Jeff Schultz

Braves’ rotation can’t afford Medlen’s loss (Update: Beachy hurt)

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Kris Medlen

The Braves are hoping Kris Medlen’s forearm strain isn’t a sign of something worse. (AP photo)

(This blog will be updated after the results of Kris Medlen’s MRI are announced, probably later today.)

There is nothing the Braves could have done this offseason to prevent pitcher Kris Medlen from grabbing his forearm and walking off the mound Sunday with a potentially serious injury. The question now is whether they’re going to pay a price for doing nothing to strengthen their starting rotation and cushion the blow for a potential loss when some believed they needed to make a move regardless.

Medlen is hurt. We’ll probably find out later today just how hurt he is. But as a general rule when a starting pitcher, let alone one who’s already come back from Tommy John surgery, exits a game the way Medlen did in a spring start Sunday, it’s not good. He was scheduled to have an MRI Monday, and the Braves’ obvious hope is that the words “ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction” aren’t necessary on the news release.

Even if the injury is not as bad as feared and he doesn’t need surgery, there’s a decent chance he’ll be out while. That’s a problem because he was expected to be the Braves’ opening day starter, and he’s the closest thing they have to a No. 1 starter right now.

There’s a chance Mike Minor might also miss a couple of starts when the season opens after developing shoulder soreness (from trying to catch up after offseason urinary tract surgery). Where would Medlen’s absence this leave the Braves rotation? Probably with a top three of Julio Teheran (23 years old), Brandon Beachy (five starts in 2013) and either Alex Wood (23) or Freddy Garcia (37).

UPDATE: Brandon Beachy left after only two innings of his start against Philadelphia on Monday in Clearwater, Fla. Via David O’Brien: Beachy exited after feeling tightness in his lower biceps and throwing only 14 strikes in 37 pitches.

“I’ve seen the doctor; my ligament is fine.The biceps is a little too tight. It’s difficult to describe. When I went down in 2012 it was a stabbing sensation. Last year it was a fullness in the joint and (discomfort) shooting out all over.”

Asked if he thought he would be ready when the season opens in three weeks, he said, “We’ll see. We’ll see how it recovers.”

There’s already speculation (mostly by fans) about the Braves making a run at free agent pitcher Ervin Santana (who’s already rejected reported one-year, $14 million offers from Toronto and Baltimore).

But let’s be serious: The Braves chose not to spend any money in the winter. They’ve opened the vault to sign five members of their young core — Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Heyward — to extensions. But there’s probably no money left to bring in somebody from the outside now, and there’s no reason to believe the organization will change course in philosophy since they didn’t show any desire to spend in the winter.

Bottom line: The team likely would try to get by with Teheran, Beachy, Wood, Garcia, David Hale and Gavin Floyd and see how the first two months of the season go before deciding what to do. Either way, losing Medlen would be a major hit.

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