Three Cuts: Another contender for Braves’ rotation; Peterson impresses

Jace Peterson is hitting .417 with a .533 on-base percentage, a double, three walks and four runs scored through 12 spring at-bats.

David Goldman/AP

One week’s worth of spring training games isn’t going to clear up any position battles or prove any kind of a litmus test in the leagues’ respective pecking orders.

A year ago, it was the Rays and the Marlins that led the American and National League, respectively, in spring wins and both ended the regular season 19 games back in their divisions.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to glean from the first six games the new-look Braves have played …

Nine Braves combined to no-hit the Astros on Sunday, yet had to settle for a 2-2 tie (only in the spring) in 10 innings as Houston had the bases loaded in the seventh on two walks and a hit by pitch before a fielder’s choice and a groundout for their two runs.

"It didn’t feel like [a no-hitter] because what did we end up walking, 11 or nine?" Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters. "I’ve never seen that. Only in spring training, you see weird stuff like that."

Cody Martin got the start for the Atlanta, walking two and striking out three in two innings and was followed by Jim Johnson (one inning), Josh Outman (one inning, on strikeout and one walk), Brandon Cunniff (one inning), Ian Thomas (three walks and a strikeout in one inning), Mauricio Cabrera (two earned runs on two walks and a HBP in an inning), Lucas Sims (a strikeout and a walk in one inning), Justin Jackson (two strikeouts in one inning) and Jairo Heredia (one strikeout in an inning).

Afterward, Gonzalez discussed the possibility that Martin, who was starting in place of Mike Minor — the left-hander is dealing with a left shoulder issue and could begin the season on the disabled list — could be in the running for a spot in the rotation.

Atlanta entered the spring with just one opening in the staff, but the uncertainty surrounding Minor could change that.

"(Martin’s) earned that opportunity and chance," Gonzalez said. "It’s wide open. We went from having a fifth spot open to having two spots open. So why not put him in the mix there?"

In the past two seasons at Triple-A Gwinnett, Martin has a 3.52 ERA in 40 appearances. Last year he was 7-8 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.327 WHIP and 8.2 K’s per nine. It’s not overwhelming, but he’s consistent and has given up 0.7 home runs per nine in four minor league seasons.

"He’s an interesting guy," Gonzalez said. "We talk about him all the time in the coaches room. He’s a guy that wins in Triple-A. He’s got great command. He throws his secondary pitches for strikes. He doesn’t light up the radar gun. [Minor league pitching coordinator Rich Dubee] said it best: ‘The only way we can know if he can pitch in the big leagues is to pitch him in the big leagues.’"

It seems the candidates for those rotation spots continue to grow by the day, which brings us to.

While we’ll throw Martin into the mix, we know prospects Mike Foltynewicz and Manny Banuelos and veterans Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults are competing to join the rotation.

Rodriguez, who was limited to 18 starts the last two years due to injury, hasn’t looked sharp. In Wednesday’s opener against the Mets he gave up two hits and an earned with two walks and one strikeout in one inning of work.

He’ll get another crack on Monday as the Braves take on the Nationals.

Stults was strong on two innings vs. the Tigers, allowing two hits and he induced four groundouts.

Foltynewicz threw 1 2/3 innings against the Mets on Saturday and proceeded to give up four hits and a run in that span. In that same game, Banuelos gave up two hits in two innings.

With those two and Martin it’s just a matter of whether Gonzalez, John Hart and Co. believe they’re ready to open the season at the major league level.

That would seem to give an edge to Stults and/or Rodriguez given that the Braves may need two starters on the Opening Day roster. Of course, it could also lead them to take a veteran and one of those young arms.

Not that we were going to get any clarity this soon, but things seem more jumbled than before as far as the rotation spots go.

There’s little chance the Braves break camp and don’t have Alberto Callaspo being considered to get the first start at second base.

But rookie Jace Peterson is making things interesting as Callaspo — who showed up to camp overweight — struggles at the plate, hitting .125 (1 of 8) in three games with a run scored.

Peterson is 5 of 12 (.417) with a double — which came in his Braves debut vs. New York — and three walks and four runs scored. He’s also racked up a .533 on-base percentage.

He also hit leadoff Sunday, opening with a single before scoring two outs later.

Peterson has the makeup to sit atop the Braves’ batting order — he had a .381 OBP in 389 minor league games and stole 148 bases in 190 attempts — but it’s just a matter of where he’s utilized. Can he steal time away from Callaspo or spell Chris Johnson at third, a position he’s played just 16 times in his professional career, or Andrelton Simmons at shortstop?

Last season there was talk when Peterson was still with the Padres about him playing in the outfield. Given that the Braves will be using a platoon in left field and will be without Melvin Upton Jr. for potentially a month or more, it’s an intriguing option.

If things continue like this the Braves brass are going to have to find a way. Peterson was one of the more impressive players during the first days of full-squad workouts and he’s still not disappointing.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney