Olivera's 82-game suspension will end on Aug. 1, but the Braves outfielder was cleared to begin playing with the Gulf Coast League Braves in Florida on Friday. He will spend this weekend with the Rookie-level team and then begin what could be an extended assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday.
But it remains to be seen whether Olivera will be welcomed back to the Atlanta clubhouse by team officials and teammates, some of whom have privately indicated that they do not want to play with him again.
"We don't have any plan here as of yet as to what is going to happen with Hector as far as bringing him back or leaving him in Gwinnett," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "There are no guarantees."
Braves general manager John Coppolella has admitted that the Braves have discussed the possibility of releasing Olivera, and they also attempted to trade him over the past few months. But for now, the Cuban outfielder will be given a chance to begin playing at the Minor League level, and more importantly, he will have the opportunity to show that he has taken responsibility for his actions.
"With all that has gone on with this as disappointing as it's been, I think Hector has used this time productively," Hart said. "We have been comfortable with the steps he has taken off the field, which has been important to us, and obviously the work he has put in on the field. I think he has made an honest effort to try to put himself back and try to resurrect his career."
After completing his domestic-violence suspension in June, Jose Reyes played nine games at the Triple-A level before the Rockies released him, despite the fact that they are still responsible for paying him $38 million through 2017. The Mets then signed their former shortstop to a Minor League deal, and he played nine more games in the Minors before they added him to the big league roster.
The Braves have long regretted their decision to deal former top prospect Jose Peraza and Alex Wood to land Olivera from the Dodgers on July 30. At the time, Atlanta felt it had gained a potential middle-of-the-order bat who was owed $32.5 million through 2020. This accounted for essentially half of Olivera's six-year, $62.5 million deal with the Dodgers (including a $28 million signing bonus).
Plans to utilize Olivera at third base quickly fizzled, and coaches and executives became worried about the mechanics of the 31-year-old's swing. These concerns have been validated, as Olivera has batted .245 and compiled a .674 OPS through the 30 games at the big league level.
The Braves sent Olivera to the Puerto Rican Winter League to refine his offensive mechanics and to learn how to play left field in the offseason. He also showed some promise with the work ethic he displayed during Spring Training. But less than two weeks into this season, he was charged with a crime that made all of that irrelevant.