New Atlanta manager takes charge

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. --- Fredi Gonzalez kept tossing and turning. Finally, at a quarter 'til 4, he climbed from bed and started getting dressed.

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Fredi Gonzalez watches the Braves during his first spring training as their manager. Former manager Bobby Cox showed up for the team's first day.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Fredi Gonzalez watches the Braves during his first spring training as their manager. Former manager Bobby Cox showed up for the team's first day.

It was time to head to the ballpark. Never mind that sunrise was still hours away.

The Atlanta Braves' new manager was clearly eager for the start of spring training Tuesday, and he wasted no time putting his stamp on the team after taking over for Bobby Cox.

Instead of doing most of their work in the main stadium of the Walt Disney World complex, the Braves split into groups and made use of four fields beyond the outfield walls. There was a little confusion at first, but the players quickly figured out where they were supposed to be.

"We've got to get used to it," pitcher Jair Jurrjens said. "In a couple of days, when we get used to it, it's going to be fun."

Gonzalez was too pumped up about the first day of spring training to fret about a slight hiccup, which he attributed to the signs numbering the fields being different from what the coaches had on their charts. Everyone did their necessary work and wrapped things up in less than three hours.

"It went really, really well," Gonzalez said. "We got in our reps, and everybody walked off the field under their own power."

The first day was limited to pitchers, catchers and players who ended last season on the disabled list, such as Chipper Jones and Martin Prado.

It also included the former manager. Cox, who retired after leading the Braves to 15 playoff appearances in his two-decade-long managing career, turned up at 6 a.m. to wish his successor well. He returned later in the morning to watch some of the young pitchers on a back field.

Asked whether he missed managing, Cox shook his head.

"No, because I'm still part of it," he said. "It doesn't feel any different to me."

Gonzalez said he's eager to get Cox back in his familiar No. 6 uniform during spring training, and even joked about getting him to throw some batting practice.

After about 15 minutes of calisthenics and some half-speed running, they players split into their assigned groups and scattered over the four back fields.

"This is the way they've been accustomed to running spring training, where they had multiple fields available," general manager Frank Wren said. "They can get in a lot of repetitions, a lot of work done on multiple fields. Fredi asked if there was any reason not to do it, and we told him, 'No, it's up to you guys. However you want to run spring training.' They want to run it this way, so that's great."

Gonzalez met with the team before the workout, but he'll save his big talk for Saturday, before the first full-squad workout.

He joked about making a "Knute Rockne speech," but said it won't be anything dramatic.

"The goal here doesn't change," he said. "It's to win championships."

Jones returns to field

Third baseman Chipper Jones took grounders and got in some swings on the first day of spring training, a significant step in his recovery from major knee surgery.

Until Tuesday, Jones had only taken swings in the batting cage beneath Turner Field. But he went out on the field with pitchers and catchers, reporting no major problems after fielding about 40 grounders and taking around the same number of swings. There were no apparent signs of discomfort.

"The knee is not 100 percent. There's no way around that," he said. "I don't know when it's going to be. But if I'm 80 to 90 percent, I still think I can go out there and play good third base and still be a factor at the plate."

-- Associated Press


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