Braves Rosters Complete

BravesCenter Editor Bill Shanks takes a look at how the Braves rosters across the organization are shaping up headed into the season. Who's going where, and what are the big surprises?

The Atlanta Braves will demote pitchers Trey Hodges, Tim Drew, and Ryan Glynn, catchers Joe DePastino and Lee Evans, infielders Wilson Betemit, Mike Hessman, and Jorge Valendia, and outfielder Damon Hollins to AAA Richmond after Saturday's game against the Red Sox.

Atlanta is also expected to place left-hander Armando Almanza on the 15-day disabled list.

The final cuts of spring training will finalize the Atlanta roster and allows the minor league rosters to be complete as well.

Atlanta will have Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton, John Thomson, Horacio Ramirez, and Jaret Wright in the starting rotation. John Smoltz, Chris Reitsma, Juan Cruz, Antonio Alfonseca, C.J. Nitkowski, Kevin Gryboski, and Wil Cunnane will comprise the bullpen.

Julio Franco and DeWayne Wise will be placed on the 40-man roster and make the Atlanta team as reserves. Jesse Garcia will be the backup middle infielder.

ATLANTA BRAVES

STARTERS			RELIEVERS				CATCHERS
RUSS ORTIZ			JOHN SMOLTZ			JOHNNY ESTRADA
MIKE HAMPTON		CHRIS REITSMA			EDDIE PEREZ
JOHN THOMSON		C.J. NITKOWSKI
HORACIO RAMIREZ	JUAN CRUZ
JARET WRIGHT		KEVIN GRYBOSKI
				WIL CUNNANE	
				ANTONIO ALFONSECA	

INFIELDERS		OUTFIELDERS
ADAM LAROCHE		CHIPPER JONES
MARCUS GILES		ANDRUW JONES
RAFAEL FURCAL		J.D. DREW
MARK DEROSA		DEWAYNE WISE
JULIO FRANCO		ELI MARRERO		
JESSE GARCIA

***


Hodges will now be a starter for the Richmond Braves and be on guard in case a pitcher is needed in Atlanta. Sam McConnell, Travis Smith, Chuck Smith, and either Ryan Glynn or Ray Aguilar will join Hodges in the AAA rotation. The Richmond closer will be Matt Whiteside. Mike Romano, Sean Fesh, Romon Colon, Tim Drew, and Buddy Hernandez will round out the bullpen.

Evans and DePastino will split time at catcher with former American League All-Star Dave Nilsson. The 34-year old former Milwaukee Brewer will also see time as the Designated Hitter and at first base, while Evans can also see action at first as well.

Richmond Manager Pat Kelly will have tremendous flexibility with his roster. Ryan Jackson is expected to get most of the playing time at first base, but he can also play the outfield. Jackson, a former major leaguer with the Marlins, Tigers, and Mariners, was the MVP for the Durham Bulls a year ago. Hessman and former Cincinnati Red Russ Branyan can play first base, third base, and the outfield. Nick Green will get most of the starts at second base, but he can also play third and shortstop. Wilson Betemit will be the primary starter at third base, but he can also play short and saw some action at second base during the latter part of Spring Training. Jorge Valendia can play second and short.

Damon Hollins, Ryan Langerhans, and Charles Thomas will be the other three outfielders for Richmond. Langerhans is battling shoulder troubles and may be limited early in the season. Pete Orr will be another reserve off the bench with tremendous flexibility. Orr can play all infield positions and spell in the outfield if necessary.

