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Braves riding Panama express

Braves riding Panama express

The Atlanta Braves player development department may want to make their official theme song "Panama" by Van Halen.

The organization has a grand total of 16 players on World Baseball Classic provisional rosters. Nine are Minor Leaguers. Five -- count them, five -- hail from Panama. And that doesn't count Panamanian big leaguer Manny Acosta.

It should be noted that's the number of Panamanians who were on Major League Baseball Opening Day rosters at the start of the 2008 season. Clearly, there's some Panamanian-mania sweeping through the Braves' system.

"It's the efforts made by the scout there, Luis Ortiz," Braves farm director Kurt Kemp said. "He's also our Gulf Coast League manager, so he splits duty. He's done a great job of going down there and identifying talent, working in conjunction with [director of international scouting and operations] Johnny Almaraz coordinating international efforts."

The quintet -- three pitchers, a catcher and an outfielder -- have played at a variety of levels in the Braves' organization. Two of the hurlers made their debuts in the United States last summer as teenagers and share the same last name. Dimaster Delgado, the left-hander who will turn 20 in March, played for the Gulf Coast League Braves in '08. Randall Delgado is the righty, turns just 19 in February and made his U.S. debut a half-step above Dimaster, in the Rookie-level Appalachian League (Danville). The third pitcher is right-hander Yeliar Castro, a veteran, comparatively. He's already 21 and pitched at Class A Rome last year.

Catcher Jose Camarena is more of an organizational guy, one of two backstops on the Southern League champion Mississippi Braves in Double-A last year. And Concepcion Rodriguez was part of the outfield rotation on that record-setting Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach club in the Carolina League.

Whatever level they played in last year and whatever future they might have in the organization, getting the chance to participate in the Classic can only be seen as a good thing from a development standpoint.

"The benefit lies in what they're going to get out of it," Kemp said. "If any of those guys make the final roster, I think the experience of getting exposed to the Major League players and seeing how the game is played at the higher levels. ... Until you see that, you don't really know what you have to do. The exposure they'll have to the game and to the players at a higher level will be invaluable."

Other Braves prospects on Classic rosters
LHP Scott Diamond is on the Canadian roster and is coming off a terrific 2008 season. The 22-year-old southpaw led the organization with 15 wins, finished second among full-season Braves pitchers with a 2.89 ERA and fifth with 123 strikeouts over 152 2/3 innings.

LHP Bryan Dumesnil is also on the Canadian roster and could serve as a left-handed specialist for the team. Big and strong, he's not just a soft-tossing lefty. The Braves found him pitching in Independent ball after he left the Orioles, and he's performed well, even closing some games. In Myrtle Beach, he held lefties to a .103 average.

C Matthew Kennelly is a young Australian backstop who saw time in full-season Rome and Rookie-level Danville. He'll turn 20 in March, and it speaks volumes about his potential that he was not only put on the Australian provisional roster, but also was given a non-roster invitation to big league camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

RHP Phil Stockman is a 6-foot-8 reliever who is on the Braves' 40-man roster and made it up to the Majors for six games during the 2008 season (he made his big league debut in '06). The 29-year-old has thrown a grand total of 11 1/3 big league innings, allowing just one earned run in that span.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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