SUNDAY AT PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez delayed announcing his Opening Day starter in case an injury altered his plan, he was not necessarily preparing himself to deal with an ailment as potentially serious as the one Kris Medlen incurred while pitching against the Mets on Sunday afternoon.
Medlen exited the game in the fourth inning with what the Braves are calling a right forearm strain. The veteran right-hander will undergo an MRI exam and be further evaluated by the team's orthopedist, Dr. Marvin Royster, in the Orlando area on Monday.
While there is a chance Medlen will learn he needs to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in less than four years, the Braves are hoping for the best and hanging on to the optimism that they gathered after Mets physician Dr. Struan Coleman examined the pitcher Sunday afternoon.
Gonzalez had no choice but to fear for the worst when Medlen immediately walked toward the dugout after throwing his second pitch to Mets first baseman Matt Clark with two outs in the fourth inning. Medlen had grabbed his elbow and walked toward second base to gather himself after he threw his first pitch to Clark.
The always accommodating Medlen provided a sense of what he is feeling when he chose not to talk to reporters before exiting the stadium to make the 90-minute drive back to the Braves' Spring Training facility.
Unfortunately, Medlen's reaction following Sunday's final pitch was similar to the one he had when he exited a start against the Mets on Aug. 4, 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks later and then endured a long rehab process that sidelined him until the final week of the 2011 regular season.
Since returning from that procedure, Medlen has established himself as one of the game's most underappreciated pitchers. He has produced a 2.47 ERA in the 43 starts he has made since becoming a mainstay in Atlanta's starting rotation on July 31, 2012.
With Tim Hudson now with the Giants, Medlen stood as the obvious choice to serve as Atlanta's Opening Day starter. The Braves might now begin the regular season with their top two projected starters -- Medlen and Mike Minor -- both on the disabled list. Minor reported to Spring Training behind schedule because of the month-long stretch of inactivity he experienced after undergoing a urinary tract procedure on Dec. 31. He began throwing off a mound again last week and is still aiming to join Atlanta's rotation by the end of the regular season's second week.
If Minor and Medlen are both sidelined at the beginning of the season, Atlanta could open the year with a starting rotation that consists of Brandon Beachy, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Freddy Garcia.
Courtesy of two early scheduled off-days, the Braves could use a four-man rotation until April 12. If Minor continues to progress like he has over the past couple of weeks, he would likely be ready to join the rotation before that date.
MONDAY AT CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Approximately 24 hours after Medlen walked off the mound with a potentially serious elbow injury, BrandsonBeachy was rudely reminded on Monday that he has not completely recovered from the elbow ailments that have limited him to five Major League starts over the past 20 months.
As Beachy labored through two ugly innings against the Phillies on Monday afternoon, he threw just 14 of his 37 pitches for strikes and saw his fastball top out at 88 miles per hour. Instead of attempting to complete the four innings he was slated to pitch, the Braves right-hander exited and confirmed he has felt some tightness around his right elbow and biceps muscle over the past couple of weeks.
Members of the Braves' medical staff have comforted Beachy by telling him the discomfort he has felt should be viewed as normal given what he has experienced the past two years. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2012, Beachy endured a frustration-filled return attempt and was limited to five starts in 2013 because of elbow inflammation.
Beachy was shut down in August, and a month later he underwent a cleanup surgical procedure, during which Dr. James Andrews removed a floating bone chip from his elbow. While the 27-year-old hurler has repeatedly said he has not felt any discomfort since he began throwing in January, he now admits that he has been restricted by the tightness he has felt the past couple of weeks.
Beachy was not ready to confirm whether he will make his next scheduled Spring Training start or project whether he will be ready for the start of the regular season. Monday's two-inning stint came just five days after he had tossed three scoreless innings against the Phillies on this same Bright House Field mound.
------- Source: MLB.com
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