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Schafer's fate to be determined this weekend


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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jordan Schafer will have to wait until this weekend to learn whether he'll be with the Braves when they open the season in Philadelphia on Sunday night.

But during limited action, Garret Anderson and Rafael Soriano have already shown the Braves that they are healthy enough to be placed on the Opening Day roster, which is expected to be announced on Friday or Saturday.

Primary interest about the makeup of the Opening Day roster surrounds Schafer, who found himself starting in center field on Thursday afternoon, when the Braves utilized their starters sparingly during their Grapefruit League season finale against an Astros team comprised of Minor Leaguers.

With Houston's Major Leaguers traveling to Texas to play their Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi, Braves manager Bobby Cox limited most of his position players to two at-bats.

The fact that Schafer was once again in this lineup filled with the other projected starters provides even more reason to believe that he'll be in center field for Sunday's game against the Phillies. The 22-year-old outfielder ended up hitting .344 during the Grapefruit League season.

Although Schafer recorded just one hit in his final 11 at-bats in Florida, the Braves have provided every indication that he's won the position battle against Gregor Blanco, who didn't aid his cause when he got picked off second base in Thursday's seventh inning.

Anderson, who was sidelined a little more than three weeks with a strained right calf that he suffered on March 6, served as the designated hitter on Thursday. The 36-year-old outfield didn't experience any discomfort while playing left field on Tuesday and Wednesday.

While playing the outfield just twice since returning to action on Sunday, Anderson has been reminded that he still has to build his endurance. But he has showed good mobility and surprising speed when he raced into left-center field to record an out on Wednesday afternoon in Lakeland, Fla.

"I didn't think he had a chance to get to that one," Cox said. "He looks smooth. He moves gracefully out there."

While recording five hits in his past 12 at-bats, Anderson has also shown that the long layoff didn't set him back too far from an offensive perspective. He credits this with the fact that he was able to hit off a tee and take some batting practice before he was cleared to resume his running exercises.

"I've been seeing the ball good," Anderson said. "I haven't had a lot of at-bats, but I'm just glad that I'm not jumping at the ball. Usually when you don't play a lot, you can get a little jumpy at the plate. I'm not jumpy right now. So that's a good thing."

Before Soriano tossed a scoreless fifth inning on Thursday, Cox said the right-handed reliever would likely be on the Opening Day roster as long as he escaped the outing in a pain-free and efficient manner.

Soriano reported to camp with an upper respiratory infection that affected his breathing for more than a month. Then, during a March 24 appearance against the Pirates, he felt some slight discomfort in his right side.

Despite making just five appearances during the exhibition season, Cox is confident that Soriano is ready to accept his role as closer Mike Gonzalez's primary setup man.

"He looked good out there," Cox said after Soriano threw nine of his 10 pitches for strikes during Thursday's fifth inning.

Cox's primary health-related concern as he exited Florida centers around backup catcher David Ross, who strained his right groin during Tuesday night's game against the Astros. Ross has shown some improvement over the past two days and the Braves may wait until Sunday to decide whether to place him on the disabled list.

If Ross begins the season on the 15-day disabled list, Clint Sammons will likely begin the season as Atlanta's backup catcher. In case he's needed, Sammons is expected to travel with the team to Philadelphia on Saturday.

Brian McCann, who had incurred a bruised right ring finger and bruised right knee earlier this week, returned to his catching duties on Thursday. With three scheduled off-days during the season's first nine days, McCann might be able to catch every game before Ross would be eligible to come off the disabled list.

Because the Braves would be able to back-date the start of Ross' disabled-list stint to Wednesday, he would be eligible for activation on April 16. This would put him in position to prevent McCann from having to catch a night game on April 15 and then return the next day for game that is scheduled to start at noon ET.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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He's definitely going to be our starting CF... who else would we start... Blanco? lmao. We got rid of Anderson because he was blocking the way of one of our top prospects in Schafer.

I don't think the Braves view Blanco as a "lmao" answer, but I would be shocked if it wasn't Schafer.

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Did anyone else hear the radio interview with Chipper. He answered this for everyone. He said that Schaf has blown away the team with everything he is doing on and off the field. He has done this so much that the Braves traded the club house favorite Anderson. Chipper said that everyone loved Anderson and that just shows how much they think of Scaf.

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Did anyone else hear the radio interview with Chipper. He answered this for everyone. He said that Schaf has blown away the team with everything he is doing on and off the field. He has done this so much that the Braves traded the club house favorite Anderson. Chipper said that everyone loved Anderson and that just shows how much they think of Scaf.

wow high praise ^_^

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Hey I talked to Schafer on Facebook once. And yes, it's really him. I just basically told him good luck and stuff and I was really rooting for him. And I said **** the critics or the haters or something. And he messaged me back saying "thanks buddy". I even have the message saved! lol

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there is no way schafer isnt the starting center fielder... ive stuck by bobby time and time again but if he chooses blanco, a perfect #4 OF who can play all 3 OF positions, instead of the obvious future of our team in schafer then i may have to wipe the scales off my eyes... lets hope he goes with schafer

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Did anyone else hear the radio interview with Chipper. He answered this for everyone. He said that Schaf has blown away the team with everything he is doing on and off the field. He has done this so much that the Braves traded the club house favorite Anderson. Chipper said that everyone loved Anderson and that just shows how much they think of Scaf.

That is high praise and I think it is a for sure thing that Schafer will be the starting center fielder for us this year.

Personally, I would have rather traded Blanco and kept Anderson but, I do not think we had that option because we would not have enough roster spots and Anderson was out of options.

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