Braves camp opens with cold weather

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It didn't feel very spring-like out, but the Atlanta Braves officially got spring training started Friday with the first workout for pitchers and catchers.

Atlanta Braves players run during warmups on the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers Friday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Visa issues are keeping reliever Rafael Soriano out of camp.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Atlanta Braves players run during warmups on the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers Friday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Visa issues are keeping reliever Rafael Soriano out of camp.

Morning temperatures in the lower 40s and a daytime high that struggled to top 50 were the buzz at Disney World as Atlanta's revamped and improved pitching staff threw batting practice and bullpen sessions.

"Everything went well. Everybody got their work in," second-year pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "Trying to stay warm was the biggest task of the day."

Added manager Bobby Cox: "That wind is what gets you."

Cox had no real complaints about anyone, and he noted beleaguered starter Tim Hudson and young left-hander Matt Harrison, a prospect for the rotation's fifth and final spot, as the standouts on the first day.

Cox also raved about the bullpen sessions of the only two pitchers who didn't throw BP, closer Bob Wickman and starter Mike Hampton.

Wickman, 38, has developed his own preparation program and will ease into live batters soon.

Hampton, 34, is being brought back slowly after Tommy John elbow surgery. He's thrown three times since arriving , and Cox said each session, Friday's included, has gone well.

Because of the chilly temperatures, which are expected again today, Cox said new co-setup man Mike Gonzalez is only throwing at about "80 percent" to start out.

STILL NO SORIANO: There was no new word on Gonzalez's setup counterpart, right-hander Rafael Soriano.

Soriano is stuck in the Dominican Republic, awaiting an appointment with a customs agent to validate his visa. That process might take as long as a week.

GREEN KELLY: Second base hopeful Kelly Johnson took a few ground balls from hitters for the first time this spring.

Johnson, 24, has been working for months with former Braves second baseman Glenn Hubbard to learn the position in an attempt to fill the spot vacated by Marcus Giles.

Johnson, who missed last year after elbow surgery, admitted he'll be nervous when it comes to the Grapefruit League games that'll likely determine whether the former shortstop and left fielder can play the position. Cox seems to have faith that he can.

"He can hack it," Cox said. "You'll know when the games start. He'll get used to it."

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.


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