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Colon, Dickey are Braves’ new ‘kids’ to watch this spring

By Charles Odum

AP Sports Writer

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.

MEDLEN AGAIN A BRAVE: Right-hander Kris Medlen has agreed to a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves as he attempts to revive his career with his original team.

The 31-year-old would get a $1 million, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster as part of the deal the team confirmed Tuesday.

He began his career with Atlanta in 2009 and had his best season in 2012, when he was 10-1 with a 1.56 ERA in 12 starts and 38 relief appearances. He won 15 games in 2013 but missed the 2014 season following his second Tommy John surgery. He spent the last two seasons with Kansas City and was limited to six big league games last year because of shoulder problems.

“He will get an opportunity,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “We love the person and the talent.”

Atlanta agreed to contracts with free agents Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey earlier this offseason and acquired Jaime Garcia in a trade.

Julio Teheran returns as the staff ace. Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Josh Collmenter and Aaron Blair will be among others competing for a rotation spot.

Medlen was 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA with Kansas City last season. He is 41-25 with a 3.25 ERA in 75 big league starts and 98 relief appearances.

Ga State hosting 1st game at former Turner Field on Aug. 31

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia State will host its first football game at the stadium formerly known as Turner Field on Aug. 31 against Tennessee State.

The Sun Belt Conference school is now calling the facility Georgia State Stadium. The Panthers will play six home games in 2017, including a non-conference contest against Memphis on Sept. 30.

This will be the third incarnation of the stadium just south of downtown Atlanta.

It was initially known as Centennial Olympic Stadium, an 85,000-seat facility hosting athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies during the 1996 Summer Games.

It was downsized to a 50,000-seat baseball stadium the following year, renamed Turner Field and served for two decades as home of the Atlanta Braves.

Georgia State plans to downsize capacity even further to about 23,000.

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For more AP college football coverage: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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