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Braves trade Kelly Johnson to the Mets for pitching prospect

SAN DIEGO – For the second consecutive year the Braves traded veteran utility infielder Kelly Johnson to the New York Mets in exchange for minor league pitching.

Johnson was traded Wednesday for right-handed prospect Akeel Morris, 23, who’s 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA in 22 relief appearances this season in Double-A, with 36 strikeouts and 16 walks in 25 1/3 innings.

Johnson, 34, struggled in his third career stint with the Braves, batting .215 (26-for-121) with one home run, 10 RBIs and a .273 on-base percentage and .289 slugging percentage (.562 OPS) in 49 games this season.

“Great guy in the clubhouse,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “Kelly is special to me, I’ve known him for years since I had him as a kid (on Snitker-managed Double-A teams in 2003-04). Wonderful person, amazing career. And I’m glad for him that he’s going somewhere that he’s familiar with, where he’s wanted and he’s comfortable going. It’s a great opportunity for him.”

Morris, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is 14-15 with a 2.91 ERA in 154 appearances (26 starts) over seven minor league seasons and has piled up an impressive 405 strikeouts and 167 walks in 303 innings.

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In his only major league appearance, in 2015 against the Blue Jays, Morris recorded two outs and gave up three hits, five runs, a homer and three walks. He’ll be assigned to Double-A Mississippi to begin his Braves career.

The Braves had a 12:40 p.m. series finale in San Diego on Wednesday and didn’t have time to get another bench player in from a minor league affiliate, so they were left with 24 on the 25-man roster for one game, with only three bench players. They already were playing with a short bench because they’ve carried an extra pitcher for more than a week.

A year ago, Johnson hit .275 with nine homers and a .772 OPS in 197 plate appearances (62 games) for the Braves before they traded him along with third baseman Juan Uribe to the Mets in a July 24 deal in exchange for minor league right-handers John Gant and Robert Whalen.

Johnson re-signed with the Braves in January, getting a one-year, $2 million contract.

“I don’t think Kelly wanted to leave,” Snitker said. “He’s home with his family, lives in Atlanta, but if he has to go somewhere I’m glad he’s going somewhere that’s familiar with him, that wants him. Great opportunity for him, kind of the best of a (trade) situation. I’m sure he’d love to have stayed here all year, just the fact that you’re living at home; it’s hard to do that in this game. But like I said, it’s a good situation for him.”

Gant has been up and down between Triple-A and the majors for the Braves this season, posting a 6.94 ERA in his first seven major league appearances (all in relief), while Whalen, 22, is 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 11 starts in Double-A.

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