Braves' decisions may come down to wire

Club seeking lefty relief, examining backup OF options ahead of Sunday's roster deadline

Braves' decisions may come down to wire

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though it has become a little easier to project who might be part of Atlanta's pitching staff on Opening Day, the Braves are still looking for some external left-handed relief options and also debating which backup outfielder should fill the last available roster spot for a position player.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez would like to set his Opening Day roster before the team travels to Atlanta following the conclusion of Saturday afternoon's Grapefruit League season finale. But there is still a chance that the club could wait until Sunday's deadline.

"I think there's something special about taking the flight to your city with your club," Gonzalez said. "I'd like to have that done."

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Though Gonzalez might want to have some certainty before leaving Florida, the always active Atlanta front office might choose to wait a little longer to explore all external options. Last year, the Braves set their Opening Day roster by the 3 p.m. ET deadline and then altered it a couple of hours later when they completed the Craig Kimbrel trade with the Padres.

There has been no indication that this year will bring a similar kind of surprising development. But the Braves are still looking for a left-handed reliever and any other way they can improve their club, as was witnessed yet again when they gave Drew Stubbs a Minor League deal that could amount to a three-day tryout.

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It appears Stubbs is competing for the final position player roster spot with Michael Bourn and Emilio Bonifacio. The Braves don't necessarily want to eat the $14 million owed to Bourn, but at the same time, his presence as a left-handed hitter minimizes his value on Atlanta's roster. Bonifacio was deemed the likely odd man out when it was announced earlier this week that Jeff Francoeur would be on the Opening Day roster.

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Though Stubbs has gone hitless in the five at-bats he's tallied since joining the Braves on Thursday, the Braves will place a greater emphasis on what he can provide as right-handed-hitting option on those days when they do not want to play Ender Inciarte against certain left-handed pitchers.

"It would be unfair to [Stubbs] to judge him based on production over three days," Gonzalez said. "We're going to kick it around and see what's best for the team."

The Braves have not officially filled the final two spots in their rotation, but it appears Jhoulys Chacin and Williams Perez will likely fill those vacancies. Chacin tossed 4 2/3 solid innings in a 2-2 tie with a split-squad Rays team on Friday, and Perez will start Saturday's Grapefruit League season finale against the Tigers.

Because they do not need a fifth starter until April 12, the Braves will begin the season with eight relievers, one of whom could be Perez. The Braves could also option Perez to Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday and then activate him before the April 12 game at Nationals Park.

It appears Arodys Vizcaino, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Alexi Ogando, Eric O'Flaherty and Daniel Winkler have all secured bullpen spots. John Gant and Jose Ramirez, who is out of options, stand as two strong candidates for the final two spots. But the club does have the option to fill one of those spots with Perez.

With this current projected makeup, O'Flaherty stands as the only left-handed reliever. The Braves have discussed Minor Leaguers Kyle Kinman and Hunter Cervenka as internal options, but they will also monitor whether the Nationals' Sean Burnett and other left-handed relievers will become roster casualties.

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