Braves could use six-man rotation later this month

Braves could use six-man rotation later this month

PHILADELPHIA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has not determined what he will do if Tommy Hanson makes his anticipated return from the disabled list next week. But Gonzalez has not ruled out the possibility of utilizing a six-man starting rotation during the final two weeks of August.

If the Braves were to utilize a six-man rotation for a couple of weeks, they would spend this stretch playing a man short either in their bullpen or on their bench. But with the makeup of his rotation and the fact that his club is scheduled to play 20 consecutive days beginning Friday, Gonzalez might go this route.

"We can't consider it until we see where Tommy is at, but it makes a lot of sense," Gonzalez said.

Hanson has experienced some relief since the Braves placed him on the disabled list last week with a lower back strain. There is a chance he could complete a bullpen session by the end of this week. But it is still too early for the Braves to confidently say Hanson will be ready when he is eligible for activation on Aug. 15.

Gonzalez believes most of the members of his starting rotation could continue to benefit from an extra day of rest over the next few weeks. Ben Sheets is pitching for the first time in two years, and 37-year-old Tim Hudson has been burdened by a sore left ankle at times this season. Mike Minor is in his first full season at the Major League level, and prior to this month, Kris Medlen had not started on a regular basis since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010.

"This time of year, everybody has got something," Gonzalez said.

Once the Braves end the stretch of playing 20 consecutive days on Aug. 29, they likely would not use the six-man rotation for the remainder of the season. Scheduled off-days in September will provide enough opportunities for Gonzalez to keep his starting pitchers fresh.