Feigl, Benson have chance at Opening Day roster

Although in Minor League camp, manager Gonzalez giving both players additional looks

Feigl, Benson have chance at Opening Day roster

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Although he was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 16, left-handed reliever Brady Feigl has entered the final week of Spring Training with a chance to begin the regular season in Atlanta's bullpen.

"He's in the mix," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "From now on, everybody who comes back [from Minor League camp] is in the mix."

It was not necessarily surprising to hear Gonzalez reveal that he wants to provide a few more appearances to Feigl, who has been the most impressive left-handed reliever in Atlanta's camp this year. But the manager opened some eyes when he said he also plans to get a few more looks at Joe Benson, a 27-year-old Minor League outfielder who has totaled just eight plate appearances in Grapefruit League games.

Benson has made the most of the five opportunities he has had to play in the Major League exhibition games as an "extra" brought over from Minor League camp to primarily provide late-inning insurance. Although he has recorded just one hit and drawn three walks in his eight plate appearances, Benson has impressed the Braves enough with his defense and all-out approach to now be considered a candidate to fill the club's need to carry a backup who has the capability of playing center field.

Given that Benson has totaled just 21 Major League games since the Twins selected him in the second round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, he remains a longshot to begin the season on Atlanta's roster. But he has at least positioned himself for a potential promotion to Atlanta at some point this year.

"There have been many, many guys that you bring over [from Minor League camp] and then say, 'Bring him over again,'" Gonzalez said.

The Braves have been doing this over the past few weeks with Feigl, who has allowed just one earned run during the 6 2/3 innings he has completed in Grapefruit League games. The 24-year-old southpaw's roster candidacy was strengthened on Sunday, when the Braves released veteran left-hander James Russell.

Feigl was signed as an undrafted free agent by Gene Kerns, the veteran scout who found Brandon Beachy after he was not drafted out of college. The young reliever has never pitched above the Class A Advanced level. But the Braves have seen enough this month to believe he could make a successful jump to the Major League level.

"I guarantee he wouldn't be the first guy to make a team late in camp being a fence jumper," Gonzalez said using the term applied to players brought over from Minor League camp to play in big league exhibition games.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.