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G-BRAVES NOTES: Mejia optioned to Gwinnett despite hot streak

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ernesto Mejia had six hits in nine at-bats after a slow start in Grapefruit League games, but the hot streak wasn't enough for him to get a longer look in spring training with the Braves.

Mejia was optioned on Friday to Class AAA Gwinnett, where he led the International League with 92 RBIs last season.

With Freddie Freeman set at first base, there is no place in Atlanta for Mejia to play. But the native of Venezuela gives the Braves insurance in case of an injury.

The right-handed hitting Mejia, 27, showed off power last season at Gwinnett, hitting 24 homers. Then he tied for the lead in the Venezuelan Winter League with 14 homers while earning MVP honors.

Mejia made the All-Star team in the international League last year and played in the AAA All-Star Game. He hit .296 and had a league-best 55 extra-base hits.

Mejia hit .346 in Grapefruit League games for the Braves, belting three doubles and driving in four runs. He struck out eight times and drew three walks.

G-Braves to start spring games

Gwinnett starts playing exhibition games and new manager Randy Ready is starting to get some of the players who will open the season with him on April 4 against Charlotte at Coolray Field.

Among the players sent down when the Braves trimmed three players in addition to Mejia was Todd Cunningham, expected to be the G-Braves center fielder this season.

The switch-hitter batted .314 with Class AA Mississippi while making the Southern League all-star team. He had 24 stolen bases, 32 extra-base hits and 51 RBIs.

Cunningham, who turns 24 next week, got into 18 Grapefruit League games with the Braves and hit .267 with a triple and a RBI. He also had a stolen base, but was caught two times.

Cunningham, ranked as the Braves' No. 9 prospect by MLB.com, was invited to major league spring training as a non-roster player. He was named the Braves' minor league player of the year after his 2012 season at Mississippi and then hit .274 with three homers and seven RBIs in 24 games over the winter in the Mexican Pacific League.

The Braves still have 42 players in camp. Ten of them are non-roster invitees.

Hale responds in clutch

David Hale was a starter last season with Class AA Mississippi and is slated for the same role in Gwinnett this season. But his eventual future with Atlanta may be in the bullpen.

If so, the Marietta native showed in his final Grapefruit League appearance before being optioned to the G-Braves that he can get out of a sticky ninth-inning situation.

With the tying run on third base with one out thanks to a walk and error, Hale struck out Bryan Peterson and Casey Kotchman to preserve the Braves' 2-1 victory over Miami in Jupiter on Wednesday night.

The right-hander, who worked two hitless innings against the Marlins, was sent down to the minors after the game, but it was another impressive performances.

In five Grapefruit League appearances, Hale struck out eight over nine innings while allowing opponents to hit just .188 and posting a 3.00 ERA. The only blemish was four walks.

Hale, 25, was 8-4 with a 3.77 ERA in 27 starts for Mississippi last season, recording 124 strikeouts to 67 walks in 145 innings.

A third-round pick in 2009, Hale was a center fielder as well as pitcher at Princeton. He is ranked as the Braves' No. 16 by Baseball America and was promoted to the 40-man roster for the first time after last season.