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Banuelos, Jenkins draw attention at workout

Pair of top prospects in contention for Braves' rotation spots
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Braves pitchers threw live batting practice for the first time on Friday afternoon, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez focused his attention on Tyrell Jenkins and Manny Banuelos, two of Atlanta's most advanced prospects and possible future starters.

Banuelos stands as one of the camp's most intriguing arms. The 24-year-old southpaw provided a glimpse of his potential when he allowed one earned run or fewer in each of the three July starts he made before his troublesome elbow became a problem again last year. He missed all of August and battled discomfort during the two September starts that preceded the surgical removal of a bone spur in his elbow.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Braves pitchers threw live batting practice for the first time on Friday afternoon, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez focused his attention on Tyrell Jenkins and Manny Banuelos, two of Atlanta's most advanced prospects and possible future starters.

Banuelos stands as one of the camp's most intriguing arms. The 24-year-old southpaw provided a glimpse of his potential when he allowed one earned run or fewer in each of the three July starts he made before his troublesome elbow became a problem again last year. He missed all of August and battled discomfort during the two September starts that preceded the surgical removal of a bone spur in his elbow.

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If Banuelos is healthy, he could certainly grab one of the two open rotation spots. The other top candidates include Williams Perez, Kyle Kendrick and Jhoulys Chacin. Kendrick and Chacin are non-roster invitees, who might only serve as short-term solutions until the Braves are ready to provide a rotation spot to Jenkins or Aaron Blair, a pair of highly-touted prospects who are both on the cusp of being Major League ready.

Like Banuelos, Jenkins has seen his pro career influenced by arm problems, but the charismatic and energetic 23-year-old pitcher enhanced his stock when he produced a 3.19 ERA over the 25 starts he combined to make for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett last year.

Video: ATL@NYY: Jenkins strikes out Beltran in the 6th

"They're working with his delivery a little bit, and it was nice to see him develop," Gonzalez said. "He's there. He's knocking on the door. He pitched Triple-A baseball last year. He's a highly-coveted guy. We like him. He's going to make some adjustments. I just want to keep an eye on him."

Odds and ends

Freddie Freeman simply tracked pitches as he stood in the batter's box during live batting practice. But when it came time to take regular batting practice, the Braves first baseman swung with an aggressive manner that indicated he is not overly concerned about his right wrist, which bothered him most of last season and throughout a portion of the offseason. The Braves have not determined when they will allow Freeman to swing a bat over three consecutive days or face live pitching.

Chris Withrow and Shae Simmons spent a portion of last summer together rehabbing at the Braves' Spring Training complex. Withrow, who missed last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and back surgery, has caught the coaching staff's attention during the early part of camp and stands as a favorite to claim one of the open bullpen spots. Simmons has made steady progress since undergoing Tommy John surgery approximately 12 months ago, but he likely won't join Atlanta's bullpen before the latter portion of April or early May.

• Former second baseman Mark Lemke arrived in camp on Friday to begin his stint as a guest instructor. Tim Hudson, Andruw Jones and Dale Murphy will also be present next week to serve as guest instructors.

• Because players will be undergoing physicals during the morning hours on Saturday and Sunday, the Braves will begin their workouts at 1 p.m. ET this weekend.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Atlanta Braves, Manny Banuelos, Tyrell Jenkins