For all the questions about how Gavin Floyd would fit into the Braves rotation, the first indication came Sunday when the Braves activated the veteran right-hander and announced he would start on Tuesday in place of Ervin Santana.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez revealed that Santana is nursing a jammed right thumb, which he injured while batting against Homer Bailey and the Reds on April 25. Santana was able to make his next start on Thursday in Miami, but his thumb swelled up again while he was pitching in the fifth inning and he came out after the sixth.
The Braves expect Santana to be fine to pitch again on Saturday against the Cubs.
“We’re really optimistic that he’ll pitch on Saturday, give him an extra couple days and then we’ll see how the rotation shapes up after that,” Gonzalez said. “We’re not going to go six-man the rest of the way, but for now it took care of itself and then we’ll see when that rotation flips over again. We’ll re-adjust.”
The Braves have two off days in the next 11 days which made going to a six-man that much more unappealing because it would give the starters that much more time off between starts.
Santana was wearing a wrap on his right hand in the Braves clubhouse Sunday morning. He said he by the sixth inning in Miami on Thursday night he could “barely hold the ball.” But he’s seen improvement every day since then.
“I’ll be fine for the next one,” Santana said on Saturday’s start. “Just getting treatment every day. It’s getting better.”
For Floyd, the other option for his return might have been a move to the bullpen, given how effective the Braves starting rotation has been as is. The Braves lead the majors with a 2.47 starters ERA. But this opening allows Floyd, for at least one start, to return to normalcy.
Floyd will make his debut with the Braves almost a year to the day since his Tommy John surgery. Floyd underwent surgery on May 7, 2013. Tuesday will be May 6.
Floyd went 1-2 with a 4.13 ERA in 24 innings on an injury rehab assignment in Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. He struck out 17 and walked 10, while having an issue-free recovery.
“I feel real good and feel strong; I’m ready,” said Floyd, who signed a one-year $4 million contract with the Braves on Dec. 16, with an additional $4.5 million in performance-based incentives, including number of starts. “…I’m excited to get back out there and pitch again and have a second chance to pitch. I’m just focused on that. Then after that whatever happens will be dealt with.”
The Braves had to activate Floyd Sunday, rather than wait for his start on Tuesday because of rules regarding disabled list stints and the maximum amount of time pitchers can spend on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
To make room for Floyd on the roster, the Braves optioned rookie left-hander Ian Thomas to Triple-A Gwinnett. They plan to start Thomas in Gwinnett Tuesday and have him go three innings or 45 pitches. The Braves want Thomas to work on his secondary pitches there, specifically a slider Thomas said he and pitching coach Roger McDowell have been discussing.