The Braves' presumed Opening Day starter may now be starting the year on the disabled list.
Kris Medlen left Sunday's spring training game against the Mets due to what the team has initially diagnosed as a forearm strain. The 28-year-old was assumed to be the frontrunner to start on Opening Day for the Braves after going 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA over 197 innings last year.
Now, Medlen may not be ready for the opportunity. The right-hander left Sunday's game with two outs in the fourth inning after he felt something in his right arm following a pitch. Medlen immediately grabbed his arm and started running off the field toward the Braves dugout after the pitch was thrown, suggesting the severity of the issue.
“I just saw the look of discomfort on his face,” Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “I hope it’s not bad. I mean, it’s never good when your pitcher runs off the mound (after an injury). But hopefully it’s not a big deal.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Medlen was "really, really worried" in the immediate aftermath of the injury, but said the pitcher calmed down some after being diagnosed with a strain. Medlen wasn't available for comment after the game.
While the initial diagnosis is promising, Medlen will be examined further by team doctors Monday. A strain could be a matter of weeks, not months, for recovery time; anything more serious could require an extended stay on the disabled list for Medlen. Gonzalez was cautiously optimistic after the game.
“We have to wait and see,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously when he came out of the game, anytime a pitcher walks off the mound and meets you at the foul line you’re worried. But I think after everything kind of settled down, we’re optimistic that it’s nothing really major.”
Losing Medlen for any period of time is a problem for the Braves, who don't necessarily have a wealth of healthy pitchers as it is. Mike Minor is already expected to miss at least a week after shoulder soreness at the beginning of camp put him behind schedule. Brandon Beachy is coming off two elbow procedures, including Tommy John surgery in 2012. And new Braves pitcher Gavin Floyd is still working back from his Tommy John surgery in May of last year.
Alex Wood and Freddy Garcia are the most likely candidates to fill in for Medlen should he miss part of the regular season. Wood had a 3.13 ERA and 8.92 K/9 in 77 2/3 innings last year between starting and relieving. Garcia had a less attractive 4.37 ERA but posted a 1.65 ERA over 27 1/3 innings after joining the Braves mid-season. The Braves may also look to the trade or free agent market if the internal candidates prove unsatisfactory.
For now, though, they're simply holding their breath and hoping for good news Monday.
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Santana Finding Suitors
If the Braves were to dip into the free agent pool, Ervin Santana could be at the top of their wish list.
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes suggested the two sides could be a match in the wake of Medlen's injury, especially given that Santana is said to be seeking a one-year deal at this point. With designs on contending in the National League East and a pick near the bottom of the first round, the Braves may be willing to bite the bullet if they think Santana offers enough of an upgrade over their current options.
Interest in the 31-year-old doesn't stop there. Over the weekend, the Orioles and Blue Jays made their runs at the right-hander, with the Jays reportedly offering a one-year, $14 million deal while the O's were offering $13 million plus incentives. Seemingly rushed to get a deal done before the start of the season but not rushed enough to take the first offer he receives, Morosi reported that Santana is prepared to wait for the right deal to come along.
The Twins have also taken their shot, it seems, with CBS Sports' Jon Heyman saying Minnesota offered Santana a three-year deal. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but it appears not to be to Santana's liking; he's stated a preference for a one-year deal unless something in the neighborhood of his initial four-year, $50 million asking price comes along. As of now, the former seems the most likely. And while he's prepared to wait, it seems as though there's momentum building toward a resolution soon.
Cardinals Come To Terms With Carpenter, Diaz
The Cardinals signed two infielders to multi-year contracts over the weekend, but the similarities likely stop there.
After it was reported Thursday that the Cardinals were in talks on a contract extension with Matt Carpenter, the two sides agreed to a six-year, $52 million contract on Saturday. The deal, which actually pays Carpenter $50 million over six years with an $18.5 million option in 2020 that has a $2 million buyout, will keep the 28-year-old with the Cards through his age 33 season.
The deal carries some risk for both sides -- for the Cardinals, the risk that Carpenter's terrific 2013 season was a one-hit wonder; for Carpenter, the risk that it wasn't -- so it's generally a beneficial agreement for the two parties.
There's much more risk involved in the Cardinals' signing of 23-year-old Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz. The agreement, according to Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan, is for four years, and FOX Sports' Jon Morosi said he hears the deal is for less than $20 million. The Cardinals gave the shortstop a major league contract.
In 313 plate appearances while in his final year in Cuba, Diaz hit .315/.404/.500 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases. The right-handed hitter is generally viewed as a bat-first player with some work to do in the field, which explains why the Cardinals were willing to sign him despite not having a current need for him. It's expected that Diaz will start the year in the minors to give him a chance to work on his defense.
The Yankees, Braves, Phillies and Giants were among the teams to show interest in Diaz before the agreement.
Teams Talking De Aza, Viciedo With Sox
While the Cardinals are flush with infielders, the White Sox may soon be dealing from their outfield surplus.
The Sox have heard from teams in regards to both Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo in recent days. With Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia firmly entrenched in the other two outfield spots and Adam Dunn set to serve as the designated hitter again this year, De Aza and Viciedo are left to fight for playing time in the other corner outfield spot. Rather than sit one of the players or establish a timeshare, the Sox may choose to deal from a strength to bolster another part of their roster.
The Twins are the team said to be interested in De Aza, while the Mariners have talked with the White Sox about Viciedo. Both players have started and been effective, so the Sox are certainly in no rush to move one, but it appears to be more than a remote possibility that one finds himself in the starting lineup for a different team on Opening Day.