ATLANTA Tim Gustafson made it home.
Through nearly all spring training it appeared the Parkview grad would begin this season where he ended last year, in Class AA Mississippi. But when the Braves announced their rosters Saturday, Gustafson's name fell up to the Class AAA Gwinnett Braves.
A look at the Class AAA Gwinnett Braves roster announced Saturday
RHP James Parr*
RHP Todd Redmond*
RHP Chris Resop*
RHP Ryne Reynoso*
LHP Jonny Venters*
LHP Mike Dunn
RHP Cory Gearrin
LHP Mariano Gomez
RHP Tim Gustafson
RHP Craig Kimbrel
RHP Jeff Lyman
RHP Scott Proctor
*projected starting pitcher
He joins fellow Parkview grad catcher Clint Sammons on the Gwinnett roster
He will begin the year as a relief pitcher with the ability to start.
"He's the perfect swing guy," Braves director of player development Kurt Kemp said of Gustafson.
The 25-year-old right-hander worked his way to Gwinnett with a strong winter in the Mexican League and a solid spring.
Over the winter he went 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA with Novojoa, and though he reported late to Braves' camp his outings with the AA roster in Florida pushed his value higher than Mississippi.
"I was completely surprised," Gustafson said of the news. "I had no idea. Nobody let on throughout the spring. I told my wife that if someone had bet me I was going to Gwinnett I would have bet against it.
"It was a good surprise."
Gustafson threw four innings Saturday and said he is feeling more comfortable on the mound every outing. He is also excited to play where he grew up.
"To be home with friends and family will make (the baseball season) more bearable," Gustafson said. "You play 140-or-so games and to play about 70 at home will make it go by a little better." Though he will begin the year as a reliever, Gustafson should help ebb the wear on the bullpen as the projected starters stretch their arms to last longer into games. The rotation should include right handers Todd Redmond, James Parr, Ryne Reynoso and Chris Resop and lefty Jonny Venters. Resop pitched last year in Japan.
Venters will begin the year with the least endurance after fighting all spring for a spot in the Atlanta bullpen. Venters never threw more than one inning in 10 appearances in Florida and put up a 5.40 ERA, but he did start 17 times for Gwinnett last season.
"I am ready to go," Venters said. "I am not sure how many innings I can throw, but I was kind of preparing myself to start in Gwinnett."
Other notable relievers include former major leaguer Scott Proctor, who missed the 2008 and 2009 seasons after elbow surgery, the return of lefty Mariano Gomez, former Yankee Mike Dunn, who joined the Braves in the trade for Melky Cabrera and closer Craig Kimbrel, who ended last season with Gwinnett. Former Mercer pitcher Cory Gearrin also earned a spot in the G-Braves' bullpen.
Joining the outfield of Gregor Blanco, Mitch Jones and Matt Young is former Toledo Mud Hen Brent Clevlen. With Toledo, Clevlen hit .265 with 16 home runs and 64 RBIs in 2009.
New to the infield is Brandon Hicks, who hit .237 with Mississippi last season, former major leaguer Joe Thurston who signed a minor-league deal with Atlanta over the winter and prospect Freddie Freeman. Returning are Barbaro Canizares, J.C. Holt and Wes Timmons.
Outfielder Jordan Schafer (left wrist) and shortstop Diory Hernandez (left shoulder) will begin the year on the major league 15-day disabled list.
Minor league camp ends today in Florida and the Gwinnett Braves will work out for the first time Tuesday at Coolray Field. The Gwinnett Braves open the season at home Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Charlotte Knights.