LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At different points over the past few years, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair and Lucas Sims were considered one of the Braves' top pitching prospects. But they will each exit Spring Training having to fight to remain relevant within the organization's long-term plans.Wisler, Blair and Sims
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At different points over the past few years, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair and Lucas Sims were considered one of the Braves' top pitching prospects. But they will each exit Spring Training having to fight to remain relevant within the organization's long-term plans.
Wisler, Blair and Sims were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett before Saturday afternoon's 8-3 loss to the Yankees at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex. Each of these right-handers came to camp with the opportunity to begin the season as Atlanta's long reliever.
The Braves had discussed the possibility of opening the season with two long relievers. But the need to do so seemed to evaporate when Scott Kazmir was released after Saturday's game.
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With Kazmir out of the picture, right-hander Shane Carle and left-hander Rex Brothers now stand as the top candidates to fill the final two available spots in Atlanta's bullpen.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said there is also a chance the Braves could utilize Anibal Sanchez as a long reliever. But because Sanchez signed a Minor League deal, he could be placed on Triple-A Gwinnett's roster until he is needed.
Sanchez is the top internal candidate to fill the rotation spot that opened when Luiz Gohara suffered a left ankle sprain that will likely sideline him until at least May. The Braves may not need to carry a fifth starter until April 10.
Brothers' roster candidacy hedges on if the club opts to carry just one long reliever.
When camp opened, Wisler, Blair and Sims seemed to be the most likely candidates to open the season as Atlanta's long reliever. They each have a Minor League option remaining. Thus there is a chance each of them could eventually be placed in this role, which will likely be held by multiple pitchers throughout the course of the season.
Wisler's candidacy remained strong until he didn't retire any of the seven batters he faced during Friday's loss to the Tigers. The 25-year-old right-hander opened the Grapefruit League season with three consecutive scoreless multi-inning appearances. But he was charged with 12 earned runs over his final 6 1/3 innings.
Sims' candidacy evaporated as he allowed eight runs -- six earned -- over three innings against the Cardinals on Thursday. He allowed 15 earned runs over 13 1/3 innings this spring.
Blair held opponents scoreless in three of his five outings this spring. But he issued five walks, surrendered 10 hits and allowed four earned runs over 8 2/3 innings.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.