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Braves add Bethancourt, four others to 40-man roster

Four players who are expected to play in Gwinnett next season were among the five promoted to Atlanta's 40-man roster this week so they would be protected from the Rule 5 Draft next month.

Heading the list is catcher Christian Bethancourt, the Braves' top position prospect. Joining him are pitchers Zeke Spruill, David Hall, Cory Rasmus and Aaron Northcraft, pushing the roster count to 36.

All accept Northcraft are expected to be with the G-Braves in 2013.

Bethancourt, though, may start the season in Atlanta as Gerald Laird's backup while Brian McCann finishes rehabing from labrum surgery on his right shoulder. McCann may miss most of April.

Bethancourt, 21, hit .243 in 71 games for Class AA Mississippi before breaking a bone in his hand and missing the last month of the 2012 season. He returned to action in the Dominican Winter League, where he was hitting .258 (8-for-31) after 12 games.

Bethancourt is still a work in progress as a hitter, but is a mobile receiver with a strong arm. He is rated as Atlanta's No. 2 prospect behind G-Braves pitcher Julio Teheran by both MLB.com and Baseball America.

Spruill and Hale, both from Cobb County, should join the G-Braves rotation in 2012. Spruill graduated from Kell and Hale from Walker.

Spruill, 23, was 2-2 with a 3.63 ERA in the just-concluded Arizona Fall League after going 9-11 with a 3.67 ERA at Mississippi in 2012. Hale, 25, was 8-4 with a 3.77 ERA with the M-Braves.

Spruill was a second-round pick out of high school in 2008 and Hale was taken in the third round in 2009.

Rasmus, the brother of Toronto outfielder Colby Rasmus, was a supplemental first-round pick in 2006, but has been plagued by injuries. The 25-year-old posted a 3.68 ERA in 50 relief appearances for Mississippi this year and struck out 62 in 58 innings.

Boscan signs with Cubs

J.C. Boscan, who spent time with Gwinnett in each of the G-Braves' first four seasons, signed with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent. The veteran catcher hit just .189 in 70 games this year.

Boscan, 32, had spent 14 of his 16 minor league seasons with the Braves organization. He finally reached Atlanta in 2010 and also played in the majors briefly the past two seasons.

In parts of three seasons, Boscan had just 19 at-bats with the Braves.

Durango joins Royals

Luis Durango, who led the International League with 46 stolen bases, signed with Kansas City as a free agent.

The switch-hitting center fielder batted .289 in 132 games for the G-Braves in 2012 and had a .352 on-base percentage.

Durango, 26, spent just one year in the Atlanta organization after playing briefly in the majors with Houston and San Diego.

Pie signs with Pirates

Felix Pie hopes his next major league stop is in Pittsburgh after signing as a free agent.

The left-handed hitting outfielder joined Gwinnett from the independent Atlantic League in 2012 and hit .285 in 96 games.

Pie, 27, has played in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore.