KISSIMMEE, Fla. — It is no longer a question of whether Arodys Vizcaino will start the year with Atlanta or Gwinnett. Now it’s whether he will pitch at all this season.
Vizcaino, rated as the Braves’ No. 2 prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America, will see specialist Dr. James Andrews in Alabama on Monday and Tommy John surgery may be needed.
The 21-year-old right-hander experienced elbow soreness while pitching in the Grapefruit League opener against Detroit on March 3 and has been sidelined since. An MRI exam last week revealed inflammation and what the Braves are calling ulnar neuritis.
Vizcaino suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in 2010, but rehabbed his elbow and was able to avoid reconstructive surgery. He may not be so fortunate this time.
The native of the Dominican Republic was converted to the bullpen midway through last season and reached Atlanta in August after six appearances with Gwinnett.
Vizcaino got into 17 games with the Braves and had 17 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. But he seemed to wear down near the end of the season, posting a 9.45 ERA in September after a 1.69 mark in August.
Still, Baseball America ranked Vizcaino as the No. 1 relief prospect in baseball coming into this season and he was a strong candidate to open the year in Atlanta.
Vizcaino was part of the trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the New York Yankees after the 2009 season and was always a starter before being moved to the bullpen at midseason last year.
After three appearances with Class AA Mississippi, Vizcaino was promoted to Gwinnett, where he was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA and had eight strikeouts to no walks in seven innings.
MLB.com ranks Vizcaino at No. 36 on its Top 100 list of prospects. He is ranked No. 40 by Baseball America.
G-Braves’ first exhibition is Sunday
A majority of the players who will be in Gwinnett this season are still in major league camp, but the G-Braves will open exhibition play on Sunday with a trip across Kissimmee to play Houston’s Oklahoma City affiliate of the Pacific Coast League.
The spring training reporting date for minor league pitchers and catchers not invited to major league camp was March 1. Infielders and outfielders reported on March 9.
G-Braves manager Dave Brundage has been in Florida since the start of major league camp working as an extra coach for Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez. He will again by joined on the Gwinnett staff by hitting coach Jamie Dismuke and pitching coach Marty Reed this season.
The minor league teams will break camp on April 1. The Braves will play a team of their top prospects at Coolray Field on April 3, with Bobby Cox managing the prospects in his one-game return to the dugout.
Gotay finds job with Blue Jays
Former Gwinnett infielder Ruben Gotay signed with Toronto as a minor league free agent and will likely make Las Vegas his eighth career stop in Class AAA this season.
Gotay is the 15th player who was with the G-Braves last season to sign elsewhere. Topping that list are first baseman Mauro Gomez (Minnesota), outfielders Matt Young (Detroit) and Wilkin Ramirez (Minnesota) and infielder Diory Hernandez (Houston).
Gotay, 29, hit .253 in 72 games with the G-Braves a year ago. He started the season with New Orleans in the Pacific Coast League, hitting .239 in 62 games.