LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Asked to mention his darkhorse candidates for the bullpen Sunday, manager Bobby Cox mentioned just one -- Luis Rivera.
The right-hander, who had trouble with a visa from his native Mexico and missed the first two workouts, threw batting practice Sunday and impressed Cox.
"He has an easy, moving fastball, kind of like that other Rivera," Cox said.
That other Rivera is the Yankees' Mariano, who's considered one of the game's best closers. That's high praise, though a bit misplaced at the moment, since the Braves' Rivera is only 21 and hasn't pitched above Class A ball. Still, the reviews of his work are glowing.
The Appalachian League's top prospect in 1997, Baseball America ranked him the fifth-best prospect in Atlanta's organization and described him as "a power pitcher with one of the hardest fastballs in the minors." He probably won't make it this spring, but if injuries or poor performances create an opening in the bullpen, he could make the same leap to the majors Kevin McGlinchy did last spring.
TAKE NOTICE: One of the youngest and most impressive pitchers in camp is 19-year-old Matt Belisle. A right-hander who negotiated an invitation to major league camp when he signed with the Braves as their first-round draft pick in 1998, he's brought a smile to Cox's face with his work ethic.
"He's the first one here and the last one to leave and it's all work," Cox said.
Belisle made a late start to his pro career because he suffered a major knee injury as a high school senior and didn't play during the summer of 1998. He posted mediocre numbers during his first season in the Braves organization, going 2-5 with a 4.79 ERA at Class A Danville, but club minor league officials predict a bright future for him.
SIGNED UP: Four more players -- pitchers David Cortes, Derrin Ebert, Everett Stull and outfielder George Lombard -- agreed to one-year contracts Sunday. Among the remaining unsigned players are John Rocker and Kevin McGlinchy.
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