Former Pirate McLouth helps Braves top Pittsburgh

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Nate McLouth scored a run to lead off the first inning against his former team, Kenshin Kawakami pitched two scoreless innings in his spring training debut and the Atlanta Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

Kawakami struck out two, and Brooks Conrad had two doubles in three at-bats for Atlanta.

Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton, who was part of the deal that sent 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 to take the loss. Pirates pitchers walked 10 batters.

Andy LaRoche homered for Pittsburgh.

This time last year, 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 opened up the 2009 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but was traded to Atlanta in June for three players and immediately made an impact as the Braves everyday center fielder through the second half of the season.

McLouth said he felt a complete change in atmosphere, comparing the Braves clubhouse to the one with the Pirates last year.

He also said that he picked up some contact lenses during the offseason and compared his vision at the plate from going to a high-definition television from a standard one.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said he also noticed a difference in McLouth's vision at the plate and predicted a big year for McLouth, who started 151 games for the Pirates in 2008.