Spot could open up in Braves' bullpen

Reliever Cabrera battling right elbow injury; Roe, Boyer may fill in

March 24th, 2017
The Braves are being cautious with reliever Mauricio Cabrera, who has a fatigued or injured right elbow. (AP)

LAKELAND, Fla. -- When exited Monday's ugly appearance against the Marlins, the Braves were hoping the hard-throwing reliever might just need to make a few mechanical adjustments. But it now looks like Cabrera's recent struggles might have been influenced by a fatigued or injured right elbow.

Before Friday's game against the Tigers, Braves manager Brian Snitker revealed Cabrera experienced some right elbow discomfort earlier this week. This is certainly not a comforting development, but for now the team has not ruled out the possibility that the reliever could begin throwing again within the next couple days and possibly begin the regular season within Atlanta's bullpen.

"He felt something in his elbow, so we're being a little cautious with him right now," Snitker said. "He's making some adjustments, and he's working on things. But he felt a little something, so we just kind of backed him off a little bit. He's kind of a day-to-day guy right now."

Snitker said Cabrera informed him on Friday morning that he "felt great." While this might be encouraging, there's still reason to question whether the reliever will have enough time to prove he is healthy enough to avoid beginning the season on the disabled list.

Cabrera has battled command issues throughout his professional career, but his struggles reached another level on Monday, as he errantly controlled a fastball that routinely rests slightly above 100 mph. He hit one batter, nearly hit two others and issued two walks, retiring just two of the six batters faced.

If Cabrera is not available at the start of the season, there is a chance that a spot in what is projected to be an eight-man bullpen will open for either , who is out of options, or non-roster invitee .

The favorites to claim the first six spots in Atlanta's bullpen are Jim Johnson, , , , and Josh Collmenter. Left-handed relievers Paco Rodriguez and , who is also out of options, could also battle for one of the two remaining spots.