LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – There were no surprises when the Braves announced their season-opening starting rotation Sunday, beginning with Julio Teheran in his fourth consecutive opening day start April 3 against the Mets.
He’ll be followed by Braves veteran newcomers Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia and R.A. Dickey, with Mike Foltynewicz in the fifth spot. Four of the five were set before spring training began, and Foltynewicz was a heavy favorite for No. 5 slot.
“It’s a great honor that I feel one more time, for the fourth time,” said Teheran, who is 1-1 with a 2.50 ERA in opening-day starts, with five earned runs allowed in 18 innings. “All I’m thinking is for the season, we’ve got a pretty good team. It’s kind of exciting to be the No. 1, but I’m focusing on overall (team).”
Teheran will be the third Braves pitcher to start four consecutive season openers, joining Greg Maddux (1993-1996) and Rick Mahler (1985-1988). The only two National League pitchers with longer active opening-day start streaks are the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who has started six in a row, and the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, who has started four.
“He earned it last year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, referring to Teheran’s All-Star season in 2016. “He’s our guy and I think it’s a good choice.”
After Teheran starts the opener at Citi Field, there’s a day off (in case of rain) before Colon starts Game 2 against his former Mets team April 5. Left-hander Garcia starts the April 6 series finale in New York, knuckleballer Dickey makes his Braves debut with a series-opening start April 7 at Pittsburgh, and Foltynewicz starts April 6 against the Pirates.
If the Braves keep the rotation in order, as Snitker indicated they were likely to do, Dickey would be in line to start the home opener April 14 against the Padres in the first regular-season game at SunTrust Park.
The Braves have two off days (April 4, April 10) in the first eight days of the season, but are using all five starters rather than skip someone’s turn. They have the majors’ oldest starters in Colon (43) and Dickey (42), plus Garcia has battled injuries throughout his career and pitched as many as 130 innings only once in the past five seasons.
They also have an atypical fifth starter in Foltynewicz, who’s still developing and considered a potential top-of-the-rotation starter at some point, not a swing-type starter or journeyman fifth starter to be skipped whenever the schedule allows.
“Right now our plan is to stay in order, until we look at it further,” Snitker said. “We’re just kind of thinking that with these guys, giving them an extra day isn’t going to hurt, just with our staff. Looking at the makeup of our staff, it’s not going to hurt, I think, every little blow we can get throughout the course of the year.
“We could adjust as we go and see things, but right now I think that’s kind of the plan.”