KISSIMMEE, Fla. — While the Atlanta Braves are eager to show off their new rotation, there’s still plenty of questions marks.
Kenshin Kawakami has never faced a major league batter. Jair Jurrjens has only one year of significant major league experience. Tom Glavine is rehabbing from his first major injury and will be 43 before opening day. Javier Vazquez is coming off a 16-loss season.
Manager Bobby Cox has some other — though unproven — options, however.
Charlie Morton and Jo-Jo Reyes both got significant time in the rotation last season after injuries rocked the staff, and Jorge Campillo also filled in ably. And don’t forget top prospect Tommy Hanson, who likely will start in the minors but could be in Atlanta before the season is done.
"We have a lot of young pitching and all those young guys are going to be starters one day," Cox said. "If Glavine isn’t ready, one of them will take over. I like the way the pitching looks this year and we aren’t even into March yet. There’s plenty of time to find something that works."
The Braves insist they haven’t lost confidence in Reyes, 24, and Morton, 25, even though both struggled mightily last season. Reyes made 22 starts, going 3-11 with a 5.81 ERA, while Morton started 15 times and was 4-8 with a 6.15 ERA.
"You can never have enough pitching. Never," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "We thought we had a lot of pitching last year. Then they started dropping like flies and we ran out real quick."
A tradition like no other
Two of the pitching newcomers are carrying on a proud Braves’ tradition.
Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami are both avid golfers, rekindling memories of the days when John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine seemed as obsessed with the links as winning their annual divisional titles.
"Lowe can crush it and Kawakami hits it farther than anyone except (outfielder Jeff) Francouer," Cox said. "Hopefully they can form that same type of bond we used to have."
Juggling the rotation
The Braves will have to juggle their rotation during spring training to account for the World Baseball Classic.
Javier Vazquez (Puerto Rico) and Jorge Campillo (Mexico) are both expected to get at least one start for their countries in the WBC.
Derek Lowe will make his Atlanta debut against the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Saturday. He will likely be the Braves’ opening day starter, though manager Bobby Cox has yet to make an official announcement.
Jair Jurrjens will face his former team when the Braves play their Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers in Lakeland on Wednesday.
Campillo and Tommy Hanson are scheduled to pitch in the Disney opener on Thursday, when the Braves host the neighboring Astros. Japanese newcomer Kenshin Kawakami will make his exhibition debut for the Braves on Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.