LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Manny Banuelos came to Spring Training with a legitimate chance to begin this season as the Braves' fifth starter. But instead of preparing for the upcoming season, the southpaw has instead spent the past week dealing with more left elbow discomfort.
Banuelos has not thrown since he began feeling discomfort during his March 22 appearance against the Astros, when he allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings. The southpaw was relieved when an MRI exam showed no structural damage to his left elbow, which has hampered his development dating back to 2012, when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery.
After missing the 2013 season and totaling just 76 2/3 Minor League innings while still in the Yankees' Minor League system in '14, Banuelos made his Major League debut for the Braves just before last year's All-Star break. The 25-year-old allowed one earned run or fewer in three of the four starts he made before he began dealing with discomfort that led to him having bone spurs removed from his left elbow in September.
"When you come from surgery, you've got to know there will be sometimes you feel something," Banuelos said. "It's been five or six months after surgery. So for me, I just have to be patient."
Banuelos, the Braves' ninth-ranked prospect, struggled during his March 12 Grapefruit League debut against the Nationals and then essentially saw his rotation bid end due to his disappointing outing against the Astros on March 22.
While Banuelos was obviously encouraged that his MRI exam was clean, he has not enjoyed spending the past week undergoing treatment and dealing with the uncertainty that surrounds this latest setback.
"I'm worried because I haven't been throwing," Banuelos said. "I just want to keep pitching. I don't feel good just coming here and doing the treatments. We'll take it day by day. I'm going to do whatever they tell me to do."
With Banuelos and Mike Foltynewicz, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday, out of the mix, Jhoulys Chacin, Williams Perez and John Gant now stand as the final three candidates to fill the two vacancies in Atlanta's rotation. Gant has been one of this year's most pleasant surprises, but the fact that he is scheduled to pitch in relief on Thursday indicates Chacin and Perez are the current favorites for those two spots.
Odds and ends
• The Braves were encouraged to see Jim Johnson's fastball sit between 90-92 mph as he completed a scoreless inning during Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the Yankees. There had been some concern when Johnson's fastball rested closer to 88 mph during the early part of the Grapefruit League season.
• Eric O'Flaherty pitched around two hits as he worked a scoreless inning during Wednesday's game. This was the first appearance the veteran left-handed reliever made since he was acquired from the Pirates on Sunday.
• Alex Torres was released on Wednesday. The Braves had sent the veteran left-handed reliever to Minor League camp on Monday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.