NEW YORK – Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson will make a rehabilitation start Sunday at Triple-A Gwinnett, and soon afterward a decision about the Atlanta starting rotation must be made by team officials.
Gonzalez said it’s undecided whether the Braves will switch to a six-man rotation when Hanson returns, a possibility he recently said would be considered for all or part of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days that began on Friday.
Hanson, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained back, wasn’t pleased by the decision to have him make a rehab start. The right-hander said he felt good in a bullpen session Friday – his first time on the mound since his July 30 start against Miami — and he hoped to return to the rotation without a rehab start.
He’s eligible to return from the DL on Wednesday, but the Sunday start at Gwinnett means Hanson won’t be activated before Friday.
Gonzalez said Hanson uttered an obscenity at him and pitching coach Roger McDowell after they told him the plan.
“Which is good,” said Gonzalez, who laughed upon mentioning the incident to reporters. “He wants to get back in there. That’s why he was grumpy.”
After meeting with Gonzalez and McDowell, Hanson told reporters, “I’m not in a good mood,” then changed from his workout gear and left the clubhouse to go catch a flight back for the Monday game at Gwinnett.
Gonzalez said the Braves decided to take a more cautious course with Hanson, in part because of setbacks he had late last season when his shoulder was hurt and he tried to return from the DL without a rehab stint.
Gonzalez also said the logistics of a temporary move to a six-man rotation might dissuade the Braves from going with that unusual arrangement.
“We’ll wait to see a lot of things,” he said. “It’s not as easy as people think, because you’ve got to either go a position player short or a bullpen guy short. And as soon as you do that, it never fails – it’s like playing without a [backup] shortstop for one game. Three innings later, [Jack] Wilson dislocates his pinkie.”
Kris Medlen seems the likely odd man out if the Braves stick with a five-man rotation, despite Medlen’s impressive performance in his first two starts since moving to the rotation. He was 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts before making his third on Saturday night against the Mets.
Unlike the others in the rotation, Medlen is experienced as a reliever. Also, he has shown both the ability to perform in either role and a willingness to switch roles at midseason without objection.