Atlanta Braves v San Francisco Giants, Game 1

Nate McLouth will start in center this year for Atlanta

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Braves outfielder Nate McLouth had the worst offensive season of his career in 2010, posting a miserable .190 batting average and .620 OPS across 288 plate appearances.  He was demoted to the Triple-A level at one point and he also battled a concussion near the middle of the summer.

It was a brutal showing.

But, because he is owed $7.5 million this season on the final year of his current contract and because the Braves don’t have any better options, McLouth is going to open the 2011 season as Atlanta’s starting center fielder.

Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed that fact Thursday in a chat with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s David O’Brien:

“We think he can do it,” Wren said. “I think we saw enough in September, and we’ve seen enough in his career. I mean, he’s a good player. I believe — and I think most people around here believe — that what we saw for that first year he was with us, was an aberration. That’s not Nate McLouth. I mean, he’s too good a player, there’s too many teams that would love to have him. And he brings some things to the table that we don’t have.”

If it simply doesn’t work out, the Braves could turn to Joe Mather, an athletic outfielder who spent the last several seasons posting good numbers in the Cardinals’ minor league system.  Or they could turn back to Jordan Schafer, though his numbers at Triple-A last year (.509 OPS in 208 PAs) were awfully frightening.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.