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Hale trying to earn place in rotation

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher David Hale (57) is working hard to keep stay in the rotation when Mike Minor returns. Hale is shown throwing during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. (USA TODAY Sports: Brad Mills)

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher David Hale (57) is working hard to keep stay in the rotation when Mike Minor returns. Hale is shown throwing during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. (USA TODAY Sports: Brad Mills)

ATLANTA — David Hale will likely be the odd-man out when Mike Minor returns to the Atlanta Braves rotation by the end of the month, but the young right-hander has been nearly flawless in his three major league starts.

Hale tried to state his case when he faced the New York Mets on Thursday in the finale of a three-game series.

Hale worked five scoreless innings in a no-decision at Washington last Friday and has a 1-0 record and a 0.56 ERA dating back to his debut last September. In 16 career innings, the 26-year-old has struck out 18 and walked only three.

Still, Hale is just holding a spot for Minor, who missed most of spring training with shoulder tendonitis after going 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA last season.

The left-hander made his second minor league rehab appearance on Tuesday, working 2 1/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett.

Also expected back by the end of April is veteran right-hander Gavin Floyd, who had Tommy John surgery last year while with the Chicago White Sox. He pitched four innings in his rehab outing before being followed by Minor.

Minor and Floyd would give the Braves seven potential starters, but manager Fredi Gonzalez knows all about how an abundance can quickly become a shortage.

The Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow surgery in back-to-back days during spring training. Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang were signed to make up for the losses and both have had impressive starts.

Santana allowed just three hits over eight scoreless innings in winning his debut Wednesday against the New York Mets 4-3 and Harang has a 0.71 ERA after two outings.