Posted: 11:22 am Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Braves’ Medlen has elbow-ligament damage, will get more tests 

By David O'Brien

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on Kris Medlen’s injured elbow showed “some involvement in the ligament,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said, and the pitcher will have further tests and a second evaluation before determining whether he needs surgery.

Medlen, who had ligament-transplant elbow surgery — aka Tommy John surgery — in 2010 and missed most of the 2011 season for a 13-month rehab, left Sunday’s game against the Mets after grabbing his right elbow and hopping off the mound in pain following a fourth-inning pitch. The injury was intially diagnosed as forearm strain, but an MRI on Monday showed apparent ligament damage.

A day later, Braves starter Brandon Beachy lasted only two innings of a planned four-inning appearance because of biceps tightness. He’s coming back from two elbow surgeries in a 15-month span. Braves starter Mike Minor is also questionable for the first two weeks of the season after having shoulder soreness in the first week of camp.

With the injuries mounting, the Braves are looking at possible additions to their rotation, including checking into still-unsigned free agent Ervin Santana.

“In this job, there’s a reason why – I know you guys get tired of hearing it, the fans get tired of hearing it – that we say we like our team if we can stay healthy,” Wren said. “We like our team just assuming health. It’s sometimes a very fragile position that you sit in when you have a good team, a lot of times you can’t weather a lot of injuries. And when you see a guy like Kris Medlen, who’s been such a good performer for us … when you see him walk off the mound you get a sick feeling in your stomach. Not unlike when you see Tim Hudson get stepped on at first base (in 2013), on a routine play.

“Things happen. You can’t control them, nothing you can do about them, it’s just the nature of the business that we’re in. But that (Medlen injury) is a tough one to watch.”

Medlen met with Braves doctors Tuesday to discuss the situation, then left Champion Stadium without speaking to reporters because he had to get to another medical appointment, a team spokesperson said. He’s expected to consult with Dr. James Andrews, his 2010 surgeon, at some point this week.

If Medlen needs another Tommy John surgery, he would join Braves reliever Jonny Venters in trying to be among the few pitchers to ever come back from two “TJ” surgeries and perform at a high level again in the majors.

MRIs on patients who previously had Tommy John surgery can be difficult to read because of the scarring in the area of the previous procedure, and the doctor who did the surgery is usually consulted when there are subsequent injuries. Andrews did the TJ surgeries on Medlen, Beachy and Venters (twice).

“The MRI does show some involvement in the ligament. We don’t know the extent yet,” Wren said. “He’s going to have continued tests. He’s also going to probably have a second opinion and take a look at it. So for us to put a complete diagnosis on it at this time would be premature. So we’re going to let this process kind of work its way through over the next few days.”

The Braves’ list of health issues with starting pitchers continues to grow. Wren didn’t specify who they might try to add via trade or free-agent signing, but they are known to have checked Monday with Santana, who had a 3.24 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 211 innings last season for the Royals.

“It’s worrisome, let’s put it that way,” Wren said of the recent pitching injuries. “We still feel like we have the makings of a very good pitching staff, but you need depth at this level, because you just never know what’s going to happen. We’ve seen that over the last two days, how your depth can go to a shortage. And so we’re evaluating, we’re exploring other opportunities, and that’s all we can do at this point.”

But with Minor and Floyd  expected back in April and May, respectively, and Beachy’s current issue not believed to be serious, the Braves might opt to go with a cheaper, temporary fill-in option rather than spend $14 million or more for Santana, who reportedly has offers worth about that much on the table from the Orioles and Blue Jays.

“There’s a domino effect of guys that will be ready, but are not going to be ready opening day; they’ll be ready shortly thereafter,” Wren said of the Braves’ rehabbing pitchers. “So as we go on that premise, that impacts who we go out and look at, how much of a need we think there is in acquiring someone else – we have to factor everything in.”

Beachy left Monday’s start against the Phillies after only two innings, but said he wasn’t at all worried about the injury and that it was typical soreness for someone coming back from surgery (he had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and an arthroscopic procedure in September to remove a bone chip). Wren said much the same thing Tuesday about Beachy, and echoed what the pitcher said about probably not needing an MRI.

Minor wasn’t able to throw in January following urinary-tract surgery Dec. 31, then developed shoulder soreness after doing a bit too much too soon when camp opened in February. He could get in a Grapefruit League game within a week, and the Braves are holding out hope that he could avoid a season-opening stint on the 15-day disabled list and be ready to pitch by April 12, the first  day the Braves would need a fifth starter (off days in the early schedule would permit them to go with four starters on regular rest until then).

But the potential loss of Medlen for the season could be a blow the Braves have a hard time overcoming. He was scheduled to start opening day and had been their best starter since moving from the bullpen in late July 2012, going 24-12 with a 2.47 ERA in 44 games (43 starts) since then. His 2.40 ERA since the 2012 All-Star break is the second-best in baseball among pitchers with at least 250 innings, behind Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Andrews has previously placed the success rate at about 20 percent for pitchers to return to pre-surgery form after a second Tommy John surgery, and the percentage has been much better for relievers than for starters.

