Blair to make first spring start, McCarthy will stay back

Veteran starter Brandon McCarthy will stay at Braves camp to pitch in a minor league game Friday rather than ride the bus for four hours to Bradenton to face the Pirates.

Aaron Blair will get the start against the Pirates, the first of the spring for the right-hander. Blair is competing for an opening-day roster spot, most likely as a long reliever/spot starter.

McCarthy, expected to open as the Braves’ No. 3 starter, also stayed back to pitch in a minor league game in his previous day to pitch Sunday when the Braves faced the Tigers in Lakeland. The 34-year-old former Dodger struck out 10 and allowed one hit in five innings in that simulated game against Braves minor leaguers.

In two Grapefruit League starts McCarthy has a 1.35 ERA with four hits, one run and one walk allowed and four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He’ll have two more spring-training starts before his Braves regular-season debut, expected to be the opening-series finale March 31 against the Phillies.