LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—There’s a real chance for long shots Joe Benson and Brady Feigl to break Braves camp with the big-league team, manager Fredi Gonzalez said on Sunday.
They Braves need a lefty reliever and Feigl filled that role ably in the minors last season and also has done it in the Grapefruit League. The Braves also need a reserve outfielder who bats right-handed and can play center, which describes Benson.
Feigl’s chances were enhanced when the Braves released veteran lefty James Russell on Sunday. Feigl, 24, pitched in Class-A last year after the Braves signed him as a free agent out of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.
The Braves assigned Feigl to minor-league camp two weeks ago but since then have brought him back to make three Grapefruit League appearances. Feigl allowed no runs in those outings while picking up a pair of saves and now has a 1.35 ERA with seven hits allowed and no walks in 6 2/3 innings this spring.
Gonzalez said Feigl is “in the mix” to win a bullpen job even though he hasn’t pitched above high Single-A and was sent to minor-league camp.
“We send them down for whatever reason,” Gonzalez said. “And then the (Braves coaches) are going, ‘Wait a second, I remember Feigl, when he was here, he pitched better than the guy who is here. Let’s bring him (back).’”
Benson, 27, signed with the Braves as a free agent in January after spending 2014 in the Marlins’ system. The Twins selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft and he played in 21 games for them in 2011.
Benson has seen limited time with the big-league team during Braves camp and is 1-for-5 with three walks. But Gonzalez said he likes Benson’s “energy and passion” and as examples cited two plays Benson made against the Blue Jays on Saturday: thwarting a potential double play by hustling to first and then scoring from first on a single.
“We are looking for a right-handed outfielder that can play a little bit of center and he comes over and he keeps doing something good,” Gonzalez said. “I got on the phone yesterday with (assistant GM John Coppolella) and said ‘I’d like to see Benson more.’ It doesn’t cost us anything and you can bring him back and forth anytime we want. So Benson’s here and we get a chance to play him.”
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