PHILADELPHIA -- The Braves knew from the start shortstop Andrelton Simmons could field. What no one knew was if he could hit consistently at the Major League level.
In just over two Minor League seasons, his highest level being Double-A Mississippi, Simmons hit .309 (284-for-920) with three home runs and six triples. To be sure, that's a small sample at the Minor League level, and no one knows that better than Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.
"He's stronger than he looks," Gonzalez said. "I look at what he can do and who knew? He saw some time at Double-A. He's got a ton of room to grow."
Simmons entered Thursday's game hitting .333 with two home runs, two triples and six RBIs. Even more impressive, after 45 plate appearances, he was the only player with 30 or more trips to the plate who hadn't struck out. This a day after Cliff Lee fanned 13 Braves hitters.
More importantly, Simmons is a part of the lower half of the Braves' lineup, with Evan Gattis and Dan Uggla, that produced all 10 runs in two wins over the Phillies, including six home runs.
"How about the bottom end of our lineup," Gonzalez said on Wednesday. "They're doing a heck of a job."
Rotation has been key to Braves' fast start
PHILADELPHIA -- Looked upon as a singular moment, Julio Teheran's outing on Wednesday night against the Phillies was the epitome of great pitching. Teheran held the Phillies to three hits in a 1-0 shutout at Citizens Bank Park in a performance that was historical in nature.
Understand that in a year the Phillies are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their ballpark -- one that has been the disdain of many a pitcher, including Braves legend John Smoltz, for being overly hitter friendly -- the 23-year-old Colombian became the first visiting pitcher to throw a shutout at Citizens Bank during the regular season. (The Cards' Chris Carpenter blanked the Phils, 1-0, in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.)
"He's a competitor," Braves catcher Evan Gattis said of Teheran. "That's his makeup and that's his build. That's him to the core. He's fiery, he's a competitor, he's a winner."
That said, Teheran's effort is just a part of the bigger story this year as to how the Braves have opened the season 10-4. The starting rotation, any one of whom Gattis could have been talking about, has been better than advertised. The Braves have been eagerly awaiting the return of Mike Minor (sore shoulder) and offseason signing Gavin Floyd (Tommy John surgery) to the rotation. Both will make rehab starts on Friday, with Minor projected to return early next week if all goes well.
Entering Thursday's action, the Braves' rotation had a Major League-best 1.62 ERA and was tied for first with a .204 average against. No starter had allowed more than three earned runs.
"You hear about it all the time in those rotations that are three, four, five deep," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "They challenge each other and want to one up each other. We had it with the Glavines, the Maddux's and the Smoltz' here. You hear conversations with Bobby that you want to keep the competition, and they work off one another."
All of which begs the question, who departs from the rotation when Minor and Floyd return?
It's apparent that David Hale will be the first choice, but when Floyd is ready, the Braves have the type of problem a lot of teams would love to have. Teheran has been dominant, but then so have Alex Wood, Ervin Santana, and Aaron Harang.
Harang, who will start on Friday at Citi Field, signed with the team in late March and is 2-1 with a 0.96 ERA.
Michael Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.