After mulling the decision for a couple of days, the Braves decided to bring Kris Medlen back to a relief role and they designated veteran long man Livan Hernandez for assignment to make room for Medlen in the bullpen. They recalled Medlen from Triple-A Gwinnett, and he was available to pitch in relief Friday.
The Braves had sent Medlen down to stretch out as a starter. But with both Mike Minor and Randall Delgado pitching well recently, their bigger need was in the bullpen.
Hernandez was 1-1 with a 4.94 ERA in 18 appearances for the Braves this season after signing at the end of spring training. This was the first time in his 17 years in the majors he had pitched in relief.
“It was tough because the guy has been around forever, and he’s been great with us,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But it didn’t make sense the way our bullpen situation is right now to be carrying a guy, a third long man.”
Gonzalez has known Hernandez, 37, since he was 18 and had just defected from Cuba. Gonzalez, who was coaching in the Marlins system, used to translate for Hernandez. But he said Hernandez handled the news with character when he and general manager Frank Wren told him early Friday afternoon.
“He’s a straight pro,” Gonzalez said. “He goes, ‘Hey, I understand. Thank you for the opportunity and good luck to the guys.’ We’re going to miss him as far as the mentoring with some of the other guys.”
Gonzalez said he came away thinking Hernandez wanted to continue to pitch and wouldn’t retire. Hernandez and Gonzalez both are hoping he’ll get claimed by another team. If he’s not claimed or traded within 10 days, Hernandez can accept an assignment in Triple-A Gwinnett or elect to become a free agent.
“There may be some teams out there looking for a veteran guy, and I hope he does,” Gonzalez said. “I know he still wants to pitch and he still wants to compete, which is his No. 1 thing.”
Hernandez struggled to get outs in his past two appearances, giving up nine runs, including three home runs, in 4 2/3 innings.
He was called on to protect a 4-1 lead against Toronto on Sunday in relief of spot starter Julio Teheran with the bases loaded in the fifth inning and couldn’t do it. He allowed all three runners to score as well as two more, and he gave up three runs on two homers in the next inning. Ultimately he had a hand in eight runs scoring in a 12-4 loss.