Jones remains on lineup card

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First-year Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has spent the off-season toying with his starting lineup, and though some names and positions may change, he said Chipper Jones remains the one constant.

Atlanta Braves first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez (left) and 21-year-old prospect Freddie Freeman, a first baseman, were part of the Braves Caravan tour that made a stop in Evans Tuesday. 
  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Atlanta Braves first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez (left) and 21-year-old prospect Freddie Freeman, a first baseman, were part of the Braves Caravan tour that made a stop in Evans Tuesday.

"I've written many lineups, different combinations since we got Danny Uggla and that group," Gonzalez said. "But I haven't written a lineup without (Jones') name being in it."

Gonzalez spent Tuesday afternoon in Evans signing autographs and meeting fans at Academy Sports & Outdoors during the annual Braves Caravan.

Though spring training is still a few weeks away, the cold rain put the manager's mind on warmer days with a healthy Jones and a club looking to build off of last year's first-round playoff exit.

"As far as goals, we expect to win," he said. "Same thing they've done for the last 15-16 years. I told the guys, 'It's simple. Just keep putting flags out there in left-center in that balcony.' "

Those pennants that line Turner Field came in the Bobby Cox era, which ended with his retirement in October.

"To me, it's an honor and a privilege to be able to follow Bobby," Gonzalez said.

"There's enough pressure in this game without putting that onto yourself. You come in here with a pretty good baseball team we've assembled, and I think we're going to be very competitive."

Jones, who is working to return from August knee surgery, wasn't scheduled to appear with Gonzalez on Tuesday's stop. Instead, the first-year manager brought a younger group of players who, Gonzalez hopes, will become the foundation to a new generation of Braves baseball.

The group included 25-year-old left-handed reliever Jonny Venters, who will enter spring training as a contender for the closer role, and 21-year-old prospect Freddie Freeman, who the Braves hope will become an everyday starter at first base.

The rookie corner infielder spent most of 2010 at the Triple-A level before playing 20 games for Atlanta in September, said he realizes a new season brings a new level of expectations.

"I just want to start. It's been a long, but short off-season and I'm ready to get going," he said.

Several hundred area Braves fans also showed their readiness for another baseball season. The autograph line snaked around the store an hour before prospects Matt Young and Brandon Hicks and assistant general manager Bruce Manno joined Gonzalez, Venters and Freeman at the Braves' table.

Eleven-year-old Augustan Andrew Kent was one of the many children who made it through the line with an autographed ball.

"I already have a baseball with GreenJackets autographs," he said. "But this one I'm going to put on my mantle at home in my living room."


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