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G-Braves hit the road for Durham

LAWRENCEVILLE -- When the sun rose Wednesday morning, it was back to Class AAA baseball at Coolray Field. And it started close to sunrise.

Following Tuesday's Atlanta Braves vs. Future Stars exhibition game, Gwinnett Braves manager Dave Brundage returned to his home clubhouse and office and began meeting the players on the first iteration of this year's G-Braves.

And one of them was not Andrelton Simmons.

The shortstop, who was with the Atlanta Braves major league camp through Tuesday's game, will begin the season with the Class AA Mississippi Braves. To fill out the G-Braves' roster, Greg Paiml got a call at his home in Birmingham telling him to drive east to Gwinnett rather than west to Mississippi.

With the late roster decisions Wednesday became a hurried day with a workout before the G-Braves piled onto buses and headed for today's season-opening series against the Durham Bulls.

"This is 9 a.m. after a night game last night," said Brundage, who coached the Future Stars under former Braves manager Bobby Cox on Tuesday. Everybody is shaking hands and introducing themselves and getting to see each other. Days like today are important. I just think that it's also how everything comes together."

And they don't get much time with a 7 p.m. start tonight.

The G-Braves will start Todd Redmond in tonight's opener, mostly because he is the most prepared to start a game. But it's a little more than that.

Redmond is coming off of his most consistent season. He went 10-8 with a 2.92 ERA, pitching a team-high 169 innings last year.

"He had a pretty decent spring. He threw the ball OK," Braves pitching coach Marty Reed said. "He is not as sharp as he normally is."

But he returned in good shape, an underlying cause of his improved consistency a year ago.

"He's in good physical condition this year from the start, as he was last year," Reed said.

Joining Redmond in the rotation is last year's International League pitcher of the year Julio Teheran. The right-hander, who was 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA last year, battled with Randall Delgado for the final spot in the Atlanta Braves rotation until the end of spring training.

He comes to Gwinnett on the other end of the spectrum with guys disappointed to not make the major league club.

But with him are guys like Paiml and third baseman Joey Terdoslavich who skipped Class AA completely as the Braves groom him as a potential replacement for Chipper Jones.

"I got guys who are happy to be here," Brundage said.

"Julio Teheran was 15-3 (with the G-Braves last season) and rightfully so, disappointed. There is going to be a lot of disappointed in this game."

Last season's IL All-Star Stefan Gartrell returns to Gwinnett, along with catcher J.C. Boscan and pitchers Jaye Chapman, Erik Cordier, Yohan Flande, Jose Lugo and Ben Swaggerty.

Injured Braves pitcher Pete Moylan also begins the year on the Gwinnett roster.

But it's a long season and this is the first of many Gwinnett Braves teams. It's something Brundage learned long ago, putting the pieces together isn't afforded time and Wednesday was just the first time.

"I think every manager would love to say, 'Hey, I feel strong about this.' The beauty of this game is you don't ever know from day-to-day," Brundage said. "The expectations are there, the talent is there. It's a matter of how you come together as a team, how you play as a team, the stability, how the health of your big-league ball club is, there are so many things and so many different intangibles. I'd love to lie and say we've got the greatest team on Earth.

"Who is going to believe that? No one is going to know. We are just now shaking hands."