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Nationals aware of threat Braves pose

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Orlando, Fla. -- Tuesday was set to be the Nationals' first look at the Braves, who beefed up their lineup over the offseason and figure to be Washington's chief competition in the National League East.

Atlanta lost third baseman Chipper Jones to retirement and utility man Martin Prado to the D-backs, but added outfielder Justin Upton in that trade with Arizona and his brother, B.J., via free agency.

"I think Atlanta, their history has been great," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "They've always had good young players coming along. I thought the last couple years, they had a strong left-handed presence in their lineup and I thought they always needed a little more right-handed presence in the lineup and they certainly did that with the two Upton boys, so I think their lineup is much more balanced."

The Nationals finished four games ahead of the Braves in the division last season, and the Braves went on to lose to the Cardinals in the one-game Wild Card playoff. Washington won the season series, 10-8, and outscored Atlanta, 84-69, on the year.

They'll meet six times this spring in Grapefruit League action.

"I don't look at anybody as a weak sister," Johnson said of the NL East. "Obviously, Philadelphia and Atlanta, with what they've done over the last decade, you have to say those are the teams you've got to beat in your division. We had our problems with the Marlins last year. I look at all of them as tough competitors."

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