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Atlanta Braves news and links: The Braves are still really popular in Florida

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Recent polling numbers have revealed that -- just like in other areas of the deep south -- the Atlanta Braves are still really popular among baseball fans in Florida. Also, they're arguably the most popular team in the Sunshine State.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

BRAVES NEWS

Freeman homers but Newcomb struggles as Braves lose to Tigers

The good news from the Braves' spring training tilt against the Tigers is that Freddie Freeman looked nice and healthy, as he bashed a homer during his time in the game. Also, Dansby Swanson got himself a hit, which is always nice. The bad news is that the pitching got rocked, as Sean Newcomb had a shaky spring training debut against the Tigers, and things didn't get better for the rest of the pitchers who entered in relief. As a result, the Braves lost 8-2. Atlanta will be back in action this afternoon against the Phillies.

The Braves are arguably the most popular team in Florida

Our friends over at DRays Bay recently took a look at PPP polling stats of roughly 1,000 voters in Florida, and one of the questions that PPP asked voters was about their allegiances in baseball. According to this poll, the Braves are tied with the Rays for the title of most popular baseball team in Florida, with 13% of the vote. When you consider factors such as North Florida still being solidly part of Braves Country, the number of Northeastern transplants who stayed loyal to their teams when they moved to Florida, the years of futility from both the Rays and Marlins which obviously had an effect on potentially pulling in long-term fans,  then it's understandable to see how the Braves ranked so high in this poll.

Got questions for the next Talking Chop Podcast? Let us know!

Spring training games have kicked off, which means that the time for prognosticating and wondering is over. Instead, it's time to talk about actual baseball games -- even if they don't count yet. Hopefully that will be the main topic for the next Talking Chop Podcast, and we've opened up the mailbag so that if you have any questions, they'll be answered on the next episode of the podcast.

Protective netting will be higher at Turner Field this season

In an effort to keep fans safer at the ballpark, the Braves and a few other teams have made the wise choice of raising the protective netting at their stadiums. This probably won't completely eliminate the danger of potentially getting hit by a speeding baseball, but anything that helps cut down the chances of it happening is a positive.

.The netting, which extends in both directions to the dugouts, will be raised by 20 feet, from 10 to 35 feet high, to match the height of the screen directly behind home plate.

In response to fans being injured by foul balls last season, Major League Baseball recommended that teams provide more protection for field-level seats within 70 feet of home plate.

MLB NEWS

Is there more than one Hank the Ballpark Pup?

Yesterday, there was one story that took the baseball world by storm, and it had nothing to do with what was happening between the lines or on the trade/free agent market. Instead, it was about a dog, or the possibility that a dog had been quietly replaced without us knowing. Our friends at Brew Crew Ball noticed that unofficial Milwaukee Brewers mascot Hank the Ballpark Pup looked a little different. In fact, we may have an impostor on our hands! After posting their evidence, the reaction to this post was so incredible that the Brewers will be having a press conference today to address the rumors. Will we get concrete answers? Will the original Hank finally receive justice for being a good dog? Will the impostor dog admit to being a bad dog?

Brett Anderson will miss 3-5 months

Poor Brett Anderson. The Dodgers pitcher finally had a healthy season for the first time in years, but he won't be able to make it two healthy seasons in a row. As a result of a bulging disc in his back, Anderson will need to have arthroscopic surgery, and he'll have to miss 3-5 months this season.

Anderson felt something in his last few pitches when throwing live batting practice on Tuesday, and an MRI exam showed the bulging disc. He is expected to miss three to five months.

"I was surprised. I was shocked. Talking to him yesterday morning, he thought it would be a couple-day thing that would subside," Roberts said. "It wasn't near the sensation he had before."

The surgery will be performed in Phoenix by Dr. Chris Yeung, the same physician who performed the surgery to repair a herniated disc in Anderson's lower back in August 2014, when he was with the Rockies.