The Braves have their rotation plans set, as Fredi Gonzalez announced them after the 4-3 win over the Red Sox Wednesday.
Derek Lowe gets the Opening Day nod for the third straight year, facing the Nationals on the road Thursday, March 31. He seems to have carried his dominating September over to Spring Training, allowing just one run on eight hits in 14 innings. I know that's a major difference, but I'm sure it gives Gonzalez that much more confidence in naming Lowe the starter.
Lowe allowed just four runs and three walks in 30.2 innings last September, carrying the staff into the playoffs and earning the Game 1 nod in the Division Series. I have already named him as a darkhorse as far as National League starting pitching goes, and I'm sure the Braves are looking for more of that September Lowe in 2011.
After a day off on April 1, Tommy Hanson will start April 2, a Saturday afternoon game in Washington. Hanson has certainly earned a promotion to No. 2 starter after recording a 3.33 ERA and 3.31 FIP in 202.2 innings last season.
Tim Hudson starts the series finale on April 3, a Sunday afternoon game. That puts him in line to start the home opener April 8 against the Phillies.
Jair Jurrjens will start the series opener against the Brewers in Milwaukee, a Monday afternoon game on April 4. The Braves' first night game comes April 5, when Lowe will make his second start. The fifth starter will make his season debut April 6. My money continues to be on Mike Minor. Hanson finishes the series in Milwaukee April 7, and Hudson starts the home opener April 8.
The off day on April 1 (for possible rain delays on Opening Day) allows the Braves to skip the fifth starter the first time through the rotation.
3/31: Derek Lowe
4/2: Tommy Hanson
4/3: Tim Hudson
4/4: Jair Jurrjens
4/5: Derek Lowe
4/6: Fifth Starter
4/7: Tommy Hanson
4/8: Tim Hudson