Sean Newcomb earns spot on Braves’ starting rotation

Atlanta pitcher Sean Newcomb will be the No. 4 pitcher in the Braves’ starting rotation to start the season. (Photo: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (TNS) — The Atlanta Braves announced their season-opening starting rotation, including Sean Newcomb in the fourth spot, ending speculation about that job.

Julio Teheran will start opening day March 29 against Philadelphia at SunTrust Park, followed by Mike Foltynewicz in Game 2 and veteran newcomer Brandon McCarthy in the March 31 series finale against the Phillies.

That much — the order of the first three — was already known, although it hadn’t been made official until Monday.

What was still unclear was whether the Braves would have Newcomb start out in the fourth spot or whether, since he has minor league options remaining, the Braves might send the second-year left-hander to Triple-A for couple of weeks until the Braves need a fifth starter for the first time April 10 in the 11th game of the season.

Such a scenario would have allowed the Braves to have veteran lefty Scott Kazmir, who can’t be sent to the minors without his consent, start the season in the fourth spot.

But Kazmir hasn’t impressed this spring and Newcomb’s had steady and encouraging starts. The Braves wanted to do right by him and give the team a better chance to win out of the gate with its first four starters.

Kazmir is one of several pitchers competing for the fifth spot, but unlike any of them he’s owed big money ($16 million) whether the Braves keep him or not. So they’ll surely give the former All-Star a chance to show what he can do.

The Braves could theoretically have Kazmir open as a long reliever/spot starter, since other candidates for that role including former prospects Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair and Lucas Sims all have minor league options, and just-signed veteran Anibal Sanchez is on a minor league deal and can’t be sent to Triple-A to begin the season.

Rookie Luiz Gohara, who had been penciled in the rotation entering spring training, hasn’t pitched in a spring game due to two injuries — groin strain followed by knee sprain — and is probably not going to be ready before May.

But the fifth-starter decision is still to be determined, and on Monday manager Brian Snitker just wanted to erase any remaining questions about the starting quartet that will open the season.

Kazmir, scratched from a start Sunday after getting hit in the jaw by a misplayed baseball while playing catch, was fine Monday and pitched in a minor league game on a backfield as Teheran was pitching 6-2/3 sharp innings in a 6-0 Grapefruit League win against Toronto.

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