Braves promote prospect Smith among moves

Cervenka, De La Cruz receive inaugural callups; Ramirez designated for assignment

Braves promote prospect Smith among moves

WASHINGTON -- The Braves on Monday promoted outfield prospect Mallex Smith while continuing to tinker with their bullpen by promoting a pair of relievers -- left-hander Hunter Cervenka and right-hander Joel De La Cruz. The club also designated right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez for assignment.

Cervenka and De La Cruz were both expected to be in Atlanta's bullpen for Monday night's series opener against the Nationals. But De La Cruz's stint could prove to be a short one as the Braves will need to create a roster spot for Jhoulys Chacin, who is scheduled to start Tuesday night's game against the Nats. The additions of Cervenka and De La Cruz fill the two voids created on Sunday, when Daniel Winkler fractured his right elbow throwing a pitch before Ramirez sealed his fate by allowing the Cardinals to tally five ninth-inning runs.

While Monday's transactions were highlighted by the addition of Smith -- the team's No. 11 prospect who will spend the next couple of weeks filling in for the injured Ender Inciarte -- the additions of Cervenka and De La Cruz provided both longtime Minor Leaguers with their first taste of life in the big leagues.

Cervenka pitched for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters after he was released by the Cubs two months into the 2015 season. Since signing a Minor League deal with the Braves on July 7, the 26-year-old southpaw has not allowed an earned run over the 23 2/3 innings he has combined to complete for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves went through this season's first five games with Eric O'Flaherty serving as their only left-handed reliever. Cervenka, who surrendered one hit over three scoreless innings for Mississippi this year, will have a chance to prove he is capable of serving as the dependable second lefty reliever Atlanta has been seeking.

De La Cruz has posted a 4.10 ERA over the 153 career Minor League appearances he has made since making his pro debut as a member of the Brewers organization in 2007.

When the Braves acquired Ramirez from the Mariners on Dec. 4. they simply took a gamble on a live arm. The 26-year-old reliever allowed five hits and issued four walks while surrendering six earned runs in the two innings he completed for Atlanta since the start of this season.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.