After making a valiant attempt at avoiding surgery and coming back from shoulder trouble, right-hander Blaine Boyer learned Thursday he will have surgery next week and will miss the rest of the 2006 season.
Boyer first injured his shoulder during the last week of the 2005 regular season. He left a game against the Marlins on September 26th with shoulder pain. Boyer then pitched in the last game of the season to try and show he was healthy enough to be on the playoff roster, but he gave up three runs without getting an out in a game against Florida. The Braves did not place him on the postseason roster.
Tests showed there was no major structural damage to the shoulder, so Boyer strengthened his arm all winter with a vigorous workout program. He did not throw until the first week of spring training, and in the first week of March had a setback. But then his shoulder recovered to where he resumed throwing bullpens.
On March 26th Boyer made his first appearance in a big league spring training game when the Braves played the Dodgers in Vero Beach. He had a good performance, and then Boyer then threw in two more games to convince Braves' Manager Bobby Cox he was ready to start the regular season.
But Boyer struggled in his first two appearances last week, allowing three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. The Braves sent him down to Triple-A Richmond last Friday to allow him to work on strengthening his shoulder, but the team then placed him on the Richmond disabled list and decided to send him to Birmingham to have his shoulder checked by Dr. James Andrews.
The Braves now say Boyer will have a procedure known as a diagnostic arthroscopy on his right shoulder. He will not pick up a baseball for three months, and is not expected back until spring training of next year.
Also, Braves' lefty reliever John Foster has resumed a light throwing program. Foster started having pain after a bullpen session in early March at spring training. Test then revealed Foster had an inflammed ulnar nerve, but not a complete tear, which would have forced him to have season-ending Tommy John surgery.
The Braves shut Foster down for several weeks. Now he's throwing lightly from sixty feet away. He'll extend that out in the next two weeks. The hope is for Foster to throw a bullpen in three weeks, and if all goes well, he could head out to a minor league club for a rehab assignment in late May.
Foster says that while he is throwing softly, there is no discomfort in his elbow. However, if there are any other major setbacks, the Braves will go ahead and schedule the Tommy John surgery, ending his 2006 season.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.