Santana is a longshot, but the Braves are evaluating all options

While Kris Medlen undergoes an MRI exam today, the Braves have to prepare themselves for the possibility that Medlen will be sidelined for an extended period.

Even if Medlen is fortunate enough to learn he can avoid undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery for the second time in four years, it does not appear he is dealing with an ailment that could sideline him for just a couple weeks.

As soon as Medlen walked off the mound holding his elbow during Sunday’s fourth inning against the Mets, fans began asking whether the Braves would jump into the Ervin Santana sweepstakes.  Initially, it seemed hard to believe the Braves would have the available funds to bid for Santana, who has reportedly received three-year offers from the Orioles and Twins worth somewhere between $27-33 million.

There is also the fact that the Braves are in the process of attempting to strengthen their top prospect crop, which is currently pitching-heavy.  Signing Santana would cost Atlanta its first-round selection (26th overall) in June’s First-Year Player Draft.  In compensation for losing Brian McCann via free agency, the Braves have already gained the 32nd overall selection, which would allow the opportunity to select a player comparable to what would be available six picks earlier.

Given the financial and draft pick costs, the Braves have reason to be reluctant to pursue a 31-year-old pitcher, who went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA while benefiting from Kansas City’s strong defense last year.  But for now, it does not appear the Braves have completely ruled out the possibility of pursuing Santana.

While Santana is a possibility, the Braves are more likely to begin the season with a starting rotation that consists of Brandon Beachy, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Freddy Garcia.  Two early offdays allow the club to work with a four-man rotation until April 12.   Mike Minor, who was slowed by shoulder discomfort during the early days of camp, believes he will be ready to join the rotation around that same date.

Beachy is scheduled to pitch four innings this afternoon while working on the same mound from which he tossed three scoreless innings against the Phillies last week.   As we get closer to the regular season, Beachy will continue to increase his effort level and throw more breaking balls.  His fastball velocity during his first two exhibition season outings has sat between 88-91 mph.  According to FanGraphs, his average fastball velocity was 92 mph in 2011 and 91 in 2012, the year he underwent Tommy John surgery.

TODAY’S LINEUP:

Heyward 9

B.J. Upton 8

Freeman 3

Justin Upton 7

Doumit DH

Johnson 5

Uggla 4

Laird 2

Greene 6

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