The Atlanta Braves made a major change to their bullpen late Thursday night by demoting right-hander Adam Bernero to AAA Richmond and calling up veteran major league reliever Jay Powell from AA Mississippi.
Bernero got off to a solid start with the Braves, going 2-0 in 10 games in April with an ERA of 2.08. He walked only 2 and struck out 12 in 13 innings that first month, but then things fell apart from there.
In May, Bernero had an ERA of 5.63 in 12 games, and then June was very difficult for him as he went 1-3 with a 11.57 ERA in 12 games. His overall ERA had risen to 6.51 at the time of his demotion.
The Braves even toyed with the idea of Bernero replacing Dan Kolb as the team's closer, but Bernero's poor performances in mid-May killed that plan. Bernero will go to AAA Richmond and probably join their starting rotation in hopes of improving.
Powell was signed to a minor league contract on January 26th of this year. He wanted to join the Braves since their AA affiliate in Pearl, Mississippi is close to his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi.
The 33-year-old right-hander had to rehab his elbow after having Tommy John surgery last July 8th. So he decided to try to do it close to his home, and the Braves, always interested in solid veteram relievers, agreed to give him a minor league deal.
Powell spent the first part of the season at Extended Spring Training in Orlando. Then he joined the Mississippi Braves in May. Powell pitched in 11 games for the AA affiliate and went 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. He allowed only six hits in 14 innings pitched, one run allowed, walked three, and struck out eight. Powell's opponents hit only .136 against him in Mississippi.
The six-foot-four, 230-pounder started his career with the Marlins. He's also pitched with Houston, Colorado, and Texas. Powell's best season was in 2001, when he saved seven games for the Rockies after being traded in midseason from Houston. Powell has pitched in 507 major league games and has 22 career saves.
Powell will join a very crowded bullpen, which might get two new members when Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton re-join the starting rotation this weekend. It's very possible that Jorge Sosa and Roman Colon could be moved back to the bullpen.
Bill Shanks has a new book out called "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team." Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org