	
RICHMOND BRAVES

STARTERS			BULLPEN				CATCHERS
TREY HODGES		MATT WHITESIDE			JOE DEPASTINO
SAM MCCONNELL		MIKE ROMANO			LEE EVANS
TRAVIS SMITH		SEAN FESH				DAVE NILSSON
CHUCK SMITH		ROMAN COLON
RAY AGUILAR		TIM DREW
				BUDDY HERNANDEZ
				RYAN GLYNN
	
INFIELDERS		OUTFIELDERS
RYAN JACKSON		RYAN LANGERHANS
NICK GREEN		DAMON HOLLINS
JORGE VALENDIA		RUSS BRANYAN
WILSON BETEMIT		CHARLES THOMAS
MIKE HESSMAN
PETE ORR			

***


The Greenville Braves will have a tremendous group of prospects on board for 2004. The AA starting pitching staff will be led by left-handers Dan Meyer and Macay McBride, and right-hander Zach Miner. Left-hander Steve Smyth, acquired from the Chicago Cubs a week ago, will be in new AA pitching coach Dave Schuler's rotation. Isaro Pineda, signed as a minor league free agent last December, will be in the rotation until Chris Waters returns from shoulder strain in a few weeks.

Alec Zumwalt, who was taken by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the Rule V draft last winter but returned to the Braves a few weeks ago, will lead the G-Braves bullpen. Brett Evert, Kevin Barry, Daniel Curtis, Matt Coenen, Ralph Roberts, and Jamie Emiliano will also be in Greenville's bullpen.

Brayan Pena and J.C. Boscan will share catching duties in Greenville, while the starting infield will have James Jurries at first base, Aaron Herr at second base, Tony Pena, Jr. at shortstop, and top prospect Andy Marte at third base. Isaac Iorg, who played last season in Myrtle Beach, and Juan Velasquez will be the infield reserves.

Kelly Johnson will move from the infield to become Manager Brian Snitker's primary leftfielder. Johnson will continue to see occasional playing time at shortstop and third base. Adam Stern and Billy McCarthy will be the other two starting outfielders, with Cory Aldridge also seeing playing time. Stern and McCarthy both battled injuries in 2003.

GREENVILLE BRAVES

STARTERS			RELIEVERS			CATCHERS
DAN MEYER			ALEC ZUMWALT		BRAYAN PENA
MACAY MCBRIDE		BRETT EVERT		J.C. BOSCAN
ZACH MINER		MATT COENEN
STEVE SMYTH		JAMIE EMILIANO
ISARO PINEDA		KEVIN BARRY
				DANIEL CURTIS
				RALPH ROBERTS

INFIELDERS		OUTFIELDERS
JAMES JURRIES		KELLY JOHNSON	
AARON HERR 		ADAM STERN
TONY PENA, JR.		BILLY MCCARTHY
ANDY MARTE		CORY ALDRIDGE
ISAAC IORG
JUAN VELASQUEZ

***


This year's Myrtle Beach Pelicans roster will have fourteen players who helped the Rome Braves win the Sally League Championship a year ago. The Pelicans' starting rotation looks strong with five right-handers: Kyle Davies, Anthony Lerew, Blaine Boyer, Jose Capellan, and Matt Wright. Last season's 11th round draft pick. Glenn Tucker, will be the Pelicans closer after saving six games in Danville last season. He'll be joined by last year's 7th round pick Ryan Basner, Matt Merricks, Manny Acosta, Efigenio Peralta, and Mike Mueller. Matt McClendon, a former fifth round pick who has missed most of the last three seasons with elbow trouble, will also be apart of Myrtle Beach's bullpen. Sung Ki Jung, who was Rome's closer in 2003, will eventually be apart of Rome's pitching staff. Jung has been stuck overseas with visa problems and is still not in Orlando.

Brian McCann, who hit 12 home runs in Rome last season, will be the starting catcher for Myrtle Beach. Alonzo Ruelas and Jose Salas will be the backups.

Scott Thorman returns to the beach after hitting .243 in the Carolina League a year ago. Three former Rome players'll join him in the starting infield: second baseman Jonathan Schuerholz, shortstop Luis Hernandez, and third baseman Wes Timmons. Juan Downing and Ben Thomas will be the reserve infielders.

Jeff Francoeur, a 2002 1st round draft choice, will patrol the outfield for Myrtle Beach. Francoeur hit .281 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI last season. Francoeur will lead a speedy outfield. He had 21 stolen bases last season, while Onil Joseph had 32 for Rome and Gregor Blanco had 34 for the Pelicans. Jamie Hemingway had marvelous spring training and will skip Rome to play for the Pelicans. Hemingway was a 23rd round pick last June and showed tremendous power in March.

MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS

ROTATION			BULLPEN			CATCHERS
KYLE DAVIES		GLENN TUCKER		BRIAN MCCANN
ANTHONY LEREW		RYAN BASNER		ALONZO RUELAS
JOSE CAPELLAN		MATT MCCLENDON	JOSE SALAS		
BLAINE BOYER		EFIGENIO PERALTA
MATT WRIGHT		MIKE MUELLER
				MANNY ACOSTA
				MATT MERRICKS

INFIELDER				OUTFIELDERS
SCOTT THORMAN			JEFF FRANCOEUR
JONATHAN SCHUERHOLZ	ONIL JOSEPH
LUIS HERNANDEZ			GREGOR BLANCO
WES TIMMONS			JAMIE HEMINGWAY
BEN THOMAS		
JUAN DOWNING	

***


Braves fans in Rome will once again have a young team to cheer for, but the talent could be just as strong as a year ago when the first year team won the league title. The Rome Braves will employ a unique seven man starting rotation with four players "piggybacking." One pitcher will start and be on a pitch count, and then another starter will come in during the middle of the game to get in his pitches. Rome did this last season with Jose Capellan and Ryan Ewin. Last season's third round draft choice Jake Stevens will piggyback with 2002 fourth round pick Steve Russell. Stevens impressed Braves coaches this spring with his tremendous work ethic, while Russell came to camp 20 pounds heavier to add to his slender frame. Left-hander Chuck James will be paired with former third round pick Charlie Morton.

Bryan Digby will start his conversion back to a starter beginning the season in Rome. The Braves are hopeful Digby can dominate the league and move up to Myrtle Beach at some point during the season. Gonzalo Lopez, out most of last season with injuries, will also start out in Rome. Lopez pitched at this same level in Macon two years ago so it's possible he could skip up to Myrtle Beach with an impressive start to his season. Finally, Jo Jo Reyes, a second rounder out of California last season, will round out the rotation.

The Rome bullpen will have a college flavor in 2004. Brad Nelson, who won eight games in Danville last season, could get the majority of save opportunities. 22nd rounder Jake Blakeney, 20th rounder Kyle Bakker, and 8th rounder Sean White will also be in Rome's bullpen. If Davies or Lopez get promoted during the season, Bakker or White could get some starts for the Rome team. Rico Rodriquez returns to Rome for his second stint in the Braves uniform.

Jarrod Saltalammachia, the Braves sandwich pick a year ago, will split time at catcher in Rome with Miguel Bernard. Steve Byzik will be the third catcher.

The infield will be led by converted outfielder Carlos Guzman at first base. Martin Prado, a hitting machine, will be at second with Australian Dean White holding down shortstop. Cole Barthel's back is healthy. He missed most of last season with recurring back troubles. Rome's outfield looks tremendous. Steve Doetsch, Matt Equivel, and Josh Burrus are expected to get the majority of playing time. Ardley Jansen returns to Rome after hitting .260 with 18 stolen bases in the Sally League last season.

ROME BRAVES

STARTING			BULLPEN			CATCHER
BRYAN DIGBY		BRAD NELSON		JARROD SALTY DOG
JO JO REYES			JAKE BLAKENEY		MIGUEL BERNARD		
GONZALO LOPEZ 		RICO RODRIQUEZ		STEVE PYZIK		
CHUCK JAMES		SEAN WHITE
JAKE STEVENS		KYLE BAKKER
STEVE RUSSELL
GONZALO LOPEZ

INFIELDER			OUTFIELDER
CARLOS GUMAN		STEVE DOETSCH
MARTIN PRADO		MATT ESQUIVAL		
DEAN WHITE		JOSH BURRUS
COLE BARTHEL

***


All rosters are not official. The Braves are still awaiting the final decisions of the major league roster to officially complete the minor league moves.

Bill Shanks hosts "The Braves Show" during the baseball season. He can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com.

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