Atlanta Braves shortstop Simmons slowed by oblique strain

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons has a slight left oblique strain.

On the day of the team’s first full-squad workout, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez couldn’t give a date when Simmons will be ready for exhibition games but said the injury wasn’t serious. Simmons fielded balls during workouts Thursday but didn’t hit or throw.

Gonzalez said Simmons tried to play through the injury.

“It’s too early to get worried,” Gonzalez said. “We have talked to him about taking care of his body and he told us about it. It’s spring training, and I want him on the field when he’s ready.”

Simmons downplayed the strain, saying it felt like nothing more than a small cramp but was similar to an injury that kept him from breaking camp with the team three years ago.

“He has gotten more mature about things like that,” Gonzalez said. “He knows I’m no dummy. I just want him on the field.”

The Braves had several newcomers on the diamond for this workout.

While veterans Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Aaron Harang are gone, Atlanta welcomed the likes of Nick Markakis, Jonny Gomes, Jim Johnson and A.J. Pierzynski.

“Now the pitchers are finally getting to pitch to real hitters,” Gonzalez said. “There are a lot of good things going on out here.”

Johnson, a reliever who struggled last season in Oakland and Detroit, caught Gonzalez’s eye. Johnson is competing for a spot as a setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel.

“Johnson’s throwing well,” Gonzalez said. “His ball was sinking and I liked what I saw.”

Gonzalez also noticed the hard-throwing Kimbrel working on a changeup.

“It’s too early to tell,” Gonzalez said. “He might just be playing around with it.”

Gonzalez praised some players for spending time in winter ball. Among them were outfielder Zoilo Almonte, who played 13 games for the New York Yankees last season, and infielder Elmer Reyes.

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