If all goes as planned for the Atlanta Braves, right-hander Kris Medlen should get the start in the team’s playoff opener. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — With the National League East clinched, the Braves can turn their attention to trying to win home field advantage for the playoffs, setting up their postseason rotation and resting players. The team hasn’t announced what the rotation will look like for the division series, but manager Fredi Gonzalez said it won’t generate too many surprises.
“We’ll go with the guys that brought us here,” Gonzalez said. “It’s pretty easy really. Those guys are at the top of the rotation have been outstanding.”
Gonzalez said he plans to keep the rotation in line over the weekend against the Phillies, using a spot starter Thursday and then going with Kris Medlen on Friday, Julio Teheran on Saturday and Mike Minor on Sunday.
If the Braves decide to stay in order from that point, that would put Medlen in line to pitch Game 1 on Oct. 3 and Teheran in Game 2 on Oct. 4, each of them with an extra day’s rest. Minor would then be in line for Game 3 on Oct. 6 on six days’ rest.
Medlen is the only one of the three with postseason experience. He started last year’s one-game wild-card playoff game, allowing five runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Cardinals.
The Braves will go with four starters in the division series and they will not have to bring back a starter on short rest. Gonzalez offered some insight into the direction the team would go by pitching Alex Wood in relief Sunday in Chicago and announcing after that game his intention to move Wood to the bullpen for the stretch run.
Gonzalez said Monday that veteran Freddy Garcia is a candidate for that fourth starter’s spot. He has a chance to beat out left-hander Paul Maholm, who allowed four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings Friday in Chicago after skipping a start with elbow soreness.
Garcia started 10 postseason games with the Mariners, White Sox and Yankees. He pitched seven shutout innings in the World Series-clinching Game 4 for the White Sox in 2005. Garcia has proved a valuable acquisition since the Braves sent cash to the Orioles for him after Brandon Beachy suffered another setback in his comeback from Tommy John surgery.
Garcia has allowed only one run in each of his two spot starts during the Braves stretch run — six innings in a 6-1 win over the Marlins and seven innings in a 4-0 loss to the Nationals.
“He knows how to pitch,” Gonzalez said. “He’s not scared. He’s not rattled. He’d been in those situations. It wouldn’t surprise anybody if he’s one of those candidates for that spot.
Wood’s move to the bullpen is a function of struggles lately by Braves left-handed relievers Luis Avilan and Scott Downs. Entering Monday, Downs had allowed four earned runs and 10 hits in two innings over eight outings in September. Avilan has a 3.86 ERA over his past 13 outings, allowing 11 hits in 9 1/3 innings, after posting a 1.17 ERA through his first 60 games.
When asked Monday if the Wood decision had to do with innings accumulated in his first full professional season, Gonzalez said no.
“It has to do for us to be a better pitching staff,” he said.
LINEUP WATCH: Gonzalez rested first baseman Freddie Freeman and a couple of other regulars Monday night, something he plans to do throughout the final homestand.
“We’ll give a guy or two a day I’m not going to give four or five at the same time,” said Gonzalez, who started Paul Janish at second and Joey Terdoslavich at first against the Brewers. “Some of the guys are a little banged up and I think we’ll use this to get them recharged.”
The Braves will have three days off between the end of the regular season and the start of the division series on Oct. 3, so he doesn’t plan to give anyone extended rest. Gonzalez said he planned to play outfielder Jason Heyward the first two games of the Brewers series and then rest him today. He’ll also work in days off for shortstop Andrelton Simmons and third baseman Chris Johnson.
Catcher Brian McCann was out of the lineup Monday because he was away from the team for the birth of his daughter Colbie. This is the second child for Ashley and Brian McCann, who have a 1-year-old son Colt. McCann rejoined the team on Tuesday.
Closer Craig Kimbrel said those three days next week will be plenty of rest for him and he wants to continue to pitch in any save situation.
“I’d rather go out there and pitch like we were still chasing the division,” said Kimbrel, who was sitting on 49 saves entering Monday. “I just don’t want to take a few days off, get out of the groove of things. If it’s a save situation where I would normally go in and pitch, I want to go in and pitch.”