Coppolella on Fredi, why GM thinks it’s better team than ‘15 Braves

MIAMI – The Braves took an 0-9 record into Friday night’s series opener against the Marlins and needed a win to avoid matching the 1988 Braves for worst start (0-10) in the history of a franchise that’s been in existence more than a century.

There have not been any recent votes of confidence from the front office for Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, installed this week as the favorite to be the first manager fired, according to one Las Vegas oddsmaker.

Braves general manager John Coppolella was asked Friday afternoon about Gonzalez’s job status.

“We all care greatly about Fredi,” Coppolella said, “and we hope we get this turned around so it takes pressure off of everybody — players, coaching staff and front office.”

ExploreBraves end 0-9 skid with comeback at Miami

In a Q&A posted on the team’s MLB.com website Friday, Coppolella was asked if the winless start had been more frustrating than a 1-19 stretch the Braves went through in the second half of their 95-loss 2015 season.

He replied, “It’s different, because we had the opportunity to win five of the first seven games (this season) with leads late into the game. During that horrific streak last season, we were getting blown out. But in 2016, we have just fallen short of one big hit, one big play or one big pitch. It’s harder now, because it’s at the start of a season, where it gets magnified. We also feel that we have a better team than we did in 2015.”

The last part of that answer was what caught the attention of some who read it. So we asked Coppolella what made this year’s team better than the 2015 version.

“I think it’s a deeper lineup, better bullpen, growth of young players, and improved health,” he said. “Those four factors, I think, put a better team out there for us. Whether or not it leads to a better record. … It’s a better 25 (on the roster).”

The 2015 Braves had starting pitchers Shelby Miller, who had a team-best 3.02 ERA in 205 1/3 innings, and left-hander Alex Wood (until Wood was traded in July), plus two-time Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons and center fielder Cameron Maybin, who had a career-best season.

Miller, Simmons and Maybin were traded in the offseason.

Newcomers to the 2016 starting rotation are Bud Norris and Jhoulys Chacin, and the lineup additions include center fielder Ender Inciarte, who played well before straining a hamstring that will keep him out a few weeks, and Eric Aybar. So far, Aybar made several defensive mistakes and hit .167 through nine games.

The additions to the bullpen include Chris Withrow, Alexi Ogando and left-handers Eric O’Flaherty and rookie Hunter Cervenka, along with the return of veterans Jason Grilli, who worked hard to come back from season-ending Achilles surgery in July, and Jim Johnson, who was traded in July, had hernia surgery this winter, and was re-signed.

Through Thursday, Grilli had a 6.75 ERA in three appearances and Johnson had a 9.82 ERA in four. Coppolella said Grilli and Johnson are still working their way back to full strength, and believes the Braves will get a boost with the expected June return of reliever Shae Simmons from Tommy John elbow surgery.

The Braves’ bullpen entered Friday with a 7.01 ERA that ranked 29th in the majors, ahead of Colorado (7.59).