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Relief corps has up-and-down day

Relief corps has up-and-down day

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves were happy to see their closer back on the mound again. But there wasn't much reason for them to be excited about what they saw from some of the relievers fighting for the final available spots in their bullpen.

Braves manager Bobby Cox was pleased to see closer Rafael Soriano show good velocity while completing a scoreless sixth inning during his Grapefruit League debut against the Rays at Disney's Champion Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

"He was real good for the first time out," said Cox of Soriano, who threw 94-mph fastballs and showed no indication that he's still bothered by the right elbow discomfort that had kept him sidelined during the Grapefruit League's first two full weeks.

While Soriano provided answers about his elbow, Tyler Yates and Blaine Boyer both provided more doubt about who exactly will fill the final spots of the bullpen. Both of these hard-throwing right-handed relievers are out of Minor League options.

"I haven't thrown well at all this spring," Yates said. "I haven't thrown the way I can and should be throwing. It's disappointing not to be where I want to be right now."

Before entering Saturday's 11-10 loss to the Rays, Yates told himself he needed to have a clean outing that consisted of 10 to 12 pitches. But he walked the first batter he faced and then hit the second with a pitch.

One out later, he surrendered three consecutive soft singles and found himself heading towards a line that would show he surrendered five earned runs while recording just one out.

Yates, who had issued five walks in his previous 4 2/3 innings, believes he can fix his problems with some mechanical adjustments.

"I didn't care if I struck anybody out," Yates said. "I just didn't want anybody to reach base. Maybe I'm trying too hard. I don't know. But I do think there's something mechanically that's not letting me throw the ball the way I'm capable."

As for Boyer, his control problems were evidenced by the fact that he hit two of the first three batters he faced in the ninth inning. Still, he recorded two strikeouts and ended up allowing just one run.

Because he hadn't surrendered a run in his previous eight Grapefruit League innings, the 26-year-old right-hander wasn't nearly as upset as Yates.

"It's just one run," Boyer said. "I had to give up a run sometime. I still got two strikeouts and controlled the damage. I'm not happy with [the outing]. But I'm certainly not going to go jump under the bed and hide."

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

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