Braves drop Church to open spot for Soriano

Indianapolis – To open a spot on the Braves' 40-man roster for the unexpected return of reliever Rafael Soriano, outfielder Ryan Church was designated for assignment Tuesday.

That effectively ended the Braves career of Church, who came from the New York Mets in a July 10 trade for Jeff Francoeur, the erstwhile Atlanta golden boy who had struggled for two seasons before the move.

While Francoeur enjoyed a resurgence after the trade, Church hit .260 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 44 games during his injury-plagued stint with the Braves. Designating him for assignment gives the Braves 10 days to trade or release him.

The Braves had received some minor trade interest in Church during the past week. If Church was not traded, he likely would have gone non-tendered by the Braves at Saturday's deadline for teams to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

He probably would have been awarded a salary of more than $3 million if he went through arbitration with the Braves.

The Braves' decision to "DFA" Church earlier than Saturday was prompted by Soriano's decision late Monday to accept the Braves' arbitration offer to the free-agent reliever. Since they already signed free-agent closer Billy Wagner and setup man Takashi Saito, the Braves are expected to trade Soriano.

Soriano, who could command between $6.5 million and $8 million through arbitration, can't be traded before June 15 without his written consent. The Braves believe he will want to be traded due to the non-closer nature of the role he would have if he pitches for them in 2010.