3/7/2013 9:49 P.M. ET
Braves monitoring health of O'Flaherty, Walden
Relievers making progress, could play in Grapefruit League by next week
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves will spend the next couple of weeks monitoring left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty and right-handed reliever Jordan Walden as the two attempt to distance themselves from recent ailments.
With O'Flaherty no longer bothered by the left groin strain he suffered during the first week of Spring Training, most of the concern centers around Walden, who has been bothered by a bulging disc in his back over the past two weeks.
Walden has felt some relief since traveling to Atlanta on Wednesday to receive an epidural injection. If he continues to make progress over the next couple of days, he could begin throwing off the mound again this weekend.
Because Walden continued to throw on flat ground while his back was ailing, he has maintained his arm strength. This could allow him to pitch in a game at some point next week. His only appearance this year came on Feb. 23, when he allowed the Yankees four runs -- one earned -- on three hits in one inning.
"I've been long tossing every day until [Wednesday]," Walden said. "My arm is good. I've just got to get rid of my back [discomfort]."
O'Flaherty has made steady progress since suffering the groin strain nearly a month ago. But the fact that he was shut down from all throwing activities for a short period has forced him to build arm strength before being cleared to pitch in a game.
If O'Flaherty reacts well when throwing one or two live batting practice sessions over the next few days, the veteran reliever could make his Grapefruit League season debut by the middle of next week.
"The only reason it has taken so long is when I first strained it, we had to pretty much shut down throwing," O'Flaherty said. "I was only about two bullpens deep at that time. Normally you show up in Spring Training with three, four or five in and then go through the whole routine."
O'Flaherty, Walden and Jonny Venters are projected to enter the season as Atlanta's top three setup men. Recent speculation that Venters could be traded appears to be unfounded.
Strong two-seamer suits Teheran in latest outing
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Julio Teheran's bid to win the fifth spot in Atlanta's rotation was strengthened as he allowed Detroit one run in four innings of Thursday night's 9-2 loss to the Tigers at Champion Stadium. Using his much-improved two-seam fastball and a slider that looks like a hard curveball, the 22-year-old right-hander recorded five strikeouts and surrendered three hits.
"My two-seamer is working better now," Teheran said. "All my pitches were working good. But I've got more confidence in my two-seamer now."
While compiling a 5.08 ERA in 26 starts with Triple-A Gwinnett last year, Teheran's fastball selection primarily consisted of the four-seam variety. Teheran complied with the Braves' request for him to begin working on the sinking two-seamer -- a pitch with which he gained comfort during his successful stint in the Dominican Winter League.
"He added another little twist running [the two-seamer] in on the left-handed hitters and then brought it back over the plate," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I hadn't seen that from him before. But you see signs of the kid getting advanced."
Teheran retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced on Thursday. He surrendered a leadoff single to begin the fourth inning and then committed a balk that put Brennan Boesch in position to score on Prince Fielder's opposite-field single that beat Atlanta's defensive shift.
Through his first nine innings of the Grapefruit League season, Teheran has surrendered four hits, allowed two runs and recorded 12 strikeouts.
"His [two-seamer] is really moving down and he's got the power four-seam fastball that he can punch out a guy with up in the strike zone," Gonzalez said. "If those two pitches come along with the breaking balls, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with. He's gotten better and better each time out."
Medlen meets golf legend Palmer on the green
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Kris Medlen joined Tim Hudson to play golf at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club on Wednesday, he was excited and nervous about the likelihood of meeting the legendary golfer. But he certainly did not allow the nerves to prevent the experience from being even more memorable than he could have imagined.
As they prepared to hit their balls that had landed in the same greenside bunker, Hudson and Medlen saw Palmer approaching in a golf cart. They posed for pictures and Medlen had Palmer sign his hat. A few moments later, the signature became known as "The Magical Autograph."
"After he signed it, I was like, 'I hope this hat brings me luck,'" Medlen said. "So I hit my shot and I hit it about four inches from the hole out of the sand with about five feet to work with on the green. It was the best shot of my life. I tapped in and [Palmer] is applauding in the cart. I was like, 'You're the man, Arnie.' It was so cool."
As Medlen recreated the scene in front of his locker at Champion Stadium on Thursday afternoon, Hudson playfully objected to including the result of his shot out of the bunker.
"We both practically had the same [shot] and he just absolutely crushed it over the green," Medlen said. "That made it even better."
• Juan Francisco improved his bid to win the starting third-base job by hitting an opposite-field home run in the seventh inning of Thursday's loss to the Tigers. Known as a pull hitter, Francisco has consistently hit the ball the other way while hitting .370 (10-for-27) with two doubles and two home runs this spring.
• Jonny Venters has made three consecutive scoreless appearances since allowing two runs in his exhibition season debut. Venters allowed two one-out singles and committed a balk before escaping Thursday night's sixth inning unscathed.
• The starting outfielders will be part of the split-squad game against the Blue Jays on Friday, and the starting infielders will travel across town as part of the split-squad team that will play the Astros.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.