The pressure will be on the Walker School product and former Princeton pitcher as he debuts as a fill-in starter, in the heat of a division race and at Turner Field, the ballpark he grew up attending games at.
And it will be Friday the 13th, no less.
The 25-year-old Hale was called up to the Braves prior to the start of the team’s six-game road swing, and he joined the club last Friday in Philadelphia. He has yet to make an appearance, with Atlanta having faced a slew of close games.
A third-round draft pick of the Braves in 2009, Hale spent the season with Triple-A Gwinnett, going 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings.
Hale’s opportunity to start was necessitated by the soreness experienced by Maholm, the Braves’ veteran starter since the season-ending ankle fracture suffered by Tim Hudson last month.
Maholm will miss at least the one start, but an MRI performed Wednesday in Atlanta showed no serious injury.
Maholm went five innings and beat the New York Mets in that game, then pitched six innings Sunday and received a no-decision in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
When the soreness continued, the Braves decided Maholm should be further evaluated. He’s 10-10 with a 4.35 ERA in 24 starts for the NL East leaders.
In an unrelated move, rookie left-hander Alex Wood will be given a breather, and right-hander Freddy Garcia will start in his place today in the series finale at Miami. Wood is 3-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 25 games this year.
The Braves enjoy a big lead in the division, and Gonzalez wants his pitching staff fresh for the playoffs. He had right-hander Julio Teheran skip a turn in the rotation last week.