Braves' Vizcaino Loses Season To Tommy John Surgery





KISSIMMEE, FLA.—Braves fans spent much of the winter wondering why general manager Frank Wren was not more aggressive in acquiring major league talent with the team's pitching surplus. The reason became a little clearer less than three weeks prior to Opening Day when one of the organization's top pitching prospects required Tommy John surgery before the season even started.

Righthander Arodys Vizcaino, who pitched out of the big league bullpen last August and September, went under the knife March 20. The 21-year-old tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow during spring training and will miss the entire 2012 season.

Acquired from the Yankees in a deal that sent veteran Javier Vazquez to New York prior to the 2010 season, Vizcaino initially injured the ligament midway through his first year in the Atlanta organization. Tests revealed a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, but doctors recommended rest in hopes of avoiding surgery. Vizcaino was sidelined for nearly two months, but his mid-90s velocity returned during instructional league.

"It's one of those things where as long as the player is functional and not having any major difficulties, you don't want to go in and do something until it gets to that point," Wren told reporters. "And that's where we are."

A starter for much of his career, Vizcaino pitched well last season while advancing from high Class A Lynchburg to the big leagues. A midseason promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett coincided with a shift to the bullpen, a move made because of the 6-foot, 190-pound righthander's overpowering fastball and plus curveball as well as an immediate need in Atlanta. He responded to the challenge by going 1-1, 4.67 with 17 strikeouts in 17 innings in the majors, numbers that were skewed by a lone poor performance. Wren said the Braves had monitored Vizcaino's elbow since 2010 yet had little concern due to his performance. The GM also pointed to future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, whom Wren said pitched much of his career with a ligament that attracted concerns when seen on an MRI

"Hopefully this will get it taken care of," Wren said. "He's a young guy who we believe will have a long career."

Wigwam Wisps

• The battle for the starting shortstop job was going down to the wire in spring training, with rookies Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons engaged in a tight race. Pastornicky's experience, particularly from an offensive standpoint, appeared to give him an edge.

• While catcher Christian Bethancourt attracted attention last season for his improved offense, his forte has always been defense. The 20-year-old receiver's arm strength continued to impress this spring, which combined with his added maturity could land him in Double-A Mississippi.