ATLANTA -- Braves right-handed reliever Dan Winkler got emotional after recently receiving a clean bill of health from Dr. James Andrew's office. As he drove away from the noted surgeon's Pensacola, Fla. office, he passed the hotel, where he had sat a little more than a year earlier and pondered
ATLANTA -- Braves right-handed reliever Dan Winkler got emotional after recently receiving a clean bill of health from Dr. James Andrew's office. As he drove away from the noted surgeon's Pensacola, Fla. office, he passed the hotel, where he had sat a little more than a year earlier and pondered what life would be like after having to undergo a major elbow surgery for the second time in less than two years.
"I kind of teared up and was a little emotional because I remember sitting in that hotel room and not knowing if I would ever pitch again," Winkler said. "To be on a mound and just to be back here, it's amazing."
Winkler had reason to once again get emotional when the Braves reinstated him from the 60-day disabled list and activated him for Monday's 6-5 loss to the Mariners at SunTrust Park. The 27-year-old right-handed reliever faced one batter and retired Robinson Cano to end the top of the sixth inning. It was the first time he had pitched in a game since fracturing his elbow while throwing a pitch during an April 10, 2015, loss to the Cardinals.
"You've got to feel good for him given all he has gone through," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Everything indicates he feels great. His velocities are good and all. It will be good to see him."
The Braves selected Winkler out of the Rockies' organization in the Rule 5 Draft with the understanding he would miss most of the next season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The reliever ended up gaining some service time as he made two appearances while spending the final three weeks of the 2015 season in Atlanta's bullpen.
Winkler then impressed during last year's Spring Training and struck out four of the eight batters he faced before sustaining the gruesome injury. But even if he spends the remainder of this season on Atlanta's roster, he still will not have spent enough time in the Majors to satisfy his Rule 5 obligations.
Thus, in order to ensure the ability to retain Winkler next year, and avoid having to offer him back to the Rockies, the Braves would need to carry him on their active roster at the start of the 2018 season.
"I feel better than I have in a long time," Winkler said. "The cutter has been there, just like it was before, and the fastball is coming in a lot better. I'm excited to be back."
Winkler struggled as he pitched with some hesitance and battled some shoulder discomfort after he was initially promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in late June. But after being shut down for a couple weeks, he returned to Gwinnett's bullpen in early August and proceeded to record five strikeouts over five scoreless innings.
"When I got shut down and started to work on things mechanically again, my shoulder started feeling a little better and my confidence came back," Winkler said. "It was more about getting outs and less about getting innings and getting healthy."
To create a roster spot for Winkler, the Braves optioned left-handed reliever Rex Brothers to Gwinnett. Brothers posted a 7.63 ERA over 17 appearances for Atlanta.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.