ATLANTA — Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has played only three full seasons in the majors, and already his contemporaries are considered the veterans of the team.
That includes Atlanta’s rotation, where replacements must be found for departed veterans Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm. Hudson signed with the Giants and Maholm is a free agent.
The rotation returns Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Brandon Beachy.
Kimbrel, 25, said it’s difficult for him to realize the young starters must now lead the rotation.
“Yeah, it’s kind of hard. Guys that I played minor league ball with are now the veterans of the ballclub,” Kimbrel said Monday, the first day of the Braves’ informal pitching camp. “It’s something that happened really fast and a lot of those guys are going to have to step into those shoes and win a lot of baseball games.”
Medlen, 28, has the most experience of the returning starters.
He made his debut in Atlanta in 2009 and led last year’s staff with 15 wins. The others came up in 2010 or later.
Minor was 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA last season. Teheran, 23, enjoyed his breakthrough last season, when he was 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA.
Beachy missed most of last season recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery in 2012. He had a follow-up procedure last year to clean up the elbow and said Monday he expects to be ready when pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 13.
Beachy said his offseason has gone “exactly as I would have hoped to this point.”
He said he’ll approach workouts before spring training “a little smarter with velocity” but will have no restrictions when the Braves report to Florida.
“There’s always going to be a little something in the way back part of the mind until I go out there in April and get a few starts under my belt,” Beachy said. “Every day I come out here and throw and don’t feel anything just eases that a little bit.”
Beachy’s return as a healthy member of the rotation is a key for the Braves this spring. He was only 5-5 but led the National League with a 2.00 ERA when his 2012 season ended after 13 starts.
The Braves have added some veterans to bolster the rotation.
Gavin Floyd, 31, signed a one-year $4 million deal last month. Floyd is recovering from surgery in May to repair the ulnar collateral ligament and a torn flexor muscle in his right elbow.
That ended the right-hander’s seventh season with the White Sox.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said he hopes Floyd will be ready by May.
Kimbrel said Floyd was an important addition for the Braves, who won 96 games and the NL East title in 2013.
“That’s a good guy to put in our rotation, and when he’s on he’s really good,” Kimbrel said. “I think that is a big move. It’s not a big money move but strategy wise it is a big move for our ballclub.”
The Braves also re-signed right-hander Freddy Garcia, 37, to a minor league deal and invited him to their big league camp.
Garcia went 1-2 with a 1.65 ERA in six games for the Braves, including three starts, late last season.
Left-hander Alex Wood is expected to compete with Garcia for the No. 5 spot in the rotation this spring. Wood was 3-3 with a 3.13 ERA overall and 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts.
Right-hander David Hale, who allowed only one run in two starts, is another pitcher to watch in the spring.
There was no nameplate on the locker next to Beachy in the Braves’ clubhouse on Monday. It was the space formerly reserved for Hudson.
“We’re obviously going to miss Huddy’s presence,” Beachy said. “I’ve lockered next to Huddy my whole career. Kris is going to be the elder statesman and he’s the guy. Mike and Julio are building off incredible campaigns and hopefully I can help with that. Alex Wood has shown what he can do. I think we’re a pretty good unit together.”