Braves promote Hursh, Morris to bolster bullpen

Hernandez designated for assignment, Cunniff optioned to Minors

Braves promote Hursh, Morris to bolster bullpen

WASHINGTON -- Jason Hursh might no longer possess the same promising prospect status he had after the Braves selected him in the first round of the 2013 Draft, but the success he has had since transitioning from starter to reliever has enabled him to now have the distinction of being a Major Leaguer.

Reacting to the struggles Roberto Hernandez and Brandon Cunniff experienced during Thursday's 11-3 loss to the Brewers, the Braves purchased Hursh's contract from Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday and recalled right-handed reliever Akeel Morris from Double-A Mississippi. Hernandez was designated for assignment and Cunniff was optioned to Gwinnett.

The Braves have already used 31 pitchers, including 14 starters, this season. But with Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino aiming to return from the disabled list next week, Atlanta is hoping to regain some stability within the pitching staff and also provide opportunities for young pitchers like Hursh and Morris, who has made a strong impression since being acquired via the latest trade that sent Kelly Johnson to the Mets.

Morris is the Braves' 28th-ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. Hursh ranked toward the top of that list two years ago, before the organization began overhauling its farm system via the acquisition of prospects with much higher ceilings.

Though Hursh's stock has significantly increased, he has seemingly benefited from the organization's decision to transition him from a starter to a reliever. Over 64 innings (38 appearances) for Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett this season, the 24-year-old right-hander has posted a 1.83 ERA and limited opponents to a .210 batting average.

Armed with a heavy sinker and a split-finger changeup that he recently developed, Hursh entered Friday having worked 26 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to June 23. Since being promoted to Gwinnett at the end of July, he has surrendered six hits (including two doubles) and issued three walks over seven scoreless innings.

"I kind of found out what kind of pitcher I was out of the pen," Hursh said. "I'm kind of more of a sinker and slider guy. I added a little bit of a split-finger changeup. It's been really beneficial to me and I've had some success. It's been cool to see that."

Morris has posted a 2.78 ERA and limited opponents to a .214 batting average over the 18 appearances he has made for Mississippi since the Braves acquired him on June 8. The 23-year-old right-hander from the U.S. Virgin Islands features a fastball that sits between 93-95 mph and a changeup that has improved as he has spent the past few weeks getting a better feel for when to utilize the off-speed pitch.

Command has been an issue for Morris, who has recorded 30 strikeouts and 17 walks over 22 2/3 innings for Mississippi.

Morris made one appearance for the Mets last season, allowing five runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Hernandez, who was formerly known as Fausto Carmona, was simply added to the rotation to serve as a short-term fix. While making his second start of the season on Thursday, he allowed the Brewers to hit three home runs and tally five runs within the first four innings.

Cunniff worked two scoreless innings in Monday night's 12-inning, 4-3 win over the Brewers. But he retired just two of the 10 batters faced during the other two appearances he made after being promoted from Gwinnett last week.

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.