LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 29: Jairo Asencio (57) 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 *** Jairo Asencio
The same Gwinnett pitcher led the International League in saves in 2009 and 2011. He just did it under different names.
Now Jairo Asencio -- previously Luis Valdez -- is no longer a part of the Atlanta organization.
The Braves sent the hard-throwing right-hander from the Dominican Republic to Cleveland on Thursday in a cash transaction as they got closer to setting their roster for opening day.
Asencio, 27, was out of options and Atlanta would have had to put the reliever through waivers before returning him to Gwinnett.
With the swap of Asencio, Cory Gearrin seems in line for a bullpen job in Atlanta despite two straight rough outings and a spot is also open for left-hander Johan Flande -- the surprise of Braves camp.
Gearrin, 25, was twice promoted from Gwinnett last year and got into 18 games with Atlanta. Flande, 26, spent all of 2011 with the G-Braves after signing with Atlanta as a minor league free agent, but he hasn't allowed an earned run in 10 innings this spring.
The Atlanta bullpen is headed up by Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, with Kris Medlen and Cristhian Martinez also locks. That leaves Gearrin and likely Flande for the other two spots with Anthony Varvaro questionable because of a pectoral muscle strain.
Gearrin, who didn't allow an earned run in his first eight appearances, is 0-1 with a 3.24 ERA, 11 strikeouts and seven walks in 11 innings. Flande is 2-0 and has allowed just five hits with eight strikeouts and six walks in seven games.
Arodys Vizcaino, expected to win a bullpen spot, will miss the season after requiring Tommy John elbow surgery.
Asencio missed the 2010 season as his identity was cleared up. But he had 27 saves for the G-Braves in 2009 and 26 last season, when he posted a 1.81 ERA and had 70 strikeouts in 54 innings.
Asencio appeared in three games with Atlanta in 2009 as Valdez and six games last year, when he had a 6.97 ERA in 10 innings.
But Asencio pitched well for the most part this spring, posting one save and a 3.27 ERA in 10 appearances while striking out 12 and walking three in 11 innings.
Even without Asencio or Gearrin, the Gwinnett bullpen should be strong again this year. Adam Russell, Dusty Hughes and Jason Rice were signed as minor league free agents and Jaye Chapman, J.J. Hoover and Billy Bullock are prospects who saw time with the G-Braves last season.
Gearrin was 4-1 with four saves and a 1.80 ERA in 35 games with the G-Braves last season. Flande split his time between the rotation and bullpen, going 8-8 with a 4.01 ERA.