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BISHER: Back to baseball for Braves

It wasn't a good month. It was spent in retreat, and by the time the season ended the Braves had been lost in a fog of defeat. A 10-game lead gone with the winds of autumn.

There were logical causes.

For the better part of the last two months of the season, Fredi Gonzalez was operating with a disabled pitching corps. Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens were out of action.

On the other end of the battery, Brian McCann's bat fell silent. Dan Uggla had spent the spring in a dismal slump, but by the end of the season his bat had come alive to some extent -- 38 home runs, 82 runs batted in, punctuated by those 156 strikeouts. Hardly the expected production of a $12-million employee.

However, as the new season approaches, with Uggla in place and Freddie Freeman back on first, after an all-star (my designation) season behind him, that side of the infield is sound and solid.

Freeman was the Braves' Rookie of the Year.

Yes, I know Craig Kimbrel got the vote, but he didn't get mine. Tough to beat a rookie who's in the lineup every day, hits .282 with 18 home runs and 76 RBIs.

On the other side of the infield, they're taking a gamble with Tyler Pastornicky, a fresh rookie, but a l70-pound body blessed with base-stealing speed and a breath of fresh air following Alex Gonzalez, who was a rather inconsistent producer, both at bat and afield. Pastornicky arrived in town -- on the deal that sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto -- on the back side of the trade for Gonzalez.

You know, of course, that Hanson and Jurrjens are expected to return to old form.

But -- I have one stirring expectation -- and that is that Jason Heyward will fill out to the form so long expected of him. With Martin Prado in left and Michael Bourn in center, this should be Heyward's year. There is more athlete there than he has shown us. No guarantee, but the breeding and the skills are there -- a five-tool outfielder, as they say.

Enjoy the season, friends.

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.