Braves still sorting pitching rotation options for start of season

Julio Teheran will start the opener Thursday in Philadelphia, but Braves manager Brian Snitker said Saturday that decisions still haven’t been firmed up on who will start the other two games of the Phillies series and the home opener against the Chicago Cubs on April 1. 

Snitker said Teheran likely will pitch the second game of the Cubs series April 3, with the Braves using a fifth starter for the finale of that series April 4. 

The Braves plan to carry five starting pitchers on the opening-day roster, Snitker said.  

The flux stems largely from injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman, both of whom otherwise would be entrenched in the rotation. Foltynewicz, who has pitched only two innings this spring because of a sore elbow, will open the season on the injured list and likely will miss most of April. Gausman, who has pitched only two innings this spring because of a sore shoulder, is scheduled to start Sunday’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Braves’ new facility in North Port, Fla., but it remains uncertain whether he’ll be on the active roster opening day. 

“We’re going to watch him and see where he is (Sunday),” Snitker said of Gausman.

Another holdover from last season’s rotation, Sean Newcomb, has struggled at times this spring. 

Several members of the Braves’ much-acclaimed group of starting pitching prospects – Kyle Wright, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson – have challenged for spots in the season-opening rotation.

“We’re still talking about the direction to go,” Snitker said. “We’ve got a pretty good idea, (but) all the maneuvering and the guys who have been set back have kind of changed the landscape a little bit. We’ve adjusted and adapted.  ... We’re just not pinning ourselves down right now.”

But the decision can’t be deferred much longer,  with only three exhibition games – including two at SunTrust Park on Monday and Tuesday – remaining before the regular-season opener.

“Believe me, I’m going to give you a rotation here before long,” Snitker said. “I’ll probably know that a little bit more secure (Sunday), put it that way.”

Teheran, who will be the Braves’ opening-day starter for a franchise-record-tying sixth consecutive season, got his final Grapefruit League tune-up Friday night. He allowed seven hits and two runs in five-plus innings against the Detroit Tigers, giving up both of the runs in the first inning in a recurrence of a trend that haunted him last season.

“I was trying to find myself,” Teheran said of Friday’s first-inning difficulty. “My fastball was kind of missing. But it was good that I got to work, got to find myself. … At the end, my fastball was better.”

He has had a strong spring overall, allowing six earned runs in 17 innings (3.18 ERA) while striking out 21 and walking just two.

“To have the opportunity to start for six opening days is a great honor,” Teheran said. “The opening day is one day, but I’m focused on ... the regular season overall.”

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