Posted: 2:21 pm Friday, June 20th, 2014

Floyd fractures elbow, difficult injury for pitchers 

By David O'Brien

WASHINGTON – You’ve got to feel bad for Gavin Floyd, who looked like a fully recovered pitcher with plenty left in his arm last night, pitching a two-hit shutout through six innings against the Nationals, a little over 13 months after returning from Tommy John elbow surgery.

But the saying in baseball is that a pitcher is always just one pitch away from a potentially catastrophic injury (and that’s why a lot of young players are willing to give up some potential future income in exchange for the security of a multi-year deal even if it has what could end up being below-market salaries in some years late in the deal).

That pitch for Floyd was the first one he threw in the se

Gavin Floyd leaves game after fracturing pitching elbow Thursday. The swelling was already visible on his right elbow in this picture. (AP photo)

Gavin Floyd leaves game after fracturing pitching elbow Thursday. The swelling was already visible on his right elbow in this picture. (AP photo)

venth inning Thursday, a curveball to Jayson Werth that left Floyd shaking his arm afterward as grotesque welt quickly formed on the tip of his elbow.

X-rays taken at Nationals Park revealed a fracture of the olecranon, or what is commonly known as the funny bone. It’s the curved sort of protrusion at the end of the ulna, which is one of the two forearm bones. It’s where the triceps muscle attaches to the bone, and that powerful muscle can actually tear off a piece of the bone or cause a fracture in the olecranon.

It’s problematic for a pitcher because the injury is usually caused by falling or by violent extension of the arm (i.e., pitching) and, whether surgery is required or not, straightening the elbow joint is often more difficult after the injury.

While it’s not a common injury among pitchers, it’s not quite as rare as you might think, either. It’s just that it’s not happened to many pitchers at the major league level, at least during the era when sophisticated testing reveals the specific nature of such injuries and widespread media reports all the details.

We’ll wait for Braves doctors to examine Floyd today and presumably do an MRI and/or CAT scan to get the exact specifics of the injury, but the X-ray taken last night here in D.C. revealed a fracture according to the Nationals team physician. That seems pretty clear-cut, though we weren’t told if it was a stress fracture, a non-displaced or displaced fracture, etc.

Perhaps the extent of the fracture will determine if he needs surgery, but just from what I’ve read up on the subject today, it seems like he probably would if he hopes to pitch again. And since he’s only 31, he does want to continue pitching.

Anyway, the only case that I could find of a fractured olecranon in a major league pitcher was Joel Zumaya, the former 100-mph-plus flamethrower who had a non-displaced fracture of the olecranon in his pitching elbow in June 2010 with Detroit.

The Tigers announced the next day that he would be out for the season  He never pitched in another major league game, but his case was complicated by the fact that Zumaya had multiple shoulder, hand and elbow surgeries before the olecranon fracture.

He missed the next (2011) season after a screw inserted in the olecranon-fracture surgery had to be replaced in another procedure in May. And after Zumaya recovered from that procedure he signed a one-year deal with the Twins in January 2012. One month later in spring training he tore his ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery.

Zumaya never pitched again and retired in February 2014 at age 29.

Floyd is on a one-year, $4 million contract that would have earned him several million more dollars if he’d stayed in the rotation all season. It seems almost certain that he’s done for the season, especially if surgery is required, and the obvious move by the Braves would be to bring back lefty Alex Wood, since he’d been sent to Triple-A to get stretched out to start again.

For now, the Braves recalled lefty reliever Ryan Buchter from Triple-A to give them another bullpen arm for this weekend.

Wood has only made two starts at Gwinnett, but spent spring training and the first month of the season as a starter, so it’s not like he was starting from scratch to rebuild arm strength and endurance to start. He went five strong innings Wednesday in his most-recent start for Gwinnett, and was believed to be in line to start one of the June 28 games in a doubleheader at Philly.

Now, unless the Braves shuffle the rotation because of the off day in the schedule Monday, it seems likely Wood will be back next week to take Floyd’s spot in the rotation. Unless the Braves make a quick move to acquire another starter – and that seems  unlikely – I’d guess David Hale could start one of the doubleheader games and give the Braves a few innings before they piece together the rest of the game with relievers.

That looks to be a better option than any other current minor league starter on the 40-man roster.

I keep getting asked if this means the Braves get involved in the bidding for David Price or another proven top-shelf starter before the trade deadline. I don’t think so, not if it involves giving up multiple prospects or young players for a pitcher who will only be with the team for the rest of this season or through next season before becoming a free agent.

Besides, the Braves are already nearly $10 million over budget because they signed Ervin Santana for $14.1 million in spring training after Kris Medlen and Bradon Beachy had season-ending Tommy John surgery. And the other thing is, strengthening the bullpen remains the priority before the trade deadline.

With Wood added to the rotation, the Braves still have a viable five starters with him joining Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Aaron Harang and Santana. And if they had to stretch out Hale again to start, they could.

Is it ideal? No. You’d like to add Jeff Samrdzija or Price or someone else who’s a top-of-the-rotation caliber. But unless ownership gives them carte blanche to blow through the budget again – and I don’t see that happening, when it’s not a team that appears to be one piece away from being a strong World Series contender – I’d expect they’ll stick with the plan of strengthening the ‘pen and perhaps adding a bench piece.

But losing Floyd hurts again because he was either going to remain a solid member of the rotation or be a good potential trade piece to help fill other needs.

• Almost inexplicable: Whether they’re hot or cold in the weeks before, one thing remains the same about the Braves lately. They will be at their best against the Nationals.

The Braves are 23-7 with a stunning 1.98 ERA in their past 30 games against the Nationals, including 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA this season. In the past 30 games between the teams, the Braves have outscored the Nationals 125-72, out-hit them .246-.213, out-homered them 31-16, and out-ERA’d them 1.98-3.47.

The Braves have shut out the Nationals twice in those 30 games, held them to one run in nine others, and to two runs eight times. To recap, the Braves have held the Nats to two or fewer runs in 19 of the past 30 games.

• Strasburg tonight: Mike Minor starts tonight against the Nats’ Steven Strephen Strasburg, who is a dominant pitcher most nights when he’s not facing the Braves.

Strasburg is a career-worst 3-5 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 starts against the Braves, including 0-2 with a 3.42 ERA in six since the beginning of the 2013 season. In his past four starts against the Braves he lasted two innings, seven innings, one inning, and 4 1/3 innings, the latter in his only start against them this season.

He was charged with eight hits, six runs (three earned) and three walks in 4 1/3 innings of an April 5 loss against the Braves at Nationals Park, his second-worst start of the season and the only home start in which he’s allowed more than two earned runs or lasted fewer than six innings this season.

That loss to the Braves came in his first home start of the season. In seven home starts since, Strasburg is 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA, with a whopping 62 strikeouts and only eight walks in only 47 innings. In his only non-decisions in that stretch, the Nats scored zero and one run while he was in the games.

In a period that began three starts after his loss to the Braves, Strasburg has gone 5-3 with a 2.22 ERA in his past 11 games, with 80 strikeouts and 11 walks in 73 innings. He has allowed 70 hits in that span, although only four homers.

Does the forgotten Dan Uggla get a rare start tonight? He’s 12-for-30 (.400) vs. Strasburg with two homers, 10 RBIs, three walks, 11 strikeouts. Others who’ve fared well against Strasburg include Jason Heyward (9-for-23 with a homer) and Freddie Freeman (7-for-17, HR, five walks). Justin Upton is 5-for-18 against him, while B.J. Upton is just 2-for-13 with seven strikeouts against Strasburg and Andrelton Simmons is 0-for-11.

Streaking Evan Gattis is 1-for-4 with a memorable homer off Strasburg on a chest-high fastball last season.

Minor is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA and .309 opponents’ average in his past five starts, with 28 strikeouts, 10 walks and 38 hits (five homers) allowed in 29 1/3 innings.

He gave up 11 hits in each of his past two starts, in four innings at Colorado on June 10 and in five innings at home against the Angels on Sunday. He got no decisions and the Braves won both of those games.

The lefty had allowed just one run in 13 2/3 innings of two road starts before giving up eight runs in four innings June 10 at Colorado in his most-recent road start.

Minor is 3-2 with a 4.96 ERA in nine starts against the Nationals, with 32 strikeouts and 25 walks in 45 1/3 innings. He’s 2-0 with a 5.46 ERA in his past six starts against them, with more walks (20) than strikeouts (16) in 29 2/3 innings. He hasn’t faced them this season because Minor was on the DL when the Braves played the Nationals in two April series.

 • More Floyd: Last night’s win got Gavin Floyd back to .500 for his career at 72-72, including 71-71 with a 4.30 ERA in 196 starts (he has an 8.88 ERA in 12 career relief appearances).

