Colon, Dickey are Braves' new kids to watch this spring
ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Braves' long-term plan hasn't changed. The future still rests on young pitching.
For next week's start of spring training, however, the Braves' new kids to watch will be 40-something right-handers Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey.
Colon, 43, and Dickey, 42, were signed to one-year deals in November to serve as placeholders for the young pitchers. The team also acquired left-hander Jaime Garcia from St. Louis. The three are expected to join ace Julio Teheran in the rotation.
That leaves Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz, Aaron Blair, Josh Collmenter and others to compete for possibly only one rotation spot this spring.
''There are not a lot of spots open, so consequently guys are going to have to go out and prepare and show us we're wrong,'' manager Brian Snitker told The Associated Press. ''There's nothing wrong with that. The competition is good.''
Braves pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday.
The Braves' rebuilding plan gained momentum last season following the trade for left fielder Matt Kemp and the promotion of shortstop Dansby Swanson. Atlanta finished last in the NL East, but it won 50 of its last 97 games, including 20 of its last 30. The strong finish earned Snitker the full-time job after he replaced the fired Fredi Gonzalez on an interim basis.
Colon and Dickey have combined for more than 340 career wins. Their experience should be valuable in spring training.
''What they are going to bring for our young pitchers to watch and see how it's done is going to be just immeasurable,'' Snitker said.
Here are some areas to watch in spring training:
NEW LOOK: New position players include catcher Kurt Suzuki and utility player Sean Rodriguez, who hit 18 homers in 300 at-bats with Pittsburgh last season. Rodriguez can provide depth around the infield and at the corner outfield spots. Suzuki should share time with Tyler Flowers.
ROOKIES TO WATCH: Swanson barely qualifies for rookie of the year consideration after hitting .302 in 129 at-bats. He looked comfortable from the start, showing why he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft by Arizona. Rio Ruiz could have a chance to show he could be an option for Adonis Garcia at third base.
THEY'RE SET: Rodriguez could push Jace Peterson and possibly Micah Johnson, who was acquired from the Dodgers, for the starting job at second base. Every other position appears set. ''We all liked where we were when the season ended,'' Snitker said. ''I think when we traded for Matt and brought Dansby up, it lengthened our lineup and legitimized our lineup.'' The outfield became set with the emergence of Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte, who hit .341 in the second half to finish at .291. He was given a $30,525,000, five-year contract. He joins Kemp and Nick Markakis in the outfield.
THEY'RE NOT: The Braves hope their bullpen is a strong point, but there are concerns. Jim Johnson, successful on 20 of 23 saves chances last season, is the favorite to close games. He was signed to a new two-year deal, but he struggled in 2014 and had a 4.46 ERA with two teams in 2015. Arodys Vizcaino had 10 saves as a rookie last season, but the hard-throwing right-hander had shoulder problems. He is expected to be ready for the start of spring. Another promising right-hander is Mauricio Cabrera, who had six saves as a rookie despite control problems. He issued 19 walks in 38 1/3 innings.
ON DECK: The start of spring training raises anticipation for the opening of SunTrust Park, the $622 million suburban stadium that is surrounded by a complex of retail shops, restaurants, office space, residential areas and a hotel. The team's home opener is April 14 against San Diego.