The Atlanta Braves are facing the possibility of Brandon Beachy missing the rest of the season after Monday's MRI revealed a partially torn ligament in his elbow. Beachy, the major league ERA leader with R.A. Dickey at 2.00, will get another opinion on Wednesday from Dr. James Andrews.
Assuming the worst-case scenario, where does this leave the Braves? Jair Jurrjens will get the start on Friday in Boston. You remember him, right? Pitched in last year's All-Star Game, got injured in the second half, began the season in the Braves' rotation and got pounded (17 runs and 30 hits in 16.1 innings). He hasn't been much better in Triple-A, posting a 5.37 ERA that included starts where he allowed 12 runs and 11 runs. He's not a big strikeout pitcher, but with just 28 K's in 56 Triple-A innings, his stuff clearly hasn't returned. Giving him a tryout of sorts in Boston isn't the best situation for him to succeed.
The Braves could give a rotation slot to Kris Medlen, who was sent down to the minors to get stretched out as a starter, but with Jonny Venters struggling and Eric O'Flaherty battling a sore elbow, Medlen was recalled and sent back to the pen. The third option is top prospect Julio Teheran, who has pitched better after a slow start and made a spot start for the Braves on June 10, giving up fours runs in 4.1 innings. He's allowed one run in five of his past eight Triple-A starts, but he's been knocked out before the fifth inning in the other three. Until he establishes some consistency, he'll remain in the minors; he's still only 21.
Remember in the offseason when the Braves were criticized for not trading away some of their pitching depth? This is why you can never have too many starters. Despite Beachy's hot start, the Braves rank 13th in the NL in rotation ERA, ahead of only the Cubs, Astros and Rockies. Mike Minor (15 home runs in 76 innings) continues to struggle but the Braves don't really have a better option right now. Personally, I'd probably give Medlen a shot in the rotation, as I haven't seen any evidence that Jurrjens can get major league hitters out. Having another arm in the bullpen won't matter if you don't have the lead in the late innings. Plus, you can always pick up a reliever pretty cheaply at the trade deadline. (And I like the chances of Venters improving more than Jurrjens' likelihood of pitching well.)
With two more against the Yankees and then three in Boston, three versus Arizona, three versus Washington, four versus the Cubs and three against the Phillies before the All-Star break, this is a crucial stretch for the Braves. A wrong decision could prove vital to their playoff chances.