Strong opener by Teheran would settle down Braves

Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Teheran signs autographs before the team faces their minor league Future Stars in an exhibition baseball game Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Rome, Ga. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
caption arrowCaption
Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Teheran signs autographs before the team faces their minor league Future Stars in an exhibition baseball game Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Rome, Ga. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

Credit: Dave Tulis

Credit: Dave Tulis

MILWAUKEE — A string of terrifying MRIs and the unexpected scramble to fill out the starting rotation gave Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez an idea about opening day.

“I think I need to call the commissioner’s office and see if I can get this thing pushed back four or five days,” he said.

Pause.

“On second thought, maybe we should just get going.”

Yes, probably best not to tempt the ligament gods with any more down time.

The Braves open the regular season Monday against Milwaukee. Their final warm-up exercise, an exhibition against prospects Saturday in Rome, Ga., was a microcosm of the spring. The day started with the news that reliever Cory Gearrin’s elbow pain is the result of “ligament involvement, which is sterile-PR-medical-speak for, “He’s cooked.”

They’re not flesh-eating zombies in “Walking Dead.” They’re people with some kind of “viral involvement.”

Gearrin is expected to become the third Braves pitcher headed for Tommy John surgery in the past month, joining starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy.

We can’t be certain if there is some voodoo spell over the Braves this spring. But Gonzalez might want to sacrifice a chicken or something just in case.

If you claim to have had a Braves’ four-man rotation of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Aaron Harang and Dave Hale in the pool, you’re lying.

“Good. Good. I feel good,” Gonzalez said, as if trying to convince himself how he felt about the team going into the season.

“Whether I do or not isn’t going to matter. The season opens on Monday. Here we go.”

If Ervin Santana, Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd all return from various levels of soreness and rehabilitation in the next two-to-four weeks as expected — or at least publicly projected by the team — and they all can stay healthy for more than seven minutes, the Braves should have enough pitching talent to survive this season. The question is how long it takes before that elusive thing called stability arrives.

Also, how taxed the bullpen will be through this period.

Also, how productive the offense will be through this period, just in case it all collapses on the mound.

Teheran can help ease some concerns. He was dressing in the Rome Braves’ clubhouse the other day, realizing it was only in 2010 that he was on the Single-A club as a player. Now, at 23 and one year removed from his rookie season, he is the opening day starter.

“I never thought when I was here that I would be the starting pitcher opening day one day,” he said. “I know for everybody it’s a special day, but for me I just need to think that it’s just another game. All of the pitchers need to think the same thing. We know we’ve been through some difficult situations this year. But we just have trying to keep what we have and late in the year we’ll be better.”

Teheran will be followed by Wood, who started 11 games last year. Two years ago, he was a sophomore at Georgia.

Wood will be followed by Harang, who has pitched for four teams in the last three years. He went to camp with Cleveland and was released last week.

Harang will be followed by Hale, who arrives via Marietta and Princeton and is a veteran of two starts in 2013. His first game this year: in Washington for the Nationals’ home opener Friday.

Gonzalez, general manager Frank Wren, pitching coach Roger McDowell and other coaches all sat in a room the other day exchanging theories on the relative epidemic of pitcher injuries, not just in Atlanta but across baseball. But that’s not going to fix anything now.

“I think there’s like 12 Tommy John injuries this year,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got three, Arizona has a couple, Oakland has a couple. And I’m not even counting minor league guys. But at this point you just have to go out and start the season. These are the cards we were dealt.

“I still feel we’re going to pitch well. We’re going to have a good game plan. We have talented guys. They just happen to be up a little bit sooner then maybe we expected. We all thought Woody would be a great kid coming out of college. Well, now he’s the No. 2 starter. You always feel like you want to give these guys time. But if they’re good and they pitch the way they’re capable, they’ll be fine.”

The longest offseason is about to end.