He evened his record at 2-2 with a strong 2.65 ERA in nine starts this season, including 2-2 with a 1.84 ERA in five road starts. He has no decisions and a 3.60 ERA in four home starts.

• Let’s close with a timeless gem from Nick Lowe, which you can hear by clicking here.

“CRUEL TO BE KIND” by Nick Lowe

Oh, I can’t take another heartache
Though you say you’re my friend, I’m at my wits end
You say your love is bona fide
But that don’t coincide with the things that you do
And when I ask you to be nice, you say

You gotta be
Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you
Baby, you gotta be cruel to be kind

I do my best to understand, dear
But you still mystify and I want to know why
I pick myself up off the ground
To have you knock me back down again and again
And when I ask you to explain, well, you say

Nick Lowe

Nick Lowe

You gotta be
Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you
Baby, you gotta be cruel to be kind

Well, I do my best to understand, dear
But you still mystify and I want to know why
I pick myself up off the ground
To have you knock me back down again and again
And when I ask you to explain, well, you say

You gotta be
Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you
Baby

You gotta be
Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very, very, very good sign
Cruel to be kind that means that I love you
Baby, you gotta be cruel
So, baby, you gotta be cruel
Said, baby, you gotta cruel to be kind

1243 comments
-Jerry-
-Jerry-

Doug Fister has faced, and beaten us when he was with the Tigers. But the Tigers owned us too and the Nats haven't. Fister pitched 7 innings and gave up 3 runs on 6 hits with 2 doubles. 

jim024
jim024

Does the NL use a DH in the all-star game?  If so, it would seem the ideal spot for Gattis.

Quicherbichin
Quicherbichin

This just in.... a quote from Maggot_Man...." wahhhhhhhhh..... waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh..... wwwwwwaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh"

noleee
noleee

Be scared, be very scared. The Fister man is coming

noleee
noleee

Jerry did all that angst come from Jerry, after two big wins?

-Jerry-
-Jerry-

  Somehow, someway, the Braves keep going to the well to find pieces that help out during a season. They did it last year with Carpenter and Avilan, and hopefully this year Jaime and Buchter are the answers. Not really expecting much, but those two did a tremendous job last night, especially Jaime.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

In their first full seasons, Molina started 111 games, Posey 105. Nothing out of the ordinary in what the Braves are doing...

-Jerry-
-Jerry-

 Oh, has anyone seen the latest all-star balloting? I normally don't vote in those things, but voted 70 times for Gattis. He really needs to go.

jim024
jim024

Is something wrong with Shae Simmons?  I expected to see him warming up/ used at several times the last two nights, but a lefty was used to pitch to a predominantly righty set of hitters on two occasions.

-Jerry-
-Jerry-

 It's obvious that we have had the Nat's number over the past two seasons, but that can be further exploited if we take their latest golden signing (Fister) and kick him around a bit. And the opposite can occur too. If he dominates us, that could give them a big boost.

-Jerry-
-Jerry-

Molina has played in all but 9 of the Cardinals games this year. Posey in all but 8 of his team's games. Back in the day, most catchers were fortunate to get a day off once a week. I would like to see Gattis play and get one day off per week. I think the Braves baby their catchers too much. It has yet to be proven that the extra rest is that much of a benefit. Look at McCann. He was babied and given a lot of days off, but he he still tired the last month of a lot of his seasons here. I say let the young man play. Let him prove he can take it.

DOB
DOB moderator

Freddie Freeman is 17-for-33 (.515) with 5 doubles, 3 HRs and a .939 slugging percentage in 8 games vs. Nationals this season

 In 50 games from April 20 to June 14, Freeman hit .225 (43-for-191) with 18 extra-base hits, a .327 OBP and .387 slugging percentage.In the last 24 games of that period, from May 20 to June 14, Freeman hit .189 (17-for-90) with nine extra-base hits, a .330 OBP and a .344 slugging percentage.

In six games since then, Freeman is 12-for-29 (.414) with eight extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple, one homer), .433 OBP .759 slugging percentage.

noleee
noleee

every baseball team's blog is essentially the same as ours

%s might differ a bit, but not all that much either

it is more about human nature than it is about the team

VaBravesFan
VaBravesFan

Take a look at BJ. We've seen him lay a few successful bunts down earlier in the season. He's a gifted runner. He can help us more with a change in approach, but it will never happen. The best thing he brings is that he can actually work walks and runs the bases well. But if he'd just concentrate on contact more than power he'd be more successful. Use his wheels, put pressure on the defense, moves runners, lay a bunt down more often. At this point his career you'd think he'd start from scratch before it's too late. 

