Somebody on the Atlanta Braves‘ roster is going to have to step up with all the injuries to starting pitchers lately. The latest victim was Brandon Beachy, who will probably have to get Tommy John surgery for the second time, just like his teammate Kris Medlen. Without these two pitchers in the rotation, manager Fredi Gonzalez is searching for answers, and he may have found one today in Spring Training. David Hale has a real shot of being on the starting rotation after his performance against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hale was struggling in the spring up until this point, but he looked good on the mound today. The 26 year old pitched for four innings, allowing only three hits, one walk, one earned run and recorded three strikeouts in an impressive showing. If he’s going to make the rotation, this kind of effort is exactly what Gonzalez wants to see. His ERA was around 6.75 entering the game, which is not very good for a starting pitcher, but he had only logged four innings total.
After pitching in an extended role against Tampa Bay, his ERA now sits at a respectable 4.50 for Spring Training. It would have been lower, too. If not for a bad hop on Ray Olmedo‘s RBI single towards Andrelton Simmons, who would normally make that play, the Rays might not have even scored in the third inning.
However, what Hale has really shown so far in the spring is his ability to strike batters out. The right-hander possesses a nasty slider that can make anyone miss to go along with a 90-94 mph fastball and an average change-up to catch batters off guard as well. Against Tampa Bay, he displayed all of these pitches and their ability to make batters whiff. He got Jerry Sands to go down swinging twice, and made Jayson Nix look foolish on three straight pitches.
The question now becomes, can Hale build upon this performance? Atlanta needs the right-hander to step up right away with all the injuries to their starting pitchers such as Medlen, Beachy and Mike Minor to name a few. Their aren’t a lot of options for the Braves even after signing Ervin Santana a few days ago, and they will need Hale to be the guy to take a spot in the starting rotation. If he’s not up to the challenge, Atlanta could be in for a rough start in 2014.