It’s just spring training, but Braves striking out less, running more

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Players and managers agree that spring-training stats should be taken with a grain – or a barrel – of salt, but the Braves nonetheless produced a few numbers at least worth noting through the first week of Grapefruit League games.

After Braves hitters had the fourth-most strikeouts (1,369) in the majors last season while ranking 14th in walks (472), they hope to improve that ratio significantly with a team comprised of more contact hitters and a new hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer, who stresses putting the ball in play, particularly with runners in scoring position, and shortening swings with two strikes.

Through the first week of spring training games, the Braves had 32 walks and 45 strikeouts, the best ratio in the majors.

After ranking 16th in the majors in stolen bases with 95 in 2014, and 24th with 64 steals in 2013, the Braves this season want to run a lot more and manufacture scoring with “small ball” instead of relying on home runs. Through Tuesday, they led the majors with 10 stolen bases in eight spring-training games, including three steals by center-field candidate Eric Young Jr.

Etc. The Braves announced a March 21 makeup date in Columbia, S.C., for a January team caravan stop that was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. The new date will feature a 12:30-2 p.m. autograph-signing session at Academy Sports + Outdoors in the Harbison area. Since the Braves are at spring training, former Braves Ryan Klesko, Charlie Leibrandt and Marquis Grissom are scheduled to appear at Columbia…. Third baseman Chris Johnson made two costly errors after returned to the lineup Wednesday following a four-day absence for a strained wrist…. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is set for his spring debut Thursday night against the Yankees. He’s been out with a strained oblique.

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