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First spring games will give Fredi look at young arms

MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There have been many instances when the announcement of a Spring Training rotation provides fans and media members a chance to project who is lined up to serve as the Opening Day starter. Such is not necessarily the case for this year's Braves, who count Julio Teheran as their only logical candidate for this honor.

"He's just got to survive," a smiling Fredi Gonzalez said when a reporter sarcastically asked him what Teheran needed to do to earn what would be his third consecutive Opening Day start.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There have been many instances when the announcement of a Spring Training rotation provides fans and media members a chance to project who is lined up to serve as the Opening Day starter. Such is not necessarily the case for this year's Braves, who count Julio Teheran as their only logical candidate for this honor.

"He's just got to survive," a smiling Fredi Gonzalez said when a reporter sarcastically asked him what Teheran needed to do to earn what would be his third consecutive Opening Day start.

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As things stand, Teheran, Bud Norris and Matt Wisler are the only three pitchers who are penciled in to begin the season in Atlanta's rotation. The early favorites for the final two spots might come into focus when Gonzalez lays out his rotation for the Grapefruit League season, which begins with Tuesday afternoon's game against the Orioles at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex.

Gonzalez will wait until Monday to reveal who will start the first few games of the Grapefruit League season. But he has already indicated that the first couple of starts could be made by young prospects who may not be deemed Major League-ready by Opening Day.

"We're probably going to give a couple young guys a start early on and then get to some of the other guys," Gonzalez said at the conclusion of Sunday's workout.

Highly-regarded pitching prospects Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair, Tyrell Jenkins and Lucas Sims have all made a good impression in their first big league camp with the Braves. While Blair and Jenkins are considered dark horses to begin the season in Atlanta's rotation, Newcomb and Sims will spend the next few weeks providing some more indication as to when they might rise to the Major League level.

"I'm curious to see how [the young pitching prospects] perform against guys wearing a different uniform," Gonzalez said. "You run them out there against a different competition level and see how their stuff plays. Some of these guys throw 97 or 98 [mph], but sometimes the hitters see them good. But you don't know that until you see them in action."

All of the Braves' starters will be scheduled to complete two innings during their first start. During the second turn through the rotation, when they'll be slated for three innings, most of the starts will go to the rotation candidates who have some Major League experience. This group includes the top four candidates for the rotation's final two spots -- Williams Perez, Manny Banuelos, Kyle Kendrick and Jhoulys Chacin.

Video: Top Prospects: Aaron Blair, RHP, Braves

Odds and ends

• Gonzalez said he plans to put a designated hitter in his lineup through most of the exhibition season's first two weeks. This enables him to give more plate appearances to position players.

• Members of the Braves organization were happy to welcome former reliever Gene Garber back to camp as a guest instructor on Sunday. Garber has been a regular visitor at Braves camp, but he was unable to attend last year, because he was recovering from a fall that left him hospitalized for nearly a month.

• While instructing some of the young outfielders during Sunday's workout, the recently-retired Andruw Jones participated in some fly-ball drills, and in the process, he showed some of the same grace he displayed while winning 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards during this days with the Braves.

Mark Bowman is a reporter at MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves