Brandon Beachy may be the brightest of all the Braves' young pitchers after going 7-3 last year as a rookie and leading the team in strikeouts, despite missing a month with an injury.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Atlanta fans know the Brandon Beachy story. The rest of the baseball world may know it soon enough.
The Braves right-hander may go from being someone no Braves fan had heard of two years ago to being the anchor of this year's staff. He made his first major league start in a mid-September game in Philadelphia during the 2010 pennant run.
He was replacing Braves starter Jair Jurrgens back then. Now the 25-year-old Beachy needs to step up again with Tim Hudson sidelined until May with a back injury, and Tommy Hanson and Jurrjens battling minor injuries.
Longevity will be a key for Beachy this season.
He went at least seven innings in only two of his 25 starts last season. He is trying to limit his pitch count to go further into the late innings when he can turn the ball over to closer Craig Kimbrell.
"The strikeouts are nice," Beachy said. "But I need to cut down on the pitches so I can get deeper into the game. This year I am concentrating on limiting my pitches."
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez has the same goal in mind instead of Beachy going after five quality innings.
"The fifth is the inning that gets to some pitchers," Gonzalez said. "It would be perfect to get him to the eighth. But that kid has it all figured out."
Not bad for somebody who estimates he might have thrown six innings for Northwestern High School in Kokomo, Ind. Beachy was an infielder who spent time as a closer at Indiana Wesleyan University.
He was discovered in a Virginia summer league by a Braves scout who offered a bonus to sign with nothing but potential on the horizon. He spent 2009 in the Braves low minors.
Beachy had a 2.17 ERA in Triple A before the Braves called him up to the big leagues for that stretch run in 2010. He started 25 games last season -- more than he started during his minor league career.
Beachy said he wasn't expecting to make it to the majors as quickly as he did but his attitude on and off the mound shows he feels like he belongs. He is a potential Opening Day starter, depending on the condition of Hanson and Jurrjens.
Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said it is the mental toughness that makes Beachy an important member of Atlanta's staff.
"We never rushed him," McDowell said. "He's a strong kid with a great work ethic.
"This year he will play a pivotal role on our staff."
For now, Beachy is the No. 3 man in the rotation. By the time Hudson returns, it will be up to Beachy to see where he fits into the rotation.