Not long ago, Kris Medlen was to be the Braves' Opening Day starter. In the wake of Tim Hudson's departure from the Atlanta rotation, the team and the press were confident the right man had been chosen for the job.
Then 28-year-old Medlen, a Tommy John success story until now, left Sunday's game nursing his elbow. Reports came in that while nothing was official, he would likely need a second TJ surgery and the Braves would need a new arm in the rotation.
Atlanta threw themselves into the fray for free agent starter Ervin Santana, and, casting aside teams who had been after the right-hander longer like the Orioles and Blue Jays, they got him. Santana signed a one-year, $14.1 million deal with the offensively capable team for which he'd been waiting. Problem solved; for the Braves, at least.
Then, this morning:
It sounds like Beachy might also have to undergo a second TJ surgery.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 14, 2014
27-year-old righty Brandon Beachy went down as well, having suffered from reduced velocity this spring and leaving his last game against the Phillies after only two innings. Beachy said he had tightness in his right shoulder and bicep.
The free agent market is all but clear at this point, and the Braves have a rotation that was solid and promising beforehand, but not elite. Now, it is damaged by injuries that show no sign of letting up before the season even starts. Should Atlanta lose Medlen and Beachy for the entire season, their case for contention would we weakened.
The Braves can hit, but remain streaky, and without a solidified rotation to rely on, they could find themselves in trouble going up against the Nationals, whose rotation is formidable despite the recent absence of Doug Fister. Both Beachy and Medlen would be undergoing their second Tommy John's, which lessen their odds of retaining presurgery form. In 2007, the rate of pitchers able to climb back to their customary numbers after two Tommy John operations was about 20%.
Beachy is the most recent casualty of NL East hurlers getting skewered with injury prior to the season, as Medlen, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin (Phillies), Matt Harvey, Jon Niese (Mets), and Doug Fister (Nationals) have all gone (or continue to go) through preseason issues.