LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The ranks of Braves bullpen candidates was reduced by one Thursday morning when they released Jose Veras, about 12 hours after the veteran former closer struggled in an appearance against the Yankees.
A non-roster invitee to spring training, Veras posted an 11.81 ERA in six games, allowing eight hits, seven runs and seven walks with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. Most of the damage came in the Grapefruit League opener against the Mets, when he was charged with three hits, five runs and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
Veras allowed four hits, one run and four walks in four innings over his next four appearances before Thursday, when he was again undermined by control issues and gave up one hit, one run, two walks and a hit batter in two-thirds of an inning.
Closer Craig Kimbrel, setup men Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson and left-hander Josh Outman are the only bullpen certainties for the Braves, although lefty James Russell, making $2.425 million, also figures to have a spot based on his salary and track record.
That would leave three spots and at least six competing for them: lefty Luis Avilan, Arodys Vizcaino, Juan Jaime (who’s out of options and can’t be sent down without clearing waivers), Brandon Cunniff and non-roster invitees Michael Kohn and Sugar Ray Marimon.
The Braves signed Veras on Feb. 10, the same day they signed former All-Star closer Matt Capps. Both got minor league contracts with invitations to spring training. Capps, 31, was reassigned to minor league camp in the first round of roster cuts March 9, , after the Douglasville native allowed four hits, two runs, one walk and a hit batter in two innings.
Veras’ 4.50 ERA in 46 appearances for the Cubs and Astros last season was more than a half-run above his career ERA, but the 6-foot-6 Dominican had a 3.03 ERA in 34 games with Houston after being released by the Cubs. He gave up 12 runs in 13 1/3 innings with the Cubs, then 11 earned runs in 32 1/3 innings with the Astros.
He had 50 strikeouts in 46 innings in 2014, but issued 27 walks. The Braves were hoping he’d be able to work through his control problems this spring, but so far he’d provided little reason for optimism.
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