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Atlanta Braves news and links: IT'S OPENING DAY!

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The winter is officially over, everybody. Braves baseball is back again, which means that happy days are back again!

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

BRAVES NEWS

IT'S OPENING DAY

After yet another topsy-turvy offseason and a spring training that saw a couple of weird twists at the end, we've finally arrived at the point that we've all been waiting for: Opening Day! Yeah, the Braves are probably going to have a rough go of it this season, but since it's Opening Day, it's okay to dream about the Braves going 162-0 and sweeping their way to a World Series crown. It's Opening Day! It's okay to have dumb dreams like that!

Anyways, this is also the final Opening Day in the history of Turner Field, so if you're going to the ballpark today then I'd probably expect a bigger party than usual. Plus the weather figures to be absolutely gorgeous, so this should be a great day at the ballpark for everybody involved.

Nick Markakis isn't concerned about "quiet" spring

One player who's especially excited to return to the normal grind of regular season baseball is right fielder Nick Markakis. The veteran is especially excited due to the fact that he actually got to have a normal offseason this year, instead of having to spend the majority of it rehabbing from neck surgery. Although he didn't have a good spring when it comes to stats, Markakis isn't worried about that at all and is just ready to get the season underway.

"I feel great, I’m just ready to get the heck out of here," Markakis said Friday. "Start the season and play games that mean something. At this point in the spring it’s long and drags out. It’s basically for the pitchers. Pitchers and young guys. Young guys can show what they have, and it allows our front office and coaches to watch them. And the pitchers get their reps in.

Braves right fielder Nick Markakis had a quiet spring, batting .182 with just one extra-base hit. But he’s never been big on spring training and he and the Braves aren’t concerned about his lack of production in Grapefruit League games.

"It’s good for the hitters to go up there and see some pitches and get a feel for it. But I think we’re all ready to start playing games that mean something."

What numbers should you know about the Braves' rotation?

For the first couple of weeks of the season, the Braves are going to be going with a four-man rotation of Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler, Bud Norris, and Williams Perez. If the Braves are going to try to navigate through the choppy waters of a difficult early schedule, then they'll have to hope for significant improvement from the two youngsters in the rotation, for Norris to eat innings, and for Teheran to lead the crew by bouncing back from a subpar 2015 campaign.

In total, his fielding-independent pitching (FIP) was 294 points worse when a left-hander was in the box: His strikeout-to-walk ratio plummeted and his home run rate more than doubled. While Teheran has rarely shown the ability to shut down opposing lefties in his young career, the trend spiraled out of control last season. If he's going to be an ace, he'll need to correct a number of last year's deficiencies, but shutting down lefties would be a good place to start.

How to watch the Braves this year

Kris took the time to compile the Braves' 2016 schedule with their times and location on TV. As usual, Fox Sports South and Southeast will be taking on the bulk of Braves games this season, with a handful of games set to be aired on FS1, FOX, MLB Network, and ESPN. Of course, we'll remind you every day of what channel the game is on and how you can watch/listen to the games as well, but it would be nice if you kept that particular link handy.

MLB NEWS

Pirates officially kick off 2016 MLB season with win over Cardinals

The first pitch of the 2016 MLB regular season was thrown by Francisco Liriano, and the Pirates' starter played a major role in Pittsburgh's defeat of the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. In addition to going six innings for the Pirates (in which he flirted with danger -- in typical Liriano fashion), Liriano also delivered the first RBI of the new season; yes, the pitcher was the first person to bring in a run this year -- welcome to the National League! The Pirates never relinquished that lead, and they've started off their season on a good note.

Royals begin World Series title defense with victory over Mets

Meanwhile, the Royals kicked off their 2016 season the same way they ended their 2015 season: by beating the Mets. The defending World Series Champions got off to a positive start as they were able to hold the Mets at bay for a 4-3 victory. Kansas City was up 4-0 and appeared to be cruising, but the Mets mounted a comeback that was pretty similar to what the Royals have been doing to teams during the Postseason. However, once Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis entered the game for KC, the comeback was stifled and the Royals put their first victory of 2016 on the board.

Meanwhile, KC pitcher Edinson Volquez didn't get the initial memo when it came to the hat choice for the night. Whoops!