(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien.)
While the rest of the baseball world is winding down, Braves right-hander Brandon Beachy is just getting cranked up in his recovery from elbow reconstruction surgery.
And he couldn’t be more excited about it. The night before Beachy threw for the first time in four months, he laid out his clothes like it was the first day of school.
“I felt giddy, like a little kid,” Beachy said. “It was fun.”
Beachy is four months removed from his June 21 surgery and a week into his throwing program. He’s still simply lobbing the ball from 30 feet, playing catch with Braves physical therapist Lloyd Van Pamelen in a grassy lot outside his rehabilitation clinic in Gwinnett.
“If I was throwing it left-handed you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” Beachy said. “But it’s better than nothing.”
On Wednesday he’s scheduled to move back to throwing from 45 feet and the progression will begin. But Beachy, who counted down the days until he threw again, has stopped counting.
As regimented as the typical rehab schedule is, he knows he could be throwing off a mound again in a “few months” barring setbacks. But he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“I’m not patient at all,” Beachy said. “So it’s better for me not to know when that’s coming than to sit here and think about it and get even more anxious.”
So while Braves fans project that the typical 12-14 month recovery from “Tommy John” surgery could put Beachy back sometime around the All-Star break, Beachy is only checking off milestones he’s already reached on the calendar he keeps in Gwinnett.
In some ways, at least maybe for his barber, he’s actually ahead of schedule. Beachy vowed he wouldn’t cut his hair until he started throwing a ball again. But he still hasn’t cut it yet, even though his last haircut was a week before his June 21 surgery.
“I’m just going to let it keep going for a little while,” Beachy said. “Don’t expect me to show up to spring training with a ponytail or anything like that.”
No, Beachy still wants to be his recognizable self, and that goes for pitching especially. When he blew out his ulnar collateral ligament June 16 against the Baltimore Orioles, Beachy was leading the National League in ERA at 2.00.
He had spent the first 2 ½ months of the season showing how much more economical a pitcher he could be, and as a result, highly effective. Beachy was the Braves most consistent starter when he got hurt.
“That was such a long time ago,” Beachy said. “I felt like I was doing some really good things and I was getting closer to that point where I was establishing myself to where people and myself knew what to expect. I’ve got a long road to start building that back up. I’m going to have to work at it.”
Kris Medlen has given him a pretty good template to follow. Medlen went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts coming down the stretch in his first full season after “Tommy John” surgery.
“What I saw Medlen do the final couple months of the season couldn’t have helped me more mentally to show me how quickly and how well he’s come back from it,” Beachy said. “There’s no reason for me to think that I can’t come back and be just as good as I was before.
Medlen has encouraged Beachy to be patient, to keep the “hump” in his 30-foot throws, even when he feels like he can throw it through a wall.
Beachy got his full range of motion back within a few weeks of the surgery. He’s been lifting weights again for a month. His shoulder is as strong, he said, as it’s ever been.
The bigger challenge has been the mental side and warding off any doubts. Patience is key for that too.
“I’m cerebral,” Beachy said. “And I’ve thought about every scenario. It all comes down to just doing what I can do and taking it step by step.”
Free agent compensation
Free agent movement won’t begin until after the World Series, but figured I might go ahead and take a stab at explaining the new compensation rules, if nothing else, to educate myself a little bit!
Compensation for departing free agents has changed this year based on the new collective bargaining agreement, and there are no longer Type A and Type B free agents. Teams can only get only one supplemental round pick as compensation now, instead of both a supplemental pick as well as a first round pick from the signing team, as Type A free agents have in the past.
Michael Bourn is likely the only Braves soon-to-be free agent who would command compensation if he signs with another team. Here’s how it would work, as I understand it:
If Bourn signs with another team, the only way the Braves can receive a supplemental first round pick as compensation is if they have first made Bourn a qualifying offer. This year the qualifying offer would be one year for $12-$13 million, which is based on the average salary of the top 125 players from 2012.
If Bourn doesn’t accept that offer and signs with another team, the Braves would get a supplemental first round pick, and the team he signs with would have to forfeit a first round pick (assuming it’s not in the first 10 overall picks, which are protected, and in that case the team would forfeit its next highest pick). The Braves wouldn’t be rewarded that first round pick, though, it would just disappear. The first round would just get shortened.
Bourn could still sign with the Braves if he doesn’t accept the qualifying offer.
Players can file for free agency as soon as the World Series ends. Teams can make qualifying offers for five days after the season. Free agents have an additional seven days to accept or decline that offer.
Other Braves due to become free agents, but who wouldn’t command a qualifying offer are: David Ross, Eric Hinske, Lyle Overbay, Chad Durbin, Peter Moylan, Jeff Baker, Matt Diaz, Reed Johnson, and Miguel Batista.
The Braves have until three days after the World Series to come to a decision on the options for Brian McCann ($12 million), Tim Hudson ($9 million) and Paul Maholm ($6.5 million). I’d be surprised if all three aren’t picked up, but we’ll see how that goes. In case you missed it, here’s DOB’s story on McCann’s shoulder surgery and Mark Bradley’s take on the Braves’ upcoming decision.
Braves players eligible for arbitration this year are Martin Prado, Eric O’Flaherty, Jair Jurrjens (likely to be non-tendered), Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Paul Janish, Jason Heyward, Jonny Venters, and Cristhian Martinez.
The Braves have about two dozen players playing winter ball in Latin America and in the Arizona Fall League – players like Evan Gattis, who are trying to make up for time they lost during the season because of injuries. It looks like the power-hitting catcher/left fielder and Fredi Gonzalez favorite is making the most of his time in Venezuela.
Gattis, who missed six weeks of his Double-A season with strained ligaments in his left wrist, got off to a hot start with the club in Zulia, Venezuela.
He opened winter ball with a six-game hitting streak, while batting 9-for-23 (.391) with four doubles, a home run and eight RBIs over that stretch. It looks like the pitchers caught on a little bit after that – he was 2-for-14 in his next four games – but Gattis was still hitting .297 (11-for-37) in his first 10 games through Sunday.
Gattis probably doesn’t figure into the Braves immediate plans, but he should get his second straight invitation to big league camp in spring training, and if keeps doing what he’s doing, who knows? He could give the Braves a power-hitting right-handed bat they’ve needed.
Before Gattis’ injury last year, he had hit .336 with 12 doubles, 13 home runs and 43 RBIs in 140 at-bats between high A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi. He hit 22 home runs in 88 games a year ago in Class A Rome.