SAN DIEGO — The Braves added a former major league closer to the bullpen Thursday, bringing left-hander Rex Brothers from Triple-A Gwinnett after designating for assignment the contract of starting pitcher Bartolo Colon.
Brothers, 29, signed a minor league contract with the Braves in February and has impressed this season, posting a 1.93 ERA in 14 total appearances between Double-A and Triple-A with 22 strikeouts and five walks in 14 innings.
“You’ll have to give me another 24 hours to let it sink in fully, but it’s great to be back,” said Brothers, a Tennesse native who last pitched in the majors in 2015 with the Rockies. “Growing up in Tennessee I watched Braves games as a kid, so I’m playing for my hometown team, so to speak.”
In four games with Triple-A Gwinnett he allowed two hits and no walks with four strikeouts in 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
“Reports are good on him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s throwing good, I think he feels good. It’s a good story, he’s come a long way back. You sit around and you see what those guys go through to get back. Obviously they’re very dedicated and diligent in their work. It’s not easy. So you really pull for those guys, too.”
Brothers had a 1.74 ERA in 17 relief appearances for the Rockies in 2015 and had a 3.42 ERA in 286 career major league relief appearances over parts of five seasons with Colorado, collecting 278 strikeouts with 140 walks in 242 1/3 innings.
He was a dominant reliever in 2013, when he had a 1.74 ERA and 19 saves (21 chances) in 72 appearances, with 76 strikeouts and 36 walks in 67 1/3 innings. But his career eventually stalled due to control issues and shoulder issues.
“You feel so far away (from the majors) and yet you’re so close,” Brothers said. “I put my head down and stayed the course, and you look up and you’re where you want to be. I’m happy to be here and I want to contribute and help these guys win.”
Brothers was released by the Cubs in March 2016 and didn’t pitch last season. His deal with the Braves didn’t include an invitation to major league camp because the Braves wanted to let Brothers in minor league spring training to continue his rehab and shoulder re-strengthening while working with Braves instructors.
“The Braves were gracious enough to allow me to work on my stuff,” he said. “Just getting myself into a situation to compete and put my best foot forward. I’m truly grateful for it, it was a good experience and I feel good about where I’m at.”
After his career-best season in 2013, Brothers’ ERA ballooned to 5.59 in 74 big-league appearance in 2014 and he made only 17 appearances in 2015, when he had more walks (eight) than strikeouts (five) in 10 1/3 innings in the majors.
Brothers was designated for assignment after the 2015 season and traded to the Cubs, who agreed to a $1.42 million contract, avoiding arbitration. Midway through 2016 spring training, the Cubs released him when his command problems flared again.
He’s pleased with improvement in his command after adjusting his delivery, and Brothers said he might actually have better “stuff” — including a mid-90s fastball — now than in 2013 when he felt it was “teetering out.”
Born in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Brothers was a first-round (supplemental) draft pick by the Rockies in 2009 out of Lipscomb University in Nashville. He used to work out in Nashville sometimes with current Braves pitcher R.A. Dickey, a friend of Brothers’ college coach.