Atlanta Braves pitching prospect J. R. Graham, a starter who ranks second behind only Lucas Sims among the organization's top young talent, is progressing nicely through rehabilitation and should be ready to compete for a job on their rotation in the spring.
The 23 year-old Graham injured his right throwing shoulder during a start in Double-A Mississippi on May 13 and has been sidelined ever since. The injury took place while tossing warm up pitches prior to the third inning.
As Graham reports to Mark Bowman of mlb.com,
"There was kind of a numb tingling going down from the back of my shoulder and through my arm," Graham said. "I was like, 'Oh, that didn't feel too good.' I was thinking maybe I just ran over a nerve or something. But then I threw a fastball and I barely got it to the plate. I knew something was wrong then."
Graham showed promise during Spring Training and looked close to getting the call to Atlanta. Graham, along with standout Alex Wood, provided the most impressive showing among rookies during the spring.
However, Wood spent the final months of the season as a member of the Braves starting rotation while Graham spent time nursing his injury.
A native of Oakland, California, Graham grew up idolizing Braves starter Tim Hudson and had an opportunity to spend time with Hudson during the spring. Graham is an all around good athlete, playing infield and outfield when he was not on the mound during his college years at Santa Clara.
Although not considered a strike out pitcher, Graham throws hard, being clocked in triple digits earlier this year. He also throws a nasty slider and change-up and has been successful pitching to contact and inducing ground balls.
Braves fans should be excited about the notion of adding another young arm to their pitching repertoire, especially coupled with the fact that Hudson and Paul Maholm are free agents and may not return in 2014.
Graham is already throwing at 80-percent and should be back at full strength after an offseason of rehabbing and conditioning. If he returns to last years form he could find himself fighting for a spot on a rotation that is already full of talent and possibilities.
Photo credit: Tom Hagerty for MetroI4News.com and LakelandLocal.com
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