It’s a difficult blow for a weary bullpen that can’t get to the All-Star break soon enough, and it could add urgency to the Braves’ need to add at least one established reliever before the trade deadline at the end of the month.
Vizcaino was reinstated July 3 after a nearly two-week stint on the DL and has pitched only twice since returning, working three scoreless innings in non-save situations and allowing three hits (one in each game) and no walks with one strikeout.
He pitched July 4 at Yankee Stadium, then got two days’ rest before a July 7 appearance at Milwaukee – he pitched the eighth inning in that game; A.J. Minter pitched the ninth – and then had three days’ rest before his Wednesday appearance against the Blue Jays, when he threw just 12 pitches.
There had been no mention from the Braves of any problems or setbacks since he returned from the DL.
When Snitker did his regular pregame interview with reporters Saturday, he said Moylan, who’s been out since July 1 with elbow inflammation, was scheduled to throw a bullpen side session Tuesday at Triple-A Gwinnett and then start a rehab assignment with that affiliate.
“He said he’s feeling really good,” Snitker said of the sidearmer. “Who knows, if we get him ready he’ll be a good piece to have if we need him.”
That plan changed abruptly when Vizcaino couldn’t get loose while playing catch Saturday and, when asked how he felt, said he couldn’t pitch.
Rather than go short-handed for a game, the Braves put him on the DL and activated the only reliever on the premises who could take his spot – Moylan. No time to get him ready; they needed him now.
“(Moylan) was feeling really well, which is why we were going to put him out on rehab,” Snitker said following Saturday’s game. “Just kind of sped up on us there, and he was available and raring to go.”
The Braves still think Vizcaino has only inflammation in his pitching shoulder, but they’ll likely have him undergo an MRI exam to rule out anything more serious.
Vizcaino has a 1.65 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 33 appearances, with 34 strikeouts and 12 walks in 32-2/3 innings and 15 saves converted in 17 opportunities.
But he has dealt with shoulder issues that cropped up after he pitched in four of five Braves games during a June 13-17 stretch. He’s made only three appearances in four weeks since then, and now he’s back on the DL despite efforts to assure he got plenty of rest.
The medical history on the hard-throwing 27-year-old is extensive: Tommy John elbow surgery that caused him to miss the 2012 season. Season-ending cleanup on the elbow in May 2013. Half-season suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in 2015, and DL stints for shoulder inflammation and a strained oblique in 2016, plus a few games missed for an elbow infection in 2016.