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1496419233001?bctid=3326673414001

56 comments
noleee
noleee

Beachy too? Can I start to panick yet???

Brent1011
Brent1011

According to ESPN and CBSsports, the Braves have signed Ervin Santana to a 1 year 14M deal.  The official announcement will come this morning. 

adarian652
adarian652

Get ready to blame a poor pitching staff on  The Upton's Heyward and Dan!!!! Same old movie

GameOfSpades
GameOfSpades

C'mon Guys.... no Medlen, no Beachy, No problem!!!! We will still win out every game this year, the Atlanta... I mean Cobb County Braves will go like 162-0 this year, they will lose maybe one game during post season and roll for the State's second (pro) Championship.... They can do it!

Rhetoric
Rhetoric

The Braves have had a rash of major injuries to pitchers since Mazzone left.

This appears to be more than a coincidence. Maybe Mazzone was better at working on a pitcher's delivery and making adjustments.

Bogey
Bogey

Save America and RickC:  I don't think you guys read the entire paragraph about Johnson and LaStella.  I was merely speculating that we've probably seen CJ's career year.  Rick C, you're right, their skill sets are comparable except LaStella costs a fraction of CJ's salary.  And a huge portion of CJ's high BA was due to BABIP (lots of loopers into short left center).  And the Braves literally have no other 3rd baseman coming up except perhaps Salcedo and he's not panning out it appears.


And my main point was to throw out the thought to debate that Meds has the right mindset, drive and talent to potentially be productive as an infielder (who would have thought Ankiel could have done what he did).  I like the kid and would love to see it happen.


And if I have an 2 infielders with varying defensive skill sets, I'll put the weaker one at third, not second base. 

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Braves' motto: give us your old, worn-out, surgically-repaired; and preferably CHEAP, and hope for the best.

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

I'm a braves/dawgs/falcons fan. I'm used to disappointment.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Frank Wren has Derek Lowe and Kinchen Kawakami on his speed dial right now ...

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

20% odds of Medlen making it back and being effective are not too good..........Ben Sheets found that out........who knows maybe Venters can buck the trend!

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

looks like Teheran will be the opening day starter.........time to pitch like Brave's fans know he can......Wood has been good this spring so 2 spots are filled........Garcia wins a job by default although not pitching badly this spring(exception when he was worried about wife's baby being delievered).........Hale gets a long look in April and hopefully someone can fill in until Beachy,Minor or Floyd are ready.............maybe one of these many minor league pitchers can take Atlanta by storm and impress while these guys are getting better!

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

"LaStella, with marginal defensive skills but a very good bat, might end up at 3rd base, because I have a feeling either Chris Johnson won't come close to repeating his 2013 "  - Bogey

What alternative universe do you live in ?

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Our top winner likely gone.

No money to spend because of Uggla & BJ contracts.

Thank you, Frank Wren !

LMO
LMO

I would have gotten away with a World Series if not for those Medlen kids!

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

He's done.  A second TJ surgery is not good.  Few come back to any efficiency in the majors after a 2d TJ.  This really bad.  He is a great kid.  I wish him luck.  But if it is torn, it is a long way back.

Bogey
Bogey

Jax Braves Fan:  I agree with you that the Braves do have young pieces they could (and should) use to bring in a true #1, however......Cliff Lee is NOT the guy to go after.  He' getting older, is REALLY expensive, AND most importantly I'm not interested in trading away great young talent to a division rival!!


I would rather offer up those great young pieces to go after Chris Sale of the ChiSox.  24 yrs old, under a friendly contract thru 2019 AND the Sox need a lot of holes filled, and stated in the offseason they would listen to offers.

Bogey
Bogey

Braves will likely sit tight for right now until they get a handle on Beachy and Minor to ensure they'll end up 100%.  They have a lot of very young, talented arms coming up, and I don't think spending valuable mid-season flexibility $ to bring in Santana for 1 year is a good move.


Now as for Meds, I feel really bad for him and he's likely done for good as a starting pitcher.  Here's my out-of-the-box prediction on him:  he recovers from his 2nd TJ surgery, rehabs, and comes back to the Braves as our second baseman!!  He came up as a shortstop, is a great athlete, CAN hit (just needs time and reps), and would be a great replacement for Uggla in  year or so.


LaStella, with marginal defensive skills but a very good bat, might end up at 3rd base, because I have a feeling either Chris Johnson won't come close to repeating his 2013 OR he'll actually repeat it and leave for more $ in free agency.


OK, let's all have fun with that scenario.

khd713
khd713

Tough blow, but the Braves will be OK. They can still win the division with what they've got, but they can't afford any more major injuries. Unfortunately, major injuries seem to be a way of life with this team.

Artw
Artw

Why not take a chance on a trade for Samardjia. With good defense he could be an excellent starter and is a free agent after this year. JR Graham and another minor leaguer might do it.

