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Unlike in last Spring Training, Avilan is familiar face

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There was little fanfare when Luis Avilan was cut from his first Major League camp last year. But by the time the season was over, Avilan had escaped relative obscurity and established himself as one of Atlanta's top relievers.

"I don't even remember him the Spring Training before," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I remember hearing some of the coaches say that his body changed for the better. He came up right before the All-Star break, and I walked right by him. I didn't know who he was. But he sure made his presence known right after that."

Avilan made just one Grapefruit League appearance before being sent back to Minor League camp last year. At the time there was certainly little reason to believe he would get a surprise call to the Majors in July and then post a 2.00 ERA in 31 appearances with Atlanta.

When Avilan was at Spring Training last year, his fastball sat around 91-92 mph. When he began the season at Double-A Mississippi, he dedicated himself to running twice a day. He credits those conditioning exercises for the primary reason he occasionally touched 95 mph with his fastball late last year.

"You have to work really hard and try to have some luck to get to the big leagues," Avilan said. "I'm the kind of guy who thinks if you work really hard, good things are going to happen."

Avilan's success has positioned him to be back in Atlanta's bullpen at the start of the coming season. He could team with Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty to give the Braves three left-handers in the bullpen.