KISSIMMEE, Fla. — With the first minor league exhibition games two days away, the Gwinnett Braves’ roster started to take shape a little more on Thursday as Atlanta dropped eight players in its second round of cuts.
Most noteworthy of those sent down to minor league camp was speedy outfielder Jose Constanza, who signed with the Braves after hitting .319 with 34 stolen bases for Columbus last season and making the International League all-star team.
Three of the players cut by the Braves played at Gwinnett last season — relievers Cory Gearrin and Stephen Marek and outfielder Brent Clevlen.
Gearrin, 24, was 3-5 with a 3.36 ERA in 52 games, while Marek, 28, went 2-2 with a 1.43 ERA and nine saves in 49 games after being promoted to Class AAA from Class AA Mississippi.
Clevlen, 27, hit .257 with three homers and 29 RBIs in 53 games for the G-Braves and was up briefly with Atlanta, where he quickly landed on the disabled list with a foot injury.
Also shipped to Gwinnett were pitchers Anthony Varvaro and Yohan Flande, catcher Wilkin Castillo and third baseman Shawn Bowman. Varvaro was claimed off waivers from Seattle over the winter, while Flande, Castillo and Bowman signed as minor league free agents.
Varvaro, 26, was in four games with Seattle last year after pitching in Class AA and AAA and is a candidate for the Gwinnett bullpen. Left-hander Flande, 24, may win a rotation spot after going 10-8 with a 4.38 ERA at Class AA Reading in the Philadelphia organization.
Castillo, 26, hit .256 with nine homers and 35 RBIs in 92 games for Louisville last year and played in 22 major league games with Cincinnati the previous two seasons. He is expected to share catching duties at Gwinnett with returnee J.C. Boscan this season.
Bowman, 26, batted .263 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs for Class AA New Hampshire in the Toronto organization.
The moves left Atlanta with 38 players in camp. Another round of cuts will be made before the Braves head to Atlanta for the final exhibition games March 29-30. The season opens March 31 in Washington.
Gwinnett’s first of 13 exhibition games is Saturday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports against Syracuse, Washington’s farm team in the IL. The G-Braves open the season April 7 at home against Durham.