Lefty Banuelos among Braves sent to minors

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—The Braves optioned three players to Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday: left-hander Manny Banuelos, right-hander Williams Perez and outfielder Eury Perez.

Banuelos, 24, opened camp as a candidate for No. 5 starter in the rotation and left-hander Mike Minor’s shoulder issues early in camp opened up another spot. Banuelos pitched three scoreless innings in his last Grapefruit League appearance on Tuesday against the Phillies but posted a 9.45 ERA over 6 2/3 innings this spring.

The Braves acquired Banuelos in January from the Yankees in exchange for right-hander David Carpenter and lefty Chasen Shreve. Banuelos once was New York’s top-rated prospect but missed the 2013 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and struggled last season in the minors.

“You can see why he’s a highly-touted guy,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Friday. “The arm speed is there. The arm works. We just sent him down because we are not getting enough innings for these guys, him and Williams Perez.”

With Banuelos sent down, veteran left-hander Eric Stults and right-handed prospect Mike Foltynewicz are vying for No. 5 starter job. Gonzalez has indicated lefty Wandy Rodriguez will join Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Shelby Miller in the rotation.

Williams Perez, 23, pitched 6.1 innings in Grapefruit League games and posted a 12.79 ERA with six strikeouts, four walks and a .438 batting average allowed.

Eury Perez, 24, was looking to secure a bench spot. His ability to play center field is an asset because Melvin Upton Jr. (foot) is on the shelf and the Braves need someone who can spell Eric Young Jr., the projected starter on opening day

Now it appears Phil Gosselin could serve as a backup centerfielder to begin the season even though he lacks professional experience at the position. Gosselin started in center in Friday’s exhibition game against the Red Sox.

“Just looking for someone to complement ‘E.Y.’ until Melvin gets healthy,” Gonzalez said. “Why not a guy that’s in camp that you feel like you can trust?”