O’Flaherty’s back is fine but Walden’s is still sore
Braves setup man Eric O’Flaherty says his back has never felt better and he hopes to pitch in an exhibition game some time next week. But right-handed reliever Jordan Walden is battling back discomfort that could sideline him for at least another week.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday that O’Flaherty had not experienced any recent back discomfort. But he said the left-handed reliever’s previous history with back problems influenced the team’s decision to delay his first appearance until at least the second week of the exhibition season, which is one week longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic.
As he sat at his locker on Friday afternoon, O’Flaherty wanted to make it clear that his back has not provided him any problems this year. He said the fact that he has not pitched in a game is a result of a slight left groin strain that he suffered during the first week of camp.
O’Flaherty said the groin has steadily improved to the point where he could be cleared to throw in a game next week.
“I did a lot of work in the offseason and my back has never felt better than it does now,” O’Flaherty said. “It has not been an issue at all.”
Unfortunately Walden is not able to say the same. The right-handed reliever has been dealing with what he describes as “tightness in his back.” The issue prevented him from making his scheduled appearance against the Nationals on Tuesday.
“That day was bad,” Walden said. “It was tight. I went out there and I was trying to be easy on it and it wasn’t working.”
Walden has realized some improvement as he has spent the past few days taking anti-inflammatory medication and completing rehab exercises.
“A couple more days on this medicine and then I can be re-evaluated,” Walden said. “This is the first time it has really bugged me really bad. I’m trying to take care of it now so I can be ready for the season. It’s getting better. That’s all I can say.”
Walden allowed three hits and four runs — one earned — in one inning against the Yankees on Saturday. That is the only exhibition appearance made so far this year by the 25-year-old reliever, who was acquired from the Angels in exchange for Tommy Hanson on Nov. 30.