NEW YORK – Tommy Hanson pitched five scoreless innings in a rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Gwinnett, allowing three hits and two walks with five strikeouts while throwing 48 strikes in 78 pitches. He’s been on the 15-day disabled list with a back strain and had an 80-pitch limit in what was his only scheduled rehab start.
Now, the Braves face a decision. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he, pitching coach Roger McDowell and team officials will discuss whether to go with a five- or six-man rotation, but reiterated that if it’s the latter, it’ll only be six starters for the remainder of their current 19-games-in-19-days period (Sunday’s game was the third in that stretch).
The Braves have a current five-man rotation of Ben Sheets, Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor and Medlen, who got the win Saturday to go to 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts since moving from the bullpen.
“If all goes well in the next three or four days, we’ve got to sit down and make a decision,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got to see what’s best for the team and what’s best for the individuals. Do we go with a six-man [rotation] because it’s 19 straight games? Do we go with a five-man and stick one guy in the bullpen? Who knows? There’s a lot of talks and a lot of discussions in the next few days to see how we’re going to work with this situation.
“It’s easy to say, let’s go with a six-man, it makes a lot of sense with 19 straight games and the guys that are pitching for us that need an extra day every once in a while, with Huddy’s ankle and so on, the guy pitching today [Sheets] and the history he’s had in the last couple of years. So everybody can use those [extra] days. But it’s easier said than done.
“Take one less guy out of your bullpen or take one less guy out of your bench? Who’s got [minor league] options, who doesn’t have options….”
One of the factors they’ll consider is Medlen’s value to the bullpen and to the rotation. He’s the only one of the starters with bullpen experience. But that’s not the only consideration, Gonzalez said.
“You’ve got to also put into the debate who’s pitching well and who isn’t,” he said. “We’ve got to take that into account. These five guys we’re running out there are throwing pretty good. Do we disturb that or not?”