Right hander Gavin Floyd was pitching a gem against the Nationals Thursday night then one pitch into his seventh inning he broke his elbow.
It started out as great pitcher’s duel between Floyd and Jordan Zimmermann with the Braves poking their nose in front early. Floyd was dealing as was the much under rated Zimmermann. Gattis continued to square up pitches and extended his hitting streak to eighteen games. Chris Johnson seemed to have found his stroke and drove in all three Braves runs. Everything was purring along nicely. Skipper Fredi Gonzalez must have thought his luck had finally changed and his bullpen would get the night off because Floyd entered the seventh with just 63 pitches under his belt and both breaking pitches making good hitters look very bad. Unfortunately his night would end with his 64th pitch; a curve that hung inside to Jason Werth and landed 350 or so feet foul. It also caused a big lump to appear in Floyd’s right elbow. He shook his arm, called the trainer out and left the game. X-rays would later show he broke his olercranon. The olercranon is the back end of the ulna, you can feel it as the bit of your elbow that sticks out when you bend your arm.
After the game Floyd told reporters that he believed that scar tissue from his dual elbow surgeries was the cause of the discomfort he felt until he looked at his elbow and saw the protrusion beneath it.
“It was sore before, not in the area I had surgery, so I just thought it was sore…i felt it pop but it wasn’t painful”
It sure looked painful enough. Twitter critters were asking the networks to stop showing the picture of his elbow because it was upsetting. Floyd was of course put on the DL and a move is expected this morning to replace him. I and most believe it will be a recall for Alex Wood who had a second string outing at Gwinnett Wednesday and pitched to a 1.04 ERA allowing seven hits, one run, four walks and eight strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. A breaking an elbow like that isn’t common but has happened before.
Oddly enough Floyd’s break happened just 10 days short of exactly four years from the June 29th, 2010 injury to Tigers flame thrower Joel Zumaya. Unlike Floyd, Zumaya felt almost immediate pain. An MLB.com report on his injury recounted it this way.
“My first reaction is to follow the ball, and then … I see him go down, and the pain it looked like he was in, you don’t wish on anybody. I didn’t really want to go out there, because I didn’t think it was going to look good, how much pain he was in.”
(Zumaya threw) 99-mph fastball to Delmon Young in the eighth inning of the Tigers’ 7-5 win over the Twins sent Zumaya clutching his right elbow and shaking his hand. Suddenly, as if the pain suddenly hit him, he knelt to the ground in apparent agony.
Although he made several attempts at a comeback, Zumaya eventually retired without throwing another major league pitch. The former Tiger was an injury prone pitcher whose arm was already a battleground. In 2007 he dislocating his right middle finger while warming up in the bullpen then four months later dislocated the AC joint in his shoulder that October in an accident at home. In 2008 he was shutdown after his 21st appearance with a stress fracture in that shoulder and returned for 29 games in 2009 before requiring surgery on that shoulder. All of that likely connected to the AC joint injury and his 100+ mph heater. His retirement however was due directly related to recurring pain in the elbow after the break and that doesn’t bode well for Floyd.
As I said the Braves will likely recall Wood instead of move David Hale in to the rotation because Woody is simply a more dominant pitcher. Aside from that the idea that the Braves might trade starting pitching should be shelved. Aaron Harang has returned to earth and Hale will be needed to replace him as he inevitably fades. The bullpen still requires reinforcements in the form of left handed relief and if Juan Jaime can’t keep his 100mph heater under control maybe more. The scarcity and price of veteran lefties means the next bullpen lefty tried could be Chasen Shreve currently making life very uncomfortable for hitters in the Southern League as a reliever at Pearl. Shreve’s appeared in 26 games throwing 45 innings with a 0.905 WHIP and a 2.36 ERA and a 7.71 K/BB ratio. The success of Shae Simmons shows the jump from AA can be done if handled correctly.
National pundits continue to include the Braves in the David Price, Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes. Two days ago Jim Bowden writing on ESPN (Insider subscription required) made a proposal for price to get Price.
Every time I ask Braves GM Frank Wren what the one piece is he’d like to add to his club, he tells me a No. 1 starter.. . . The Braves also know that the other elite teams in the NL — the Nationals, Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers — all have better 1-2 punches at the top of the rotation. . (and to pair with Julio Teheran) need to acquire another ace at some point.
He opines that the Braves have the prospects to get Price but would have to throw in a major league ready piece.
The Rays would love to get Alex Wood, . . . (and) would also insist on getting the Braves’ top pitching prospect, Lucas Sims, who is struggling in the Carolina League this year after going 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA last year at Rome in the South Atlantic League. . . (but) should be able to close the deal with the Rays and, in turn, give the Braves what they need to be legitimate NL East and World Series contenders.
That trade would probably get Samardzija too but based on his track record looks like a pipe dream to me. I don’t think Wren thinks he needs an ace after the performances Teheran has put up this year and believing that Mike Minor will right the ship soon. On top of that he knows even if he won’t admit it that the reason the Braves aren’t 10 games up on the NL East is an erratic, streaky offense carrying two substandard but expensive dead weights. Fredi Gonzalez needs new tools to win the division and get past the opening rounds of the post season. If those tools aren’t provided an ace is a waste.
That’s A Wrap
After Floyd’s fight through rehab for dual elbow surgery (TJ and repair of a torn flexor tendon) the broken elbow puts in question his future as a major league player. He’s certainly out of the running for this year. The elbow will be fragile for a while and once he is fit to start throwing it will be rehab and spring training all over again. Losing Floyd just as he was confirming he was a valuable asset is a body blow to the Braves but Woody’s return will offset that.
The bigger questions are how long they allow Harang to struggle before replacing him with Hale and if after that happens he becomes long man / spot starter or gets released to make room for someone else and whether Gonzalez is forced to continue with effectively a 24 man roster; Uggla is useless defensively and at the plate. How we strengthen the pen and end the roller coaster like performance of the offense are more immediate concerns. I think Wren’s number one starter spiel is smoke and mirrors for what he’s really after. His big signing has become one of two untradeable disasters and the minor leagues offer no realistic options even if he had a roster that allowed promotion and demotion as an option. I feel bad for Gavin Floyd who worked very hard to get back and hope he recovers successfully. I hope the Braves offense recovers too.