Gonzalez faces interesting decision with his rotation
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is looking forward to seeing the potential benefits his starting pitchers will gain from the decision to go with a six-man rotation over the course of a 13-game stretch. But when it comes time to go back to a five-man rotation next Friday, he might not be excited about telling one of his starting pitchers that he is the odd man out.
When discussing potential decisions, many in the baseball world like to say, “these kinds of things often work themselves out.”
And they often do. But if each of the Atlanta’s current six starters remain healthy and effective over the course of the next week, there is certainly a chance that Tommy Hanson will be the odd man out.
Gonzalez said he would go with his five best options. Right now, Hanson does not fit in that category.
Projecting what Atlanta’s rotation will look like heading into September, Kris Medlen and Paul Maholm will definitely be in the mix. Barring any physical concerns, Ben Sheets and Tim Hudson will also be part of this group.
So with all things remaining equal, the Braves will essentially be deciding whether to keep Hanson or Mike Minor in their rotation. And if you have watched this club over the past six weeks, this is really not a tough decision.
Hanson incurred some misfortune during Thursday night’s four-run fifth inning and his command has been a tad better (it really could not have gotten worse) than it was before he went on the disabled list with a lower back strain on July 31. But he has posted a 6.82 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .425 on-base percentage against him in his past six starts.
While Hanson’s season has gone in the wrong direction, Minor has completely turned his around since bidding adieu to June. In his past eight starts, Minor has posted a 2.29 ERA and held opponents to a .253 on-base percentage.
Given that Hanson has never pitched in relief and is one of the game’s easiest pitchers to run on, he is not exactly a great fit for the bullpen. But with the rosters expanded in September, the Braves would have the flexibility to put him there.
Sheets attempts to rebound: Now that Sheets has encountered some trouble in consecutive starts, it seems many are wondering if this is the downward turn of his improbable comeback. But while the results have not been what they were when he allowed one run or fewer in four of his first five starts, his velocity has not dipped and his arm appears to be sound.
Sure Sheets will benefit as much as anybody from getting an extra day of rest as often as possible. But to assume last weekend’s outing against the Dodgers was the beginning of the end would be a mistake.
Sheets allowed six runs, four hits (all home runs) in his six inning effort against the Dodgers. It was certainly a unique outing. He was perfect before allowing three consecutive home runs within a span of four pitches in the second inning. Then he was perfect up until the point he issued consecutive two-out walks and another home run in the sixth inning.
Coming off this four-homer outing, Sheets can be encouraged by the opportunity to pitch in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park tonight.
Talking about the 73 home runs Barry Bonds hit while playing for the Giants in 2001, Chipper Jones said, “I could take batting practice here for three straight weeks and not hit 73.”
Sheets has gone 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA in three career starts at AT&T Park. He has allowed two home runs in 17 career innings at this beautiful ballpark. Bonds accounted for one of those in 2002 and Pablo Sandoval hit the other about a month before Sheets elbow exploded in 2010.