Braves announce starters for Grapefruit League opener, including one surprise

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The Braves will open the Grapefruit League season on Saturday against the Rays, and the club announced that Spencer Strider will toe the rubber.

Michael Harris II and Jarred Kelenic will make the trip as we get our first glimpse at the former No. 6 overall pick in Atlanta’s threads. Moreover, there’s a surprise in the announcement. Marcell Ozuna will play first base instead of Matt Olson, per Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Justin Toscano.

The Big Bear spent the 2023 campaign as the club’s primary DH, where he turned in one of the best seasons of his career. A season that should’ve ended in Silver Slugger honors, but I digress.

Many were ready to give up on Ozuna during the early parts of the season, and Braves Country had a case. Over the first month of the season, Ozuna was 5-for-59 with two home runs and a 10 wRC+.

However, once the calendar turned May, the Big Bear came out of hibernation. Ozuna hit .297/.366/.603 with 38 homers and a 156 wRC+ after May. He put together a 40-home run season and maybe more impressively a 3.3 fWAR season from the DH position.

Now, the Braves veteran is taking on a new challenge — first base.

Granted, unless Matt Olson suffers a serious injury, Marcell Ozuna will likely never get many starts at the position, but the club is at least taking the safe path to make sure if the opportunity arises, Ozuna is ready.

I spent a few days in North Port at Braves Spring Training, and Marcell Ozuna was taking reps behind Matt Olson at first base and looked pretty solid. Games are much different, though. I’m eager to see how he performs.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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