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Old 02-27-2012, 08:22 AM
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Nicole Nicole is offline
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Default Atlanta Braves looking for starting pitchers in spring training

Atlanta Braves looking for starting pitchers in spring training.



ISSIMMEE, Florida -- For more than two decades, the Atlanta Braves relied on their rotation to remain a contender.

From Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, all the way to Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson, starting pitching has been the team's one constant.

But things change and the Braves are finding that out this spring. Entering opening day, they have three spots available in the rotation, something unheard of in Atlanta for years.

Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are locked in as the top two starters. After that, it's more uncertain until Hudson returns early in the season after recovering from back surgery.

Brandon Beachy is likely set in the No. 3 spot for now, with Mike Minor the probable fourth starter. Beyond them, the final spot is up for grabs.

"There's a lot of competition," manager Fredi Gonzalez said

Beachy made the team in spring training last year and started 25 games. Minor also earned a spot in camp, but he struggled with his changeup and with his confidence.

Minor eventually lost out to Beachy for the final spot in the rotation, then was hit hard before getting sent to Triple-A. He spent much of the summer in the minors, and later made it back to Atlanta, where he went 3-2 in eight starts.

Minor said he came to spring training with a new outlook.

"I am ready to stay up here," Minor said Saturday. "I've been working on my pitches and just want to stay up here this year. I really don't want to go back down there again."

Minor had a 2.82 ERA in 22 Triple-A starts. His out-pitch is his changeup, and that's the pitch that got hammered last year.

"If I can control my changeup, there's no reason I can't pitch in the big leagues," he said. "I had a rough year last year, but I hope they don't judge me by that. All I want is a spot on the team."

Gonzalez is just trying to get the staff through April until Hudson comes back. If Minor gets the No. 4 spot, it should come down to Randall Delgado, Ardors Vizcaino, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlin for the final spot. Between them, they started 10 games for the Braves last year.

"I like Minor. He's a lefty and we need a balance in the rotation," Gonzalez said. "If he can get the control of everything, we'll find a spot, but a lot of other guys also have a chance."
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