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Gearrin making strong spring statement for Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 29:  Cory Gearrin (53) of the Atlanta Braves poses during Photo Day on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Tony Firriolo/MLB Photos via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cory Gearrin

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 29: Cory Gearrin (53) of the Atlanta Braves poses during Photo Day on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Tony Firriolo/MLB Photos via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cory Gearrin

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Cory Gearrin finished last season in Gwinnett and wasn't promoted back to Atlanta in September, a disappointing ending to a year that had seen him make his major league debut.

But the side-arming right-hander has pitched well for the Braves this spring and is making a strong bid to start 2012 in the Atlanta bullpen rather than opening a third consecutive year with the G-Braves.

The key for Gearrin is being able to get left-handed batters out. He struggled mightily with that last season with Atlanta. This spring it has been a different story, thanks to an improved changeup.

"So far, so good," said Gearrin, who has received pointers from former Braves closer Gene Garber. "It gives me another option to go with my fastball and slider. I'm getting more and more comfortable with it and I'm excited about seeing the results."

Gearrin, 25, was mostly effective after being promoted from Gwinnett the first time last year, but didn't do so well the second time.

Right-handed hitters batted just .143 against him and struck out 18 times in 50 plate appearances. Left-handed hitters, though, pounded him to the tune of a .395 average.

Gearrin finished with a 1-1 record and 7.85 ERA in 18 major league games compared to a 4-1 record with four saves and a 1.80 ERA in 35 games for the G-Braves.

There appears to be a bullpen opening for Gearrin this year. Peter Moylan (shoulder) will miss at least the first half of the season and Arodys Vizcaino is out for the year after undergoing elbow surgery Tuesday.

Gearrin, who is scheduled to get into his seventh game today against Florida, has allowed just five hits and an unearned run in 6 innings while striking out five and walking two. Best yet, lefties have hit .167.

Green, Sammons make stop

The Marlins make a trip to Champion Stadium today and that should mean a visit from former Braves and Gwinnett high school products Nick Green and Clint Sammons. Both are in Florida camp as spring invitees.

Green, 33, signed a minor league deal with the Marlins and is competing for a utility infield job. The major league veteran was 0-for-2 when the Braves played Florida in Jupiter on March 13 and has just two hits in 16 at-bats in Grapefruit League play.

Sammons re-signed with Florida as catching insurance after missing most of his first season away from the Braves with a knee injury.

The 28-year-old will likely start the season back at Class AAA New Orleans, but he is 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles this spring.

Tigers send Young to minors

Matt Young was hoping for more of an opportunity with Detroit than he might have received with Atlanta. But an 0-for-14 spring start for the Tigers meant a return to the minors for the popular former G-Braves outfielder.

Young, 29, was sent down to Toledo by Detroit and could face his old Gwinnett team when the Mud Hens come to Coolray Field for a series May 11-14.

Young hit .300 and had 39 stolen bases with the G-Braves in 2010 and earned a spot on Atlanta's opening day roster a year ago. But he spent most of the season back in Gwinnett and became a minor league free agent after the season.