Atlanta Braves baseball is finally back. The cold, brutal offseason seemed even longer than usual given the awful taste the club left in our mouths following their epic collapse last September, but now Atlanta will finally get a chance to get back to playing their game on the diamond. Their first foes of the 2012 season: the New York Mets.
The Mets were among the worst teams in the league last season. Their roster was depleted by injuries for most of the year and they felt the effects of a change in ownership. They will be sending ace Johan Santana to the mound after missing all of 2011 with injury, and all eyes will be on the former All-Star as he attempts to revamp his career.
As for the lineup, New York no longer has Jose Reyes serving as a catalyst at the top of the order, but they should still score some runs assuming they can stay healthy.
David Wright battled a few injuries this spring, but the third baseman is determined to re-discover his swing after struggling a bit in 2011. Ike Davis will return to the lineup after missing most of last year with an ankle injury. Jason Bay has not lived up to his high paycheck since joining the club in 2010, but he remains a solid hitter with some pop left in his bat.
Andres Torres and Daniel Murphy will look to set the table at the top of the lineup. Outfielder Lucas Duda may not be a big name around the league as of right now, but the kid really impressed last season and looks primed for a breakout year. Look for him to bat fifth or sixth this weekend.
Neither Josh Thole nor Ruben Tejada will hit for much power at the bottom of the order, but both do a very nice job getting on base at a high frequency. Keeping them off the bases will be key for the pitching staff as the lineup turns over.
This Mets lineup isn't the toughest the Braves will face in 2012, but they're hardly as bad as the reputation they typically get from analysts.
Pitching Matchups, Start Times:
Thursday, 1:10 ET - Tommy Hanson vs. Johan Santana
Saturday, 1:10 ET - Jair Jurrjens vs. R.A. Dickey
Sunday, 1:10 ET - Mike Minor vs. Jon Niese
SportSouth will broadcast all three games live with Chip Caray and Joe Simpson in the booth. For those in the New York area, SNY will have the coverage.
Yay baseball! It's finally back. We missed you. Let's make this season one to remember in Atlanta.