As reported first to BravesCenter's premium subscribers last Saturday morning, Braves' pitcher John Foster has been shut down due to severe pain in his left elbow. Foster had a MRI Tuesday morning in Celebration, Florida to try and discover the extent of the damage. The results should be known Wednesday.
Foster started having elbow pain earlier this month after a live bullpen session. The Braves have given him some time off to see if that would help, but the pain became too severe and a MRI was scheduled. If there is a complete tear of his ulner collateral ligament, Foster would require season-ending Tommy John surgery.
"If it's not going to get any better, I might as well have the surgery," Foster said this afternoon. "The elbow inflammation is still not down, and it's been a week (since the last time he threw on the side)."
Foster said the pain has been so severe he has been unable to do normal things, like using his left hand to drive his car or open the refrigerator.
"I can't pitch with this," he said. "I don't want to rehab it all year, not have it get any better, and then have to have surgery later in the year and miss two seasons."
It is almost a year ago to the day that Foster called Braves' front office executive Dayton Moore asking for a chance to rehab his shoulder, which had been operated on in 2004. After his shoulder surgery, Foster had been released from the Cubs. He was trying to rehab with a club and called his original team first. Moore gave him a chance to pitch for Richmond, and after several strong showings in spring training, Foster won a job in the Triple-A bullpen. Then, in mid-April after Tom Martin proved ineffective in Atlanta's bullpen, he was released and Foster was recalled from Richmond.
Foster proved very effective in Atlanta's bullpen, as he did not allow an earned run in his first seventeen games. From June 24th through September 7th, Foster allowed only one earned run over twenty appearances. He then allowed six runs in his last eight outings of the season. Overall, Foster was 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 62 games, 27 hits allowed in 34.2 innings pitched, 19 walks, and 32 strikeouts.
Braves' Manager Bobby Cox said he was concerned with Foster's potential loss to the bullpen.
"It's been bothering him since the end of last year," Cox said. "We'll see what the doctors say."
Cox said that he would be comfortable with Chuck James, who has started two games this spring, joining Macay McBride as the two lefties in the Atlanta bullpen. Veteran Mike Remlinger, in camp as a non-roster invitee, has struggled this month and is now a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, although Cox continues to proclaim that the soon-to-be forty year old Remlinger could provide a veteran presence in what could be a young bullpen.
"Rem feels good," Cox said. "He'd be the first to tell us if he was hurt."
McBride has struggled himself with an injury, missing the last few days with tightness right above his left wrist. Cox said he expects McBride to be ready to pitch again late this week or this weekend.
If Foster's MRI does not show a tear in his elbow ligament, the Braves will let him to rest for two more weeks before allowing him to throw again. It might mean Foster would start the year on the Disabled List to strengthen his elbow. But with the pain Foster has described, it would almost be a surprise now if he was able to avoid Tommy John surgery.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Foster has MRI on injured elbow
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