Olivera's time in winter ball cut short

Olivera's time in winter ball cut short

ATLANTA -- Hector Olivera's stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League ended after he recently returned to Miami to be with his sister as she dealt with a serious medical issue.

Olivera had been scheduled to continue playing for Caguas through the end of this week. But he was released from the team after he returned to Puerto Rico at least one day later than he had originally planned.

Multiple sources have said Olivera was released because he returned later than he had informed the team. Caguas manager Alex Cora disputed this claim after David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported it Monday afternoon.

Regardless of the reason, the Braves did not seem too concerned that Olivera was not going to have an opportunity to play a few more games this week. They believe he made significant progress while spending the past month learning to play left field and getting better acquainted with Atlanta hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, who spent a little more than three weeks in Puerto Rico.

The Braves obviously have a lot invested in Olivera, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the July 30 trade that sent Atlanta's top prospect, Jose Peraza, and a proven, young starter in Alex Wood to Los Angeles.

Olivera was sent to Puerto Rico to make up for the time he lost over the past year while exiting Cuba and dealing with a hamstring injury. The 30-year-old slugger spent the past few weeks making an adjustment from third base to left field. But more important, the experience gave him a chance to grow more comfortable with Seitzer and some mechanical changes to his swing.

"We got to hang out quite a bit," Seitzer said earlier this month. "I was so impressed by his work ethic, his intensity, his focus and concentration to detail. It was really awesome. I was really impressed by how much more athletic he was in the outfield. It was fun to watch."

Olivera batted .275, compiled a .342 on-base percentage and recorded just two extra-base hits (both doubles) through 69 at-bats in Puerto Rico. He struck out just once as he faced pitching comparable to what would be present at the Double-A level.

"I don't care what level of pitching you're facing, to put that kind of percentage of balls in play is pretty awesome," Seitzer said. "His groundouts aren't exactly little dribbler, swinging bunts like we saw a few of in September. The dude has the ability to put the fat part of the bat on the ball, which is impressive. That's the biggest part of the battle. Now it's just a matter of getting used to the adjustments mechanically to the point where the power starts to come."

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