Braves to sign Cuban catcher Bello

The Braves are finalizing a Minor League deal with Cuban catching prospect Yenier Bello, according to an industry source.

The agreement includes a signing bonus and an invite to Spring Training. The Braves have not confirmed the deal.

Bello, 29, hit .274 with 13 home runs in Cuba’s La Serie Nacional, the country’s top baseball league, in 2011. He hit 75 home runs and drove in 297 runs in his last five seasons in Cuba, primarily with Sancti Spíritus.

The Braves intend on using Evan Gattis as their starting catcher for approximately 105 games this season with Gerald Laird, who is currently day-to-day with a lower back strain, serving as his primary backup. Ryan Doumit can also catch and Christian Bethancourt, 22, who spent the last two seasons at Double-A, appears to be the catcher of the future.

Bello will likely start the season in the Minor Leagues. It’s already been quite a ride for 5-ft-11, 225-pound backstop.

The right-handed hitter was caught attempting to escape from Cuba in 2012, immediately suspended from baseball on the island and then had his passport confiscated. Last spring, he retired from baseball and traveled to Ecuador when his passport was given back to him.

Bello never returned to Cuba and later established residency in Mexico, the first step to being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. He was cleared by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last month. He is represented by Bryce Dixon of the Primo Sports Group.

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