3/31/2014 8:15 P.M. ET
Help will soon be on way for Braves' rotation
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had a comical response when he was asked if he slept well leading up to Monday's Opening Day matchup against the Brewers at Miller Park.
"I slept like a baby," Gonzalez said before pausing. "I slept for three hours and then woke up crying."
While Gonzalez was joking, he enters this season with legitimate concerns about his injury-depleted starting rotation. After Julio Teheran and Alex Wood start the first two games of this week's series against the Brewers, Aaron Harang will start Wednesday's series finale and David Hale will get the ball for Friday's series opener against the Nationals.
Gonzalez's concerns could slightly decrease when Ervin Santana is expected to join the rotation next week. Santana, who did not sign with the Braves until March 12, will likely make one start for Triple-A Gwinnett and then possibly make his Braves debut as early as April 9.
Mike Minor, who was behind schedule because of a Dec. 31 urinary tract procedure, and Gavin Floyd, who is attempting to return from Tommy John surgery, are going to be on the same timeline in anticipation of joining Atlanta's rotation as early as the fourth week of April.
Opening Day first day in bigs for Braves trio
MILWAUKEE -- As the Braves prepared for Monday's Opening Day game against the Brewers, Gus Schlosser, Ian Thomas and Ryan Buchter sat in the visitors' clubhouse at Miller Park and soaked in their respective first official day as Major Leaguers.
"The beds [at the hotel] are amazing," Thomas, the Braves' No. 12 prospect as ranked by MLB.com, said. "This is the first time I have ever had my own room. The treatment here is a lot different than anything I experienced in independent ball or the Minor Leagues. But I don't want to dwell on all of that. I just want to do my job and stay here."
Thomas and Schlosser made solid first impressions as they combined to work a scoreless seventh inning during their respective big league debuts in Monday's 2-0 loss to the Brewers. After Thomas surrendered a one-out single, Schlosser showed the value of his sinker by getting Rickie Weeks to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Thomas -- who began the 2012 season with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League -- Schlosser and Buchter were all informed that they had gained spots in the Braves' bullpen on Saturday.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had already confirmed a few days earlier that Schlosser would begin the year at the Major League level. But this welcome news was a surprise for Buchter, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett last week. He was recalled to Atlanta to fill the void created when Cory Gearrin suffered what appears to be a season-ending right elbow injury.
"The past couple of days have been a wild roller-coaster ride," Buchter said. "I had kind of been out of the mix for a couple of days. But you've got to keep a clear head, because you don't ever know what is going to happen."
Given that the Braves would like him to address his command issues in the Minors, Buchter might be sent back to Gwinnett when Ervin Santana makes his expected season debut next week. But Buchter should have a chance to celebrate his rise to the big leagues with friends and family members who are expected to travel from the Philadelphia area to Washington D.C. for this weekend's series against the Nationals.
While Thomas and Buchter give Atlanta lefty middle-relief options, Schlosser could spend the next couple weeks as a long reliever and then transition into a middle-relief role. But due to their lack of depth in the rotation, the Braves could choose to keep him stretched out as a starting pitcher.
Lineup in line with Fredi's late spring projections
MILWAUKEE -- Holding to the belief that the mix will change multiple times over the course of the season, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez becomes visibly irritated when asked lineup-related questions, especially on Opening Day.
There were no surprises with the lineup for Monday's season opener against the Brewers. As Gonzalez indicated during the final days of Spring Training, B.J. Upton was positioned in the second spot and Chris Johnson batted cleanup.
Evan Gattis had been targeted for the cleanup spot before hitting .204 (10-for-49) during the Grapefruit League season. Gattis' struggles led Gonzalez to move him down to the seventh spot on Monday. This put the second-year catcher between Dan Uggla and eight-hole hitter Andrelton Simmons.
"[Making out the lineup] is just about what fits the needs of your club," Gonzalez said. "People make too big of a deal about the lineup."
By placing Upton in the second spot, the Braves are counting on the veteran outfielder to be more consistent than he was last year, when he produced career lows in batting average (.185) and on-base percentage (.268).
The Braves are hoping Upton benefits from the increased number of fastballs he could see batting between leadoff hitter Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, who will be followed by Johnson and Justin Upton.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.