LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Six weeks after arriving simply looking to make a good impression at his first big league camp, John Gant exited Spring Training with the distinction of being a Major Leaguer.
After Saturday's Grapefruit League season finale against the Tigers was rained out, the Braves announced their Opening Day roster, and in the process provided Gant a chance to feel the thrill of learning he will begin the upcoming season in Atlanta's bullpen.
When the Braves announced their roster, the only real surprise was that it did not include Jhoulys Chacin, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett with the understanding that he will join Atlanta's rotation when the Braves first need a fifth starter on April 12. Williams Perez will begin the season as Atlanta's fourth starter.
Winkler's candidacy was strengthened by the fact that the Braves must carry him on their big league roster until the first week of June or offer him back to the Rockies, the organization from which the right-handed reliever was selected by the Braves in this past offseason's Rule 5 Draft.
Gant, the Braves' No. 22-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, was one of the lesser-heralded prospects the Braves brought to big league camp, but over the past six weeks, he became one of this spring's most pleasant surprises. The 23-year-old right-hander surrendered four earned runs over 15 innings and provided the Braves reason to believe he could be effective as a long reliever or a potential middle-inning option. Gant possesses a funky delivery and a changeup that could prove effective against left-handed batters.
Eric O'Flaherty, who was acquired from the Pirates on Sunday, stands as the only left-handed reliever. Left-handed pitcher Manny Banuelos was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 25) with left elbow inflammation. Jesse Biddle, Andrew McKirahan and Shae Simmons were all placed on the 15-day disabled list as they recover from Tommy John surgery.
The Braves will open the season on Monday afternoon, when they host the Nationals at Turner Field. Below is the Opening Day roster: