Braves select righty Rivero in Rule 5 Draft

Atlanta also picks lefty Pimentel in Minor League phase

Braves select righty Rivero in Rule 5 Draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Looking to further add to their impressive bullpen depth, the Braves selected right-handed reliever Armando Rivero from the Cubs' organization during the Major League phase of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, which concluded this year's Winter Meetings.

Rivero had a 2.13 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 35 walks in 67 2/3 innings for Triple-A Iowa this past season. The 28-year-old Cuban's 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings led all Minor Leaguers who completed at least 65 innings.

2016 Rule 5 Draft results

"He's a guy we liked from the very start," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "We have some history with him in Cuba through our foreign scouting, and we had some familiarity with him with our scouts."

To create a 40-man roster spot in order to make this selection, the Braves released right-handed pitcher Williams Perez just before the start of the Rule 5 Draft. Perez showed some promise while occasionally filling a spot in Atlanta's rotation over his past two injury-marred seasons, but his value within Atlanta's system has been adversely affected by this offseason's activity (additions of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia) and the pending arrival of a flurry of highly regarded starting-pitching prospects with much greater upside.

The Braves -- encouraged by reports from first-base coach Eddie Perez, who managed Rivero in Venezuela the past two winters -- decided it would be a wise gamble to pay the $100,000 necessary to select the right-hander, who will need to be offered back to the Cubs for $50,000 if he does not stay on Atlanta's active roster for the entirety of the 2017 season.

Rivero began his professional career in the United States in 2013 and steadily made progress over the past couple of years. He recorded 53 strikeouts in 57 innings for Iowa in '15 and then missed bats much more frequently this past summer.

With the Braves seemingly leaning toward the possibility of an eight-man bullpen, Rivero's odds of sticking with the club appear to be good as long as he pitches effectively during Spring Training. Jim Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino, Mauricio Cabrera, Jose Ramirez, Chaz Roe and Ian Krol are the favorites to fill the first six spots in Atlanta's bullpen, and Josh Collmenter looks like a good option to serve as the long reliever.

Daniel Winkler, who was taken by the Braves in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, remains a candidate. But given the uncertainty surrounding him as he attempts to return from a fractured right elbow, there's also a chance the Braves will offer him back to the Rockies if they don't feel comfortable carrying him on their active roster through most of the upcoming season's first two months.

"We're in a situation where we've had some guys who have been hurt in our bullpen, and there is some uncertainty," Coppolella said. "We love the depth and the upside. [Rivero] adds to it. He's somebody we've liked for a long time, and to now have him here is exciting for us."

The Braves also selected left-handed reliever Cesilio Pimentel from the Pirates' organization in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Pimentel will likely begin the 2017 season at the Class A Advanced or Double-A level.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.