3/29/2014 7:58 P.M. ET
Cox returns to bench to manage Braves' Future Stars
By Joe Morgan / Special to MLB.com
ROME, Ga. -- Former Braves manager Bobby Cox returned to manage the Future Stars against the Braves for the third consecutive year. After two straight losses, Cox was eager to propel the Minor Leaguers into the win column this year.
"This is our third game now, and we're 0-2," Cox said before the game. "So, we're gonna tell our guys we gotta win this one. Just kidding."
The Future Stars did not let Cox down, defeating the Braves, 13-4, on Saturday afternoon at State Mutual Stadium.
"I was smart today," Cox said. "I let the manager and the coaches run the team -- [Class A Rome manager] Jonathan Schuerholz and the staff -- and look what happened."
Several of the organization's top prospects had the opportunity to spend some time with the Hall of Famer on Saturday. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Cox was a warmly welcomed presence.
"This is his time of year," Gonzalez said. "He loves watching the kids play, and the guys love him being around the clubhouse."
Cox, who lives 15 minutes from State Mutual Stadium, said his wife enjoys the short trek to Rome more than venturing out to Turner Field in Atlanta. Regardless of the venue, however, Cox likes getting back into the managerial role for a short time each year.
"These spikes are hurting a little bit, but it does feel good," Cox joked. "Once a year's not too bad."
While Cox was looking forward to getting a look at some of Atlanta's young players, he was especially excited about right-hander Jason Hursh, who started Saturday's game.
The Braves drafted Hursh with their first-round selection in last year's MLB First-Year Player Draft.
"He's got great movement on his fastball, which a lot of pitchers are more in love with velocity four-seamers now," Cox said. "This kid's got good sink on it. He's gonna be a typical groundball pitcher with some strikeouts in there also, so I like him a lot."
Hursh was equally impressed with Cox.
"I'm kind of just in awe a little bit," Hursh said. "It's like crazy. Bobby Cox is your head coach this game. He's pretty cool, though."
Hursh was a member of the Future Stars on Saturday, but Cox is confident that the right-hander, who is expected to begin this season with Double-A Mississippi, will shed the "future" label soon.
"He's gonna be a quick guy, I think, to get to the Major League club," Cox said.
Thomas thrilled to make Opening Day roster
ROME, Ga. -- Ian Thomas cracked his first Major League team when the Braves officially announced their Opening Day roster on Saturday. Five years after he went undrafted out of Virginia Commonwealth University, Thomas is officially a Major Leaguer.
"This is everything I've always been working for my whole life," Thomas said. "It was tough. Out of college, I didn't get signed. I was living pretty much hand-to-mouth all in the indie leagues. Now, it's here. It's going to change a little bit."
Like Thomas, right-hander Gus Schlosser and left-hander Ryan Buchter will join Atlanta's bullpen with the chance to pitch their first MLB innings on Monday in Milwaukee. Right-hander David Hale will occupy the fourth spot in the Braves' shorthanded rotation.
"We feel like David's got maybe some more weapons with all his repertoire at this point," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We also feel like Schloss, with his kind of side-armer, can help us get a ground ball in certain situations."
Gonzalez informed Thomas he had made the club on Thursday in Lakeland, Fla. However, Thomas was wary of receiving phone calls offering congratulations until his roster spot became official.
"They're already congratulating me," Thomas said, "and I'm like, 'Hey, I can't say anything yet. It's not set in stone.'"
Once his VCU career ended and he went undrafted in 2009, Thomas continued his baseball journey with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Independent Northern League. A 1.96 ERA in three seasons caught Atlanta's attention.
The Braves signed Thomas to a Minor League deal in 2012.
A combined 2.88 ERA in stops at Class A Rome and Double-A Mississippi the past two seasons earned him an invite to big league camp this spring. And a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings during Spring Training earned Thomas a chance to make his MLB debut.
"I was just thinking of making this team and not looking back," Thomas said. "I'm pretty much here, and I'm going to continue to move forward. I'm trying hard to earn my stripes and earn a legit spot and keep playing for the Braves."
Off the mound, catchers Ryan Doumit and Gerald Laird, infielders Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena and outfielder Jordan Schafer will make up Atlanta's bench.
Medlen, Beachy evaluate mechanics during recovery
ROME, Ga. -- Following his second Tommy John surgery, injured Braves starter Kris Medlen Googled himself. Medlen is looking at his delivery both in photos and on film to determine how he can avoid another elbow injury.
