O’Flaherty scheduled to visit Dr. Andrews after MRI shows torn elbow ligament

When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’s phone rang as he was driving home from Friday night’s win over the Dodgers, he knew head athletic trainer Jeff Porter was not calling with good news.

Porter called to inform Gonzalez that left-handed setup man Eric O’Flaherty’s felt some spasms in his left elbow after he had pitched Friday’s eighth inning.

The news got even worse on Saturday when an MRI exam showed a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of O’Flaherty’s left elbow.  The Braves reliever will visit Dr. James Andrews within the next few days to learn whether he will need to undergo season-ending Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

“Obviously, you’re hoping it’s just a sprain and a short DL stint, and you get him back fairly quickly,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “But it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case.”

O’Flaherty has surrendered two home runs and allowed three earned runs in the 6 1/3 innings he has completed in May. But before Friday, the Braves were not too concerned about his elbow.

“He’s had some tenderness, but not anything abnormal,” Wren said. “But last night, after he threw and actually after we all left, I got a call leaving last night, I was halfway home, that he came back in after starting to do his post-game workout, that he had some abnormal soreness.”

This discouraging development regarding O’Flaherty came just 48 hours after Andrews performed a second Tommy John surgery on Jonny Venters, who teamed with O’Flaherty to serve as Atlanta’s primary setup men over the past few years.

To make room for Jason Heyward to be activated from the disabled list on Friday, the Braves opted to go to a six-man bullpen by placing right-handed reliever Jordan Walden on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

Wren said the current expectations are that Walden will be available when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on May 27. The Braves also could soon activate veteran right-handed reliever Luis Ayala, who has been sidelined for nearly a month because of an anxiety disorder.

While the Braves are excited about what Alex Wood has done with Double-A Mississippi this season, they do not plan to promote him to serve in Atlanta’s bullpen any time soon.  The left-hander, who was pitching at the University of Georgia at this time last year, will continue to serve as a starter with Mississippi.

“I don’t think we need to disrupt the development of players at this point,” Wren said. “We’ve got to let them continue to develop and grow. He’s doing really well, but we’re not at the point where we think that would be advantageous to him or us.”

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