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BRAVES NOTEBOOK: No. 1 pick Hursch signs; $5 ticket deal offered to rain-out fans

Jason Hursch supposedly a wicked fastball that he'll one day bring to the Braves' rotation.

Jason Hursch supposedly a wicked fastball that he'll one day bring to the Braves' rotation.

ATLANTA --- Two weeks after the Braves made him their top draft pick, hard-throwing pitcher Jason Hursh will head to Single-A Rome to begin his professional career.

"They don't waste any time," said the right-hander from Oklahoma State, who signed Wednesday for a bonus of just over $1.7 million and got a tour of Turner Field with his parents. "I'm ready to get started."

The 31st pick of the draft, Hursh said the Braves made it an easy decision for him to sign rather than return to college. As a sophomore in 2012, he drew attention from scouts with a fastball clocked at 98-99 mph and two-seamer in the low-90s.

"Clean, easy delivery," said Braves scout Gerald Turner, who first saw Hursh pitch when he was in high school in Carrollton, Texas. "Easy 95 (mph). Can paint both sides of the plate. Doesn't have a lot of innings on his arm. He's going to move fast. Strike thrower, ground-ball pitcher, downhill (throwing plane), good body."

The Braves signed him to the exact bonus-pool recommendation for the 31st pick -- $1,704,200.

"It's a relief," Hursh said. "Glad to be here, see the behind-the-scenes operation and meet some people."

He missed the 2012 season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, but showed no lingering effects during his sophomore season, going 6-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 16 starts. He was named second-team All-Big 12 after finishing tied for second in strikeouts (86) and third in innings (106 1/3).

Hursh said elbow surgery helped him become a better pitcher.

"I think I just grew up, really," he said. "Having Tommy John surgery, I obviously sat out the 2012 season. I just really worked hard. I knew it was a second chance to come back and prove I could still pitch. It helped, sitting on the sideline. It made me develop my mental game more. Just came back and really have been better ever since."

Protection for Freeman: In an effort to get better protection for hot-hitting Freddie Freeman, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez flip-flopped Freeman and Justin Upton in the third and fourth spots in the lineup Wednesday.

Freeman was moved from the fourth spot to No. 3 for the second time this season, and Upton was moved from third to cleanup, also just the second time he's hit in the fourth position -- or anywhere but third, for that matter.

Freeman hit cleanup Tuesday and was walked four times in doubleheader losses to the Mets, including three times in the nightcap, each time with a runner in scoring position and two outs. B.J. Upton batted fifth in that game and made the last out in the inning after all three of those walks.

"We've been thinking about it a little bit," Gonzalez said. "We saw it yesterday; obviously it was blatant. Even in the road trip a little bit, in San Diego, if you go back and look at it, you see some times where he doesn't get a pitch to hit."

Freeman went 0-for-5 with four walks and three strikeouts in the doubleheader, his first consecutive hitless games all season. He batted .331 with 18 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs in his past 43 games before Wednesday, including 39-for-110 (.355) with five homers and 24 RBIs in his past 28 games.

Freeman was hitting .320 overall, including .448 with runners in scoring position, second-highest in the National League.

Etc.: Triple-A Gwinnett pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin was placed on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. He's 3-7 with a 5.83 ERA in 13 starts. ... Infielder Ramiro Pena has been dealing with a sore throwing shoulder for the past week, and Gonzalez said the Braves hoped to rest him a few days to avoid a DL stint. ... Right fielder Jason Heyward was out of the lineup for a rest Wednesday after playing all three games Monday and Tuesday. Heyward was 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts against Shaun Marcum, the Mets' Wednesday starter, and 8-for-20 with two homers against lefty Jonathon Niese, their Thursday starter. ... Braves rookie lefty Alex Wood should be available out of the bullpen Friday or Saturday, after throwing 73 pitches in three innings Tuesday in his first major league start.

BRAVES MAKE UP FOR LATE RAIN-OUT GAME:

ATLANTA — The Braves issued an apology for the inconvenience caused by a near four-hour rain delay Monday night in a letter sent to fans with tickets to the Braves' 2-1 win against the Mets and offered a deeply discounted ticket to a later game this season in return.

Monday's game did not start until 10:53 p.m. and ended at 1:22 a.m.

"We strive to provide the best possible experience for all fans that visit Turner Field, and realize that last night's weather-related delays led to a less than ideal Braves baseball experience," the letter stated.

The offer stood for all of Monday's ticket-holders, those who stayed until the end of the game and also those who didn't. Fans can take their tickets to the Turner Field ticket office and purchase a $5 ticket in the Field View, Terrace View, Outfield, Club Pavilion or Upper Box sections for one of 18 games in the second half.

For more information call the Braves ticket office at (404) 577-9100.