ATLANTA — As strong as the Braves rotation has been at this point — the quartet of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Aaron Harang and David Hale went into Tuesday with a collective 1.56 era, which ranks second in the majors — the opening stretch was always about bridging a gap.
Wednesday, Atlanta’s staff takes a step toward full health as offseason acquisition Ervin Santana takes the mound for the first time as a Brave.
"I’ll just try tried to keep it simple like I always do," Santana said of his approach. "Go up there, throw strikes and give my team a chance to win."
But before Tuesday’s home opener, the topic was more focused on what the American League lifer can do at the plate.
Santana, who spent eight years with the Angels and one with the Royals before signing with the Braves in March, isn’t a complete hitting novice, though it’s pretty close.
He has 26 plate appearances, two less than Alex Wood and 52 fewer than Julio Teheran, who combined have 72 career starts to Santana’s 268. Santana, who possesses a .160 average (4 for 25 with a double and two RBI), also has hit just 11 times in the past five seasons and two hits in that span.
Even his preparation prior to joining the Braves when it came to hitting was limited, with the occasional early batting practice work.
"It’s not the same as if you have to hit all the time," Santana said.
That’s also not why Atlanta inked him to a one-year, $14 million deal.
Coming off a resurgent season in which he had a 3.24 ERA and 1.142 WHIP in 211 innings in Kansas City, Santana had a whirlwind of a month as he was signed just before Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen were headed for Tommy John surgery.
"A little crazy, because (I) signed late and the good thing is that you’ve been throwing bullpens, a lot of bullpens," Santana said. "So I was very much ready, except I didn’t face any hitters. That was the difference."
The numbers say he was shaky in his outing Friday with Triple-A Gwinnett, allowing six runs in 5 1/3 innings, but he saw positives in the start.
"Feel good, I feel very strong," Santana said. "Every pitch was like I wanted to, location was down and the offspeed was very good too."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez is keeping a simple approach with Santana in his first game in a Braves uniform, saying "I don’t put any expectations on him or myself; I’m just going to go out and watch him. There’s no reason why he can’t give us a great chance to win a ballgame."
Santana isn’t completely unfamiliar with the Mets, making a start against them in 2013 in which he allowed one run and five hits over six innings, but he is new to Turner Field. So what does he think of the place?
"I’ve never pitched here," he said smiling. "So I will tell you tomorrow."
The addition of Santana is just the first wave as Tuesday night Gavin Floyd pitched four innings for Triple-A Gwinnett against Norfolk, with Mike Minor following him. Minor is expected to be added to the rotation the 23rd vs. the Marlins or the 25th against the Reds and Floyd could also join the staff by the end of the month.