ST. LOUIS -- After watching him complete a bullpen session on Friday, the Braves opted to take a gamble on Rodrigo Lopez and his surgically repaired right elbow.

The Braves signed Lopez to a Minor League contract with an option for the 2009 season. The former 15-game winner will be invited to Spring Training next year and potentially be given a chance to win a starting rotation spot.

After winning 15 games for the second time in four seasons in 2005, Lopez returned to the Orioles the following year and was saddled with a career-high 18 losses. The 32-year-old right-hander signed with the Rockies last year, and he experienced a season similar to the one Tom Glavine endured this year.

Lopez began feeling elbow discomfort in April of last year and was diagnosed with a torn flexor tendon four months later. He chose to rest the ailment. But when he experienced more problems in February, he was forced to undergo the same surgical procedure Glavine experienced earlier this week.

The Braves assigned Lopez to their Gulf Coast League team and will continue to monitor his progress over the next few weeks and months. He is 61-60 with a 4.92 ERA in 161 career starts.