LAWRENCEVILLE -- Carrying the same quiet and confident demeanor he brought with him after his promotion to Class AAA a season ago, Sean Gilmartin sat in front of his locker just more than 24 hours before he becomes the fifth Gwinnett Braves opening day pitcher.
"It's always nice to go out there and pitch the first game, especially when you are home," the 2011 Braves' first-round draft pick said. "That will be fun."
Gilmartin gets the opening day nod today at 7 p.m. against Charlotte coming off a solid showing in his first full professional season. The lefty pitched 20 games with Class AA Mississippi, going 5-8 with a 3.54 ERA and threw three complete games. He struck out 86, walked 26 and allowed nine home runs. The performance earned him a promotion to Gwinnett where he finished 1-2 with a 4.78 in seven starts. In four spring training appearances, he did "all right," compiling a plus-7 ERA before going down to minor league camp.
But once with Randy Ready and the Gwinnett squad in Florida, the former Florida State pitcher began preparing for today.
"No. 1 was he is kind of the go-to guy, the up-and-coming guy and I think No. 2 it happened to fall on his day," Ready said. "I think three weeks ago we started preparing him for this April 4 start."
Gilmartin last threw in a game Saturday and said he felt strong in his bullpen session Tuesday.
"I felt good in spring training and I am definitely excited to get the season going," he said. "It's just refining it. In between your starts you go to the bullpen, you refine your offering, your pitches."
Gilmartin will be the fifth different opening day starter for the the G-Braves in as many seasons and the team's No. 5 overall prospect according to MLB.com, joining a unique, and officially undefeated, group.
Tommy Hanson, then the top prospect in the organization, threw the first game for the G-Braves, taking a no-decision but striking out 10 and not allowing a run in 4 innings. James Parr began the next season, taking another no-decision, but allowed five runs over five innings. In 2011 it was Rodrigo Lopez, a veteran pitcher, getting the start and the only win for an opening-day starter. Lopez lasted six innings and allowed just one run. Last season, the honor went to longtime G-Braves pitcher Todd Redmond and the right-hander allowed just one earned run over four innings with five strikeouts in another no-decision.
The good news: Four of those players pitched in the big-leagues at some point that season. The bad: None are still in the Braves organization.
While Gilmartin doesn't bring the same hype that accompanied Hanson's start, he is the first true prospect to start opening day since 2009.
"For me it's just to go out there and get better every time I go out and pitch," Gilmartin said. "It's about going out and pitching the way I know how to pitch and getting better."