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Down on the Farm: Pena hopes versatility earns spot in Atlanta

With Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in Atlanta, there isn't room for Brayan Pena behind the plate with the Braves any more.

That's why Pena is trying to show off his versatility with Class AAA Richmond as he tries to rejoin the Braves in a utility role.

Playing mostly in left field, the switch-hitter from Cuba has been hot at the plate since shaking off the effects of a concussion that led to a spot in Atlanta for Saltalamacchia.

Pena hit .171 in 13 games during May after being sent down to the International League, but rallied to bat .374 in June with three homers and 20 RBIs.

Pena, who had 13 multi-hit games last month, hasn't cooled that much in July either, taking a .304 average into the weekend.

Putting up a high average in the minors is nothing new to Pena, who came into the season with a .303 career mark. But the 25-year-old hasn't had the same success at the plate in limited opportunities with the Braves.

Pena was hitting .217 with Atlanta this year before suffering a concussion when hit in the head by a batter's backswing. Given an opportunity, Saltalamacchia showed he was ready for the majors, which meant a trip back to Richmond for Pena after he came off the disabled list.

With a shortage of outfielders, Pena has mainly played in left field for Richmond. But the catcher can also play first and third base

A return to Atlanta in a utility role would reunite Pena with childhood friend Yunel Escobar. The two defected from Cuba five years apart.

Richmond (AAA)

Second baseman Martin Prado was named the International League's player of the week after going 13-for-30 with six extra-base hits and seven RBIs. He was hitting .311. ... Shortstop Brett Lillibridge will play in today's All-Star Futures Game in San Francisco (4 p.m. on ESPN2). ... Left-hander Dan Smith, who hasn't pitched since June 19 because of a sore shoulder, remains on the disabled list and outfielder T.J. Bohn, sidelined since June 9, could miss the rest of the season with a torn hamstring.

Mississippi (AA)

The host M-Braves not only ended up with nine players in Monday's Southern League All-Star Game, but manager Phillip Wellman filled the first five spots in the South batting order with his own players and picked left-hander Matt Harrison as the starting pitcher. He chose second baseman J.C. Holt to lead off, followed by center fielder Carl Loadenthal, left fielder Brandon Jones, right fielder Matt Esquivel and third baseman Diory Hernandez. Relief pitcher Zach Schreiber of the Braves was added to the South team when Jacksonville's Eric Cyr was promoted to Class AAA. The SL All-Star Game will be televised at 8 p.m. on CSS.

Myrtle Beach (A)

Isaiah Ka'aihue was named the Carolina League's Topps Player of the Month for June. The first baseman hit .378 with nine homers and 25 RBIs. ... Shortstop Elvis Andrus will play for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game. The 19-year-old has hit under .250 most of the season, but recently had a 3-for-4 game in which had had a double, homer and three RBIs. ... RHP Moises Hernandez, the Pelicans' lone representative in the Carolina-California League All-Star Game, was promoted to Mississippi. He was 10-3 with a 3.66 ERA. ... RHP Tyler Bullock was sent down from Mississippi.

Rome (A)

Rome's three South Atlantic League All-Star Game pitchers - Tommy Hanson, Deunte Heath and Kris Medlen - were all promoted to Myrtle Beach. Hanson had 90 strikeouts in 73 innings, Heath a 2.03 ERA and Medlen eight saves with a 0.87 ERA. ... One of the pitchers added to the Rome roster was Chris Vines, who was picked for the SAL All-Star Game in 2006, but had to have elbow surgery that June. He had been at Myrtle Beach, where he was 0-3 with an 11.66 ERA in six games. ... Tim Gustafson dropped to 2-7 with a loss at Savannah.

Danville (rookie)

Outfielder Cody Johnson, the Braves first-round draft choice in 2006, struck out 49 times in 114 official at-bats and hit .184 in the Gulf Coast League last season. But he fanned just eight times in 47 at-bats in his first 11 games in the Appalachian League, hitting .340 with three homers and 12 RBIs.