Braves keeping rotation order options open

Braves keeping rotation order options open

Braves keeping rotation order options open
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Fredi Gonzalez revealed how his starting pitchers will line up during the early portion of the Grapefruit League season. But after Tuesday's workout at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex, the Braves' manager wasn't ready to name his Opening Day starter.

"A lot of things can happen between now and the beginning of the year," Gonzalez said. "You can always tinker. So that's why I'm not naming who is the Opening Day starter or who is No. 2 or No. 3."

Coming off a frustrating injury-marred season, Jair Jurrjens will start Saturday afternoon's Grapefruit League season opener against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., at 1:10 p.m. ET. When the Mets travel to Disney to play Sunday at 1:05 p.m., they will face the three candidates vying to begin the season as Gonzalez's fifth starter.

Rodrigo Lopez, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are all scheduled to throw two innings during Sunday's game. A split-squad game scheduled five days later will allow Gonzalez to give these starters their necessary innings without having to do so at the expense of the innings his relievers need to complete.

The candidates for the fifth spot are also in line to pitch when the Braves have split squads playing on March 19. When they are scheduled to pitch on days that don't include a split-squad game, at least one will be asked to pitch in a Minor League game.

Derek Lowe will make his exhibition season debut when he starts Monday at 1:05 p.m. against the Astros. Tommy Hanson will take the hill the next day at 1:05 p.m. when the Braves travel across town to face the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla.

Tim Hudson's debut will come March 2, when the Braves travel to Fort Myers, Fla., to face the Red Sox.

If the Braves were going to keep their pitchers on a strict schedule where they pitched every five days, Lowe would be scheduled to pitch the March 31 Opening Day game in Washington.

But before assuming the Braves will give the sinkerballer his third straight Opening Day start, it should be remembered that pitching coach Roger McDowell likes to give his starters at least one extra day of rest heading into their first regular-season start.

Gonzalez also said he hasn't determined how the scheduled March 22 off-day will affect his rotation plans. Once the pitchers make three starts, he said he could tinker with the rotation.