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Reliever Vasquez rusty in debut with Braves

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As he made his much-anticipated Grapefruit League season debut in Sunday afternoon's loss to the Mets, Braves right-handed reliever Luis Vasquez did not live up to the hype that was generated from the tales of what he did over the past few months in the Dominican Winter League.

Instead, Vasquez displayed some of the rust that should have been expected as he pitched in a game for the first time since suffering a right lat strain approximately two months ago. The 27-year-old sidearmer was not even cleared to begin throwing live batting practice until Wednesday.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would take all of this into account after Vasquez allowed four unearned runs, surrendered one hit and issued two walks while recording just two outs in Sunday's eighth inning.

"I'm not going to evaluate the young man on his first [appearance]," Gonzalez said. "He's coming back from some injuries. You can't evaluate him. It's not fair for him and it's not fair for us. If we make a couple plays, including himself, he might get out of there with just giving up one run."

Vasquez issued a leadoff walk and then made an errant throw to first base after fielding a bunt to account for the first of the two errors that led to the four unearned runs.

"It will take a little more time for me to get [my slider] back," Vasquez said. "But I didn't feel anything wrong. I could throw hard and soft. It felt normal. I just have to work on being more consistent."

Vasquez's ability to produce above-average fastballs with the sidearm delivery he developed less than two years ago has made him an intriguing candidate to begin the season in Atlanta's bullpen. He will have plenty of time over the remainder of the Grapefruit League season to regain the form that led the Braves to sign him as a Minor League free agent on Nov. 3.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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