ATLANTA (AP) — 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 on 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.