When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez delayed announcing his Opening Day starter in case an injury altered his plan, he was not necessarily preparing himself to deal with an ailment as serious as the one Kris Medlen appeared to incur while pitching against the Mets on Sunday afternoon.
Medlen exited the game in the fourth inning with what the Braves are currently describing as a right forearm strain. When the veteran right-hander undergoes further evaluation on Monday, he can only hope to learn he will not have to undergo Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery for the second time in less than four years.
Medlen walked directly toward the dugout after throwing his second pitch to Matt Clark with two outs in the fourth inning. He had grabbed his elbow after throwing his first pitch to Clark during this same plate appearance.
Unfortunately, Medlen’s reaction was similar to the one he had when he exited a start against the Mets on Aug. 4, 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks later and then endured a long rehab process that sidelined him until the final week of the 2011 regular season.
With Tim Hudson now with the Giants, Medlen entered this season as the obvious choice to serve as Atlanta’s Opening Day starter. The Braves might now enter the upcoming season with both Medlen and Mike Minor on the disabled list.
Minor reported to Spring Training behind scheduled because of the month-long stretch of inactivity he experienced after undergoing a urinary tract procedure on Dec. 31. He began throwing off a mound again last week and is still hoping to be ready to join Atlanta’s rotation by the end of the regular season’s second week.
If Minor and Medlen are both sidelined at the beginning of the season, Atlanta could open the season with a starting rotation that consists of Brandon Beachy, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Freddy Garcia.
Courtesy of two early scheduled offdays, the Braves could use a four-man rotation until April 12. If Minor continues to progress like he has over the past couple of weeks, he would likely be ready to join the rotation at that time.