Eric O’Flaherty has a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews early next week, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. O’Flaherty began to experience a spasm in his left-elbow following his departure from Friday night’s game, which led to an MRI exam on Saturday which revealed the tear. In all likelihood he will need to undergo Tommy John Surgery and he’ll miss the remainder of the 2013 season.
Atlanta placed O’Flaherty on the disabled list Saturday afternoon, making him the fifth Braves reliever on the shelf due to injury.
Originally a member of the Seattle Mariners, O’Flaherty has emerged as one of the better left-handed relievers in baseball since joining the Braves via a waiver claim following the 2008 season. He’s made 295 appearances over the past five seasons, posting a 1.99 ERA and 1.155 WHIP over 249.1 IP. He’d already made 19 appearances this season, going 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA and 0.944 WHIP over 18.0 IP. The Braves have come to rely heavily on O’Flaherty (he’s twice appeared in 78 games in one season) and Jonny Venters in the setup role ahead of closer Craig Kimbrel. Suddenly both options are not available with O’Flaherty likely facing surgery.
Venters has been on the sidelines since late in Spring Training, when it was first diagnosed that he’d need to under surgery on his elbow. He finally went through the procedure on Thursday, the second time in his career that he’s needed to undergo Tommy John Surgery.
Jordan Walden (shoulder inflammation), Luis Ayala (anxiety disorder), and Christian Martinez (shoulder inflammation) all also find themselves on the DL for Atlanta. Walden and Ayala are both anticipated back before the end of May, but the Braves still find themselves in a precarious position having so many of their bullpen pieces injured or otherwise unable to contribute.
Cory Rasmus was called up from Triple-A to replace O’Flaherty on the active roster. The right-hander has pitched to a 0.93 ERA and 0.879 WHIP over 19.1 IP on the year for Gwinnet, after posting strong numbers at Double-A the year before. He’s yet to make his MLB Debut. There are currently few veteran options within the organization that could offer some depth, prompting Bowman to ask Braves GM Frank Wren about the team’s plans moving forward, including an inquiry about prospect Alex Wood (a 2012 2nd Round Draft pick who’s posted a 0.82 ERA and 0.955 WHIP through 44.0 IP at Double-A this year):
I don’t think we need to disrupt the development of players at this point. We’ve got to let them continue to develop and grow. He’s doing really well, but we’re not at the point where we think that would be advantageous to him or us.
Expect the Braves to continue entertaining lower tier free agent options who’d be willing to join the organization on minor league deals. They’ve signed Kameron Loe (who’s already been let go by both the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs this season) and Juan Cedeno (who was cut from the New York Yankees Triple-A affiliate just two weeks into the season) in the past week. Joe Beimel also agreed to a deal with the team Saturday afternoon, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues since 2011 after missing all of last season to TJ Surgery himself.