8/27/2013 11:00 P.M. ET
La Stella among eight Braves on AFL roster
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Eight Braves prospects will spend October and November honing their skills against talented young players from around baseball as part of the 2013 Arizona Fall League, which on Tuesday announced its rosters for the upcoming season.
The invitees from the Braves organization are infielders Tommy La Stella, Kyle Kubitza and Elmer Reyes, along with outfielder Robby Hefflinger and pitchers Aaron Northcraft, Shae Simmons, Juan Jaime and John Cornely. Those players will join prospects from the Giants, Mets, Pirates and Yankees organizations on the Scottsdale Scorpions.
"I think the Fall League is a tremendous experience because you're playing against outstanding competition," said Braves vice president and assistant general manager in charge of player development Bruce Manno. "You're selected to go there because you have a lot of ability, a lot of talent, and I think it's a great test for players to be able to go there and play against their peers that way."
La Stella, a second baseman hitting .348 with an OPS of .929 between Advanced Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi this season, had his name tossed around for promotion to the Major Leagues earlier this month when Dan Uggla's trip to the 15-day disabled list ahead of LASIK surgery left the Braves thin at second base. This fall, La Stella will get another opportunity to showcase his development.
"Tommy's always been a real good offensive player for us," Manno said. "Unfortunately, he's been hurt the last couple of years off and on and really hasn't had an opportunity to get all the at-bats we'd like him to get. He's had a really good year at Double-A, and this is just an opportunity for him to continue to play, work on some other things and just add this to the season he's already had, which has really been a good year."
Reyes and Kubitza have caught the front office's attention while manning the left side of the Lynchburg infield this season -- Reyes at shortstop, Kubitza at third. Hefflinger hit 21 home runs in 307 plate appearances with Lynchburg before being promoted to Double-A in late June. He has worked primarily as a left fielder at both stops.
The crop of Braves pitchers heading to Scottsdale includes three relievers in Simmons, Jaime and Cornely and a starter in Northcraft -- Cornely has spent all of 2013 in Lynchburg, while the other three young arms are currently with Mississippi. Simmons compiled 24 saves with a 4.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio for Class A Rome before being promoted to Mississippi in early August.
After their respective Minor League seasons end but before they report to Scottsdale, the players will spend a week or two in the Braves' instructional league, where they will receive direction on specific skills to work on in Arizona. Lynchburg hitting coach John Moses will be on the Scorpions' coaching staff, along with trainer Julio Hernandez, who is in his first year with the Braves' Gulf Coast League rookie squad.
For all players selected to rosters, the Arizona Fall League provides an invaluable opportunity to expand upon a successful year in the Minor Leagues and play out the year in a controlled environment against high-level competition.
"Sometimes for older players that go to Winter Ball, it's a little less control most of the time and you have to make sure your guys can handle it and the workload and you're not concerned about innings or at-bats," Manno said. "The Arizona Fall League really is conducive to allowing us to continue the development and kind of tack it on to after the regular season, and it works out real well."
Beachy relieved elbow problem is inflammation
ATLANTA -- When Brandon Beachy visited Dr. James Andrews on Monday, he knew there was at least a chance that he would need to undergo a second Tommy John surgery. But Beachy's worst fear was erased when the noted surgeon informed him that his recent right elbow discomfort has simply been a product of inflammation.
Beachy will continue to rest his arm for the next 10-14 days before gaining the potential to pick up a baseball again. While this timetable will certainly limit his opportunities to pitch this year, this development was certainly better than the alternative.
"There was some nervousness and then some relief," Beachy said. "It's not fun going down there. It's just kind of a sullen atmosphere down there. You see a lot of guys walking in who know they are going to be walking out with new scars on their bodies."
Beachy became one of those individuals last year, when he underwent Tommy John surgery and endured the yearlong rehab process that follows. His road back has not been an easy one. Beachy was sidelined with elbow inflammation in June and then made five Major League starts before being shut down again last week, after the last three fastballs he threw against the Mets registered at 85 mph or below.
While Beachy was concerned with the sudden drop in velocity, he said last week that he was confident he would pitch again this year.
"We just have to see how quickly it responds," Beachy said. "It's already feeling better than it did a couple days ago. But that doesn't mean anything either. We'll just have to play wait and see for a little while. Then, whatever happens, happens. I'm just excited and relieved and hoping I can help this team."
Under the best-case scenario, Beachy likely would not be ready to pitch again before the second half of September arrives. This provide some reason to wonder if the Braves will opt to use him as a reliever during the latter portion of the regular season. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said it was too early to speculate on this possibility.
"I think of myself as a starter and I plan to be a starter in the future," Beachy said. "But I'm no dummy. You look at the timing of everything. I'm willing to help this team any way I can."
Uggla homers in possible final rehab tuneup
ATLANTA -- Braves second baseman Dan Uggla went 2-for-4 with a solo home run on Tuesday night with Triple-A Gwinnett in what is expected to be his final rehab game before he is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday.
After five hitless at-bats following LASIK surgery on Aug. 16, Uggla broke through with the home run in the fifth inning of his second rehab game, an encouraging sign given his current season-high homerless drought of 17 games and 75 plate appearances.
On Monday, he struck out twice and grounded into an inning-ending double play before being replaced at second at the beginning of the seventh. Uggla had been called out on strikes in Tuesday's first and third innings before driving a pitch from Baltimore right-hander Steve Johnson over the left-field fence. Uggla added a single to left in the seventh inning and was replaced by Phil Gosselin shortly thereafter.
"We'll check with him [Tuesday] evening about coming up," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said following the Braves' 2-0 win over the Indians. "He got seven at-bats the last couple of days. His timing is getting better and better. Hopefully, we can get him up here and he can do what he can do."
Uggla hit .186 with 21 home runs and 53 RBIs in 112 games before landing on the disabled list. With 31 games left in the regular season, his 146 strikeouts are 25 shy of his career high for a season, a mark he set in 2008 with the Marlins.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.