Offseason acquisitions square off against former teams
By Carlos Collazo
ATLANTA -- Melvin Upton Jr. scored the tying run, Justin Upton scored the winning run, and Craig Kimbrel sealed the Padres' 5-3 win in the first game of a four-game series with the Braves at Turner Field on Monday night, just hours after talking about their return to Atlanta.
"It's a little different," Kimbrel said before batting practice Monday. "Driving into the ballpark today was a little different."
It was certainly different for his former Braves teammates as well, when two of them (Andrelton Simmons and Todd Cunningham) had to step in the box against him for the first time instead of playing defense behind him.
Kimbrel got Simmons to ground out to shortstop and struck out Cunningham on three pitches to end the game.
Even though they came out on the losing side, Cameron Maybin and Jace Peterson showed the Padres that they could make an impact in the Majors, when the two combined to ignite the Braves' three-run third inning that would have decided the game if it weren't for another poor night from the Altanta bullpen.
Kimbrel and Upton were the centerpieces of the two significant trades the Braves and Padres completed this offseason. While those two All-Stars have spent the past couple of months acquainting themselves to San Diego, Maybin and Peterson have become productive everyday players in Atlanta's lineup.
Maybin has provided the kind of production the Braves expected from Upton Jr., who struggled during his two seasons as Atlanta's center fielder. As fate would have it, Upton Jr. was activated from the disabled list in time to suit up for the Padres for the first time this season on Monday.
"I know I'm going to see [the Uptons], but I really don't care about seeing Kimbrel, other than to shake hands with him during batting practice," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before the game.
Kimbrel reminisced on his time with the Braves and added that he has no bitterness toward the organization in the wake of the trade.
"Atlanta gave me an opportunity to play in the big leagues," said Kimbrel, who was taken by the Braves in the third round of the 2008 Draft. "I think every kid dreams of playing in the big leagues, and me, as a kid, it was here in Atlanta. I grew up a Braves fan, so having that opportunity in the first part of my career to do that is pretty special.
"I still love a lot of the guys over there and I still have kept friendships with the guys, and guys in the front office. So bitterness? No. But when I get out there and pitch tonight, it's going to be exciting. It's going to be a lot of fun."
When asked about the coincidence of his return coming in Atlanta, Upton Jr. admitted it was "a little weird" but said he was just excited to be back on the field and is looking forward to a new start after two disappointing seasons with the Braves, with whom he hit just .198 with 21 home runs and 32 stolen bases.
"This is kind of what I've been looking forward to," he said. "The past is the past, you can't change it, so I'm just looking forward to a fresh start and playing baseball."
Maybin and Peterson were looking forward to catching up with former teammates.
"It will be fun to see those guys," Maybin said, "but I honestly don't get too into it, too up or down. I just try to keep the same mentality I have every day and treat it like any other day."
Carlos Collazo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.