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03/24/11 4:44 PM ET

Schafer, Minor among five cut by Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jordan Schafer showed some flashes of promise during Spring Training this year, but the Braves are going to give the once-highly regarded center fielder an opportunity to spend at least a few months in the Minors, so that he might make up for the time he's lost the past three years.

Schafer and left-handed pitcher Mike Minor headlined the list of five players the Braves optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday. The others were infielder Diory Hernandez and right-handed pitchers Juan Abreu and Jairo Asencio.

With Hernandez out of the picture, it appears either Ed Lucas or Brandon Hicks will win one of the two available bench spots. One of these two spots has to be filled by a player capable of playing the shortstop position, and Lucas and Hicks are the only remaining candidates who fit this category.

Abreu and Asencio both enjoyed strong showings during camp, but now that they have been sent to the Minor League side, it looks like Cristhian Martinez or Scott Proctor will win the final available spot in the Atlanta bullpen.

Proctor's bid to win the spot has taken a hit, as he has struggled over the past couple of weeks. He allowed three hits and two runs, one earned, in one inning against the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon.

Martinez's most valuable quality is his ability to work as a middle reliever and long reliever.

There was little reason to believe Schafer would win a spot on this year's Opening Day roster. The 24-year-old outfielder has missed a significant portion of the past two seasons with a left wrist injury he suffered while in the Majors during the first week of the 2009 season. He also served a 50-game suspension in 2008 because of a link to HGH.

Schafer hit just .167 during this year's exhibition season. Minor learned Thursday morning that he was optioned to the Gwinnett roster. Brandon Beachy will begin the season as Atlanta's fifth starter.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.