Brandon Beachy’s rehabilitation from elbow surgery has gone without a hitch so far, and reports from the Braves pitcher’s first game in nearly 11 months were encouraging.
The right-hander threw 29 pitches in an extended spring training game Tuesday in Florida, and Braves officials said his fastball was clocked at 92-93 mph. That’s about where his average fastball was before “Tommy John” surgery in June, perhaps even a tick above.
Beachy ranked among major league leaders with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts before his season-ending injury, his stingy 0.963 WHIP (walks-plus-hits per inning pitched) included just 49 hits allowed in 81 innings. He had 68 strikeouts and 29 walks.
His next step is a Sunday start for Triple-A Gwinnett. He’s scheduled to make six minor league starts, giving him a total of seven games with steadily increasing workloads – the same schedule that Braves pitchers follow at spring training.
Recovery from Tommy John surgery typically takes 12-13 months for pitchers, and Beachy could be activated right around the one-year anniversary of his June 21 surgery. The Braves haven’t said what they plan to do to create a rotation spot for him, and probably won’t divulge anything on that subject until just before he’s activated.
Their reason for keeping that information close to the vest is simple: Often such situations take care of themselves when someone gets hurt or struggles as a decision gets closer at hand.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he thought Beachy would have one start at Class-A Rome when Gwinnett is on the road, but that the rest of his starts would probably be for the Triple-A team, which plays its home games about 45 minutes north of Turner Field.
The FanGraphs website lists Beachy’s average fastball at 92 mph in 2011 and 90.9 in 2012, before he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow.
Gonzalez said before Tuesday night’s game at Arizona that the report was good from Beachy’s outing, and mentioned the 92-93 mph fastball velocity. But didn’t have it written down and wasn’t certain. General manager Frank Wren later confirmed those radar-gun readings.
“That is correct,” Wren said. “He has been strong all the way through (rehab).”
B.J.’s shoulder better: After B.J. Upton was hit in the left shoulder by a pitch Monday and left the game an inning later, the Braves center fielder was more worried than he let on to reporters in a postgame interview. He had surgery on the shoulder after the 2008 season.
When he had pain taking a swing in the on-deck circle in the seventh inning, he told manager Fredi Gonzalez and was hastily replaced by Jordan Schafer, who didn’t have much time to get ready and struck out.
The shoulder didn’t stiffen overnight as Upton feared, and he said he probably would be available off the bench Tuesday and hoped to be back in the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks.
“Overall, it’s better than I thought it was going to be today,” he said. “Still day-to-day. I’m going to go take some swings and see how it feels.”
Upton said he felt especially bad for putting Schafer in the position he did without advance notice Tuesday.
“This is a shoulder that’s been repaired in the past,” he said. “I’ve kind of been there before. I didn’t like the feel of it when I went to take the practice swing on deck. It was kind of a red flag for me. I didn’t want to (push it) at that point. Kind of early to go out and risk that and not know what’s going to come out of it.”
Dr. James Andrews did the surgery in 2008 to repair a torn labrum in Upton’s non-throwing shoulder.
Prospect Graham (shoulder) leaves game: A day after Braves pitching prospect J.R. Graham left a Double-A game with shoulder soreness, team officials were cautiously optimistic as they awaited a doctor’s report.
Braves assistant GM Bruce Manno said Graham had normal day-after-pitching soreness Tuesday and the team was waiting for a report from the examining physician, who had been in surgery all day.
Graham pitched two scoreless innings Monday before motioning to trainers after he felt a twinge or discomfort in his shoulder during his warmup before the third inning. He did well on strength tests performed afterward.
The 23-year-old was the Braves’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, after going 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA over 26 starts in high Class-A and Double-A. Rated as the organization’s No. 2 prospect by Baseball America entering the 2013 season, he’s 1-3 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts at Double-A Mississippi.