Braves make bold move with six-man rotation

BY foxsports • August 13, 2012

The Braves are going with a six-man rotation until their next scheduled off day on Aug. 30. Here's the starting staff:

Tim Hudson, 11-4, 3.77 ERA
Paul Maholm, 10-7, 3.50
Kris Medlen, 3-1, 2.28
Tommy Hanson, 12-5, 4.29
Ben Sheets, 4-2, 2.13
Mike Minor, 6-8, 4.95

Kris Medlen insists it doesn't matter if he's one of the starting five or if he's hanging out in the bullpen.

I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I've deduced that Medlen toes the company line when asked his preference.

He'd rather be starting.
 
But he won't tell you that.

Medlen says stuff like it doesn't really matter to him or that he does whatever the Braves ask him to do. He says that he's accepted his role, whatever it is.

For now, his job will be starting every sixth day for the Braves because manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's planning to go with a six-man rotation until the end of August.

The Braves are three days into a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and the fragility of their starters makes this a wise and prudent decision. I liked the idea when I wrote about it last week and I still like it.

This rotation features a stable, but aging guy with a creaky ankle (Tim Hudson), a reclamation project with Frankenstein's elbow (Ben Sheets), a young guy who struggles to make it through a season unscathed (Tommy Hanson), another guy who's had Tommy John surgery (Medlen) and an inconsistent youngster still trying to find his way (Mike Minor).

Hanson will come off the DL and start Friday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"With our situation right now at this stage of the season and some of our healthy concerns with Huddy's ankle and Ben Sheets, with his history the last two years, he hasn't really pitched," Gonzalez said Monday. "We're going to do it."

It also helps that Medlen is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his three starts and the Braves are 16-1 in Medlen's past 17 starts dating to 2010, providing a boost to a once teetering rotation.

The move might seem drastic considering the Braves have won 14 of their past 18 games and 25 of their past 35 before Monday night's game. They've excelled since the All-Star break, going 20-9, the second-best mark in the majors.

But this rotation has been in flux since April and now that the Braves have stabilized it, they don't want any of these guys to crash and burn before September.

They also can't afford a replay of last season, when neither Hanson nor Jair Jurrjens could finish a season one win short of the playoffs.

"We need to be able to go into September with all of the cylinders hitting and everybody healthy," Gonzalez said. "And this is one way to keep those guys healthy. … I think it's the right thing to do because of all of the histories that we've had."

Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy and Randall Delgado began the year in the starting five, but Jurrjens was ineffective at best and is now on the DL. Beachy had to have Tommy John surgery and Delgado is in the minors.

That forced an overhaul, so the Braves signed Sheets, traded for Maholm and brought Medlen out of the pen.

They've managed to succeed with the rotation they've pieced together, but the season is far from complete. They need these guys to finish strong, so giving them an extra day's rest now might mean an extra few victories next month.

"Starting pitching is important through this 162-game grind," Medlen said. "Any time you can get good, consistent starting pitching, it's huge, all around."
Remember, this isn't FDR's New Deal.

This is an experiment, something to help the Braves navigate a tough stretch.
But it's also a tryout.

These next two weeks will decide the Braves' rotation going forward. Gonzalez said the best five starters will make up the rotation for the final month, unless an injury changes things.

"We'll go with our best five, and I can promise you on that," he said. "Whoever our best five is, or our five healthiest guys."

It's a bold move, one that could reap huge benefits when it matters most.


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