The Southern Illinois Miners are proud to announce that former closer Brandon Cunniff has been added to the Atlanta Braves’ major league roster. He becomes the third former Miner to make it to the major leagues, after Clay Zavada, who made it with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, and Tanner Roark, who debuted with Washington in 2013 and continues to pitch in the majors with the Nationals.
Cunniff joined the Miners for their championship run in 2012, becoming the team’s closer after being traded to Marion from the River City Rascals for Albert Ayala and a player to be named later on August 3rd of that year. The right-hander from California earned four saves with a 2.70 ERA in nine appearances in the season’s final month, and pitched in five games while earning four more saves and striking out nine in 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the postseason in helping the Miners to their first Frontier League title.
It was his dominant start to the 2013 season with Southern Illinois that caught the eye of the Braves organization. Cunniff was almost unhittable, giving up just four hits and three walks while striking out a remarkable 23 batters in only 12 innings across 12 appearances. He earned eight more saves in the process without giving up a single run in that span, and his contract was purchased by Atlanta on June 21st, 2014.
He finished out 2013 at Class A-Advanced Lynchburg, compiling a 1.99 ERA in 20 appearances with 39 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. He then split the 2014 campaign with Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi, pitching to a 2.05 ERA in 50 2/3 innings across 33 appearances at the Double-A level and striking out 50 compared to only 20 walks. He was then added to Atlanta’s 40-man roster in November, paving the way for his addition to the major league roster.
“I could not be more personally excited for ‘Cunny’,” Miners manager Mike Pinto said. “He was such a pivotal piece to our 2012 championship, coming in to be a lights-out closer, and started 2013 flawless before being picked up by the Braves. A tremendously hard worker and teammate, we called him the ‘silent assassin’ for how he so quietly went about his business ever day while dominating opposing hitters. This is a great day in Miners baseball, and I hope it will be a lesson for our incoming players that dreams do come true.”