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G-Braves starting to take shape after cuts

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Gwinnett lineup used for an exhibition game against Toledo on Thursday could be fairly close to what the G-Braves will look like when they open the International League season at Durham on April 3.

Atlanta made another round of cuts early in the day, optioning catcher Christian Bethancourt and center fielder Todd Cunningham to Class AAA along with relievers Juan Jaime and Luis Vasguez.

Bethancourt is rated as the top position player in the Braves system, while Cunningham stole 20 bases for the G-Braves and was called up to Atlanta briefly.

Still with Atlanta are second baseman Tommy LaStella and first baseman Ernesto Mejia, as well as outfielder Joey Terdoslavich and Jose Constanza. As many as three of those players might start the season in Gwinnett.

Bethancourt and LaStella could be focal points for manager Brian Snitker’s team this season.

Rated as the No. 82 overall prospect in baseball by MLB.com, Bethancourt is considered the Braves’ catcher of the future and showed improvement at the plate last year as he set a record for Class AA Mississippi by reaching base basely in 40 consecutive games.

LaStella established a Mississippi record with a 23-game hitting streak and batted .343. He has a .327 career average since being drafted in 2011, but had the past two seasons interrupted by injuries.

Vasquez and Jaime should be key parts of the G-Braves bullpen. Vasquez was signed as a minor league free agent after shining in the Dominican Winter League and Jaime struck out 70 in 42 innings last year with Mississippi.

The G-Braves rotation could include Gus Schlosser, who is still with Atlanta, Cody Martin, Daniel Rodriguez and Cuban veteran Yunesky Maya. J.R. Graham missed most of last season with a strain shoulder and may start or relieve with Gwinnett.

Class AAA veterans signed a minor league free agents for the G-Braves include first baseman Mark Hamilton, and outfielders Derrick Mitchell and Dustin Martin.

The G-Braves’ home opener is April 11 against Durham.