Kemp, regulars to start Saturday's spring opener

Kemp, regulars to start Saturday's spring opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Kemp has impressed with the improved physique he brought to Spring Training and the work ethic he has displayed before and after workouts on a daily basis.

Kemp and his Braves teammates will get their competitive juices flowing at 1:05 p.m. ET Saturday, when they open the Grapefruit League season against the Blue Jays at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.

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"[Kemp] is the first one in the [batting] cage every morning, and he's the last one to leave," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's worked his tail off. It's been really cool to watch. He's just really been getting after it."

Snitker plans to give each of his projected starting players -- Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, Kemp, Nick Markakis, Brandon Phillips, Tyler Flowers and Adonis Garcia -- at least two plate appearances on Saturday. The Braves manager also indicated many of his regulars could also be in the lineup again on Sunday afternoon, when the Astros visit.

Bartolo Colon will be scheduled to pitch at least two innings when he starts the Grapefruit League opener against the Blue Jays. Luke Jackson, who was acquired from the Rangers in exchange for Tyrell Jenkins in December, is among the other relievers scheduled to appear. Jackson has impressed many of Atlanta's coaches during the early portion of camp.

"I feel like this is the beginning of the season," Inciarte said. "You want to play real games and face real pitchers to get ready for the [regular] season. It's a good thing for every one of us to start playing games."

Freeman and Inciarte may draw a little more playing time than normal over the first week of the exhibition season as they both prepare to play in the World Baseball Classic. Freeman will play for Canada, and Inciarte will be a part of the Venezuelan team.

"I want to have a plan for them because as soon as they leave, they're going to have to play real games," Snitker said. "They'll be asked to play nine innings all of the sudden. So, we sat down and mapped out a strategy to make sure they're ready."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.