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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, March 31st (All times Eastern)

Atlanta Braves (0-0) at Milwaukee Brewers (0-0), 2:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Atlanta - Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00) Milwaukee - Yovani Gallardo (0-0, 0.00)

(SportsNetwork.com) - No team is happier to see the start of the season than the Atlanta Braves.

The injury-riddled defending National League East champions get their campaign started on Monday with the first of three games against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

Atlanta lost starting pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery early in spring training and most recently reliever Gory Gearrin has been diagnosed with what the team is describing as a "serious elbow injury" .

"We've kind of eaten through our depth," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "It looked like we were in pretty good shape coming into spring training with some guys about to get healthy and all of a sudden the next thing you know we're pretty thin."

Atlanta countered its losses in the rotation by agreeing to a deal with righty Ervin Santana, but the injuries have tempered expectations for a club that last year went 96-66 and won the division by 10 games.

It was the Braves' best regular-season finish since 2004, but the team's postseason run came to an end at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

Atlanta returns almost the same lineup -- minus catcher Brian McCann, who signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent -- in its quest to win the franchise's first World Series title since 1995.

Getting the call for Atlanta on Monday will be right-hander Julio Teheran, who was 14-8 in his first full season a year ago with a 3.20 ERA.

"It's a great honor to be the starting pitcher on Opening Day," said Teheran. "I just want to say thanks for the opportunity. I have been working hard, and it has paid off."

Milwaukee, meanwhile, has been trending downward since winning the NL Central three years ago, but the return of a former MVP and the addition of a legitimate starter has the club looking to make some noise in 2014.

The Brewers have made the postseason just twice since joining the National League in 1998 and their Central Division title in 2011 was their first of any kind since winning the AL East crown back in 1982.

What was once a solid 1-2 punch of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun has been reduced to just one since Fielder left as a free agent and Milwaukee went into last season having traded the talented Zack Greinke during the 2012 campaign.

The Brewers knew they would have their work cut out for them last season after finishing just four games over .500 the previous year and things took a turn for the worse when PED sparks finally caught fire with the suspension of Braun.

The former NL MVP was banned for the final 65 games of the season for his involvement with Biogenesis, robbing Milwaukee of its best offensive player.

Not surprisingly, the Brewers ended up coming in fourth place in the NL Central with a record below .500 at 74-88.

There is reason to expect improvement going forward. Braun is back and while he will probably be a villain on the road, the Milwaukee faithful are embracing him despite his previous misleading statements during the Biogenesis investigation.

And Milwaukee added another quality starter to the mix in right-hander Matt Garza, who joins Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo and another righty in Kyle Lohse to give the Brewers a talented top of the rotation.

Gallardo will be making his fifth straight Opening Day start for the Brewers. Only Ben Sheets has made more such starts for the Brewers (six).

"To have the opportunity to do it five years in a row is pretty amazing," Gallardo said. "It shows you what the organization thinks of you to allow you to do that for five years. You can't take it for granted. You just have to go out there and take care of business."

The 28-year-old Gallardo averaged 15 wins and a 3.68 earned run average from 2009-12, but slipped to just a 4.18 ERA in 31 starts last season. He still managed to go 12-10, but struck out 60 fewer batters than the previous campaign.

The Brewers won four of their six matchups with the Braves last season.

03/31 10:23:08 ET


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