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Braves conclude workouts at Turner

ATLANTA - The Atlanta Braves have brought back Tom Glavine and Javy Lopez, but there will be a lot more new than old in 2008.

Frank Wren made plenty of moves in his first few months after replacing John Schuerholz, elevated to team president, as general manager. Were they enough?

"Frank did a great job filling the holes," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Now it's our job to win games."

The Braves, who won an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles, have a different kind of streak going and it's an unwanted one.

Atlanta has missed the postseason the last two years and many are counting the Braves out again despite the flurry of winter moves.

"It kind of ticks me off that we aren't getting a little more respect," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "I think we're going to be right there with the Mets and Phillies (in the National League East).

"Sure, the addition of (Johan) Santana puts the Mets a little bit ahead. But they have some question marks too. I feel good about our team and the changes we've made. I think we're in better position than we were the past two years."

The Braves concluded their workouts at Turner Field on Monday and many will be heading to Florida as early as today. The reporting day for pitchers and catchers is Thursday, with the first full-squad workout on Feb. 20.

"I'm really optimistic about this season," pitcher Tim Hudson said. "If we can avoid some of the injuries we've had the last few years, I definitely think this team can win our division and go a long way (in the postseason)."

The Braves feel much better about their pitching depth and will have slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira for the full season. But they will also be without center fielder Andruw Jones, as well as shortstop Edgar Renteria.

"We're going to have to live without him somehow," Cox said of Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner.

Mark Kotsay, coming back from back problems, was acquired from Oakland in one of five offseason trades made by Wren.

Most of the other moves were made to upgrade a pitching staff that wasn't able to overcome the loss of Hampton, reliever Mike Gonzalez and others last year.

"We have depth now," Cox said. "We didn't last season."

Glavine, a 300-game winner, was re-signed to follow John Smoltz and Tim Hudson in the rotation. If healthy, Hampton could follow Glavine.

"We want him back, believe me," Cox said. "But we're covered. We have at least eight legit guys who could make the rotation."

Promising right-hander Jair Jurrjens was acquired from Detroit in the Renteria deal. The Braves are also very high on left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, who came up late last season.

"I really want to be part of things this season because I think we're going to have a very good team," Hampton said. "My arm feels good and I should be ready to go. But I know that the Braves have made some back-up plans and that's good. I've definitely shown what can happen."

"Injuries have killed us the last two years," Hudson said. "But our luck has to change sometime. You can't be snakebit forever."

When it comes to injuries, it hasn't been just the pitching staff that has been bitten. Even with Teixeira around, the Braves can't afford to have Chipper Jones out of the lineup.

"Hopefully, those injuries are behind me," Jones said.

With Jones, Teixeira, Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann in the middle of the lineup, the Braves have plenty of pop.

"We should score a lot of runs," Jones said. "I like our lineup."

But it was pitching that propelled the Braves to their run of division titles. Now, Smoltz and Glavine are together again to try for an encore.

"It's obviously great to be back," Glavine said. "I'm looking forward to going down to spring training and getting started. Even with the Mets adding Santana, I think we have as good a team as anyone.

"The Braves went into the offseason with a gameplan and I think Frank did a good job putting the pieces together. Now it's our turn to make it all work."

After more than six weeks of spring training, the regular season begins March 30 in Washington.

"I'm itching to get down to Florida and get started," Cox said. "I like what we have a lot. This should be a good team."

SideBar: BRAVES SPRING TRAINING

Where: Champion Stadium at Disney's Wide World of Sports, southwest of Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

When: Pitchers report on Thursday and practice for the first time on Friday. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 20.

Exhibition opener: Feb. 27 against the University of Georgia at 1:05 p.m.

Grapefruit League opener: Feb. 28 against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Vero Beach at 1:05 p.m.

Grapefruit League home opener: Feb. 29 against the Dodgers in Champion Stadium at 1:05 p.m.

Final exhibition games: March 28 and 29 against the Cleveland Indians at Turner Field. First game at 7:10 p.m. and second at 1:10 p.m.

More information: AtlantaBraves.com