With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Braves squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the difference?ATLANTA -- After seeing their offense significantly improve late last year, the Braves spent this offseason reconstructing a rotation that consisted of Julio
With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Braves squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the difference?
ATLANTA -- After seeing their offense significantly improve late last year, the Braves spent this offseason reconstructing a rotation that consisted of Julio Teheran, Bud Norris, Matt Wisler, Williams Perez and Jhoulys Chacin at the beginning of 2016
Minus a couple of stints on the disabled list, Teheran was the only member of the quintet to maintain his spot in the rotation over the course of last season. Norris, Chacin and Perez are with different organizations, and Wisler will likely begin the upcoming season with Triple-A Gwinnett, waiting for one of the rotation spots he lost to open up after Atlanta acquired veteran starters Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia and R.A. Dickey this winter.
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With their projected starting rotation consisting of Teheran, Colon, Garcia, Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz, the Braves will enter Spring Training feeling better about their starters than they did at this time last year.
Spring Training begins on Feb. 15, with pitchers' and catchers' workouts at Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Full-squad drills get underway on Feb. 18.
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Yeah, Garcia has a concerning healthy history, and both Colon and Dickey stand as a pair of 40-plus veterans who are writing the final chapters of their respective careers. But this trio is certainly capable of providing the Braves more stability than they had last year as they used 16 starting pitchers, just four of which made at least 12 starts.
While there will be a lot of early focus on the newcomers, the Braves also need Teheran and Foltynewicz to extend the strides they made last season. Teheran rebounded from a rough '15 season to produce a 3.21 ERA over 30 starts in '16. The two-time All-Star exited June with a 2.46 ERA before battling the effects of a couple of nagging ailments (right thigh infection and sore upper back muscle) in July.
Foltynewicz stands as the one member of the projected rotation who has the "stuff" to develop into a legitimate ace. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of 22 starts last year, but just 37 starts into his career, Foltynewicz has not yet enjoyed one of those extended stretches of success that would provide indication he has reached the point where he can consistently command his plus fastball and slider.
Colon's reputation as a beloved teammate and clubhouse leader positions him to positively impact Foltynewicz much the same way he did Noah Syndergaard while with the Mets the past few seasons. But the 43-year-old still has the potential to provide significant value on the mound. He gave up two earned runs or fewer in nine of last season's final 12 starts, and the 588 2/3 innings he has completed over the past three seasons rank fourth in the National League.
Dickey had recorded five consecutive 200-inning seasons before posting a 4.46 ERA over 169 2/3 innings as a starting pitcher with the Blue Jays in 2016. The veteran knuckleballer is returning to the NL for the first time since winning the Cy Young Award in '12 and looking forward to the chance of fulfilling the childhood dream he developed in his native Nashville while fervently following the Braves.
Garcia might be the least projectable of the additions to Atlanta's rotation. The 30-year-old left-hander produced a 2.43 ERA over 20 starts for the Cardinals in 2015, and he made more than 20 starts for just the third time in his career as he compiled a 4.73 ERA over 30 starts last year. But he fatigued down the stretch, recording a 6.39 ERA over his final seven starts -- five of which consisted of fewer than five innings.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.