Posted: 10:00 am Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

With Medlen in limbo, a stout rotation looks thin 

By Mark Bradley

Brandon Beachy isn't feeling so peachy, either. (Kathy Willen/AP)

Brandon Beachy isn’t feeling so peachy, either. (Kathy Willen/AP)

Kris Medlen was scheduled to start on Opening Day 2014, which only made sense, given that he started Game 1 of the 2013 Division Series and the lamentable 2012 wild card game. By strict definition, he’d become the Atlanta Braves’ No. 1 starter. That he has been diagnosed with an injury that showed “some involvement in the (elbow) ligament” — Frank Wren’s chilling words of Tuesday morning — and will seek a second opinion does nothing to allay any Braves fan’s fears.

A team that didn’t really have a true No. 1 starter is, for the moment and quite possibly for a long time, without the man who had, over the past two years, done the best impersonation of one. There’s a chance 200 quality innings just went missing.

This, duh, is not a good thing. At no time could it ever be a good thing. But given the spring issues also confronting Mike Minor, the No. 2 starter, and Brandon Beachy, the No. 4 man, the Braves’ starting rotation, once a bright and shiny thing, is looking downright shabby.

This isn’t to say that conditions can’t and won’t improve. Medlen hasn’t been scheduled for a second round of Tommy John surgery. Minor should be OK. Beachy is another story, seeing as how his return from TJ keeps getting slowed, but there’s a difference between tightness in the biceps and a twinge in, say, the elbow. But the uncertainty regarding Medlen puts a heavier load on the remaining starters, and it means someone — or several someones — must be found to work his innings.

Gavin Floyd, signed as a free agent over the winter, is expected to be available in May. (He’s coming off elbow surgery.) Ever-ready Freddy Garcia, who’s 37 and was re-signed by the Braves as cheap insurance, figures to become a key man, but the recent history of Freddy Garcia is that he can look pretty good until he no longer does, which is why he has worked for four different organizations in the past two years.

It’s not just that some if not all of Medlen’s 200 innings will have to be worked by someone else. It’s that the Braves, who won 96 games last season and led the majors in team ERA, have come to expect Medlen’s innings to be good ones, and they’re running low on manpower. Alex Wood is 22 and has started 11 big-league games. David Hale is 26 and has started two. Lucas Sims, the No. 1 prospect, wasn’t expected to be ready this soon.

When Medlen was injured, speculation immediately turned to Ervin Santana, the best free-agent pitcher available. But Santana is believed to be seeking $50 million over four seasons and just balked at Toronto’s offer of $14 million for one. Would Liberty Media, which just spent nearly $300 million on extensions for five key members of the Braves’ prized young core, be interested in doubling down so soon? (Probably not.) Would the Braves be willing to revisit the Jeff Samardzija talks that led to nothing over the winter? (Probably, but they’d surely have to give up more in prospects now.)

And to think: The Braves allowed two starting pitchers — Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm — to leave as free agents. Those were reasonable moves at the time, but the fragile nature of pitcher’s arms can make the soundest decisions seem, in the cold light of hindsight, silly. There was no way for the Braves to see all these infirmities coming, but here they are. If this isn’t a worst-case scenario, it’ll do until something more dire comes along.

From myajc.com, our premium site: The Braves — suddenly short of starting pitchers?

20 comments
Wilbo
Wilbo

I think this is very good news for the organization!


Since we all know the Braves will choke like sick dogs in October (if they even make October, now) this gives the team a usable excuse!


FarTrain
FarTrain

As Sarah Palin once said, "who didn't see this coming?".   Good article MB, but there are so many Braves's fans who live in Lalaland you will never convince them there is a problem.  Just hope they have an ambulance standing by at all Braves games this year.  It will probably be necessary !

dave87
dave87

If your pitching staff is considered "stout" and you all of a sudden lose one guy from "stout" staff (Medlen) Then was the pitching staff "stout" to begin with?

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Please step back from the ledge, Braves still tied for the best record in the NL.

TommyRobertson
TommyRobertson

Calm down. It's a sport. It doesn't cure cancer.....                                                                                                              Don't give up on the season in spring training. We lost Eric O and Johnny V at the beginning last year and still did pretty well. We found out what a gem we have in Chris Johnson and that Freddie Freeman is for real. Give Jason a healthy year and watch!!  Get on the bus and quit crying before it's even started

Dsyelxia
Dsyelxia

I am so done Beachy and Medlen. These guys are always going to be injured.

