With the division clinched, the Braves could turn their attention to trying to win home field advantage for the playoffs, setting their rotation and resting players. The Braves haven’t announced what their rotation will look like for the division series yet, but manager Fredi Gonzalez said it won’t generate too many surprises.
“We’ll go with the guys that brought us here,” Gonzalez said. “It’s pretty easy really. Those guys are at the top of the rotation have been outstanding.”
Gonzalez said the Braves plan to keep their rotation in line over the weekend against the Phillies, using a spot starter Thursday and then going with Kris Medlen Friday, Julio Teheran Saturday and Mike Minor on Sunday.
If they decide to stay in order from there, that would put Medlen in line to pitch Game 1 Thursday, Oct. 3, and Teheran in Game 2 Friday, Oct. 4 each with one an extra day’s rest, and Minor in line for Game 3 on Sunday, Oct. 6 on six days’ rest. Medlen is the only one of those three with postseason experience; he started last year’s one-game wildcard playoff game. He allowed five runs but only two were earned in 6 1/3 innings of a loss to the Cardinals.
The Braves will go with four starters in the division series so they don’t have to bring a starter back on short rest. Gonzalez offered some insight into the direction the Braves would go there, by pitching Alex Wood in relief Sunday in Chicago and announcing after that game his intention to move Wood to the bullpen for the stretch run.
Gonzalez said Monday that veteran Freddy Garcia is a candidate for that fourth starter’s spot. He has a chance to beat out left-hander Paul Maholm, who allowed four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings Friday in Chicago after skipping a start with elbow soreness.
Garcia has started 10 games in the postseason with the Mariners, White Sox and Yankees. He pitched seven shutout innings in the World Series-clinching Game 4 for the White Sox in 2005. Garcia has proved a valuable acquisition since the Braves sent cash to the Orioles for him when Brandon Beachy suffered another setback in his comeback from Tommy John surgery.
Garcia has allowed only one run in each of his two spot starts during the Braves stretch run – six innings in a 6-1 win over the Marlins and seven innings in an eventual 4-0 loss to the Nationals.
“He knows how to pitch,” Gonzalez said of Garcia. “He’s not scared. He’s not rattled. He’d been in those situations. It wouldn’t surprise anybody if he’s one of those candidates for one of that spot.
Wood’s move to the bullpen is a function of struggles lately by Braves left-handed relievers Luis Avilan and Scott Downs. Downs had allowed four earned runs and 10 hits in two innings over eight outings in September entering Monday. Avilan has a 3.86 ERA over his past 13 outings, allowing 11 hits in 9 1/3 innings, after posting a 1.17 ERA through his first 60.
When asked Monday if the Wood decision had to do with innings accumulated in his first full professional season, Gonzalez said no.
“It has to do for us to be a better pitching staff,” he said.
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