Daniel Winkler came into the 2016 season with a great deal of expectation and looked as if he could emerge to be one of the Braves premier relievers. However, he will be sidelined due to injury yet again.
In the seventh inning of the Braves 12-7 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, the right-hander bent down in agony after feeling pain in his elbow after throwing an erratic pitch at the backstop to Randal Grichuk. He said postgame that he felt as if the ligament had torn, as did many that were tuned into Sunday's action. That would have definitely not been good for Winkler, as he had just gotten back into pitching form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014.
Luckily for Winkler, it was not as many thought, and it turns out he has only sustained a fracture to the elbow. Rather than sulking on what had happened, he seemed to take an optimistic approach as an elbow fracture will certainly lead to a quicker recovery than that of a torn ligament.
Winkler: "all that was running through my mind was 'not now, not again'. Hopefully ligament is still fine" #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) April 10, 2016
Winkler will not have an easy time of it as it looks as if this will lead to a long-term absence. He caught a major break however as he may only be sidelined until the beginning of next season rather than having to work for 18 months or more to get back into pitching form.
This injury much resembles that of Gavin Floyd from the 2013 season, and the success he was having prior to sustaining the injury is eerily similar. Floyd fractured the tip of his elbow, known as the olecranon by medical experts, after pitching a gem of a ballgame for the Braves. He had been set back from the injury, but returned to a major league club the following season.
Floyd's injury serves as a reference point as to how the elbow fracture carries less severity and a quicker recovery period than that of a torn UCL ligament.
Winkler will certainly work optimistically to return by next season. In the meantime, the Braves will need to find his replacement for the lengthy duration of the 2016 season. It is unknown who the Braves will recall from the minor leagues at this time, as MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that the announcement will not come until Monday afternoon. Possible replacements for Winkler include Danny Burawa, Ian Krol, Brandon Cunniff and others.