But with his strong four-inning performance in Friday's 6-1 win over the Rays, Hale gave the Braves more reason to believe can at least temporarily provide some stability to their injury-depleted starting rotation.
Hale was perfect in three of the four innings he completed against a Rays lineup that included Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and Wil Myers. The 26-year-old right-hander surrendered three hits and his only run in a third inning that might have evolved differently with better defensive support.
Jose Molina opened the third with a single that B.J. Upton allowed to fall in front of him in shallow center field. Molina stole second base when Braves catcher Gerald Laird double-pumped his throw after thinking Cole Figueroa had drawn a walk. One batter later, Ray Olmedo drove Molina home with a single that bounced awkwardly past shortstop Andrelton Simmons before going to center field.
"That was good stuff," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Hale's effort. "[Laird] said his ball was doing a lot of good stuff, moving and diving. He got us some groundballs."
Hale will open the season as part of a four-man rotation that will include Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Freddy Garcia. He will be aiming to match some of the success he had last year when he received an unexpected mid-September promotion and then allowed just one run in the 11 innings that encompassed the first two starts of his Major League career.
"It just gives me confidence," Hale said of last year's experience. "I know I can do it. I know what it's like. I know what it's like to be in the clubhouse and going on trips and stuff. It's not going to be new for me if I get that opportunity."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less