The Atlanta Braves have said goodbye to five invitees to Spring Training, and only one of them comes as any surprise. Righty relievers Juan Jaime and Luis Vasquez, along with catcher Christian Bethancourt and outfielder Todd Cunningham will be headed to Triple-A Gwinnett, and shortstop Elmer Reyes is being sent back to Double-A Mississippi.
You might think I’d say that Christian Bethancourt is the surprise here, but no. I’ve made no secret I think that Bethancourt could well be the future of catching in Atlanta, but with the position deep for the Braves, and the potential offensively of Evan Gattis, Bethancourt will have to wait. No, the surprise for me was the optioning of right-handed reliever Luis Vasquez. As Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter, David O’Brien put it…
Vasquez was considered a strong candidate for a bullpen spot after the Braves signed him as a minor league free agent during his impressive winter-ball season in the Dominican Republic. But he got off to a late start because of visa issues and a strained lat muscle, and his command wasn’t sharp when he began pitching in Grapefruit League games.
Our own Ryan Cothran gave Vasquez just a 40% chance to make the club, so some of us on the Tomahawk Take staff (including myself), bow and give the nod to Ryan for the call on this one. Well played, sir! Those same people (including myself) who gave Vasquez better odds at making the club, have also been bullish and bullish on Gus Schlosser making the team, and with Jaime and Vasquez optioned now, his chances certainly increase. Of course, Gus is a side-arm thrower, can work from the pen or start, and arguably has a larger skill set as a potential ROOGY.
Clearly, Fredi Gonzalez was not at all happy with the too frequent walks he was seeing from Juan Jaime in particular. When Jaime walked seven recently, Gonzalez had the following comment:
Too late in camp to be walking people. You can live with that early in camp, when some of these guys haven’t pitched. But some of these guys now have eight, nine, 10 appearances. You can’t be doing that. You want to see a lot of consistency coming out of that bullpen.
That’s hard to argue with, and certainly with the starting rotation woes the Braves have experienced this Spring, it’s more important than ever that the Braves see some excellence from their relief core. Is it possible the Braves still have the shopping cart out searching the aisles vehemently for more help in the bullpen? Possibly, but time, as they say, is a wastin’.
Stay tuned to Tomahawk Take as we keep you updated on the roster headed into the regular 2014 season. Personally, I believe the Braves are handling their unexpected setbacks quite admirably, and it should be interesting to see if they can weather some storms that will no doubt be headed their way.