By Rob Todor
This time last year Nate McLouth was hoping to avoid another season in last place. This year, he’s poised to be the starting center fielder with serious championship hopes.
McLouth scored a run to lead off the first inning and help lead the Braves to a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, his former team. Kenshin Kawakami pitched two scoreless innings and struck out one in his spring training debut.
Second baseman Brooks Conrad had two doubles in three at-bats for Atlanta.
Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton, who was part of the deal that send McLouth to the Braves last year, allowed one hit and one run in two innings, but walked three. Reliever Brian Burriss walked four and gave up two runs for the Pirates and took the loss. Pirates pitchers walked 10 batters.
Andy LaRoche homered for Pittsburgh.
McLouth opened up the 2009 season with the Pirates but was traded to Atlanta in June for three players, immediately making an impact as the Braves everyday center fielder through the second half of the season.
McLouth said that he felt a complete change in atmosphere in the Braves clubhouse.
“It was tough in spring training last year,” McLouth said. “Here, everybody is positive.”