VIERA, Fla -- The Braves' bullpen picture gained some clarity on Thursday morning, when right-handed reliever Jairo Asencio was traded to the Indians for cash considerations.
Asencio's departure makes right-hander Cory Gearrin and left-hander Yohan Flande the favorites to fill the final two spots in Atlanta's bullpen.
Asencio posted a 2.64 ERA and combined for 53 saves while serving as Triple-A Gwinnett's closer during the 2009 and 2011 seasons. The 27-year-old right-handed reliever, formerly known as Luis Valdez, missed the 2010 season because visa issues prevented him from leaving his native Dominican Republic.
If the Braves do not trade for a reliever before the start of the regular season, Gearrin and Flande will be part of next week's Opening Day roster. Injuries have removed Anthony Varvaro (strained right pectoral muscle) and Robert Fish (inflamed left elbow) from the equation.
Gearrin had allowed just one unearned run in 9 1/3 innings before struggling with his command in each of his past two outings. After surrendering two runs and uncorking two wild pitches, while recording just two outs against the Mets on Tuesday, the right-handed sidearm reliever allowed two hits and issued two walks before getting his first out in Thursday's 6-3 loss to the Nationals.
Gearrin entered in the sixth inning with one out and men on first and second base. He prompltly loaded the bases with a walk. Brett Carroll followed with a bases-clearing triple. The young reliever did complete the inning by retiring Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman with two men on base.
"That's a situation where he's going to have to help us, come in and get a ground-ball double play," Gonzalez said. "The last two times, that hasn't happened. But we'll keep running him out there."
Flande has made five multi-inning appearances while not allowing an earned run in 10 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League action this year. A starter throughout most of his Minor League career, the 26-year-old southpaw could be used as both a long reliever and left-handed specialist.