LumanHarris
LumanHarris

From another blog:

"[They] are the dumbest team in major league baseball. There is no obvious baseball savvy, just get up there and hack ... at a ball that bounces in front of the plate. They cannot work the count, foul pitches off, protect the plate, shorten up ... they cannot bunt, they cannot manufacture runs, they never help themselves when they have the opportunity ... they wait for that 3-run homer."

Care to guess the team in question?

LumanHarris
LumanHarris

Gattis has started 50 of the Braves' 73 games – roughly two out of every three.

I know that no catcher plays every day .... but doesn't that seem a little low? 

I know they're trying to protect him, save him for the long season etc. But I wonder if we'll soon start seeing him start 4-of-every-5 or something.


Lew06
Lew06

@noleee Sung to the tune of Steppenwolf's The Pusher?

VeniceJim
VeniceJim

@noleee I imagine he has the power to beat us so badly we end up in the cellar by the end of the game...

jim024
jim024

@HugoZHackenbush Are you counting Posey's ROY year?  He came up in May that year so the 105 games would be out of something like 125 in MLB plus catching in AAA is just as taxing on the knees so would need to include those games as well.


Molina was not an offensive force in his first couple of years so the need to keep his bat in the lineup was not a factor.

HugoZHackenbush
HugoZHackenbush

@jim024 Nothing wrong. Fredo has stated he wanted Hale and Simmons available tonight. If it comes down to it, I suspect Simmons would be the closer.

-Jerry-
-Jerry-

  Also, Gattis may receive another day off today because of that 13 inning affair last night, but Teheran has not been getting run support. Gattis needs to be in there.

VaBravesFan
VaBravesFan

@DOB He's heating up again. Likely to get back to hitting 300 I believe.

VaBravesFan
VaBravesFan

We seen it happen to Uggla, he's been pushed aside regardless of his past and contract. He's finally old yellared to the bench at 34 years old and 20+ million owed currently, well BJ is gonna find himself in the same boat around 31 years old. Maybe earlier. Dan refused to change while also having the normal decline every player goes threw. BJ is next in line. 

VaBravesFan
VaBravesFan

@LumanHarris That brings up a point about guys who've struggled. Like Uggla and BJ. Well they both know it's not going good, but yet they never seemed to change anything. Go back to square one. But it's like that is just not a option for them. In my opinion you'd think they come to the plate with this mindset. "I need to put the ball in play." But they don't. Concentrate on just making some contact. Possibly helping the team, maybe moving a runner over after a leadoff double, or driving in a run with a deep grounder or flyball. Maybe giving yourself up and bunting a guy over. Little things. 

VaBravesFan
VaBravesFan

@LumanHarris My guess is they like the current playing time. Of course with him hitting so well, they are gonna have to use him a bit more than normal you'd think. Definitely with Justin missing some time and such. Hard to keep him outta the lineup with this type of production. 

GoneViral
GoneViral

@LumanHarris Given the performance Gattis has delivered, it's difficult to criticize the team's handling of him. I wouldn't be surprised if we gave him the day off after the 13 inning game last night.

VeniceJim
VeniceJim

@-Jerry- Most catchers haven't taken several years off before they jump back in...

noleee
noleee

@VaBravesFan 

i think you are ignoring basic human nature to expect that from established players who have been successful enough earlier to earn a large contract


LumanHarris
LumanHarris

@VeniceJim @LumanHarris Well, he's on pace for 111, so there you go .... Guess they're sticking with the plan.

Bat_Masterson
Bat_Masterson

@GoneViral @LumanHarris They said before the series he would go 3 out of 4 so, yeah maybe tonight. It would be nice to have Justin back in there if so.  

Bat_Masterson
Bat_Masterson

At this point Gattis is right around the most games he's ever caught in a season. He had knee surgery late in the offseason if memory serves. 100-110 was the goal for him from what I read. 

-Jerry-
-Jerry-

@VeniceJim @-Jerry- True, but that's not the reason the club does that. They did it with McCann all the time. Like they did with Wood in a sense, Stretch That Boy Out! Just my opinion.

Bat_Masterson
Bat_Masterson

@LumanHarris _ I usually scan the Nats blog when the Braves are playing them and it really does. Cracks me up. 

-Jerry-
-Jerry-

@Bat_Masterson And if it's to spare a knee, I'd go along with that, but would like to hear more of this surgery. I don't remember that, but then again I am forgetting lots of things as I get older. Dammit!