3/24/2014 10:52 P.M. ET
Braves send five players to Minor League camp
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves provided a clearer picture of their potential Opening Day roster when they sent five players to Minor League camp on Monday.
Left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter, outfielder Jose Constanza and utility man Joey Terdoslavich were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. The only non-roster invitees affected -- second baseman Tommy La Stella and Tyler Greene -- were reassigned to Minor League camp.
While the Braves could make acquisitions via a trade or free agency this week, this round of cuts gives left-handed reliever Ian Thomas and utility man Tyler Pastornicky more reason to believe they could be part of the Opening Day roster.
"I think there are other things that can happen," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We just have to stay in a position where we haven't definitely drawn up the 25 until we're definitively sure who that group is going to be. We're getting closer."
After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last August, Pastornicky set a goal to be a part of Atlanta's Opening Day roster in 2014. Though he did not play in his first big league game until Friday, he now stands as the only internal candidate to team with Ramiro Pena as Atlanta's two backup infielders.
Greene's bid for that role evaporated as he hit .243 and raised concerns about his glove. While Pastornicky's defensive skills are limited on the left side of the infield, he's a better offensive threat and has the ability to play each of the outfield positions, if necessary.
Buchter could find his way to Atlanta's bullpen if he goes to Gwinnett and addresses the command issues that plagued him again as he issued six walks, notched 12 strikeouts and allowed five earned runs in 8 2/3 Grapefruit League innings. He had been battling with Thomas to begin the season as Atlanta's left-handed specialist.
Thomas has issued five walks and allowed three earned runs in nine Grapefruit League innings. His addition to the Opening Day roster would provide a feel-good story. He went unsigned out of college and then spent three full seasons pitching in an independent league before the Braves found him in 2012.
La Stella made a good impression, hitting .255 (12-for-47) in 20 Grapefruit League games. The intriguing 25-year-old second baseman will attempt to extend his offensive success and lessen concerns about his defense as he begins this season with Gwinnett.
"Coming in, everybody talks about him as a guy who can hit, and we saw that," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We sent him down. He understands. He's got to go to Triple-A, play every day and get better at his game."
Braves add veteran Harang after cutting Garcia
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Hours after parting ways with Freddy Garcia, the Braves believe they found a better option in Aaron Harang.
The Braves signed Harang to a one-year deal on Monday night. Financial terms of the agreement were not immediately revealed.
"Our reports on him in September and this spring have been very good," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We just felt he was a good fit for us."
Harang provides experience to Atlanta's injury-depleted starting rotation. The 35-year-old veteran will be ready to immediately join the four-man rotation the Braves plan to employ until the recently signed Ervin Santana is deemed ready to make his Braves debut during the regular season's second week.
If Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd remain on a track that has them scheduled to make their regular-season debuts during April's fourth week, there's a chance Harang could be moved to a long-relief role by the time May arrives.
"He could pitch in a variety of roles," Wren said. "But I think the thing we feel most comfortable with now is giving us a veteran presence in that rotation."
Wren and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said they were not excited about the prospect of beginning the season with a four-man rotation that consisted of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, David Hale and Gus Schlosser. Teheran accounts for 34 of the 47 career starts that quartet has made.
"We did not want to go into the season with really four young guys and just not have any coverage for them," Wren said. "This gives us someone who has been through the battles and knows what to do and knows how to handle things. Similar to Freddy, but we just felt [Harang] was a better fit for us."
Harang compiled a 2.00 ERA while completing nine Cactus League innings for the Indians this spring. But when he learned he would not begin the season in Cleveland's starting rotation, he asked for and was granted his unconditional release.
In other words, Harang was essentially in the same position Garcia now finds himself in afer he was given his unconditional release early Monday afternoon after the Braves informed him that he would not be on their Opening Day roster.
But while Garcia's fastball was topping out around 85 mph his past few outings, Harang impressed scouts with a fastball that rested between 91-92 mph when he was used as a starter this month. When he was used as a reliever, his fastball was clocked at 93 mph.
Harang has dealt with multiple injury woes that have robbed him of the arm strength he had when he spent the early portion of his career with the A's and Reds. He posted a 5.40 ERA while combining for 26 starts with the Mets and Mariners in 2013.
"Harang is a pretty good piece for us," Gonzalez said. "It gives us a pretty good pitching staff."
Garcia did not allow an earned run in three of his five Grapefruit League starts. After struggling in two consecutive outings, including the one he made while his wife was in labor, he limited the Mets to two hits and one unearned run over 5 1/3 innings on Sunday.
"We thought through it a lot, and he had a [heck] of a spring and we think highly of him," Gonzalez said before the deal with Harang was announced. "But I think where we're at in Spring Training right now, we're going to keep our options open a little bit. He did everything we asked. He was a guy everybody loved in the clubhouse. They really enjoyed playing with him."
The Braves had until Monday to inform Garcia whether he would be on Atlanta's Opening Day roster. Wren said the decision did not have anything to do with the fact Garcia would have been owed $1.25 million if he was placed on Atlanta's roster. This was seemingly confirmed with the revelation Harang was heading to Atlanta.
Garcia has spent the past six weeks repeatedly saying that he will not pitch at the Minor League level this year. But the 37-year-old pitcher exited Braves camp with the hope another club would give him a shot to serve as a starter or reliever at the big league level.
"I've got nothing to say," Garcia said as he packed his bags and said goodbye to his teammates. "They made a decision and I've got to deal with that."
Braves get first taste of new replay system
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez did not get the verdict he was seeking. But with Opening Day less than a week away, he now at least has a feel for Major League Baseball's replay system.
When Andrelton Simmons was called out by umpire Jeff Nelson on a bang-bang play at first base to end the third inning of Monday night's game against the Astros, Gonzalez immediately raced out of the dugout and challenged the ruling. After a review that lasted 1 minute and 14 seconds, the umpires upheld the call.
"It was one of those where you had to make a decision right away, because it was the end of an inning," Gonzalez said. "It wasn't the one you could argue a little bit, turn around and look at the guy in the dugout and get a feel for it."
After not challenging a call during the only two previous exhibition games the Braves had played with the new replay rule in effect, Gonzalez jumped at this opportunity to get a feel for the quick decision that will need to be made when a challenge is made on what would be an inning-ending play.
Gonzalez said he has been informed that he has 10 seconds to come out of the dugout on such a play, and 20 seconds to decide if he wants to challenge. On challenges made during the middle of an inning, managers will have a chance to argue a little longer, giving their replay coordinator, who will be positioned in the clubhouse, a chance to review the play and determine whether it should be challenged.
Horacio Ramirez, who serves as Atlanta's replay coordinator, and Greg Gibson, the umpire who was assigned to review and rule on the play while sitting in a television truck located beyond the outfield wall, both agreed Simmons reached first base at the same time as the throw made by Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar.
"[Gibson] said from what I could see, if he'd have called him safe, I couldn't have overturned it," Gonzalez said. "He called him out and he couldn't overturn it. So I guess it was that close of a play."
• Craig Kimbrel allowed a run and issued a walk before being removed with two outs in Monday night's ninth inning against the Astros. The Braves did not want Kimbrel's pitch count to exceed 20 pitches, as he was pitching for a second straight day for the first time this year.
• Freddie Freeman's fifth-inning home run on Monday night gave him eight hits in his past 12 at-bats. The three extra-base hits he has recorded during this stretch matches his total from his first 38 at-bats of the Grapefruit League season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.