3/1/2014 10:13 P.M. ET
Braves near deal with Cuban prospect Bello
Catcher would get Minor League contract with invite to Spring Training
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
The Braves are finalizing a Minor League deal with Cuban catching prospect Yenier Bello, according to an industry source.
The agreement includes a signing bonus and an invitation to Spring Training. The Braves have not confirmed the deal.
Bello, 29, hit .274 with 13 home runs in Cuba's La Serie Nacional, the country's top baseball league, in 2011. He hit 75 home runs and drove in 297 runs in his last five seasons in Cuba, primarily with Sancti Spíritus.
The Braves intend to use Evan Gattis as their starting catcher for approximately 105 games this season, with Gerald Laird, who is day to day with a lower back strain, serving as his primary backup. Ryan Doumit can also catch, and Christian Bethancourt, 22, who spent the last two seasons at Double-A, appears to be the catcher of the future.
Bello will likely start the season in the Minor Leagues. It has already been quite a ride for the 5-foot-11, 225-pound backstop.
The right-handed hitter was suspended from baseball in Cuba and had his passport confiscated after he was caught attempting to leave the island in 2012. Last spring, he retired from baseball and traveled to Ecuador, and he reaquired his passport.
Bello never returned to Cuba and later established residency in Mexico, the first step to being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. He was cleared by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control last month. He is represented by Bryce Dixon of the Primo Sports Group.