The pitching for the Atlanta Braves has been remarkable so far this season, and David Hale is no exception. Hale has a 2.31 ERA in four starts this season and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any start. However, the Braves’ staff has been so good that Hale actually ranks at the bottom of the rotation with those numbers. With Mike Minor scheduled to return to the rotation by the end of the week, Hale is the odd man out.
The Braves drafted Hale in the third round of the 2009 draft after pitching in college at Princeton. Although he was solely a starting pitcher in the Minor Leagues in 2012 and 2013, he worked out of the bullpen during his first three years in the Braves’ farm system. He can still contribute for Atlanta working long relief or making spot starts when needed.
There are a few alternative options the Braves could pursue. They could elect to send Hale back to Triple-A, which would allow him to continue working as a starter on a consistent schedule. They could also decide to move to a six-man starting rotation. A six-man rotation could have a detrimental effect on all the starters by mixing up their scheduled rest between starts, but moving Hale back to the Minors could hurt his confidence.
It’s hard to make an argument for moving anyone else out of the rotation. Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana and Alex Wood have all been even better than Hale and deserve to stay in the rotation. Aaron Harang may have had the best month of any pitcher in baseball, which is something no one could have predicted before the season. Minor was the second best pitcher on the team last year and deserves his spot back as well.
It’s amazing that the Braves now have too many starters after struggling to find just four starters to open up the regular season. Hale could fill the role Kris Medlen occupied in the bullpen a few years ago, and Hale could come back to the rotation if Harang cools off or another starter goes down with an injury. The move also provides a scary realization for the other teams in the National League; the Braves’ strength is going to get even better.