Braves reliever Dan Winkler collapses after breaking his right elbow throwing a pitch in an April 10 game against the Cardinals. Cardinals. (AP Photo/John Amis)
He began a throwing program again in early winter, and Winkler’s advanced to throwing from a distance of 120 feet. He hopes to get approval to begin throwing off a mound in one month (March 20), a timetable that could presumably have him ready to pitch in games by early summer. But there aren’t any timetables and he’s not getting ahead of himself with expectations of his return date.
Winkler just knows his arm feels good and he’s optimistic that he will be able to resume a career that has twice been abruptly halted just as it was beginning to ascend.
“We’ll see how that goes. I feel great,” said Winkler, who used his down time and first months back to make adjustments to his previously funky delivery. “I kind of changed my arm swing a little bit, shortened that up, to be more efficient. Not lose the deceptiveness, but be more connected in my mechanics. Trying to take a lot of stress (off elbow) and use my body more, not so much arm all the time.”
After talking to present and past Braves pitching coaches and physical therapists, the consensus was “that my arm swing was too long, my body was getting out in front and my arm was dragging. Just putting way too much stress on my elbow.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker said, “That (April injury) still makes you want to cringe a little bit. It was pretty traumatic what he went through, and it was a shame because he was throwing so well.”
If he makes it back, and assuming the Braves keep him, Winkler would have to remain on their 25-man major league roster for nearly two months once he’s activated, per Rule 5 draft rules. If they don’t keep him on the 25-man roster for that length, the Braves would have to offer him back to the Rockies for half of the original $50,000 claiming price.
Before Winkler’s Tommy John surgery in 2014, he had a 1.41 ERA in 12 starts that season the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate, with 71 strikeouts and 17 walks in 70 innings. He made the Braves’ opening day roster in 2016 after totaling 17 strikeouts with no walks in 11 innings at spring training.
Braves manager talks about excitement of reporting day and talks about Sean Rodriguez situation. (Video by David O'Brien)