Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes provided us with some illuminating information as it pertains to Ervin Santana's timetable and preparation for the beginning of the season in an article and interview (caution, it's in Spanish) with the Braves' newest acquisition, starting pitcher Ervin Santana.
Rojas spoke to both Fredi González and Santana himself, and both indicated that, ideally, Santana would be able to be inserted in the team's rotation at the beginning of the season, as the Braves travel to Milwaukee and Washington before returning to the Ted on April 8th to take on the New York Mets. However, González expresses doubt that Santana will be ready to make a start during the first week of the season, considering the fact that he joined the team nearly a month after pitchers and catchers initially reported to Lake Buena Vista to begin their preparations for the regular season.
Instead, it seems more likely that Santana will join the Braves' rotation on a bit of a delay, opening the door for someone such as David Hale to make a start or two during early to mid April. According to the Braves' protocol, Santana will have to participate in two more sessions against live hitters before he will have the opportunity to pitch in a Spring Training game. "Next week, I'll go against batters in practice sessions, and after that, we'll see what the next step will be," says Santana, indicating a desire to perhaps make his live, in-game debut at some time during the final week of Spring Training. Santana notes that he signed with the Braves in order to help the team as a result of the recent injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, and that he wants to become ready quickly in order to fill the hole left by their absences from the rotation, but that it would be foolish to do so too quickly. González says that the Braves will evaluate and discuss Satanta's progression "after every phase" in his preparation, taking things step-by-step in order to ensure that Santana is physically and mentally ready to perform in a regular season Major League game.
To me, it seems like the most likely scenario for Santana is that he will not join the Braves' 25-man roster until, at the earliest, their first series at home against the Mets. Rojas mentions the possibility that Santana may stay in Florida to participate in extended Spring Training during the Braves' first road trip to Milwaukee and Washington in order to further prepare himself. It seems that if Santana is in game-ready form by the time Atlanta returns home to Turner Field, he could make his debut as a Brave against the Mets during the Braves' second week of the season against New York, or possibly the Nationals. I would be surprised to see Santana at any point before that, as there's no real need to rush him into the Braves' rotation after a very limited time and only an appearance or two against live hitters in a real, live game situation. Fortunately, due to two off days during the first eight days of the season, the Braves should be able to employ a four-man rotation during the season's first three series, and they shouldn't need a fifth starter until the second weekend series of the season at home against Washington. This sets up nicely for a rotation of Julio Teherán, Alex Wood, Freddy García, and David Hale to begin the season for Atlanta in the overwhelmingly likely event that Mike Minor and Santana are a bit behind in their preparations for the beginning of the regular season. Minor and Santana should both be ready for action to join the big league rotation by mid-April, so the Braves seem to be set up nicely barring any unforeseen setbacks.
It seems as if Ervin Santana is excited to be a Brave and chomping at the bit to join the Braves' staff, as evidenced by his fantastically giddy tweets in both English and Spanish.
Santana should be able to bring this enthusiasm to the mound in an actual game for the Braves soon, and his presence in the rotation could be a determining factor as to how the staff rebounds from the news of two devastating injuries this week.