LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Eric O'Flaherty was rewarded with a message he was expecting and Emilio Bonifacio had reason to be thrilled when he learned the Braves had decided to also reserve a place for him on their Opening Day roster. But Paco Rodriguez surprisingly learned he now has
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Eric O'Flaherty was rewarded with a message he was expecting and Emilio Bonifacio had reason to be thrilled when he learned the Braves had decided to also reserve a place for him on their Opening Day roster. But Paco Rodriguez surprisingly learned he now has to seek a new employer.
Before Tuesday afternoon's game against the Orioles, the Braves announced they had purchased the contract of both O'Flaherty and Bonifacio. They removed Rodriguez from the bullpen mix by releasing him, and they also optioned a pair of right-handed pitchers -- Matt Wisler and Joel De La Cruz -- to Triple-A Gwinnett.
The left-handed O'Flaherty was a longshot to make the roster at the beginning of camp, but over the course of the past couple of weeks, he had essentially become a lock for one of the bullpen spots. Bonifacio had also recently become a clear favorite for one of the spots on Atlanta's bench, but until receiving confirmation from general manager John Coppolella on Tuesday morning, there was still at least some doubt about what his immediate future might bring.
The biggest surprise within this round of cuts came with the decision to cut ties with Rodriguez, who has not pitched in a Major League game since May 29, 2015. When the Braves acquired the left-handed reliever via the three-team megadeal that brought Hector Olivera to Atlanta before the 2015 Trade Deadline, there were members of the Dodgers organization who expressed doubts about the durability of Rodriguez's elbow -- and that was before he underwent Tommy John surgery approximately six weeks later.
Rodriguez missed all of the 2016 season and then was Atlanta's last arbitration-eligible player to reach an agreement this past offseason, when he signed a one-year, $637,500 contract. Because it was a non-guaranteed contract, the Braves will only have to pay 45 days' worth, or approximately $160,000.
As Rodriguez allowed one run and four hits in four innings during the Grapefruit League season, it was obvious the Braves weren't sold on carrying him as their left-handed specialist. They claimed left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman off waivers from the Astros on March 13. If they go with an eight-man bullpen, Chapman would likely join Ian Krol and O'Flaherty as the left-handed relief options.
Wisler began last season as Atlanta's third starter, but he came to Spring Training knowing he would likely begin the season with Gwinnett. The 24-year-old right-hander will join Aaron Blair as the top early-season options if a spot opens within the Braves' rotation, which added Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia during the offseason.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.