The Atlanta Braves are moving to a six-man rotation for two weeks.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Monday he’ll pick the best five starters at the end of August. The Braves are in a stretch of playing 20 consecutive days before a day off on Aug. 30.
”After that, we’re going with five,” Gonzalez said. ”Somebody is going to have to go to the bullpen and that’s just the way it is.”
Gonzalez said he will not defer to seniority when picking his five-man rotation for September as the Braves chase first-place Washington in the NL East.
”No, we’ll go with our best five and I can promise you on that,” he said. ”Our best five, or the five healthiest guys.”
The Braves created a surplus in their rotation last month by trading for Paul Maholm, signing Ben Sheets and moving Kris Medlen from the bullpen. Right-hander Tommy Hanson, who leads Atlanta with 12 wins, returns from the disabled list this week and will start on Friday against the Dodgers.
Hanson has been out with a strained lower back since July 31.
There are other health concerns in the rotation. Tim Hudson, the veteran of the rotation, missed a start in June due to bone spurs in his left ankle. Sheets completed a long comeback from surgery on his right elbow when he made his first start in the majors in almost two years last month.
Gonzalez said he is moving to the six-man rotation ”for the concerns of taking care of some of the guys.”
”We need to be able to go into September with all of the cylinders hitting and everybody healthy,” Gonzalez said. ”This is one way to keep those guys healthy.”
Gonzalez is trying to avoid a repeat of the Braves’ historic collapse last season, when they won only nine of their last 27 games and were passed by St. Louis for the NL wild card on the last day of the regular season.
Medlen is 2-0 as a starter, allowing only three earned runs in three starts. He also has been effective in the bullpen and said he is comfortable in either role.
”I’ve been saying the entire time, whenever I get the ball, starter or reliever, I’m good,” Medlen said Monday. ”I don’t get too caught up in trying to figure out what’s going on. That’s when you get caught with something unexpected.
”I know I’m starting Thursday and I take it from there, one start at a time.”
Gonzalez says Medlen will stick in the rotation if his success continues.
Medlen is 3-1 overall with one save and a 2.38 ERA.
Sheets is 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA in six starts. His worst start came in Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Mets when he gave up five runs, four earned, in six innings.
The six-man rotation includes Mike Minor, Hudson, Maholm, Sheets, Medlen and Hanson.
Former All-Star Jair Jurrjens and Randall Delgado couldn’t hold spots in the rotation this season.