The Atlanta Braves made one of the biggest headlines of the offseason late last week when they got Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player trade. The deal means Justin will be playing with brother B.J. in Atlanta this season, giving the Braves a prolific outfield that manager Fredi Gonzalez wishes he could start working with tomorrow.
Fredi Gonzalez joined WCNN in Atlanta with Buck and Kincade to discuss using Andrelton Simmons in the leadoff role, the Braves’ trading for Justin Upton, seeing Justin and B.J. Upton in the same lineup together, the leadership role on his team, what is going to happen at third base and the potential to have three Gold Glove outfielders.
It appears Andrelton Simmons might be your leadoff hitter. Could that put too much pressure on him?:
“I think that it’s not even any pressure there. He’s just got to look behind, over his shoulder, and he’s got some pretty good hitters behind him. So, you know what, if he doesn’t hit there, where does he hit? Eighth again? And then who leads off is the next question. … This is Jan. 28, so the lineup’s there, but it can change.”
When you talk to baseball people about B.J. and Justin Upton, what do you hear about them?:
“I hear they’re great kids. We’ve done our research, and even to this day, I’ve called guys that have coached them in Arizona and Tampa, and also the clubhouse guys here in Atlanta, we always check with those guys because those people know everything. … Everybody came up with some raving reviews.”
Do you think those guys playing on the same team will bring out the best in both of them?:
“I think so. I think it will. I know they’re really excited about doing that, playing with each other. They haven’t done that, I think, since B.J. was a senior in high school and Justin was a freshman in high school. I think it’ll be a good thing, I really do. … I’m really looking forward to seeing them play.”
Do you have any concern about a void in veteran leadership?:
“It naturally evolves. When you get together for six and a half weeks of spring training, that’ll take care of itself. We’re bringing in two quality young men, so we’re not worried about that at all. I think we have people within the team, within the locker room, that are leaders, that have been watching. … McCann is a guy who is more than capable of being the guy. Jason Heyward is growing into that type of guy. Even B.J. Upton and Justin Upton, why can’t they come in and be leaders?”
On the health of McCann:
“I’ve been hearing a lot of great things, from him also. He tells me he is going to be ready to go for Opening Day, which that doesn’t surprise me, the way he likes to compete, the way he wants to be out there and the … season last year that he had. … He wasn’t the Brian McCann from the past. So I know that he’s itching. I think that spring training will tell us a lot.”
You had to give up Martin Prado in the Upton deal. What’s going on at third base with Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco?:
“In spring training, we’ll take care of that, I think. … We’re kind of thinking maybe platoon them. Chris Johnson is a guy that’s been able to hit in the big leagues. … He knows baseball and he can play a little defense. We know Juan Francisco, with his pop. He did a nice job for us and gave Chipper a day off.”
And having the Uptons and Heyward in a big outfield:
“If Roger’s pitchers keep those opposing hitters in the ballpark, these guys should be able to catch it. These three guys, I wouldn’t be surprised at the end of the year if two out of the three or three out of the three may win Gold Gloves. They have that type of ability.”