Batting practice figures to get more interesting once slugger Russell Branyan reports to camp. He's known for tape-measure homers . . . and strikeouts.
Branyan hit 69 homers with a staggering 428 strikeouts in 1,062 major league at-bats over the past four seasons with Cleveland and Cincinnati. He has a .227 career average in parts of six seasons in the majors.
"He's all-or-nothing," Cox said. "Terry [Pendleton, hitting coach] will try to get him to make more contact."
Branyan is a non-roster invitee whose power could get him consideration for a job as a pinch-hitter and reserve corner infielder and outfielder.
AJC wrote:Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- There might be one thing -- and one only -- that Braves third baseman Mark DeRosa misses about being a bench player.
"I won't have the luxury of eating a turkey sandwich and peanut butter cups in the middle of a game," said DeRosa, who developed that in-game routine while serving as a utility infielder the past few seasons.
Now he's penciled in as the third baseman, and can't take a mid-innings snack or quick round of batting practice before a late-innings substitution.
But those are minor luxuries that he'll happily forgo for the chance to play every day at one position.
Third baseman Vinny Castilla wasn't re-signed and the Braves said the job is DeRosa's to lose. Since he's no longer required to work at other positions, he's able to focus daily on the finer aspects of playing third base.
"It's a position I feel comfortable at," he said, "but I've got to learn the intangibles. You saw Vinny, how he was always in the right position. That's just from years of playing third, knowing the hitters and pitchers."
DeRosa, 29, asks plenty of questions of coaches Terry Pendleton and Glenn Hubbard, and Chipper Jones, who played third before Castilla.
"The biggest thing for anybody to get better at something is, to be able to work at it," Pendleton said. "He just needs repetitions, seeing how the ball comes off the bat, learning how guys pitch to different guys, where to play on bunts for different pitchers. [John] Smoltz may get to a bunt and make a play that [Kevin] Gryboski might not make.
"DeRo was an average defensive player. When he gets to play every day at one position, I think he can be better."
He needn't look over his shoulder or worry about being replaced if he makes a few mistakes. But that's not the way DeRosa, a .278 career hitter with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs in 666 at-bats, is approaching it.
"I think the team is pretty much set, but decisions can change," said DeRosa, who looks around and sees others with third-base potential, including former Cardinal Eli Marrero and journeyman Russ Branyan.
"I know what they're capable of. I came up with Russ and watched him hit 40 home runs two years in a row. I saw what Eli's done with St. Louis."
The Braves have enough confidence in DeRosa that they didn't try to re-sign Castilla or pursue another third baseman this winter.
"He can do it," said veteran first baseman Julio Franco. "DeRo's strong; he was a football player. He's got a good body and he works hard, on and off the field. It's nice to see him get a chance."
A three-year starting quarterback at the University of Pennsylvania, DeRosa was selected by the Braves in the seventh round of the 1996 draft. He spent three seasons in the minors before a September 1998 callup.
He didn't get more than 13 at-bats in a season with Atlanta until 2001, and an ankle injury the following season slowed his progress.
Last season, he hit .263 with six homers and started 54 games, 18 at third.