LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Braves plan to have David Hale in their injury-depleted starting rotation to begin the season, and the rookie from Marietta pitched Friday like he’s ready despite having only two major league games under his belt.
Hale was charged with three hits, one run and one walk with three strikeouts in four innings of a 6-1 Grapefruit League win against Tampa Bay, and his line could have been even better: He was perfect through two innings, and all the hits came in the third, including a fly-ball single to center that B.J. Upton appeared to misread, and another broken-bat hit.
“The ball started sinking towards the end, which is what I’m looking to see at this point of the year,” said Hale, 26, who had been considered an outside candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation entering camp, before a rash of injuries and possible season-ending elbow surgeries for Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy.
A third-round draft pick out of Princeton University in 2009, Hale got his first major league callup in September and went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two starts for the Braves.
“Obviously his fastball is his best pitch, command-wise, but he’s able to throw a slider for strikes, and change-ups,” catcher Gerald Laird said. “He gave up a couple of broken-bat hits and gave up a run, but for the most part you saw a lot of bad swings and some guys on their front foot. I thought he threw the ball really well.
“He’s young, but he’s got good stuff. That’s the way you look at it. Does he have stuff to get guys out? I think he does. If he just goes out there and does what he’s capable of doing, I think we’ll be fine. The more he pitches, the more confidence he’s going to get. For me, to have him going at No. 5, I think he can go out there and win games for us.”
Terdo’s big day: Joey Terdoslavich is competing for the last spot on the Braves’ bench, and Friday he came off the bench and strengthened his case. He put the Braves ahead with a sixth-inning solo homer, then doubled to drive in two more runs for a 4-1 lead in the eighth. Ernesto Mejia followed the double with a two-run homer.
Terdoslavich, Tyler Greene and Jose Constanza are believed to be leading candidates for one open spot on the Braves’ bench, with the other four bench jobs to be filled by Laird, Ramiro Pena, Jordan Schafer and Ryan Doumit.