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Braves awaiting pitcher to seize No. 5 spot

Anibal unable to provide clarity in latest start vs. Tigers; long-relief picture also cloudy
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Anibal Sanchez gave the Braves a reason to at least keep him in consideration for the last available rotation spot. But he hasn't necessarily proven to be a considerably stronger candidate than Scott Kazmir.

After being released by the Twins this month, Sanchez signed a Minor League deal with the Braves because he knew he'd be given the opportunity to prove himself. In Atlanta's 11-3 loss to Sanchez's former team, the Tigers, the veteran right-hander allowed three runs and seven hits over five innings.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Anibal Sanchez gave the Braves a reason to at least keep him in consideration for the last available rotation spot. But he hasn't necessarily proven to be a considerably stronger candidate than Scott Kazmir.

After being released by the Twins this month, Sanchez signed a Minor League deal with the Braves because he knew he'd be given the opportunity to prove himself. In Atlanta's 11-3 loss to Sanchez's former team, the Tigers, the veteran right-hander allowed three runs and seven hits over five innings.

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"I can only control what I can control," Sanchez said. "I don't want to think about the situation I'm in. I know I have to pitch good, and today I felt good. I don't want to put any pressure on myself for any decision they might make."

One thing Sanchez can't control is the financial aspect; he has a Minor League deal, while Kazmir is set to draw a guaranteed $16 million salary this season. The Braves might be willing to eat the big contract at some point this year.

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But right now, they don't seem to have a significantly better option to fill the rotation spot that opened up when Luiz Gohara suffered a left ankle sprain. Gohara might be ready to join Atlanta's rotation around the start of May.

If Gohara stays on schedule, there is a chance his potential replacement might make as few as four starts. The Braves will not need to use a fifth starter until April 10. Kazmir is scheduled to pitch after starting pitcher Julio Teheran exits Saturday's game against the Yankees, which will give Kazmir a taste of the long-relief role he might have to fill until the club needs to round out its rotation.

"We'll see how he looks, how he feels, the whole thing and see where he fits," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Sanchez began to labor as he pitched into the fifth inning for the first time this spring, and the big blow in Detroit's three-run fifth came courtesy of a bases-clearing double hit by his former catcher, James McCann.

The Braves may wait until Wednesday to announce their Opening Day roster.

Video: ATL@NYY: Kazmir whiffs Bird, strands two runners

Bullpen battle

The Braves have continued to discuss the possibility of carrying two long relievers to begin the season. Kazmir might stand as one of those multi-inning relief options. But the past two days have clouded who might also be placed in that role.

Lucas Sims' bid deteriorated as he allowed the Cardinals eight runs -- six earned -- over three innings on Thursday. Matt Wisler stood as one of the top candidates until he did not retire any of the seven Tigers batters he faced during Friday's seventh inning. Wisler allowed six hits, including two doubles, and issued a walk.

There is a chance the Braves could pair either Aaron Blair or Shane Carle with Kazmir if they opt to open the season with two long relievers. If they carry just one long reliever, they could choose to fill one of the two available bullpen spots with left-hander Rex Brothers.

Though last year's splits indicate Brothers might be best used as a lefty specialist, Snitker does not believe the veteran southpaw would need to be restricted to that role.

Brothers has allowed right-handed batters to hit .250 (7-for-28) with four homers against him this spring. He has also registered 12 strikeouts against righties. Left-handed hitters have gone hitless and drawn two walks in six plate appearances against the veteran reliever.

Injury report

Johan Camargo will not travel when the Braves go to Atlanta to play exhibition games on Monday and Tuesday at SunTrust Park. Camargo is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 5, which is a scheduled off-day for Atlanta. He will spend next week working out with either Triple-A Gwinnett or the players who will participate in extended spring training.

Because Gwinnett is not scheduled to open its season until April 6, Camargo might play for Class A Advanced Florida, which is set to open its season on April 5.

Coming up

Teheran will take the mound when the Braves host the Yankees Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. This will be his final tuneup before he makes an Atlanta record fifth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Wisler