SAN DIEGO -- As the Braves have attempted to protect against the uncertainty that exists in their rotation and bullpen, they have opted to carry an extra reliever for long stretches and habitually switched out their Minor Leaguers who have gotten a call to briefly serve as a long reliever at the big league level.
This carousel was put in motion again on Monday, when the Braves optioned John Gant to Triple-A Gwinnett and recalled Casey Kelly from Gwinnett. These two pitchers have become quite accustomed to this dance step. They have both been recalled three different times this season.
The Braves have called a pitcher up from the Minors 19 different times this year and they have used 21 different pitchers. They had used 20 different pitchers at this same point last year and ended up using 37.
Because Gant made a brief appearance on Saturday and then threw 39 pitches during Sunday's series finale at Dodger Stadium, he would have likely been unavailable to pitch until at least Wednesday. Thus, he will return to Gwinnett to serve as a starter until there's a need for him to return to the Majors. He has posted a 6.17 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .326 over the 11 2/3 innings completed for Atlanta this year.
The Braves are carrying an extra reliever, but to guard against the possibility that they might need one to complete more than two innings over the next few days, they recalled Kelly, who arrived at Petco Park in time for Monday's series opener against the Padres. The 26-year-old right-hander played for San Diego until he was traded to Atlanta in exchange for Christian Bethancourt in December.
In fact, Kelly's first Major League win came against the Braves at Petco Park on Aug. 27, 2012.
Kelly had seemingly gained a chance to fill an extended role in the starting rotation before he was forced to make an unexpected relief appearance when the Braves exhausted their entire bullpen through the first nine innings of a May 25 game against the Brewers that went 13 innings.
After completing five solid innings while making his first start of the season on May 22 in Philadelphia, Kelly returned to the mound three days later to throw 76 pitches over the final four innings of that 13-inning loss to the Brewers. The combination of these two appearances made him unavailable for a week and thus, he was sent back to Gwinnett.
Kelly has allowed 15 hits and five earned runs over 12 innings for Atlanta this year. He has posted a 2.82 ERA over eight appearances (six starts) for Gwinnett.
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.