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2011 Atlanta Braves Spring Training: Brandon Hicks, Matt Young Among Bench Players Making Opening Day Roster

The Braves have announced their Opening Day roster. Several bench spots and a bullpen spot came down to the wire, but the Braves did well in choosing the best possible players for the roles.

The three bench spots open were claimed by Brooks Conrad, Brandon Hicks and Matt Young. Conrad gives the team a solid bat from both sides, which is more than Joe Mather or Diory Hernandez could do. While he doesn't provide good defense and should never enter a game as a defensive replacement, he gives the Braves a good pinch hitter.

Hicks came out of nowhere to Braves fans in the final days to take a spot as backup shortstop and defensive replacement. The common thought was Ed Lucas would get the nod after Hernandez was cut from camp, but Hicks provides the team with much better defense and someone capable of filling in for Alex Gonzalez with confidence. He is also a much better runner with more speed. I like this move.

I also like Young being the fourth outfielder. I called this before spring camp started due to Young's defense and capable bat. He won't wow anyone with the defense, but he is capable of playing center with confidence. He also has a good bat with patience, and he has some versatility by being able to play second base. Like Hicks, this shows the Braves are set on providing good defense from the bench.

I also agree with the move of carrying Cristhian Martinez over Scott Proctor for the final bullpen spot. Martinez is a better pitcher in every way and will give the Braves more quality innings. Proctor is a great guy and I wish him the best, but I'm glad he won't be in Atlanta to start the season. Also, Martinez is capable of going multiple innings at a time, which is key for the final bullpen spot.

Mather was placed on waivers and will likely get scooped up soon. He was pretty terrible at the plate and in the field this spring, and he pretty much played himself out of a spot. I feel this probably opened the door for Conrad making the team right now.

This means a bench of David Ross, Eric Hinske, Conrad, Hicks and Young. Best backup catcher in the league, one of the best pinch hitters in the league, a solid pinch hitter, a solid defensive infielder and a good fourth outfielder with a bat.

The Braves certainly made the most of what they had to choose from for these spots. Very pleased.

Kenshin Kawakami will likely be sent to AA, while Rodrigo Lopez will start at AAA. This is all barring any trades between now and the opener.

Jair Jurrjens will complete a bullpen session Monday as a first step to avoid the disabled list. If all goes well there, he will pitch in a minor league game later in the week. If he avoids the DL, he could still be moved to the fifth spot in the rotation to skip his first start, meaning Brandon Beachy will make his start in Milwaukee April 4. If he goes on the DL, Mike Minor or Rodrigo Lopez would get the nod.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.