Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy had “Tommy John” surgery on his right elbow 14 months ago, and now the starting pitcher is starting to feel tightness in the surgically-repaired arm. (Reuters News Service)
ATLANTA — After seeing his fastball velocity drop to the low-80 mph range late in his start Tuesday and feeling tightness in his surgically repaired elbow, Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy is headed back to Dr. James Andrews’ clinic Monday.
Andrews did ligament-reconstruction surgery — aka “Tommy John” surgery — on his right elbow 14 months ago.
“I’d like to know what’s causing it,” Beachy said. “That’s the reason we’re going to go see Andrews on Monday and hopefully figure this out.”
Andrews will examine him and look at the results of an MRI done Wednesday in Atlanta when Beachy was checked out by Braves orthopedic specialist Xavier Duralde.
“We just didn’t like the way that last inning went in New York,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “So he flew down to see Dr. Duralde to get an MRI. And then on Monday he’s going to see Dr. Andrews. Who knows better than the guy who did the surgery? I can give you more information after that.”
Mike Minor will start Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals in place of Beachy. Minor will still be working on a full week of rest between starts, three days longer than usual.
The Braves had planned to skip his turn altogether to give Minor extra rest, since he’s approaching his career high in innings and the team has the luxury of a large division lead and six starting pitchers after Paul Maholm came off the disabled list for Thursday’s series opener against the Cardinals.
Beachy is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts since coming off the disabled list after a 13-month rehab, and has a solid 2.73 ERA and .198 opponents’ average in his past four starts, with 18 strikeouts and three walks in 26-1/3 innings.
But during his sixth and final inning in Tuesday’s loss against the Mets, the last two pitches he threw were fastballs clocked at 85 and 82 mph. He said midway through the fifth inning, he first felt something similar to what he felt in June, when he developed inflammation in the elbow and was shut down for a couple of weeks near the end of his rehab.
“It started tightening up on me (Tuesday), and it just kept getting worse,” he said. “I was trying to throw through it. It started to feel a lot like it did before I got shut down the first time. Started losing control, and I looked up (at the radar gun reading) and saw a bunch of 85s (mph). That last one there, I got the guy to pop out, and I looked up and it said 82 mph change-up. I said, I could have swore that was a four-seamer (fastball) that I threw.”
The last pitch was so far off his usual fastball velocity that it was recorded as a change-up by the person tracking pitches for MLB.com GameDay.
“(Beachy) said it just didn’t feel right, the elbow area,” Gonzalez said. “He goes, ‘You know that last pitch I threw? That was a fastball.’ I thought it was a changeup…. We ended up pinch-hitting for him, so nobody (in the media) knew anything about it.”
The MRI taken Wednesday was inconclusive, which is fairly common when the imaging exam is done on a pitcher who’s had ligament reconstruction surgery.
“When you do an MRI on a guy who’s already had Tommy John, you don’t even know what you’re looking at,” Gonzalez said. “It’s like looking at a map of the New York City subway system. So why not have a guy who’s done the (surgery) before take a look at it.”
The Braves think Beachy might just be experiencing inflammation similar to what he had in June before what was supposed to have been his final rehab start.
Being sidetracked ended up adding about one month to the rehab before he made his return to the majors.
“When I’m feeling good, I feel like I’ve been pitching pretty well,” Beachy said. “It’s frustrating to have this happen, and I’d like to get this figured out.”
Asked if he believed he would pitch again this season, Beachy didn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m confident.”