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G-Braves get started today

While the Atlanta Braves are playing the New York Mets today at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Florida, there will be a little history made on a back field behind Champion Stadium.

The Gwinnett Braves play their first game, facing fellow International League member Syracuse.

First pitch will be at 1 p.m., just like in the nearby Grapefruit League contest. That will be about the only thing in common, however.

Instead of big crowds, minor league exhibition games draw almost no fans at all. That doesn't mean, though, that Gwinnett's first game hasn't been highly anticipated.

"It's been like Groundhog Day," G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said by telephone from Florida. "It gets pretty monotonous for everyone until you start playing games. I know that players are excited to get going and the staff certainly is."

Many of the players who will make up the opening roster of the first edition of the G-Braves have been playing in big league exhibitions and most are still with Atlanta.

Right now, Brundage probably has less than half of the players that he will eventually get.

"I won't have my full team until a few days before our season starts," he said.

The G-Braves, who open the International League season at Charlotte on April 9, will have just two workouts at their new ballpark in Gwinnett to get familiar with each other.

"More than half my players are probably still with Atlanta fighting for spots," Brundage said. "But there aren't many openings."

It won't be easy to make the AAA team either and the players Brundage currently has are trying to make their own impressions.

James Parr and Todd Redmond have already been sent down by Atlanta and they will be key members of the G-Braves rotation.

Each won 13 games in the minors last year and Parr pitched well in September with Atlanta.

"There's no question that we should have a very good pitching staff," Brundage said. "The Braves have the best collection of young arms that I've seen in all my years in baseball. It is a real credit to the organization."

Brundage will increase the workout of his starters to get them ready for the season.

"We need to stretch out Parr and Redmond," he said. "We'll have a strict pitch count, but you still want your starters to be able to go five innings by opening day."

The G-Braves won't be all about pitching this season. Brundage already has some solid hitters in camp, led by outfielders Reid Gorecki and Joe Borchard, and first basemen Barbaro Canizares and Kala Ka'aihue.

Borchard, a former first-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox, is coming off reconstructive elbow surgery.

"He's worked very hard," Brundage said. "His arm isn't 100 percent yet, but he looks real good at the plate."

Today's game is the first of 13 exhibitions for the G-Braves. Syracuse is affiliated with Washington.

Other games will be against Round Rock (Houston) and Toledo (Detroit). The G-Braves will also play Class AA Mississippi once.

"We're all eager to get started," Brundage said.

SideBar: Gwinnett Braves Camp

Want the latest news on the first Gwinnett Braves team? Beginning Tuesday and running through Friday, April 3, Daily Post staff correspondent Guy Curtright will be filing daily updates from the G-Braves spring training games and practices in Florida.