MIAMI -- While there is a chance Paul Maholm could soon return to Atlanta's rotation, it appears Brandon Beachy's hopes of pitching again this year are quickly fading.
The Braves received encouraging news Wednesday, when a contrast MRI exam showed no structural damage in Maholm's left elbow. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the results were encouraging enough to believe Maholm could make his next start at some point next week.
Maholm felt some elbow discomfort during his Sept. 2 start against the Mets and again this past Sunday, when he limited the Phillies to two runs in a six-inning effort that took 108 pitches.
Like Maholm, Beachy was encouraged when an MRI exam performed by Dr. James Andrews two weeks ago showed his right elbow discomfort was simply a product of inflammation and not the kind of structural damage that would force him to undergo a second Tommy John surgery in a span of 15 months.
Still, there was not much reason to believe Beachy would have time to make more than a couple of starts or appearances out of the bullpen before the season concluded. But as his right elbow continued to provide discomfort while he has simply played catch the past couple of weeks, it seems it will be in Beachy's best interest to wait until next year to begin pitching again.
"I'm frustrated," Beachy said. "I'm not where I want to be."
Beachy began battling inflammation just before he was initially expected to make his return from Tommy John surgery in June. After returning to Atlanta's rotation in late July, he made five starts before experiencing a sudden decline in velocity during an Aug. 20 start against the Mets. It prompted his visit to Andrews and to learn he was once again dealing with inflammation.
Maholm's absence has created the opportunity for suburban Atlanta native David Hale to make his Major League debut when he starts against the Padres on Friday night at Turner Field. This has been a memorable week for Hale, who got his first call to the big leagues late last week. The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 3.17 ERA in 20 starts with Triple-A Gwinnett this year.
Braves appreciate Fernandez's apology after fracas
MIAMI -- As Chris Johnson was leaving Marlins Park late Wednesday night, he heard a whistle and realized Jose Fernandez was trying to get his attention to apologize for the role he played in the events that led to a benches-clearing argument the Braves and Marlins had earlier in the evening.
"He's a good guy," Johnson said. "He just gets on the field and he's just different. He's a different guy on the field."
The Braves have a great deal of respect for the tremendous talent possessed by Fernandez, whose 2.19 ERA stands as the fourth-best mark recorded by a rookie pitcher in the live-ball era, which dates back to 1920. But they did not appreciate the display of Fernandez's youthful emotions, which bring energy to the game and at times can be perceived as antagonizing, after he homered in the sixth inning of a 5-2 Marlins win.
"When you watch him pitch, he does a lot of things on the field you can do without," said Braves catcher Brian McCann, who got to know Fernandez when they were National League teammates during this year's All-Star Game.
Johnson said the emotions began to simmer when Fernandez smiled and looked at Justin Upton after the Braves outfielder's towering fifth-inning fly ball was caught in deep center field. Evan Gattis helped fuel the events when he stared at the solo home run he hit deep over the left-field wall to begin the sixth. Moments later, Johnson did his part to feed the fire by uttering something to the effect of "weak fastball" after hitting a long fly ball that was caught in left-center field. All of this simply influenced what transpired when Fernandez stood at the plate and admired the first home run of his career in the bottom of the frame.
McCann had some words with Fernandez when the 21-year-old crossed the plate. This led both benches and bullpens to empty, and exchange nothing more than words and a few shoves. By the end of the evening, Fernandez had apologized, and the Braves were saying there would be no lingering bad blood when they face the young phenom next year.
"It's baseball," Johnson said. "Stuff like that happens. I don't think anything is going to happen after that. We'll try to get him next time. He's a good pitcher."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.