The proposed screaming Indian hat the Braves were supposed to be wearing in spring training was changed at the last minute after it was decided the logo was offensive to Native Americans.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Avoiding a potential controversy before it got started, the Atlanta Braves announced Tuesday that their spring training hat won’t feature a screaming Indian head after all.
The navy blue hats will be adorned with the team’s traditional script “A” logo.
ESPN.com’s Uni Watch leaked photos of all 30 teams’ spring training hats in December, highlighting the Braves’ proposed return to the screaming Indian logo that hasn’t been used since 1989. Many correctly predicted that the team would back away from the idea due to public perception that the logo is demeaning to Native Americans.
“I like the selection we made this year,” Braves president John Schuerholz said Monday of the decision to go with the “A” logo, rather than the screaming Indian. “We had a variety of choices that we looked at, some more thoroughly than others. But at the end, we liked this one.”
Schuerholz then added: “When we made our decisions, we tried to contemplate. We tried to be creative. We tried to carry on the theme of our organization, and we think this script A does that. It is part of the continuum of the uniform look we have. We’ve never had one that looks like this during spring training.”
Baseball teams routinely wear different hats in spring training than in the regular season, giving them another option to sell in ballparks and online.
NEW BRAVES 3B JOHNSON HAS STRANGE CONNECTION TO CHIPPER:Talk about a small world.
New Atlanta Brave Chris Johnson, the potential replacement for Chipper Jones at third base, played for Pete Dunn, Chipper Jones’ godfather, at Stetson University.
Now he will take over, at least part-time, for the Braves’ retired future Hall of Famer.
“Got some shoes to fill,” said Johnson, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks along with OF Justin Upton. “I’m going to do the best I can and try to just make sure that I play Chris Johnson’s game and obviously not Chipper Jones’ game.”
Johnson, who could platoon with Juan Francisco, hit .281 with 15 homers and 76 RBI last year for the Houston Astros and Diamondbacks.
NOTHING MINOR ABOUT MINOR: LHP Mike Minor had a respectable record in this first full season, going 11-10 with a 4.12 ERA. However, it is his work in September that really has the Braves excited about what he can do in 2013.
Minor, who turned 25 in December, was 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA in five September starts. The key for the 2009 first-round draft choice was trusting in his fastball and going right after hitters. He had 28 strikeouts in 31 innings during September and held opponents to a .129 average.
HEYWARD LOOKS TO JOIN .300 CLUB: RF Jason Heyward, who had a bounce-back third season in 2012, is expecting to build off that in 2013. He had career bests with 63 extra-base hits, 27 homers, 82 RBI, 93 runs and 21 stolen bases while winning his first Gold Glove.
However, Heyward’s batting average was .269 — just below the .277 he hit as a rookie in 2010. The Braves hope that Heyward, who retooled his swing after hitting .227 in 2011, can get his average up close to .300 this season and think he will thrive playing in an outfield with B.J. Upton and Justin Upton.
LAIRD PREPARED: C Gerald Laird, signed as a free agent, spent time at the Braves’ early workouts in Atlanta so he could get familiar with some of the pitchers. Laird, who will start the season as a regular if C Brian McCann isn’t ready to go following shoulder surgery, is coming off .282 season at the plate for the Tigers.
However, he threw out just 19 percent of would-be base stealers after catching 40.4 percent to lead the American League while with the Tigers in 2009.
ROOKIE ON THE RISE?: RHP J.R. Graham is unlikely to open the season with the Braves, but he could well be called on if the Braves need a fill-in starter during the year. Graham, 23, was named the Braves’ 2012 minor league pitcher of the year after going 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA with Class A Lynchburg and Class AA Mississippi in his first full season. He was a fourth-round draft choice in 2011 out of Santa Clara University.
But there is also another rookie to watch on the mound.
LHP Sean Gilmartin out of FSU will likely start the seasons in Class AAA, but he will be called up quickly if Julio Teheran doesn’t pitch well. Gilmartin was the Braves’ first-round draft pick in 2011.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1,289 -- Franchise-record strikeout total for Braves batters in 2012. It’s a mark the team could threaten in 2013.
INJURY UPDATE: SS Paul Janish (left shoulder surgery in October 2012) will miss part of spring training, and he isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the season.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Before pitchers even reported to spring training, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had his projected starting pitching rotation ready to go.
RHP Kris Medlen
RHP Tim Hudson
LHP Mike Minor
LHP Paul Maholm
RHP Julio Teheran
The Braves hope to get a midseason boost with the return of RHP Brandon Beachy, who was leading major league starters with a 2.00 ERA when he underwent Tommy John surgery late last June.
Teheran, whose prospect stock took a dip last season, is projected to fill in at the back of a rotation that still looks solid if not spectacular. Medlen was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts last year, and Hudson had 49 victories over the past three seasons. Minor had a strong second half in 2012 and a dominant September.
Gonzalez has also worked on his projected bullpen:
RHP Craig Kimbrel (closer)
LHP Eric O’Flaherty
LHP Jonny Venters
RHP Jordan Walden
RHP Cristhian Martinez
LHP Luis Avilan
RHP Cory Gearrin
RHP David Carpenter
Kimbrel, who put up unprecedented strikeout numbers last year while holding opponents to a .128 average, has staked his claim to be being the best young closer in baseball, and the Braves’ bullpen, as a whole, may be No. 1 as well in 2013.
The Braves feel that they have the seventh and eighth innings covered in addition to the ninth with hard-throwing Walden, acquired from the Angels, joining O’Flaherty and Venters. O’Flaherty, one of three lefties in the bullpen, has a 1.31 ERA over the past two seasons.
As for the batting lineup, that was also a cinch for Gonzalez, who said Tuesday he feels more optimistic about this team than any he’s ever coached in the majors. Here’s Gonzalez’s projected lineup.
SS Andrelton Simmons
RF Jason Heyward
LF Justin Upton
C Brian McCann
CF B.J. Upton
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
3B Chris Johnson or Juan Francisco
The Braves didn’t acquire a leadoff hitter to replace CF Michael Bourn, but they feel the increased power and depth in the lineup more than makes up for that. After previously having a lineup dominated by left-handed hitters, Gonzalez can now call on an almost perfect blend of right-handed and left-handed batters.
Simmons will lead off, and the Braves feel that he can handle the role — despite having played in just 49 games. At least he probably won’t strike out 155 times, as Bourn did in 2012. Freeman would move up to the cleanup spot if McCann, who is coming off surgery on his right shoulder, doesn’t bounce back from a down 2012.