- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Not far inside the door of the Atlanta Braves‘ spring training clubhouse, two lockers sit side-by-side looking like all the others.

A jersey that says “Medlen” hangs in one, a jersey that says “Beachy” hangs in the other. Inside are some gloves, caps, other uniform pieces, some mail. Nothing looks amiss.

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The only thing missing is the players who normally dress there, starting pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy.

Medlen, 28, is out for the year after undergoing a second Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on Tuesday. Beachy, 27, likely faces the same fate, once a second opinion he is seeking confirms the first.

So the Braves, defending NL East champions, go about their business of preparing for the season with an odd mix of disappointment and determination.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen walks out to a spring training baseball workout, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, in Kissimmiee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen walks out to a spring training ... more >

“I feel like the team will figure it out,” said Evan Gattis, who takes over for the departed Brian McCann as Atlanta’s primary catcher. “We’ve got some other guys, we can make some moves. I feel worse for those guys than I do for the team. I feel for them for how hard they’ve worked, what they’ve tried to do, what this season means to them.”

This season can’t be put on hold. Atlanta opens on March 31 in Milwaukee. The Braves will be in Washington for the Nationals’ home opener on April 4.

“Yeah, we’re going to miss both those guys,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But the season’s still got to start on the same day. You hate to be insensitive and say get them off the field, get me another one, because that’s not the case. But you do have to go forward and keep going.”

To that end, the Braves went out and signed Ervin Santana to a one-year contract. They have another developing young star in Julio Teheran. Freddy Garcia is no longer fighting for a spot in the rotation; he has one. So does youngster Alex Wood. Atlanta signed Gavin Floyd in the offseason, though he’s recovering from his own Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready until at least May.

“Who knows what we have?” Gonzalez said. “You don’t know what you have until you get into situations like this. Teheran showed some signs last year and may turn out to be one hell of a pitcher. Other guys will get their chances.

“We went through it last year. We lost two relievers and we survived. Everyone has injuries.”

Atlanta last season did lose relievers Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty to elbow problems that required Tommy John surgery. But even Venters noted losing the top two pitchers in a rotation presents a much bigger challenge than losing a couple of relievers.

It is a particular blow when one of them is a pitcher of Medlen’s caliber and, according to some in the clubhouse, character.

Beachy has shown flashes of greatness. He was 5-5 with a 2.00 ERA in 2012 but was only able to pitch in five games last season.

Medlen has shown more than flashes. He has established himself as one of the game’s best. He’s won three of the past eight National League pitcher of the month awards. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted Medlen and the Dodgers’ brilliant Clayton Kershaw are the only pitchers who have thrown at least 250 innings since the 2012 All-Star break and posted an earned run average below 2.50.

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