DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Randall Delgado has remained the favorite to begin the season in the final spot of Atlanta's starting rotation. But while allowing eight runs -- five earned -- and 10 hits in just four innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday, Delgado provided reason to wonder exactly how long he will be considered a better option than Julio Teheran.
"He's still got to get through those difficult innings and minimize the damage a little bit," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But at the end of the day, yeah, I do think he pitched a little better than the line score showed."
Delgado might have escaped the third inning unscathed had Adam Lind not fouled off six pitches before hitting a two-out, three-run homer. The ugly five-run, third inning that he endured might have looked much different had second baseman Josh Wilson not booted a potential double-play grounder two batters before Kelly Johnson drilled a three-run double.
While Delgado's curveball has drawn rave reviews from Gonzalez, he does seem to still be fighting to gain confidence in what is his third-best pitch. The 22-year-old right-hander's costly mistake against Lind in the third inning was a hanging curveball.
"He gave up some hits, but he threw the ball well," Braves catcher David Ross said. "I know it was a five-run inning. But if he pitches like that on most days, he'll be fine."
While Delgado was facing the Blue Jays potent lineup on Saturday, Teheran completed a side session at the club's Spring Training complex.
Gonzalez said he plans to announce his Opening Day starter and rotation plans "within the next three or four days." But he said he might wait a few extra days to reveal whether Delgado or Teheran will serve as his fifth starter until Tim Hudson returns to the rotation at the end of April.
Because the Braves will not have to use their fifth starter until April 11, Delgado and Teheran could both make at least two more starts during the exhibition season.
Shortstop battle still up in the air
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Even when the Braves revealed their plan to begin this year with Tyler Pastornicky as their starting shortstop, there was reason to wonder if Andrelton Simmons would assume the role after spending this season's first few months gaining further development in the Minors.
Simmons has since impressed enough to cause the Braves to think about allowing him to jump straight to the Majors from the Class A Minor League level. But with a little more than a week remaining in the exhibition season, it remains unclear who will begin the season as Atlanta's starting shortstop.
"The guy we take [to start the season] might not be the guy you end up with anyways," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "This game is funny. It's a long season. So we could break with Pastornicky and a month later Simmons comes or we could break with Simmons and Pastornicky could come a month later. There's crazy things like that."
While Simmons impressed with his superior defensive talents early on in camp, he has recorded just three hits in his past 19 at-bats. Meanwhile, Pastornicky has recorded seven hits in his past 13 at-bats and admitted that he is now much more comfortable than he was when he came to camp with the pressure of preparing to make his Major League debut as a starting shortstop.
"His bat has been coming around," Gonzalez said. "It looks like he has been settling down a little bit in the field."
Pastornicky's opposite-field double in the sixth inning of Saturday's loss to the Blue Jays added to his recent success. He produced a key 10th-inning single in Wednesday's win over the Nationals and produced a four-hit game against the Marlins the next day.
Simmons' offensive skills were questioned when the Braves drafted him as a pitcher in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and again before he won the Carolina League batting title last year. With his lone full professional season coming at the Class A-Advanced level, the 22-year-old shortstop could seemingly benefit from the chance to at least prove he can hit Double-A pitching.
Another factor weighing against Simmons is the fear that Pastornicky's psyche could be damaged if he begins this year in the Minors after spending most of this winter preparing to make the jump to the Majors and serve as a starting shortstop.
• Braves general manager Frank Wren said Jonny Venters has been dealing with "normal Spring Training soreness." The discomfort, located between the left elbow and shoulder, was similar to what shut the durable middle reliever down for a few days midway through last season. Venters expects to make his next appearance by Tuesday.
• Wren and Gonzalez are now both confidently saying they believe backup infielder Jack Wilson will be ready to begin the season on Atlanta's active roster. Wilson, who came to camp with a strained right calf, could make his Grapefruit League season debut as soon as Sunday. The veteran has not experienced any problems while playing in Minor League games the past three days.
• Freddie Freeman experienced no problems with his left hand as he went 1-for-3 with a single in Saturday's loss to the Blue Jays. Freeman exited Friday's game against the Mets after a Jonathon Niese pitch struck his left hand.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.