Atlanta Braves Have Tough Decision To Make On No. 5 Starter

By Steven Whitaker
Freddie Garcia
Getty Images

As pitchers and catchers have finally reported to their Spring Training facilities, the Atlanta Braves have very few questions as far as personnel is concerned. One of the questions that the team faces though is who will start as the no. five guy in the starting rotation until Gavin Floyd comes back from his injury rehab. Between the players that are competing for the spot, it could be a difficult one to answer as all three of them have their advantages and disadvantages.

The first choice could be Alex Wood. Wood, who pitched in 31 games for the team in 2013 from the bullpen and starting combined, will be in the starting rotation sooner rather than later, but is that where the Braves need him in 2014?

As Jonny Venters rehabs from his Tommy John surgery, the Braves will only have one left hander in the bullpen until Venters returns. In his time with Atlanta, Wood was more effective coming out of the bullpen last season with 20 appearances and an ERA of 2.08. His strikeout to walk ratio was also much higher from the bullpen, striking out 25 batters with only five walks in 21.2 innings.

With the team’s needs and how he performed in 2013, Wood would best suit the Braves coming out of the bullpen, at least until Venters returns.

Another option for the team would be Freddy Garcia. He only pitched in six total games for the Braves last season, but what a job he did. In his 27.1 innings, he only gave up five runs and five walks while striking out 20 batters. He also made a start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs, where he pitched six innings and only gave up two runs.

Can he repeat the number from the short sample size? Probably not. However, if he makes the team, he could be more important than just a no. 5 guy in the rotation. He would provide a veteran presence to the young rotation until Floyd returns to the rotation and give guys like Wood, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran someone to talk to if they are needing help.

The final, and possibly a long shot option for the team would probably be David Hale. He’s a Princeton graduate with very little experience in the major leagues. He only made two appearances for the Braves last season, but did he ever impress. In only 11 innings of work, he struck out 14 batters compared to one walk and held an ERA of 0.82. Pretty impressive.

However, that’s not the pitcher that Hale has been in his career. His ERA has made a steady climb down every season since 2010, finishing 2013 in triple-A with a 3.22 mark. His K/BB ratio has stayed between 1.5 and 2.8 since he came into the minors. At 26 years of age, he will get his opportunity to pitch with the Braves at some point, but he won’t play a large part of the rotation in 2014.

A decision will probably not be made soon, as Fredi Gonzalez will want to see what each guy can do this spring. However, when it comes down to it, whoever they choose will have a tough task ahead to prove that he belongs in the starting rotation in the long run. Garcia wants back into the big leagues for good, Wood wants a rotation spot and Hale is working his way into a role. It will be a good competition to watch once spring games have begun.

Steven Whitaker is an Atlanta Braves writer for Follow him on Twitter @CoachStevenWhit, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your circles on Google

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