Bullpen spots open after Vizcaino, Kohn get sent down

Bullpen spots open after Vizcaino, Kohn get sent down

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Though they have entered Spring Training's final week with three available bullpen spots, the Braves determined they had seen enough of Michael Kohn and Arodys Vizcaino to determine they will not begin the upcoming season at the Major League level.

The Braves optioned Vizcaino to Triple-A Gwinnett and reassigned Kohn to Minor League camp before Monday afternoon's game against the Tigers. Both right-handers were among the club's bullpen candidates who have struggled to consistently throw strikes since the start of the Grapefruit League season.

"When that bullpen door opens, the last thing you want to see is a guy who can't throw the ball over the plate," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's not a good thing. Usually, those guys are coming in, in the sixth, seventh or eighth innings and those walks are magnified. But I really believe because of the nature of the beast with bullpen arms and how many pitchers you turn over during the course of a year, we will see both those guys in Atlanta at some point this year."

As things currently stand, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan now stand as the only four pitchers who appear certain to begin the season in Atlanta's bullpen. Josh Outman, who was signed in January to serve as the left-handed specialist, might gain one of the three available spots despite the inconsistencies he has displayed over the past month.

The Braves are expected to explore the trade market this week with the hope of improving their currently less-than-impressive list of bullpen candidates.

Juan Jaime has issued 10 walks and allowed five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings during the Grapefruit League season. But because he is out of Minor League options and the Braves are not yet comfortable with placing him on the waiver wire, Jaime remains a candidate for one of the final bullpen spots.

Some of the other remaining candidates include left-hander Brady Feigl and right-hander Aaron Kurcz, a couple of pitchers who will be brought over from Minor League camp to make a couple appearances this week. Gonzalez also mentioned that he's open to the possibility of putting at least one of the the rotation candidates -- Mike Foltynewicz, Eric Stults or Cody Martin -- in the bullpen.

Kohn's fate might have been sealed when he surrendered a three-run homer to Jung Ho Kang in the ninth inning of Saturday's loss. But the former Angels reliever's candidacy to begin the season in the Braves bullpen was primarily damaged as he issued eight walks and surrendered five hits in 8 1/3 innings.

When the Braves reacquired Vizcaino from the Cubs in November, they hoped he would display enough command to earn a bullpen spot. But the hard-throwing 24-year-old reliever issued eight walks and surrendered nine hits over eight innings.

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