PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — While the Braves still haven’t announced their opening day starter, signs now point to Tommy Hanson as the man who could get the assignment.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez rearranged the rotation order after the Braves’ day off Monday, and Hanson will make his last spring-training start Saturday against Detroit. That would put him on pace –on regular four days’ rest — to start the April 5 season opener against the Mets in New York.
Brandon Beachy will start Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game against the Yankees, followed by Mike Minor on Thursday, and Randall Delgado and Jair Jurrjens in split-squad games Friday against Houston.
Indications are Delgado has won the fifth-starter battle with fellow prospect Julio Teheran, who missed a start with a sore shoulder and is scheduled to make his last exhibition start Sunday.
The way that the rotation is laid out, it seems likely Jurrjens will start the second game of the season April 7 at New York. If Minor starts game 3, and Brandon Beachy starts the fourth game April 9, Hanson could pitch the fifth game April 10 on regular rest before the Braves would need their No. 5 starter for the first time April 11.
Hudson to pitch Monday
Delgado would probably make only three or four fill-in starts in April before veteran Tim Hudson’s expected return in the final week of the month. Hudson is recovering from back surgery and is scheduled to pitch two innings on Monday against the Mets in the Braves’ final Florida exhibition game before they break camp and head north.
It will be the first game action for Hudson since his Nov. 28 surgery.
Fish headed to Dr. Andrews
Left-hander Robert Fish will see Dr. James Andrews next week for a second opinion on his sore pitching elbow.
A Rule 5 draft pick from the Los Angels Angels in December, Fish was scored upon in two of three appearances this spring before being shut down two weeks ago due to soreness.
If Fish does not go on the disabled list to begin the season, the Braves must either carry him for the entire season on the 25-man roster or offer him back to the Angels for $25,000, half the original claiming price paid by the Braves.
But if he goes on the DL, that 25-man roster rule wouldn’t apply until he’s activated
Braves’ bats coming around
It wasn’t all Freddie Freeman (two homers) on Tuesday for the Braves, who built a 4-0 lead on Eric Hinske’s RBI double in the first inning and a a three-run homer from Michael Bourn in the second.
The Braves are 8-4-2 since their 1-10-1 start to the spring, and they’ve scored five or more runs seven times in their past 14 games after scoring three or fewer runs nine times in their first 12.
“The last [two weeks] we’ve seen our guys get better and better at-bats, more aggressive,” said Gonzalez, who also praised at-bats Sunday by Jason Heyward and Drew Sutton, who had two hits as he continued his push for a roster spot as a utility player.
Rough day for Gearrin
Cory Gearrin’s excellent spring hit a rough patch Tuesday when the rookie sidearmer’s control went awry in the fifth inning.
The sidearmer put himself in contention for one of the final bullpen spots, but on Tuesday he faced five batters and gave up two walks, two wild pitches, a single and two sacrifice flies. Twice he had batters in 0-2 counts and threw wild pitches when he tried to strike them out with sliders instead of getting double-play grounders, his strength.
After giving up only six hits and one unearned run in 9-1/3 innings in his first eight appearances, he was charged with two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Mets. One other run that scored against him was charged to starter Buddy Carlyle.
“I know what happened,” Gearrin said. “That’s the most important thing for me is to continue to grow as a pitcher and continue to pitch. Coming off an off day, I kind of got the juices going a little bit [flexes to demonstrate]. Just one of those days. I need to just stay within myself and make pitches instead of trying to overdo it a little bit on those 0-2s.
“But I feel good. Everything felt healthy, felt strong. Next time out just go back out and do what I’ve been doing.”
Gonzalez said of Gearrin: “Great spring so far. He just got a little ahead of himself and walked two guys. No matter if it’s a spring training game or an A-ball game, you walk guys, you’re asking for trouble. I thought [Yohan] Flande did a helluva job really, coming in to face those left-handers. I think he gave up a 1-2 base hit to … He still gives you a nice feel if you want to go three left-handers in the bullpen. He’s been nails.”
The lefty Flande replaced Gearrin and induced a groundball to get out of the fifth inning, then struck out three of four batters in the sixth. Flande and Jairo Asencio are also competing for one of the final two bullpen spots.
Asencio gave up a run on three singles and a bases-loaded walk in the ninth, then struck out Josh Thole and and coaxed a flyball to end the game with potential tying and winning runs on base.
“I think he’s done that a few times,” Gonzalez said of Asencio, who’s worked into and out of several jams this spring. “He’s got plenty of pitches. You saw him pretty much take care of Thole, which for me was a dangerous [batter], because he’s going to put the ball in play. For him to strike out there, that’s telling you he’s got pretty good stuff.”
The Brave had relievers Craig Kimbrel and Christian Martinez get their work in a minor league game Tuesday instead of facing the Mets. Against the Nationals’ high-A team, Kimbrel allowed two walks and no hits in a scoreless inning and Martinez allowed two hits and two runs (one earned) in two innings.