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Fredi keeping options open in setting bullpen

VIERA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez's bullpen appears to be pretty well set. But with some uncertainty surrounding right-handed reliever Jordan Walden's back, Gonzalez is keeping an open mind about which relievers could be on his Opening Day roster.

Closer Craig Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Luis Avilan and Cristhian Martinez are the most likely candidates to be in the bullpen at the start of the season. Without providing any guarantees, Gonzalez is also expecting sidearm reliever Cory Gearrin to begin the season in Atlanta.

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Walden will certainly be part of the Opening Day roster if he is able to overcome the discomfort caused by a bulging disk in his back. The former Angels closer has made some recent improvement and could be cleared to throw off the bullpen mound within the next few days.

If Walden is not ready for the start of the season, the final bullpen spot could go to Anthony Varvaro, who is out of options. Varvaro improved his bid with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning against the Nationals on Monday. He impressed Gonzalez with a 3-2 curveball that froze Bryce Harper to end the sixth inning.

"That's one thing we haven't seen all spring is that big breaking ball," Gonzalez said of Varvaro, who has completed consecutive scoreless outings since allowing the Tigers five runs and seven hits in just one inning on Thursday.

Mark Bowman 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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