On Sunday, every Atlanta Braves fan was forced to hold their breath with the news that Kris Medlen left his start early as a result of right arm trouble, and while it was initially announced as a “forearm strain”, the team came back on Tuesday with a very vague announcement of “ligament involvement”.
After a very lengthy wait in the wake of his MRI and a highly-touted second opinion, the reasonably conclusive results are in.
#Braves Kris Medlen said he believes second Tommy John is necessary based on pain he felt Sunday. Seeking more opinions before official.
— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) March 12, 2014
This would obviously be a jarring blow to the Braves, simply because Medlen was previously considered the “safe” option in the young rotation. Over the past two seasons (82 appearances, 43 starts), the 28-year-old Medlen has been utterly lights-out, posting a 2.47 ERA (158 ERA+) with a minuscule WHIP of 1.09, and even if he isn’t the traditional “upside” pitcher due his relative lack of strikeout potential, everyone loves Kris Medlen.
Without him available for at least the duration of the 2014 season (if not longer given his previous arm trouble), the Braves looked to have serious issues in the rotation, but the team reacted swiftly with the signing of former Kansas City Royals right-hander Ervin Santana on Wednesday morning. Still, with only Mike Minor (who has issues of his own right now) and Julio Teheran certain as “locks” to be involved, there are huge question marks surrounding the rest of the staff. Alex Wood would theoretically be thrust into a larger role (but on an innings limit), Brandon Beachy will be given every opportunity to succeed (if he can sort out his own arm problems), but the remainder of the innings will come from some combination of Gavin Floyd, Freddy Garcia, and David Hale, unless the newly-acquired Zach Stewart is pegged as a legitimate option (unlikely).
The Santana move certainly mitigates some of the damage done by the loss of Medlen, but even with that move in place, the Braves are by no means “set” in the rotation, and it will be crucial to get something of value from the “back-end” options in the wake of this high-profile absence. For Medlen, you never want to see a player be forced into a second Tommy John surgery (or a first, obviously), but our best wishes to him in his recovery, and hopefully, he’ll be back to pitching at a high level in just over 12 months.