After three weeks in Triple-A Gwinnett to get stretched out, Kenshin Kawakami returned to the Braves bullpen Monday where he will serve as the long reliever and spot starter in case of an injury.
Kawakami went 0-1 with a 4.29 ERA in five starts for Gwinnett, allowing 10 earned runs in 21 innings but striking out 22 and walking only five.
“He pitched well down there,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “The results weren’t always great, but as far as his stuff, his curveball was real good. He’s been working on the slider, to use as another weapon, and he made progress in that area.”
Kawakami lost his starting job to Kris Medlen after going 1-9 with a 4.48 ERA in 15 starts for the Braves. When Medlen went down with season-ending elbow surgery earlier this month, Kawakami had pitched just once in nearly six weeks in the Braves bullpen. While he was in Gwinnett getting stretched out, left-hander Mike Minor emerged as a new force in the rotation in Medlen’s place, sending Kawakami back to the bullpen.
To make room for Kawakami, the Braves optioned right-hander Cristhian Martinez to Gwinnett the day after he pitched four key relief innings in the Braves’ 7-6 comeback win over the Marlins. Martinez had a 3.05 ERA in 13 appearances for the Braves, with only one walk and 15 strikeouts.
This way, the Braves got a fresh arm, and Martinez will be back after Gwinnett’s season ends Sept. 6. But it didn’t make telling him any easier.
“He’s pitched great and he’s a great kid,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Having to send down the star of the game (from Sunday) is hard. But we’ll get him back on the 7th. I wish it was the 1st but we can’t.”
Normally a player has to stay in the minor leagues for 10 days unless there’s an injury. Since Gwinnett has only seven games left after Monday, Martinez can return on Sept. 7.