"The fact that I was able to come back for two years and pitch for two years after surgery means that the first surgery worked, but I didn't change anything mechanically from what I was doing before the first time," Medlen said.
"Once I blew out the second time, I wasn't Googling surgeons or anything like that. I was Googling myself, looking at pictures and coming in looking at film of what I was doing mechanically, which I probably should have done the first time around."
For Medlen's second Tommy John surgery on March 18, Dr. James Andrews took a tendon from the pitcher's forearm instead of his hamstring. Ten days later, Medlen feels "pretty good" physically, and he has progressed from a cast and a sling to an arm brace.
Medlen is also making progress mentally.
He said he is "less clingy" with the training staff now that he has been through the process of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery before.
Medlen also feels he has an idea of what he would like to try to correct mechanically when he eventually gets to throw again. He believes his timing was off and that he wasn't using the right muscles.
"Obviously, I'm not going to stop studying the film and pictures and certain positions I'm supposed to be in at certain times in my delivery," Medlen said. "That's just something I need to approach the second time around to make sure this doesn't happen again, because if it does, then I'm going to be done. And that's no fun."
Brandon Beachy, meanwhile, is taking on a mindset similar to that of Medlen.
"Here we go again," Beachy said. "I've got to get it right this time."
Beachy has looked at his arm path among other things. He has his sights set on a return, but he struggled to voice his frustration with undergoing a second Tommy John surgery in just 21 months.
"I just can't put it into words," Beachy said. "It's been exhausting mentally, way more so than physically. But it's not going to stop me. It's not going to slow me down. I'm going to do what I have to do, and I'm going to get back out there."
On Tuesday, Beachy is expected to switch out his current cast and sling for an arm brace similar to what Medlen is currently wearing. Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed Tommy John surgery on Beachy on March 21.
Andrews performed Beachy's first Tommy John surgery, taking a tendon from the pitcher's wrist. This time, ElAttrache took a tendon from a cadaver.
Beachy has looked to the case of Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson for inspiration. Hudson underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2012 and again last June before rehabbing and signing a Minor League deal with the D-backs in December.
"Daniel Hudson had two closer together than I did, and he's, from all I've heard, he's feeling well coming back right now from Arizona," Beachy said.
Although Medlen and Beachy cannot help the Braves on the field this season, both plan to be around this year. Their paths to recovery may be different, but Medlen and Beachy both know their role now is to rehab and lend support to their teammates.
"I'm planning on being there every day when the team's at home," Beachy said. "I'll just be a cheerleader. Just feel as much as I can like I'm still a part of things."
Gearrin to visit Dr. Andrews for second opinion
ROME, Ga. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren said injured right-hander Cory Gearrin has "ligament involvement" in his right elbow and will visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion next week.
Gearrin met with lead team orthopedist Dr. Xavier Duralde on Friday.
"He has a significant injury," said Wren of Gearrin's condition.
Atlanta will recall left-hander Ryan Buchter back from Triple-A Gwinnett and place Gearrin on the 15-day disabled list. The organization has been looking for outside help, but Wren said he has not found an available player he likes better than the club's internal options.
Gearrin, who left a 12-3 win against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., on March 25 after throwing an errant pitch, is one of several Braves hurlers to consult with Dr. Andrews this spring.
Starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are both done for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Reliever Jonny Venters and starter Gavin Floyd are both in the recovery stages of previous Tommy John surgeries.
"We've kind of eaten through our depth," Wren said. "We felt like we were in pretty good shape coming into Spring Training with some guys about to get healthy, and all of a sudden, next thing you know, we're pretty thin."
Although Atlanta has been hit especially hard with pitcher injuries this spring, Wren recognizes that the Braves are far from the only club with rotation depth issues.
"We always find a way to do it and get over it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Somebody else will step up. I have the confidence in our club that they'll overcome that."
"When I look around baseball, there's a lot of us like this," Wren said. "It's just been one of those springs. There's not a whole lot you can do about it."
Former Braves manager Bobby Cox admits he doesn't know what's causing the injuries, but he has noticed at the Little League, high school and college levels, an intense focus on pitch velocity might be a cause.
"It's velocity, velocity, velocity," Cox said. "My opinion is I think most of them are trying to throw too hard right now."
Joe Morgan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.