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G-Braves reliever stuck in Dominican

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Spring training has just two weeks remaining and Luis Valdez is still stuck in his native Dominican Republic.

"We hope he'll be here before the start of the season, but we really don't know," Atlanta director of player development Kurt Kemp said Saturday as Gwinnett opened its exhibition season.

Valdez, on the 40-man major league roster, was scheduled to report to camp in February. But he hasn't been able to get into the United States because of visa issues.

The age and true identity of players from the Dominican have been called into question in recent years, with more documentation now required. It was unclear what issues, if any, are involved in Valdez's problem getting a visa.

The month-long delay has cost Valdez a chance to make the major league roster and he may not even arrive in time to start the Class AAA season with Gwinnett.

That would be a blow to the G-Braves. Valdez led the International League with 27 saves a year ago and was voted the league's top relief pitcher.

Valdez, 25, appeared in 58 games with Gwinnett last season and had a 3.28 ERA, striking out 75 and walking 19 in 711/3 innings. The right-hander, who originally signed with Pittsburgh, also pitched in three games with Atlanta, taking a loss.

"He pitched a full season in the Dominican Winter League, so at least he should be ready to pitch when he does get here," Kemp said.

Nobody knows, however, exactly when that arrival will be right now.