Braves general manager Frank Wren carefully evaluated his team after it squandered the 8 1/2-game National League Wild Card lead it carried into September to miss out on the playoffs. Though he considered a few changes, Wren determined it was best to keep the team virtually intact. The most significant offseason roster move involved Derek Lowe, who was traded to the Indians.
Wren recently took time to speak to MLB.com about the offseason and the excitement he's feeling as his team prepares for Spring Training and a new season. Braves pitchers and catchers will report on Sunday.
MLB.com: What excites you most about the team as you prepare for the start of Spring Training?
Wren: We pretty much know what our guys are capable of doing, and there are a number of guys who feel like they have something to prove. That is always a good thing.
MLB.com: Did you ever get close to making a deal this winter?
Wren: We had some discussions. A number of our players were asked about during the winter. But none of the discussions we had passed the test of making us better. We weren't going to do something just for the sake of doing something.
MLB.com: What was your feeling once you had time to decompress and talk to your staff about what happened last year?
Wren: We came away with the realization: We had a good team that had a really bad September. We've got to put it behind us, build off it and do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen again. The pieces are here and the players are here to have a really good team.
MLB.com: Safe to say you felt better about the club than you did in the immediate days that followed the end of the season?
Wren: Yeah, there's some frustration at that point with the season ending like it did, and some guys not having the kind of year you were hoping they would have. But I think when you step back from it and look at their abilities, I think you have to give these guys a chance to bounce back and show us what they can do.
MLB.com: Tommy Hanson has altered his delivery to take some stress off his shoulder and help him defend against the running game. Have you had a chance to see this new delivery?
Wren: Yeah, I like it a lot. I think it benefits him in so many ways. It is a little more compact. There is a little more deception there. It also is better for his arm. Those are all good things.
MLB.com: How is Jair Jurrjens' right knee feeling as he enters camp?
Wren: He's been good. As we get into Spring Training, the only guys who will be on any kind of limitations are Huddy [Tim Hudson] and [Peter] Moylan. Everyone else should be ready to go.
MLB.com: Highly regarded prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado gained valuable experience last year in starting roles. Does that give you some comfort as you enter the season, knowing Hudson could miss the first few weeks?
Wren: We'll be in good shape regardless of who we put in there. We have a number of good candidates.
MLB.com: How much confidence do you draw from the depth of your pitching staff?
Wren: We've felt for a while that this would be something that could separate us from other clubs, especially with the quality of the young pitching. With the experience they got last year, I think we'll see a marked difference this year.
MLB.com: Last year's offense was inconsistent and faltered down the stretch. What do you think of this year's projected lineup?
Wren: We feel like it has a chance to be a very good lineup. We just want everyone to play to their potential. We're not asking them to do anything extra. If they play to their potential and everyone settles in, I think it has a chance to be a very dynamic lineup. There is power up and down the lineup, and speed. It should be a fun offense.
MLB.com: How much easier is it for you to build your team when you have a legit leadoff hitter in Michael Bourn?
Wren: A true leadoff hitter really is hard to find. Building your lineup and knowing you've got that guy in place, it's like having that true No. 3 hitter. You know that you have that solid foundation to build from.
MLB.com: What should fans expect from your new shortstop Tyler Pastornicky?
Wren: I think you will see a very active live body player. He always has a bounce in his step. He has a very good approach at the plate. He really embodies that number two or number eight hitter type of role. He puts the ball in play. He can run and he handles the bat. I think we'll see a little more professional at-bats than we did a year ago from that position. Defensively, we don't need him to do anything spectacular. We just need him to make the routine plays.
MLB.com: Are you every bit as optimistic about this year's club as you were the 2011 club at this time last year?
Wren: I really am. Last year, we were searching for that center field/leadoff type of guy. Now we arguably have the best guy in that role in the business. We also had some uncertainty about a few spots. We were going in with a rookie first baseman [Freddie Freeman]. That's a crucial run-producing position, and we were going in with a rookie. He came up big for us and showed he can be that kind of player. There are a lot of things we feel better about.
Craig Kimbrel had a chance to settle in last year. We know what kind of bullpen we have now. At this time last year, we didn't know who the closer was going to be. Not only did we have a closer, we had the National League Rookie of the Year as our closer. There are just a lot of things more settled than they were a year ago.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.