Gohara sprains ankle, second injury of spring for big rookie

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Luiz Gohara’s difficult spring training continued when the Braves rookie pitcher sprained his left ankle during a fielding drill Friday afternoon, the second injury he’s had in just over three weeks of camp.

X-rays were negative and Gohara will be evaluated again in two weeks. Braves manager Brian Snitker said Gohara was in a walking boot Friday night and noted that the injury was a regular sprain and not the high-ankle sprain that usually requires significantly longer rehabilitation.

Gohara was scratched from Sunday’s planed start against the Tigers, which would’ve been his first game of the spring.

The heavy left-hander already was behind other pitchers after missing about two weeks with a strained groin, which he injured while running in one of the first workouts for pitchers and catchers.

He was hurt Friday while covering first base during pitcher’s fielding practice when he stepped awkwardly on the base.

Gohara, 21, faced hitters in live batting practice twice in the past week and after passing those tests was cleared to pitch in Sunday’s game. Now he’s out again.

The injuries are forcing the Braves to change plans for their opening-day rotation, which was expected to include Gohara after he impressed in his five-start call-up in September.

He was a leading candidate for one of two openings in the rotation, and until Friday’s injury he still would’ve probably had time to get ready before the Braves needed a fifth starter April 10 at Washington in their 11th game.

They can get by with four starters on regular rest for 10 games because of two off days early in the schedule.

But the latest injury likely means Gohara will likely begin the season either on the disabled list, in extended spring training or a minor league rehab assignment so he can build up arm strength to the point of being ready to pitch in the majors. And that’s if the injury isn’t severe.

After Gohara’s first injury, second-year lefty Sean Newcomb became the top candidate for the fourth rotation spot behind the trio of Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Brandon McCarthy. Now the Braves will need to decide on a fifth starter, with veteran Scott Kazmir and rookie lefty Max Fried perhaps the most-likely options on the 40-man roster.

Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair are other possibilities.

The Braves have had only three injuries during the first three-plus weeks of spring training and Gohara has had two of them. The other injury was veteran catcher Chris Stewart’s minor groin injury. Stewart missed about a week and is playing again.