LAWRENCEVILLE - Tom Glavine earned the loudest applause during Tuesday's open house at Gwinnett Stadium, but Glavine now occupies a patriarch status among Braves pitchers.
The 43-year-old lefty represents more of the Braves' glorious past than its future, but watching and throwing with the veteran Tuesday was a stable of pitching prospects hoping to embark on a path similar to Glavine's journey to 300 wins.
Even Gwinnett Braves manager Dave Brundage struggled to lessen the expectation of his team's opening weekend rotation of Tommy Hanson, Jo-Jo Reyes, James Parr, Charlie Morton and Todd Redmond.
"It's no secret, our starting
rotation, the arms we have in the bullpen all the way from Jo-Jo Reyes, Morton, Parr, Hanson, (Kris) Medlen, Redmond, those names are the future of the Atlanta Braves," Brundage said. "On paper we look very good. You hate to jump the gun."
Hanson leads off today in the Gwinnett Braves' 11:15 a.m. opener at Charlotte. Reyes will follow Friday with Parr, Morton and Redmond following. Brundage plans to split a start with Medlen during those games. Plus, there is the slight hint Glavine could throw in a rehab start Sunday in Charlotte.
Of the scheduled group Reyes, Morton and Parr all pitched in big-league games last season. Redmond was the Southern League's pitcher of the year honoree in AA Mississippi and Hanson enters the season as the top pitching prospect in the Braves organization.
"Top to bottom, whoever we are playing, they are not going to have an easy guy to face," Hanson said. "One to five is going to go out and hopefully dominate."
It starts today with Hanson. The 22-year-old tossed Mississippi's first no-hitter last season on his way to an 8-4 record in 18 starts after starting the season in Class A Myrtle Beach.
"I can go out and compete against anybody right now, in my mind," Hanson said. "I can go out and mix my pitches up and command four pitches."
But dominating AAA baseball is only a step for the pitchers in this rotation. And those with a taste of the major leagues don't want to miss it long.
"It was a dream come true," Parr said. "That is what I worked for."
Parr pitched five games for the big club last fall, winning one game and posting a 4.84 ERA. But he sees the potential for the Gwinnett rotation, even if it is not his goal to stay.
"It is unbelievable. I think us and Durham are going to have some outright wars. Their hitting lineup should be pretty good," Parr said. "We have all the talent in the world."
Brundage agreed, even in his reserved praise.
"You hate to jump the gun as a manager and say we have the world in front of us," he said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on the guys. They have enough as it is. They have enough on their plate."
So Hanson, Parr and the rest of the staff welcome the routine of the season. It's a chance to throw, improve and prove that AAA is just a rung, not the peak.
"It's like climbing a ladder year after year. I prepared well this season as I think a lot of guys here did and we are just going to try to pick each other up and help each other get there," Parr said. "To get (to Atlanta) is in the game plan for many of us and I think you are going to see a lot of us there in the years to come."
SideBar: Big Arms
A look at the Gwinnett Braves scheduled starters to open the season:
Tommy Hanson, RHP
Went 8-4 with a 3.03 ERA for AA Mississippi, including throwing a no-hitter
Jo-Jo Reyes, LHP
Started 22 games for Atlanta, winning three and posting a 5.81 ERA
James Parr, RHP
Went 9-3 with a 3.23 ERA in nine starts for AAA Richmond, started five games for Atlanta
Charlie Morton, RHP
Started 15 games for Atlanta last season with a 6.15 ERA and a 4-8 record, had a AAA ERA of 2.05
Todd Redmond, RHP
Finished 13-5 in 27 starts in Mississippi, named Southern League pitcher of the year