Birdhair
Birdhair

What in the world is this article saying? It appears be an "oh, shucks" we had some bad luck and that's it. Oh well? It's management's fault for failing to add quality pitching depth in the minor leagues via drafts. He's had 6 years to call shots on the draft. Medlen wasn't drafted under Wren's tenure and Teheran was signed by Schuerholz. Hudson was signed by Schuerholz too. Wren has drafted Wood and Minor. That's only 2 quality pitchers in 6 years and Wood is still a big TBD.


Why can't the AJC call Wren to the table and ask the "why" questions. Why is injuries an accepted excuse by the AJC after every season? The DOB post-season article was a joke. He didn't ask one single tough question about why we can't win a playoff series. 

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

Where is Javier Vazquez now? We sure could use him ... at least the him we had for that one season, whenever that was.

inoto20
inoto20

Time for the offense to step up or it'll be over by May

Savdon
Savdon

I guess this means the Braves will need a lot of 11-9 wins?

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

Get reel both Meldin and beahcy R fakin there injruys 2 get of of Xtra work in sprig trainin. 

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

I was in favor of letting Hudson walk, but now that Medlen and Beachy's arm problems are rearing their ugly heads again, I'm willing to admit I might have been wrong. The depth in the rotation wasn't great even before these guys went down, and now we look downright emaciated. Sure would be nice to be able to slot Huddy into one of those spots now.

ButtermilkTuesdays007
ButtermilkTuesdays007

“showed some involvement of the (elbow) ligament”

*sigh* F--k. 


If we do indeed lose Medlen, which sounds all but inevitable after hearing the news, this team is talented enough to make it through the first month of the season with only four starting pitchers. Teheran, Wood, Garcia, and Hale (or Thomas/Schlosser) could handle the load until Minor and Beachy return. It's not ideal, but I think it's better than jumping the gun on a very average (sometimes below-average) Santana. 14MM+ and a first-round draft pick gone for that guy? Stick with what you have and ride out the storm.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair  2 quality pitchers in 6 years?  You have no clue.  Most picks don't pan out, many pitchers end up relievers at best, many get traded.  And it's not like they don't have several guys in the minors right now who could make an impact.  It remains to be seen.

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

Dang, he retired after the 2011 season, which was pretty good, 13-11, 3.69 era and 192 innings pitched.

FarTrain
FarTrain

@inoto20  Yes, the offense which will be one-fourth Uggla and BJUpton.  2/8=1/4   Wow, that's promising !

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair You asked a question, I answered it.  How else am I supposed to talk about prospects beyond potential and possibilities?  That's what makes them prospects.  You have no actual response, so you try and change the topic.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@Rick_C @Birdhair  You continue to applaud the gus schoshlingers and I am gonna continue to call for a playoff series win - at minimum. Gus Scholshinger! He's gonna win a playoff series for us! My god. 


You go on a rant about POTENTIAL AND POSSIBILITIES.  All teams have these. Why does Keith Law rank our farm near the bottom of MLB for quality depth? Many of the guys that you name are Single A type guys who have proven NOTHING.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@Birdhair I could see Gus Schlosser, Ian Thomas, JR Graham, Aaron Northcraft, Jason Hursh, or Cody Martin having an impact this year.  Lucas Sims and Mauricio Cabrera are possible top of the rotation guys, though a couple years away from the majors.  Other potential guys who are a ways away include Wes Parsons, Alec Grosser, and Carlos Salazar.

You could also mention guys that were factors in trades, such as Arodys Vizcaino (Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson), Brett Oberholtzer (Michael Bourn), or Zeke Spruill (Justin Upton and Chris Johnson), etc.

You also neglect to mention guys who already have made an impact at the major league level for the Braves, including Brandon Beachy and David Hale.

I recognize not all of these guys were the product of the draft, but they were all Wren acquisitions.  You seem to have this fantasy view of the draft where #1s and 5 tool players with superstar futures are abundant.  It's not the case, especially when you are picking in the back of the draft year after year.

To cite a specific example, you complained about them picking Kyle Wren, saying the 8th round was too high for a likely fourth outfielder.  In reality, he was picked in a lower slot than predicted by analysts including Baseball America and Keith Law.  Teams are lucky just to get a major league player out of an 8th round pick.  It was by no means an over draft.