NEW YORK -- After a long debate, the Braves opted to open this season with a seven-man bullpen, which will include Chaz Roe, and a five-man bench, which will include Anthony Recker, serving as a third catcher.By including Roe and Recker on their Opening Day roster, which was announced Sunday
NEW YORK -- After a long debate, the Braves opted to open this season with a seven-man bullpen, which will include Chaz Roe, and a five-man bench, which will include Anthony Recker, serving as a third catcher.
By including Roe and Recker on their Opening Day roster, which was announced Sunday morning, the Braves answered any lingering position-battle questions. Atlanta progressed throughout most of Spring Training planning to open with an eight-man bullpen. But on Friday, manager Brian Snitker indicated that plan had changed.
Once it was revealed the Braves would likely open with a seven-man bullpen, there was reason to wonder which reliever would earn the final roster spot and who would fill the additional opening on the bench.
Roe, who is out of options, was given the final bullpen spot over veteran right-handed reliever David Hernandez, who was reassigned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday, exactly one week after he had chosen to sign a Minor League deal with the Braves.
After opting out of a Minor League deal with the Giants who had offered him the chance to pitch at the Triple-A level in his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., Hernandez joined the Braves optimistically looking for a chance to begin the year in the Majors. But he didn't make a strong enough impression for the Braves to risk the chance of losing Roe, who pitched more effectively after struggling during the early part of Spring Training.
Because they have three off-days within the regular season's first 11 days, the Braves decided a five-man bench would provide more value than an eight-man bullpen. There is a chance they could add another reliever late next week, but for now, they simply want to see if another bat adds value to an offensively-challenged bench.
The Braves evaluated numerous free-agent and trade opportunities before deciding to recall Recker to fill their final bench spot. Recker had been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett two weeks ago, but because he's already on the 40-man roster, it made some sense for him to fill what could prove to be a short-term role.
With Recker as the third catcher, the Braves now have more flexibility to use him or one of their primary catchers -- Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki -- as a pinch-hitter. Their other bench options are Jace Peterson, Chase d'Arnaud, and Emilio Bonifacio.
Rio Ruiz is another 40-man roster member who might have warranted some consideration for the bench, but the Braves want the young third baseman to play every day with Triple-A Gwinnett.
The Braves also confirmed right-handed relievers Mauricio Cabrera (right elbow strain) and Armando Rivera (right shoulder strain) will begin the season on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to March 30. There is a chance Cabrera could be cleared to begin pitching again soon. Rivero, a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Cubs, has been shut down since throwing just two bullpen sessions in Spring Training.
Braves Opening Day roster:
Pitchers (12): RHPs Josh Collmenter, Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Mike Foltynewicz, Jim Johnson, Jose Ramirez, Roe, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino; LHPs Jaime Garcia, Ian Krol and Eric O'Flaherty
Catchers (3): Flowers, Recker and Suzuki
Infielders (6): d'Arnaud, Freddie Freeman, Adonis Garcia, Peterson, Brandon Phillips and Dansby Swanson
Outfielders (4): Bonifacio, Ender Inciarte, Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.