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2011 Atlanta Braves Spring Training: Scott Proctor Still Holding Bullpen Spot; Impressive Debuts For Trio Of Prospects

Yesterday, I posted an update on two positions worth noting this spring: utility infielder and fourth outfielder. I have Diory Hernandez and Matt Young slated for the roles, with nothing changing over the first nine games. Today, I look at the last spot in the bullpen, as well as a quick update on some of the minor leaguers currently in camp.

Bullpen Spot:
I projected Scott Proctor as the last reliever in the bullpen coming out of camp simply due to the guaranteed money he is receiving this season. The Braves apparently want to give him every chance to earn a full-time role in the majors. So far this spring, Proctor has allowed three runs in three innings, all coming on a three-run home run by Russ Adams in his spring debut. He has also walked four. He isn't making things easy for the Braves so far, but I still have him in the spot for now.

I have been promoting Stephen Marek since before camp started for the last spot, and he has received plenty of work so far. He's also taking advantage of it, allowing one run in 4.1 innings. He has allowed two hits while walking three and striking out three. Marek has looked really good on the mound, and he's showing tons of confidence in his spring outings. I will continue to root for Marek to win the job, and he can't be too far behind Proctor right now.

Cristhian Martinez has been outstanding in 5.2 innings this spring, allowing just two hits with no runs, walking one and striking out six. Five of the six strikeouts came in two innings of work in his last outing. Martinez could not possibly do more to earn a spot in the bullpen, but with one or two already ahead of him before camp even started, it may be in vain. Either way, Martinez will be in Atlanta at some point in 2011.

Jairo Asencio has also pitched well this spring, allowing one run on two hits in six innings, walking one and striking out five. Asencio may be a year behind due to not playing last season, but he is certainly bouncing back very well so far. Like Martinez, he is probably too far behind the others to leapfrog them, but he may be seen in the majors in 2011, especially if he continues his solid pitching.

Anthony Varvaro received a fairly large amount of early work through the first nine games, but he tailed off his last couple outings and has lost some favor. He has allowed three runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings, walking three and striking out three. Varvaro looked good early, but control did him in the last two times out. He is still a minor league project who won't be in the running.

Cory Gearrin pitched well in his first three innings, but he was knocked around some in his last outing and has allowed three runs in four innings. Gearrin is pretty much done with the minors, but the Braves would have no problem sending him back to Gwinnett for another year, which will probably happen. I still say he is Peter Moylan's replacement, whenever the day comes.

Juan Abreu has allowed one run on four hits in five innings, walking three and striking out six. He has received a lot of early work, likely because he won't be in camp all the way through, and he has looked good, displaying a hard fastball while not letting the walks beat him too much. Abreu will always rack up the strikeouts no matter where he's at, but control is his weakness. He will spend another year in the minors working on it.

There are a few lesser relievers who I won't bother mentioning. The list above, and really just the top three, are your candidates.

Minor League Update:
You can find updates on Jordan Schafer, Brandon Hicks, Jose Constanza, Wilkin Ramirez, Matt Young, Ed Lucas and Shawn Bowman in the previous post from yesterday. I have just touched on Stephen Marek, Cristhian Martinez, Cory Gearrin, Jairo Asencio, Anthony Varvaro and Juan Abreu. Those not mentioned yet are below.

Mycal Jones is 2-10 with a double, RBI, two walks and three strikeouts. He has received a fair amount of at bats against major league pitching, including a start in center and leading off in one game. Jones has played all of his spring innings in center field, which makes it look like the Braves are dead set on converting him to a center fielder. By all accounts, he has played the position well so far.

J.C. Boscan and Wilkin Castillo are a combined 3-11, with two of the hits coming from Castillo. Neither is exactly playing for a big league spot, but I figured I'd get them in here anyway.

Christian Bethancourt is 0-3 with a walk. Perhaps the biggest news surrounding him was when Javy Lopez talked to him about his maturation early in camp. Bethancourt is in big league camp just to give the other catchers a breather at times, but I think it has served a purpose of helping him grow and surround himself with major leaguers.

Todd Cunningham went 0-3 in a start last week. Tyler Pastornicky is 1-3 with a RBI. Jesus Sucre is 1-3.

Brett Oberholtzer has pitched extremely well in four innings, allowing just two hits and no runs, walking one and striking out one. He has opened eyes at camp and is doing everything expected of him performance wise.

Randall Delgado is getting stronger by the outing. After allowing a run and getting knocked around some in his spring debut, he has pitched two scoreless innings since, including striking out two in a perfect inning last time out. Arodys Vizcaino has been lights out in three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out one. Julio Teheran did well in his first spring outing, pitching around a couple hits and not letting a run score. The trio has been outstanding this spring.

Lee Hyde has pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Hyde probably won't be in any running for a bullpen spot soon, but he could give the Braves a few innings as soon as this season if needed.

Jose Ortegano has allowed two runs on four hits in 1.1 innings, walking two and striking out one. Ortegano is quickly losing favor with me. The Braves might not be far behind if he continues this.

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