JoelSalazar
JoelSalazar

Even though the arms we do have are inexperienced, they all might be slightly better than santana. Worst case scenario were looking at 2nd wild card. Best case scenario is one similar to oakland when their rotation was all rookies and they still won their division

58Supersports
58Supersports

Looking for another cheap pitcher?  When will Braves learn you get what you pay for. Like Chipper said during the summer Braves need a #1 pitcher. You also need a GM that won't over pay  for junk like Uggla, BJ, Lowe, Hampton, and  KK.

TeddyJackEddy
TeddyJackEddy

It may just be bad luck,but management needs to review how they're working pitchers. The team was the class of MLB in keeping pitchers healthy back in the day. Now we're like The Cubs were back when they ruined pitcher after pitcher


PS...again, it is a huge pain in the azz to post with the broke azz software. This has been a constant problem for months. Does The AJC have any pride ? 

MikeY1959
MikeY1959

If Meds is out for the year, do the Braves collect insurance money on his $5.8M salary? If so, and if Santana is going to cost around $14M, the net cost to the Braves might be $8.2M.

MikeY1959
MikeY1959

If Minor does not return till 4/12, the Braves WILL put him on the DL. They can backdate it to around March 28, and he an return 4/12. No way they go the first 12 days of the season a player down. They'll go with 4 starters and 8 relievers instead of 5 starters and 7 relievers for the first 12 days. Or carry an extra position player.

braveswatcher
braveswatcher

Andrews not the go-to guy for TJ surgeries, lots of reinjuries when he does them.

iamlistening
iamlistening

Teheran, Santana, Minor, Wood, Garcia. When Floyd can prove he is healthy and effective, let him compete with Garcia or Wood for a spot. From this point forward, I would not count of Beachy. I like the Santana deal because its one-year and will not block the upward migration of another young pitcher for next season. 

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Spent money(I'm glad), but didn't get a number 1 starter.........tell me last WS winner without an ACE?

Schva
Schva

Season is over for the Braves, there's always next year.

JaxBravesFan
JaxBravesFan

Makes the need for a #1 starter more critical to win now. The Braves can't afford to waste the young talent in place. How about making a strong run for Cliff Lee? Offer something like Wood, Hale, Salcedo, and Bethancourt, etc. Maybe get Lee and some cash relief. All said and done, could be pretty close to same price as Santana. Phillies need to get younger and Braves need to win now while young parts in place.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

I had a sick feeling too.


Like there went the season.

ElStinko
ElStinko

Wait..... I thought today is Tuesday.  DOB must be on that Medical Wackie Backie already.

JerseyGil
JerseyGil

Wow...Did I miss my Wed appointment?....Looking at my calendar and today is Tuesday for sure..

inoto20
inoto20

He had an MRI exam Tuesday and met with Braves doctors Wednesday to discuss the situation,

Wow now that is really predicting the future. 

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Bogey  He's always had a high BABIP.  His approach lends itself to it.  I expect a regression, but I think he'll still hit 300 if he stays with that approach.

79
79

@dawgfacedboy Try being a Braves/Jackets/Falcons fan for a while. Blow a 20 pt lead at home to your arch-rival and experience crushing disappointment fully blown.

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

@BradleyBreeze At this point, Phil Niekro might be the opening day starter.  Heard he is still in fairly good shape for a 75 year old.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@SaveAmericaFromItself  Kind of an odd comment (not yours, the one you responded to).  La Stella and CJ have somewhat of a similar skillset.  They both basically have a very good hit tool, and that's it.  Only major difference is La Stella does it with better plate discipline.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Artw  Because the Cubs were demanding Justin or Jason.  I can't imagine them coming down on their price now as it's somewhat of a necessity for the Braves.

theoriginaltruth
theoriginaltruth

@TeddyJackEddy


No the AJC has no pride......the free site is the only site I ever land on, that pops up the "cross scripting" message........

Rick_C
Rick_C

@MikeY1959  Insurance doesn't cover all of it, and probably less than usual since he already had TJ.

theoriginaltruth
theoriginaltruth

@braveswatcher


Yes...I've been wondering about that myself. Also he isn't exactly a kid either. Would be interesting to see which doctors other teams are sending their prized arms to.....?????

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

2005 White Sox (Contreras, Garcia, Floyd, Beuhrle)

2002 Angels (Appier, Lackey, ROrtiz, Washburn)

theoriginaltruth
theoriginaltruth

@JaxBravesFan


Are you a moron or a Phillies troll? Lee is aging fast and not a chance in the world that the team gives that bunch away.......your Phillies would love it though...

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

@Rick_C @ArtwThe braves don't have the pieces the Cubs would want for Sarmardijia.  They have the 27th ranked out of 30 minor league organizations.  They are weak in the minors.  They best young players are on the team now.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@BravesFan1966 If the Cubs had a realistic asking price, I think they could pull it off.  But asking for Jason or Justin to start that deal is laughable.