Atlanta Braves pitcher Ervin Santana smiles in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Champion Stadium on Friday. (USA TODAY Sports: Kim Klement)
The Atlanta Braves quickly signed free agent Ervin Santana to replace Kris Medlen, but there is no quick fix for the loss of fellow starter Brandon Beachy.
Medlen had Tommy John elbow surgery for the second time in four years on Tuesday and Beachy faces his second in less than two years, although he was getting a second opinion in the faint hope of avoiding another operation.
Santana, signed to a one-year deal worth $14.1 million, will take Medlen’s place in the rotation when he is ready to go by mid-April. Beachy’s spot, though, will have to be filled internally.
“You add if there’s something better than what you have,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “Right now, I don’t see that out there.”
The good news for the Braves amid all the bad is that veteran starter Gavin Floyd, signed as rotation insurance over the winter, could be ready by May. He had Tommy John surgery last year while with the Chicago White Sox.
The Braves can go with four starters until April 12 because of off days and Santana hopes to slot in then.
Mike Minor, beset by shoulder soreness at the start of camp, isn’t expected to be ready until a week or so after Santana.
Right now, the opening rotation lines up as Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale.
Medlen, who bounced back from his first surgery to go 24-12 with a 2.47 ERA over 44 starts, was operated on again by Dr. James Andrews. Ligament transplant surgery typically keeps pitchers out for 12 to 14 months, but a second a comeback has tougher odds and requires a longer recovery.
After seeing Andrews with Medlen on Monday in Gulf Breeze, Fla., Beachy decided to go to Los Angeles and get a second opinion from Dr. Neal Elattrache.
Beachy had Tommy John surgery in June of 2012 and, unlike Medlen, never had a full recovering. He had just five starts last season before needed another procedure in September to clean out a bone chip.
Medlen and Beachy cut short spring starts on back-to-back days March 9-10.
At first, Beachy expressed confidence that there was nothing major wrong. But further tests revealed ligament issues again.