Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Kris Medlen, Atlanta's best pitcher and projected Opening Day starter, left a spring training start on Sunday while holding his right elbow. Preliminary tests showed ligament damage, and it's possible Medlen will be looking at his second Tommy John surgery in less than four years.
Then on Monday, Brandon Beachy could not finish his spring training outing because of continuing problems with his surgically repaired right elbow. Beachy has started just 18 games over the last two seasons and his suffered multiple setbacks in his recovery after surgery in 2012.
I haven't even mentioned Mike Minor yet. The left-hander won 13 games for Atlanta last season, but he's yet to pitch this spring because of a shoulder problem.
The Braves are staring down the possibility that 60 percent of their starting rotation will be on the disabled list when the season opens. Julio Teheran, a 14-game winner last year, and fifth starter Alex Wood are the last two men standing. Former White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia is in camp as a nonroster invitee. Another former Sox, Gavin Floyd, is on Atlanta's roster, but he is not expected to pitch until May as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
The situation is obviously getting a little worrisome in Atlanta, so the Braves acted Wednesday, signing Ervin Santana to a one-year contract worth $14.1 million. The right-hander, who went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 32 starts with Kansas City last year, was the last major free-agent pitcher available.
It's no secret I'm not a fan of Santana. As recently as two years ago, his ERA was over 5. His 2013 performance with the Royals was a career year, and I wouldn't expect him to repeat that. It seems a lot of GMs felt the same way, and that's why the 31-year-old right-hander went unsigned halfway into March.
Also, the Braves have to give Kansas City a first-round draft pick -- in this case the No. 26 selection -- as compensations for signing Santana. Atlanta is paying a hefty price here, not just the $14.1 million but the draft pick as well.
You might go so far as to say the Braves are panicking in the wake of their recent injuries. I can understand their thinking, though. They won their division last year, and they obviously feel they are a contender again this season. But the house may crumble if they enter April with the corpse of Freddy Garcia as their No. 3 starter. That would be a scary proposition indeed.
Atlanta is counting on Santana to ride to its rescue. That's not a comfortable position to be in, but it's probably better than relying on Garcia or throwing some untested rookies into the fire.