LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With Kris Medlen undergoing his second Tommy John surgery Tuesday, and Brandon Beachy facing the prospect of doing the same, Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren has acknowledged the club will continue to evaluate how it treats and rehabilitates pitchers with torn elbow ligaments.
“When you start to see a cluster of similar results, you start thinking,” Wren said. “You question everything.”
That would encompass everything from the Braves’ practices of treating and rehabilitating pitchers to their pitching mechanics and their workload.
Medlen was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday in Pensacola, Fla. performed by Dr. James Andrews. Beachy was headed for Los Angeles to get another opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a protégé of the late Frank Jobe, the pioneer of Tommy John surgery. The Braves did not expect to have an update on Beachy until Wednesday.
The Braves have made national headlines over the past week after both Medlen and Beachy left spring training starts on back-to-back days, facing the prospect of their second Tommy John surgeries.
The surgery has a high success rate the first time, but pitchers who face a second surgery have much longer odds. Andrews has suggested pitchers face as low as a 20 percent success rate to return to their pre-surgery form the second time through.
Wren said as a rule, the Braves evaluate their practices and protocols every year anyway, when their medical and training staffs meet with those from other organizations during the annual winter meetings.
That the Braves have potentially three second-time TJ patients in the same clubhouse — Jonny Venters is 10 months into his recovery from a second Tommy John — it raises some eyebrows. But Wren also said the Braves also have to guard against knee-jerk reactions when their protocol has had such a success track record until now.
Gavin Floyd said one of the reasons he signed with the Braves with winter to make his own comeback from Tommy John surgery was because of the successes they’ve had.
“I would say where we are today we feel very comfortable with our processes,” Wren said. “Everything is pretty much set up by our medical teams and our protocol from Jim Andrews. Even if guys are well ahead of schedule, we don’t deviate from that protocol and bring them back early. It’s worked and we’ve had good results. I think the big thing is to resist the urge to change just for change’s sake because you’ve had this situation. But you’ve also got to be smart about it and evaluate everything you’re doing and make sure you still feel the same way.”