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Top Prospects: David Hale, RHP, Braves

Although the season is less than a week old, Braves rookie right-hander David Hale's third career start comes in an important game on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park. To increase the pressure, the Nationals will be celebrating their home opener and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Mets to start the year.

Atlanta beat Washington five times in five meetings last April, swinging the National League East race in the Braves' favor. Despite upsetting the Nationals to win the NL East crown in 2013, the Braves remain underdogs in this year's race.

The inexperienced Hale's presence in Atlanta's rotation in the face of numerous injuries is a significant reason why.

Atlanta is relying on the likes of Hale and veteran journeyman Aaron Harang to help patch together a starting rotation decimated by season-ending injuries suffered by Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy during Spring Training.

With Mike Minor, Ervin Santana and Gavin Floyd all expected to return to Atlanta and take rotation spots later this month, a good outing from Hale could earn him a longer stay.

Right-hander Tanner Roark was originally slated to go Friday, but was bumped up in the rotation when Jordan Zimmermann was skipped due to flu-like symptoms. On short notice, Roark tossed six innings and allowed two runs vs. the Mets on Thursday.

The Nationals hope that Zimmermann will feel well enough to go on Friday for the club's home opener, but if he is not up to the task, the club will likely count on the bullpen to patch together the game. The team is expected to announce its decision on Friday.

Braves: Kimbrel ties Garber for second in saves
• Closer Craig Kimbrel recorded his 141st career save in Atlanta's 1-0 win against Milwaukee on Wednesday to tie Gene Garber for second place in franchise history.

Kimbrel is 13 saves away from tying John Smoltz's Braves record of 154.

• Braves backup catcher Gerald Laird was strong in relief of starter Evan Gattis during the Braves' 1-0 win against the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon.

Laird finished 1-for-3 at the plate and helped guide starter Aaron Harang behind the plate through a scoreless outing that included a no-hitter through six innings.

• The Braves claimed right-handed reliever Pedro Beato off waivers from Cincinnati following Wednesday's game. He will wear No. 51 and join Atlanta in Washington on Friday.

Beato, 24, owns a 4.55 ERA in 81 career appearances with the Red Sox and the Mets. The Braves will announce a corresponding move on Friday.

Nationals: Harper hitting lower in lineup
• Bryce Harper batted sixth on Wednesday night after spending most of last season slotted in one of the top four spots in the batting order. Harper finished 1-for-4 with a walk while batting fifth on Opening Day.

"I think it takes a little pressure of off Bryce," said Washington manager Matt Williams of moving Harper down in the order.

On Thursday afternoon, Harper was slotted in the No. 2 spot in the lineup and went 1-for-5 with a run scored.

• The Nationals will continue to monitor Harper, who passed two concussion tests, after he hit his head on Eric Young Jr.'s shin while trying to break up a double play on Opening Day.

Worth noting
• According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Braves' 1-0 victory against the Brewers on Tuesday at Miller Park was their first 1-0 win in Milwaukee since they were the Milwaukee Braves in 1964.

• The Braves are the only National League East team that Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton, acquired from the Rays in a Feb. 13 trade, has never faced. Lobaton took over starting catching duties from Wilson Ramos who was sent to 15-day DL on Wednesday with broken hamate bone in left hand.

• Braves catcher Ryan Doumit turns 33 on Thursday.

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