Braves' Sammons Looks To Step Up Offense

ATLANTA—The Braves have known since drafting Clint Sammons out of Georgia in the sixth round in 2004 that he has the catch-and-throw skills as well as the game-calling ability to play in the major leagues. The question has centered on his bat, even though he has at times proven capable of producing in the lower half of the lineup.

Sammons, 26, entered the 2009 season as a career .262/.333/.365 hitter in his first five minor league seasons. He struggled at the plate last year in his second campaign at the Triple-A level, batting just .214/.266/.344 in 80 games. The silver lining was seen in his power output, with the 6-foot-1, 210-pound catcher hitting 12 doubles and nine home runs to drive in 37 runs in 299 at-bats.

"I know I have the ability to hit consistently," Sammons said. "The past two years I've struggled at times, but I feel good about how I've provided some pop. But doing that day in and day out is the key to this game."

Sammons has had a few cups of coffee in the big leagues, stroking two hits in three at-bats late in the 2007 season and then playing in a combined 29 games over the past two slates. As an everyday player in the minors, he said one of the toughest adjustments during those stints was keeping himself mentally and physically prepared to play, even though his activity was limited.

"I was called up last year while (David) Ross was hurt and I tried to pick his brain about how he gets ready for games," Sammons said. "I came to realize there's so much more you have to do when you're not playing everyday to keep yourself up to game speed. Otherwise, when you get in there, it seems like the game is going a million miles an hour."

With All-Star receiver Brian McCann entrenched as Atlanta's starting catcher, Sammons' best opportunity with the Braves would come as the backup. Ross is signed through this season and will be 34 by the start of the 2011 campaign. Sammons, meanwhile, tries not to focus on the future, believing instead that everything will work out if he concentrates on the task at hand.

"I think that's the only way you can go about it," Sammons said. "Having been up and down the last few years, I've learned a lot about how guys prepare to do their job. I try to carry that back down here and be as professional as I can be."

Wigwam Wisps

• A strong spring led to first baseman Freddie Freeman opening the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. Freeman has been hitting with more power after being bothered by a couple of lingering ailments in 2009, which limited him to a .248/.308/.342 showing in 41 games at Double-A Mississippi after a July promotion from high Class A Myrtle Beach.

• The Braves were impressed with 18-year-old Dominican shortstop Edward Salcedo, who received a $1.6 million bonus just prior to spring training. However, the team wanted to give him extra time to make cultural adjustments in extended spring training rather than send him to low class A Rome.