With a back injury to Braves reliever Jordan Walden potentially keeping him off the opening-day roster, Cory Gearrin and Anthony Varvaro are looking like the favorites for the final two spots in the Braves' bullpen, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday. Walden hasn't pitched since Feb. 23 and received an epidural last week to relieve pain in a bulging disc.
Gearrin, 26, has the best chance of making the team. The righty had a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings for the Braves last season and has yet to allow a run in his five spring training appearances. Over 38.1 major league innings spread across the past two seasons, Gearrin has 45 strikeouts against 17 walks and just one home run allowed. Gearrin is likely to make the team regardless of Walden's injury.
Varvaro, 28, could be the beneficiary if Walden starts the season on the disabled list. The righty has a 3.76 ERA in 40.2 innings with the Braves over the past two seasons and hasn't allowed a run in six of his seven spring appearances. Although he has posted big strikeout numbers over his career -- 49 in 44.2 career MLB innings -- he has struggled with control, walking at least four batters per nine innings in each of his major-league seasons.