(UPDATE: The Braves have made the move: Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Monday night that the team will use a six-man rotation until the next off day on Aug. 30. Obviously, I agree. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written the following earlier . . .)
(Also, here’s a link to a video blog on the subject)
Tommy Hanson wasn’t happy when the Braves told him the other day to go to Gwinnett for a rehab start, and it’s easy to understand why. As much as the Braves may have legitimate concerns about his back and general health and want to be cautious before activating him off the disabled list, there are two underlying issues here:
– Kris Medlen has just been too good since being elevated to a starter to send him back to the bullpen (2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in three starts).
– Manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell logically want to stall a little before making a decision on whether to go with a six-man rotation, at least during this stretch of 19 straight games without an off day (Monday night’s game against San Diego will be Game 4 in the stretch).
I’ll reiterate now what I wrote and spoke to Gonzalez about last week: When Hanson comes back — and he’s eligible to be activated Wednesday — the Braves should go with a six-man rotation for a couple of weeks.
Gonzalez’s concern is understandable: Carrying an extra starter means going one short on the bench and in the bullpen. But the reason the Braves have won 14 of their last 18 and are 24-9 since July 5 largely is because their starting pitching has stabilized. It’s not something to be messed with now, especially since the Washington Nationals have shown no signs of fading yet in the National League East.
Chances are that over the next two weeks the five best starters will emerge. If Hanson continues to struggle or Medlen takes a step back, the decision is easy. It’s also worth watching Ben Sheets, who could start to wear down after so many consecutive starts following two years off. Sheets is coming off his worst of six starts Sunday in New York: 5 runs (4 earned), 8 hits and a home run in six innings.
The Braves are 3-0 in Medlen’s starts. In fact, they’re 16-1 in his starts since 2010 (Medlen is 7-0 when he got the decision). That’s not something the Braves should be messing with right now.
Agree or disagree? The cyber-venting lines are open.
By Jeff Schultz