CLEARWATER, Fla. – The last thing the Braves needed Monday was more pitching-injury concerns, and that’s what they got when Brandon Beachy left his Grapefruit League start against Philadelphia after just two innings due to tightness in the biceps area of his pitching arm, near the elbow.
Beachy was limited to only five starts in 2013 before having his second elbow surgery in a 15-month span, an arthroscopic procedure Sept. 26 to remove a bone chip. He had Tommy John ligament-transplant surgery on the elbow in June 2012.
"I’m not worried at all about it," Beachy said after allowing two hits and two walks in two innings, and throwing 14 strikes in 37 pitches. "I’ve seen the doctors. They’ve done everything. My ligament’s fine. I’ve got some inflammation in there and it got a little too tight in my biceps and it was just a little unproductive to keep going and pushing through it.”
Beachy's early exit came just under 24 hours after Braves starter Kris Medlen left his start against the Mets Sunday with pain in the forearm/elbow area, and the Braves were still waiting to learn the severity of Medlen's injury when Beachy left Monday's game.
"Obviously more of the guys in camp come into play, some of these other pitchers," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the mounting starting-rotation health issues. "But let’s not count (Beachy) out just yet.... Roger (McDowell, pitching coach) saw it and said, ‘Let get him out of there.’ Nothing good could happen if we kept trying to push him along.”
Beachy said the discomfort felt nothing like his elbow before his surgeries.
“It’s tough to describe," he said. "When I went down in 2012, it felt like a stabbing sensation. Last year it felt full in the joint and it was just shooting out all around. This is nothing like either of those. It’s just kind of a dull tightness, and it just kind of … just gets to where I can’t finish anything.
"I’ve been throwing through it. That’s just normal from what I hear, you just get through it. Obviously I wanted to go four today, but I’m not really worried about it.”
Asked if he thought he would be ready when the season begins in three weeks, Beachy said, "We’ll see. We’ll see how it recovers.”
On Sunday, Medlen left a game against the Mets with what was initially diagnosed as forearm strain. He was examined Monday to determine whether the injury was more severe, and the Braves were still awaiting MRI results late Monday afternoon. Medlen had Tommy John surgery in 2010.
Beachy said he had some tightness in each of his previous two spring-training starts but that it worsened Monday. He said he'd been assured before Monday that it was something he could try to pitch through and that it might loosen up after throwing some.
He also said that in his previous starts, the tightness did dissipate after he began to throw. But on Monday, it worsened instead of improving.
“He thought it was something that he could get through it. And we let him, to a certain point," Gonzalez said. "Again, I don’t think it’s something that we need to panic about, and we’ll take it a day at a time.”
Six days earlier, Beachy threw three scoreless, hitless innings against the Phillies. He had been scheduled to pitch four innings Monday.
“Today was worse than it was last time and the time before, to the point where I didn’t think throwing through it was productive," Beachy said. “I’m not scared at all. Like I said, this isn’t something I came in here today feeling 100 percent, so I knew this is something I’ve been dealing with. It had been getting easier the harder I threw and the more I pushed. Today, it just got a little too tight on me.”
Beachy was asked whether he thought he'd have an MRI as a precautionary measure to rule out a serious injury.
“I don’t think so. Obviously we’re going to go with what the doctors tell me, but I really don’t think there’s any reason to do that," he said. "I know exactly what it is, what it’s been, what I’m dealing with. It’s just kind of part of the process of coming back from something like this. Obviously it’s a little farther out than I’d like to be dealing with it.”