The Norman Transcript

National Sports

February 27, 2013

Nationals-Braves has all the makings of a great rivalry

(Continued)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. —

Davey Johnson is also impressed with Atlanta’s offseason moves, believing the Braves addressed their major weakness from the last few seasons — a lineup that was heavy on lefties.

That said, the Washington manager made it clear what his team’s mindset will be.

World Series or bust.

“We’ve already won a (division) pennant. We’ve been in the postseason,” Johnson said. “With that experience and the talent level that’s here, our goals should be higher. There’s no sense romancing anybody and telling you, ‘Geez, we’d be lucky to win our division, we’d be lucky to go far in the playoffs.’”

One of the moves Washington made in the offseason was signing Soriano, who had 42 saves for the New York Yankees filling in for the injured Mariano Duncan. The Nationals plan to use their new addition in the ninth inning, with former closers Storen and Tyler Clippard handling duties in the seventh and eighth.

The acquisition of Span provides a true leadoff hitter, which was lacking in 2012. Finally, the Nationals filled a hole in their rotation by picking up Dan Haren, who battled injuries but still won 12 games with the Angels, adding a veteran presence to a young rotation that includes 20-game winner Gio Gonzalez.

“We have confidence and have shown what we can do,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said. “Now, we’ve just got to keep rolling with it.”

The Braves had a major hole to fill after Chipper Jones retired, but general manager Frank Wren moved boldly to make up what was lost — and then some. He signed B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million contract (essentially the same money Jones was getting), then pulled off a seven-player deal with Arizona to land B.J.’s younger brother.

Now, Atlanta has a more balanced lineup, with the Uptons joining Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons from the right side, while Freeman, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann should provide plenty of the left-handed power.

“They were a very talented team to start with, but they definitely made some good offseason acquisitions,” Espinosa said. “It’s always fun playing them. They’ve got a good group of guys over there. They play hard. They play the right way.”

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