Righties meeting with Dr. Andrews on Monday; Santana, Minor likely ready mid-April
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Two days after Kris Medlen confirmed that he is likely destined to undergo a second Tommy John surgery, Brandon Beachy indicated he is prepared to realize the same fate.
Medlen and Beachy will both be evaluated by Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Results of tests performed this week have given both of these Braves pitchers no choice but to be prepared to undergo this elbow ligament replacement procedure for the second time in less than four years.
"There's a lot of frustration," Beachy said. "I'm really, really frustrated. But there's nothing I can do about it now."
Less than 24 hours after Medlen exited Sunday's start against the Mets with an ailing right elbow, Beachy lasted two innings in a start against the Phillies that was marred by tightness around his right elbow and biceps muscle. He was told the discomfort was to be expected, as he attempted to return from the two elbow surgeries he has undergone over the past 20 months.
But the images from an MRI exam and a stress X-ray performed earlier this week have indicated he has some damage around the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
"It wasn't what I would have liked it to have been," Beachy said of the results. "I was pretty confident when I left the game on Monday. That was based on what I was told. I was being honest. Now it looks like it might be something else. It's frustrating, very frustrating."
Andrews previously performed Tommy John surgery on both of these two Braves pitchers. Medlen underwent the procedure in August 2010 and then endured a 13-month rehab process before returning to make two relief appearances for Atlanta during the final week of the 2011 regular season.
Beachy's attempt to return from the procedure he underwent in June 2012 has been filled with frustration. The 27-year-old right-hander made just five starts last year before he was shut down near the end of August. A month later, Andrews performed a cleanup surgery during which he removed a floating bone chip from Beachy's right elbow.
When asked if he was prepared to undergo a second Tommy John surgery, Beachy said, "I really don't know if I can be prepared. But I will just roll with the punches."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has had no other choice but to adopt this philosophy, as his projected rotation has been decimated this week. In Medlen, the Braves have lost the only pitcher other than Clayton Kershaw to compile a sub-2.50 ERA while making at least 40 starts since July 31, 2012.
Given what Beachy experienced last year, it was hard to confidently believe he would immediately regain the form that allowed him to compile a Major League-leading 2.00 ERA through the 13 starts he made before he underwent his first elbow surgery during the 2012 season. But the Braves were hoping he would at least provide some value to the middle of their rotation.
Even before Beachy exited Monday's start, the Braves had already started the pursuit that enabled them to sign free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana to a one-year, $14.1 million contract on Wednesday. The Braves will not accelerate Santana's preparation in order for him to be ready for the start of the regular season.
But Santana, who spent the past couple of weeks completing bullpen sessions on his own, appears to be on schedule to join Atlanta's starting rotation by the middle of April. The 31-year-old right-hander threw his first round of live batting practice on Monday and could be cleared to pitch in a Grapefruit League game at some point next week.
Mike Minor is also aiming to join Atlanta's rotation during the regular season's second or third week. Minor has not recently been bothered by the shoulder discomfort that plagued him during the early days of camp, when he was making up for the month-long period of inactivity he experienced after undergoing a Dec. 31 urinary tract procedure.
Minor has not yet been cleared to begin throwing live batting practice, but he did complete his latest bullpen session on Friday morning.
The Braves will be able to go through the season's first 10 games with a four-man rotation that will consist of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale. Once Santana and Minor are cleared to begin pitching at the big league level, the Braves will likely send Garcia to the bullpen or Hale to Triple-A Gwinnett to continue serving as a starter.
While the Braves' depth in the starting-pitching department is currently thin, the rotation could be further strengthened during the early portion of May, when Gavin Floyd could return from Tommy John surgery.
If the Braves are fortunate enough to avoid further injuries and see all of these plans hold true, their rotation by the middle of May could consist of Teheran, Minor, Santana, Wood and Floyd.