These days, the Atlanta Braves seem to have a plethora of young pitching prospects – something Braves fans should be pretty excited about. One pitcher that surfaced to the attention of fans was the man with the names Johnathan and Ryan.
J.R. Graham came out firing, literally as he was hitting triple digits, in his first spring training in 2013. The Braves sent him to Double A Mississippi after spring training to help develop this young pitcher but knew that had something special. But J.R. suffered a setback in his venture to the majors as he injured his right shoulder while pitching in the middle of May. It was ruled only a strain but kept him out for the season.
Graham posted a 4.24 ERA through his first seven starts with the Double A affiliate, but he was tinkering with some adjustments that he hoped would help him reach the bigs. The 24-year-old toyed with pitching on the third-base side of the rubber during three outings, he worked on his changeup through games and he toyed with a few different breaking-ball grips.
But that May night, J.R. knew right away after throwing a warm up pitch that something wasn’t right.
“There was kind of a numb tingling going down from the back of my shoulder and through my arm,” Graham said. ”I was like, ‘Oh, that didn’t feel too good.’ I was thinking maybe I just ran over a nerve or something, but then I threw a fastball and I barely got it to the plate. I knew something was wrong then.”
Graham avoided surgery but didn’t see the mound again in a game in 2013. Now rested and ready to go, Graham is back in Braves’ spring training complete in Lake Buena Vista, Florida pitching again.
While reported that he’s throwing again but he isn’t yet throwing at 100%. He has been cleared to begin throwing breaking balls and he has supposedly been encouraged by the results.
“I don’t feel like I’m throwing 100 percent yet, nor am I trying to,” Graham said. ”But every time I go out there and throw, I’m feeling a little bit better and I feel I can get a little more on it.”
Wren said top pitching prospect J.R. Graham (shoulder)has been throwing in the Instructional Lg. and is close to being “game ready”
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) October 14, 2013
#Braves J.R. Graham, who missed much of season w/ shoulder strain, will rehab in Fla. through mid-Nov., should be fine for spring training
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) October 24, 2013
J.R. hopes to be a major part of the 2014 Atlanta Braves and I think we should as well. We hope he can stay healthy and able to be on the mound early in spring training. Though Graham will probably start the season in the minors, I can see him on the field with the Atlanta Braves sometime next season.
“I thought this year was going to be my year,” Graham said. ”I was doing good things. I showed what I could do in camp. I think the Braves have plans for me. But you’ve just kind of got to take it in stride. I don’t think anything has really changed for me. I just need to get healthy. I just had a little freak accident. If I come back healthy, there should be no reason I shouldn’t be up in Atlanta.”