The Atlanta Braves may have been hoping Ervin Santana could rescue their injury-depleted rotation.
Instead, he may just be adding some serious depth.
Santana looks to continue Atlanta’s impressive stretch on the mound as he makes his Braves debut Wednesday night against the New York Mets.
Atlanta (4-3) has lost Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the season due to elbow surgery, while Mike Minor is on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left shoulder. That trio combined for 30 wins last year, with Medlen leading the way with 15 while his 3.11 ERA was the lowest for any regular member of the rotation.
In an effort to soften the blow of those absences, the Braves signed Santana to a one-year, $14.1 million contract and forfeited a first-round draft pick – 26th overall – as compensation.
The right-hander went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA with Kansas City last year after spending eight with the Los Angeles Angels.
He won his only meeting with the Mets on Aug. 4, yielding one run in six innings of a 6-2 road victory. The Braves would welcome a similar line to that after Santana surrendered six runs with four walks in 5 1-3 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.
"(Santana) pitched better than the numbers show," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team’s official website. "The reports showed there were some plays that could have been made, or were close plays."
Santana now joins a rotation that has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball, compiling a 1.61 ERA behind Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, rookie David Hale and 35-year-old Aaron Harang.
The starters haven’t allowed more than two runs in any outing, but those efforts haven’t been helped by a lineup that is hitting .192. The offense has managed more than two runs in just two games, and that was the case again in Tuesday’s home-opening 4-0 loss to the Mets (3-4).
Those struggles undermined Harang’s impressive outing, as he yielded one run and two hits with nine strikeouts in six innings.
"You’ve seen some spurts, you’ve seen some guys coming out, getting good at-bats. Now we’ve got to put the whole line-up together," Gonzalez said.
That could be a challenge since the Mets are putting together their own strong stretch on the mound with a 2.00 ERA while winning three of four games.
Giving the ball to Zack Wheeler, a native of nearby Smyrna, could give them a chance to keep it going.
The right-hander is returning to Atlanta for the first time since striking out seven in six scoreless innings of a 6-1 victory in his major league debut on June 18. Wheeler also beat the Braves twice at home while posting a 4.26 ERA.
He’s trying to become the first Met to win his first four starts versus Atlanta and the first to do it at all since Terry Leach against the Montreal Expos from Sept. 13, 1985-Oct. 11, 1987.
Matching that feat may require some improvement after Wheeler gave up three runs in six innings of an 8-2 loss to the Nationals in his season debut Thursday.
"It all starts with me though, giving up the three runs," Wheeler told the team’s official website. "I should have done better."
The Braves’ Jason Heyward surely feels the same way after flying out with the bases loaded to end Tuesday’s defeat to cap an 0-for-5 day.
"I knew I just missed it," said Heyward, who is 3 for 28 on the season. "I’d like to be in that spot every time. I’d like to come through."
The right fielder is 0 for 6 with two strikeouts versus Wheeler.