ATLANTA -- With Mike Minor and Randall Delgado pitching better than they were two weeks ago, the Braves did not have a tough time deciding to reverse course by bringing Kris Medlen back to Atlanta to serve as a reliever. But, from an emotional standpoint, it was tough for them to bring him back at the expense of Livan Hernandez.
The Braves announced Friday afternoon that Hernandez had been designated for assignment to make room for Medlen's return from Triple-A Gwinnett. If Hernandez is not traded or claimed by another team within the next 10 days, he could accept an assignment to Gwinnett or elect to become a free agent.
"The guy has been around forever and he has been great for us," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But it just didn't make sense, the way our bullpen situation is right now, to be carrying a third long man."
Gonzalez and Braves general manager Frank Wren's relationship with Hernandez dates back to 1996, when the pitcher defected from Cuba and joined the Marlins. Wren helped lure Hernandez to the organization and Gonzalez served as one of his first managers.
While both would have liked to keep Hernandez around, the pitcher created some concern while allowing nine earned runs in the 4 2/3 innings he threw in his past two appearances. The decision to part ways with the 37-year-old right-hander was aided by the belief that Cristhian Martinez will be better suited to serve in the long relief role rather than a middle relief role.
"We're going to miss him as far as [being a mentor] to some of the other guys," Gonzalez said of Hernandez, who posted a 4.94 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .366 on-base percentage against him in 18 appearances this year.
Hernandez, who signed with the Braves after being released by the Astros in March, does not plan to retire. He had never previously worked as a reliever before signing with Atlanta.
Medlen back with Braves and back in 'pen
ATLANTA -- When the Braves sent Kris Medlen to Triple-A Gwinnett, it appeared he would be needed to provide some consistency to the back end of Atlanta's rotation. But two weeks later, he has been brought back to the Major League level to attempt to repair a fractured bullpen.
Instead of complaining and declaring that his time had been wasted, Medlen returned ready to help strengthen a bullpen that has been weakened by Jonny Venters' struggles and the left elbow discomfort that has sidelined Eric O'Flaherty this week.
"The fact that I'm a reliever again is a little bit disheartening, I guess, because I went down to be a starter, but things happen and they make plans and they don't always work out," Medlen said. "My entire career has been based on doing whatever I can for the team to help us win."
While totaling 13 1/3 innings in three starts for Gwinnett, Medlen made all of the necessary preparations to return as a starting pitcher. But over the past two weeks, the Braves' concerns about their starting rotation have been minimized by the improvements shown by Mike Minor and Randall Delgado.
Pressed back into action on Friday night, Medlen helped the Braves snap a four-game losing streak by tossing two scoreless innings against the Orioles. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he might continue to use Medlen for multi-inning appearances that could span the seventh and eighth innings.
"We can tinker a little bit," Gonzalez said.
When the Braves sent Medlen to Gwinnett, one of the primary concerns was that they would be weakening their bullpen. This did not prove to be a detriment until this past week when the bullpen blew two four-run leads in a span of three days.
"I went down there to do one thing and I'm back up here to do another thing," Medlen said. "So I'm not taking anything for granted and I'm happy to come back and help and do all of that."
Freeman out of lineup vs. O's with sore hand
ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman received encouraging news when X-rays taken on June 7 showed that he had not suffered a fracture after his left hand after being struck by a Jose Reyes throw the night before. But more than a week later, the Braves first baseman is still battling discomfort.
Freeman felt better after not playing on Wednesday and resting his hand during Thursday's offday. But he was not quite ready to return to the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Orioles.
"It's getting better," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "[Head trainer Jeff Porter] says the swelling is coming down. But [Porter] said [the injury] might linger all year. It's up to [Freeman] to try to play through it."
With Freeman unavailable to play on Friday and the Orioles starting left-hander Brian Matusz, Martin Prado made his first start of the season at first base. The versatile Prado had made 34 previous starts at first base, with all but two of those coming during the 2008 and '09 seasons.
"I'm like the Matrix," Prado jokingly said. "I'll just download the program before I take the field."
Eric O'Flaherty was encouraged after playing catch on Friday. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Saturday with the hope he will be cleared to pitch on Sunday or Monday. His plan to play catch on Thursday was delayed because his left elbow was still a little sore.
Matt Diaz is currently tied with Chris Chambliss for the third-most (44) pinch hits in Atlanta history. Keith Lockhart (59) and Julio Franco (47) rank in front of him.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.