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braves-trim-down-to-25 | April | 2004 Articles

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Braves Trim Down to 25

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The Braves finalized their 25-man Opening Day roster yesterday. Here's the list, with links to ESPN profiles: Rotation Russ Ortiz Mike Hampton Horacio Ramirez John Thomson Jaret Wright Bullpen Antonio Alfonseca Juan Cruz Will Cunnane Kevin Gryboski C.J. Nitkowski Chris Reitsma John Smoltz Lineup Rafael Furcal Marcus Giles Chipper Jones Andruw Jones J.D. Drew Johnny Estrada Adam LaRoche Mark Derosa Bench Julio Franco Jesse Garcia Mike Hessman Eddie Perez DeWayne Wise Disabled List Armando Almanza Paul Byrd Eli Marrero Optioned to Minors Tim Drew Ryan Glynn Trey Hodges Wilson Betemit Damon Hollins Ryan Langerhans Jorge Velandia Released Gary Matthews Jr Franco, Nitkowski, and Wise were the only non-roster invitees to make the team. Nitkowski likely made the squad due to Almanza's injury, and Marrero's strained abdominal muscle made room for Wise. Wright gets the nod as the fifth starter due to Byrd's inability to pitch for the next few months. Byrd underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2003 and is currently projected to return by midseason; however, skeptics argue that Byrd will not be effective on the mound in 2004 and should plan a full comeback for Spring 2005. If he chooses to maintain his current pace for a July return, his rehab starts should be at the Rookie level where he can concentrate on rehabilitation, not AA or AAA where he would be under too much pressure to pitch beyond his limits. At least one news report has argued that Hodges was sent to the minors because he had an option left on his contract while Cunnane didn't, meaning that Hodges wouldn't have to clear waivers. However, Nitkowski's call-up suggests that Hodges simply didn't make the cut this spring. Betemit, Hollins, and Velandia are also starting the season as full-time players in the minors. Others who were invited to camp but never seriously contended for spots on the big league roster are listed on ESPN's list of the Braves' recent transactions. Also, top prospects Andy Marte and Jeff Francoeur each played well in the spring and are expected to make a splash in Atlanta either in September or sometime in 2005. Watch for those names in future organizational reports.
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