G-Braves look loaded after roster finalized

ATLANTA - It certainly wasn't easy to make the Gwinnett Braves' opening day roster.

Matt Young found that out. So did Stephen Marek and many others.

The G-Braves set their 24-man squad on Saturday and it was almost as interesting who wasn't on it as who was.

At least on paper, Gwinnett's first team in the Class AAA International League looks like a very, very good one.

"It was a tough team to make," Atlanta director of player development Kurt Kemp said. "The pitching staff looks very good and it is a team that should score runs."

Top prospect Tommy Hanson heads up the 12-member pitching staff that should be one of the best, if not the best, in the International League.

The starting rotation also includes Jo-Jo Reyes, James Parr and Todd Redmond, with Charlie Morton and Kris Medlen splitting the fifth spot to start the season.

Morton is technically still on the Atlanta disabled list because of an oblique strain, but he is eligible to come off and be sent to Gwinnett by the time he is needed April 13. Medlen, who pitched out of the bullpen with Atlanta during the spring, will open the AAA season building up his pitch count.

As good as the rotation is, the relief corps appears to be almost as strong. In the bullpen are right-handers Manny Accosta, Luis Valdez and veteran Vladimir Nunez, as well as lefties Boone Logan, Mariano Gomez and Francisley Bueno.

Juan Perez, another left-hander, will start on Gwinnett's DL after getting chicken pox during spring training and missing nearly two weeks.

Marek, part of the Mark Teixeira trade with the Los Angeles Angels last July, was expected to make it in the bullpen, but there wasn't a spot for him. The same with Young in the outfield. Both had good seasons in Class AA last year and followed that up by doing well in the Arizona Fall League.

Like with the pitching staff, the lineup has a good blend of youth and experience. There is also power and speed.

First baseman Barbaro Canizares hit .300 at Richmond last season and left fielder Brandon Jones seems primed for a big season after hitting well for Atlanta during spring training.

"Of all our players, Brandon made the most progress from last year to this year," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "He had a very, very good spring."

Canizares, Jones, Brooks Conrad and Joe Borchard supply power in the middle of the lineup, while Gregor Blanco, J.C. Holt and Reid Gorecki are base stealing threats.

The G-Braves will use the DH for most of their games. The exception is when they face another National League affiliate, but the other three teams in the IL's South Division are all American League squads.

"We should have a real good pitching staff and the whole team looks good," Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. "I think everyone is excited and ready to get going."

The players still in Florida leave today. The G-Braves will work out in Gwinnett on Tuesday night and Wednesday before heading to Charlotte for the season opener Thursday. The first home game is April 17 against Norfolk.

"I can't wait to see the new ballpark," Conrad said. "I hear that it is going to be really, really nice."