Braves make first cuts of spring

Braves make first cuts of spring

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell watched Mike Minor and Jose Ortegano go about their business while experiencing their first big league camp the past few weeks, he saw a couple of young pitchers that possessed some of the same mental traits that had helped Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson make solid introductions the previous two Spring Trainings.

"For lack of a better word, they have 'it'," McDowell said. "What 'it' is, is being comfortable here."

Based on what they displayed over the past few weeks, Minor and Ortegano could soon make rapid rises to the Major League level. But these two impressive left-handers will spend the remainder of this year's Spring Training honing their skills in the Braves' Minor League camp.

Minor and Ortegano headlined the list of 10 pitchers who were informed Monday that their run in big league camp this year had come to a close. With starting pitchers now scheduled to work at least three innings, the Braves had reached a point where there wouldn't be enough innings available for them to provide these hurlers enough work.

This was the first round of cuts made by the Braves, and the most significant position player involved was Cody Johnson, the powerful 21-year-old outfielder who was the club's first-round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

Players optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett included left-handed reliever Lee Hyde and right-handed pitchers Steve Marek, James Parr and Todd Redmond. Along with Ortegano, right-handed pitchers Juan Abreu and Kyle Cofield were optioned to Double-A Mississippi.

Johnson and Minor headlined the list of non-roster invitees assigned to Minor League camp. The others in this group included right-handed pitchers Chris Resop and Erik Cordier and catchers Braeden Schlehuber and Jesus Sucre.

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The Braves drew some criticism when they took Minor with the seventh overall selection in last year's Draft. But the 22-year-old left-hander has since provided indication that he has the polished skills that could help him make a quick rise to the Majors.

"He's not far off," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He could come pretty fast if he spots the ball the way that he did down here."

Minor's professional experience consists of the 14 innings he completed for Class A Rome and his time in the Arizona Fall League last year. But the composed hurler didn't appear to be intimidated while not allowing a hit or run in the two innings he completed during Grapefruit League action this year.

"He's got a lot going for him," Cox said last week. "He's got some of the same characteristics as [Tommy] Hanson. They don't show cockiness, but they know that they can pitch. I was really impressed with him."

With just eight appearances above the Class A level, Ortegano enjoyed a second straight strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League. But during his lone Grapefruit League appearance for the Braves this year, the 22-year-old southpaw allowed six runs and lasted just one inning.

"He's a pretty mature kid," Cox said after this outing against the Phillies. "He didn't lose his poise out there. He's pretty advanced as far as knowing how to pitch and with his mound presence."

As long as he is able to avoid some of the arm problems that have plagued him during his young professional career, Hyde provided Cox the impression that he could also make a quick rise to the Major League level.

Johnson, whose power potential has been blurred by the high strikeout totals he has compiled during the early portion of his career, recorded one hit -- a double -- and struck out four times in the 11 at-bats he recorded while experiencing his first big league camp this year.

The Braves have 44 players remaining in their Major League camp.

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