Blair sent down by Braves; Gant recalled

Blair sent down by Braves; Gant recalled

ATLANTA -- After enduring the worst start of his young career on Tuesday night, Braves right-hander Aaron Blair was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday.

Blair retired just three of the 14 batters he faced and allowed nine earned runs over 1 1/3 innings in Tuesday's 12-9 loss to the Pirates. His roster spot will be filled by fellow right-hander John Gant, who was recalled from Gwinnett.

"I told [Blair], it's not a bad thing," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "There are a lot of guys that go back and then when they come back, they're better prepared."

Gant will be available to serve as a long reliever while Bud Norris recovers from Tuesday's three-inning relief stint. If Gant is not used over the next few days, he could fill Blair's previous rotation spot by starting Sunday's game in Philadelphia.

Atlanta is also considering Casey Kelly as a candidate for Sunday's start. Kelly has posted a 2.13 ERA over his past four starts for Gwinnett. Norris could also be available to start, but the club may opt to keep him in the bullpen, where he has encountered some success since losing his rotation spot.

"That's something we'll talk about internally and make a decision down the road," Snitker said. "We'll get through today first and then worry about tomorrow."

Blair ranks as MLBPipeline.com's 52nd-best overall prospect and the No. 4 prospect in the Braves' organization. He showed his potential during each of his first three career starts, but he has struggled with his command while totaling just five innings over his past two.

The Braves are hopeful that Blair will need to make just a couple starts for Gwinnett before returning to the big league level.

Blair recorded 22 strikeouts and issued just five walks while posting a 1.42 ERA over the 19 innings he completed for Gwinnett before his promotion to the big leagues in April. The 23-year-old has struggled to command his fastball consistently as he has issued 12 walks and recorded eight strikeouts over 21 1/3 innings for Atlanta.

"We knew that when I had him in Triple-A that he's going to have to [command his fastball], and when he gets off his mark, he's probably going to have to pay for it," Snitker said. "But he's got all the makeup, work ethic and competitiveness going for him. He'll be fine."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.