LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Mike Minor will start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against Detroit, but Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn’t ready to announce the rest of his pitching plans for the first week of spring training games.
That delay could stem from Tommy Hanson’s situation, as the Braves wait to get a better idea when Hanson will be ready to pitch in games after recovering from a concussion.
Gonzalez said starters for the second through fifth games would come from the group of five that includes, in an order to be determined later, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado.
Jurrjens and Beachy will start games, and the other starts would go to two from among Medlen, Teheran and Delgado, with one in that group “piggybacking” in a game with another starter. Starters will work a maximum of two innings the first time through.
Medlen is projected to begin the season in the bullpen, but the Braves are getting him “stretched out” this spring in case things happen and they end up needing him to start.
Veteran Tim Hudson is expected to miss most or all of April, leaving two openings in the starting rotation being contested by Minor and top prospects Teheran and Delgado. General manager Frank Wren said Minor, the only left-hander and most experienced of the trio, has an edge over Teheran and Delgado entering the competition.
Hanson back on mound
The rather tedious concussion-recovery process for Hanson is nearly over, as the right-hander returned to the mound Wednesday and threw 30 pitches without incident. He will probably face hitters in batting practice Friday.
Hanson missed the first week of workouts with a Grade 1 concussion and only resumed throwing Sunday. He won’t start a Grapefruit League game the first time through the spring-training rotation, but could be inserted soon after.
Because he spent much of January and early February working on a smoother, hitch-free pitching delivery, Hanson had already thrown seven or eight bullpen sessions before reporting to spring training.
“It felt good to be back out there,” he said, adding that his new delivery felt better Wednesday than in the pre-spring training sessions in Atlanta, “because I’ve had some time to think about some mechanical stuff. I was surprised how well I threw. I felt loose on the 30 pitches.”
Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said he doesn’t think the spring-training workouts Hanson missed set him back much, if at all. The Braves plan to have him make one of the first four starts of the regular season, although Gonzalez indicated it would probably not be Opening Day.
Before the concussion, Hanson and Jurrjens were leading candidates for the Opening Day start with Hudson recovering from back surgery. Jurrjens now looks to be the frontrunner for the assignment.