Braves lefty Banuelos aims for April 12 season debut

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said left-hander Manny Banuelos is aiming to make his season debut on April 12 at the Nationals, the first date the team will need a fifth starting pitcher.

Banuelos joined the Braves via a trade with the Yankees in January 2015, made his big league debut in July and was off to a promising start before elbow pain derailed his season. He had arthroscopic elbow surgery in September to remove bone spurs in September. Banuelos missed the entire 2013 season after Tommy John elbow surgery and was on an innings limit with the Yankees in 2014.

Braves officials have been encouraged by Banuelos’ throwing sessions this spring and believe it might be the first time he’s been pain-free since before the Tommy John surgery. Banuelos hasn’t yet been scheduled to throw in a Grapefruit League game.

Gonzalez said right-hander Mike Foltynewicz is scheduled to join the Braves at a later date than Banuelos. Foltynewicz had surgery in September to remove part of a rib that had caused blood vessels to become compressed, leading to blood clots.

The Braves have at least three open spots in the starting rotation behind Julio Teheran and Bud Norris. Banuelos is projected to be a starter while Foltynewicz could either join the rotation or pitch out of the bullpen.