After finally settling into a comfortable roster once arbitrations were settled, the Atlanta Braves had no idea they would be battling a pitcher shortage as drastic as this. On March 9th during a Spring Training game against the Mets, starting pitcher, Kris Medlen, was injured. Days later it was announced that Medlen had torn ligaments and would have to go through a second Tommy John surgery. Medlen first underwent the surgery in 2010 which caused him to miss most of the 2011 season. Medlen claimed he knew the feeling from a few years ago and was certain when he stepped off of the mound that it would be his last time pitching for the season.
Medlen isn’t the Braves’ only starting pitcher to undergo Tommy John for a second time. Right hander, Brandon Beachy first had surgery on his elbow in June 2012. He hurt his elbow for the second time the day after Medlen. Medlen and Beachy were both projected to dominate on the mound this season. Manager, Fredi Gonzalez, was excited to see what the two could bring to the diamond, but it seems as though he will be waiting another year.
In addition, left-handed starting pitcher, Mike Minor has also been placed on the disabled list because of a urinary tract procedure and shoulder soreness. Minor is expected to return within the last week of April. Right hander Gavin Floyd was another Braves starter to have Tommy John surgery. He underwent the surgery in May and is expected to join the rotation around the same time as Minor. Also recovering from a Tommy John surgery in May is right hander Jonny Venters. Venters should return in late May if rehabilitation goes as planned.
With five greatly anticipated starters out, many wonder how the Braves will hang on. While, first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Jason Heyward lead a strong offense, you can expect to see the Braves struggle until rotation is back to normal. The Braves claim that they can level the playing field by focusing on offense, but history has proved that strategy doesn’t work so well for the Braves.
In the season opener on Monday, Julio Teheran started for the Braves and left the mound less than pleased with his performance. The Braves suffered a 2-0 loss in Milwaukee due to frustration on the mound as well as sloppiness at the plate.
In the second game of the series against the Brewers, Alex Wood started for the Braves and led them to a 5-2 victory. Wood is a strong player mentally, but I think he’s biting off more than he can chew. He welcomes the challenge of a limited bullpen which is charming, but in reality he can’t do it alone.
You can expect to see Freeman and Heyward “step up to the plate,” while the bullpen is in repair. They combined for three homeruns in the second game of the series. However, as the first game proved, the Braves struggle when there is little experience on the mound. The Braves will have to face the Mets, Nationals, and Phillies before they see any pitchers coming back from the DL. While, none of these teams are particularly known for their offense, these games could make or break the season for the Braves. The chance of the Braves seeing the National League East championship game for a second year in a row is looking a little rocky.