ATLANTA -- As he struggled through his first few Spring Training outings, Braves left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez indicated he was healthy. But just two weeks into the season, Gonzalez finds himself with a tender elbow that will be evaluated via an MRI on Thursday.
"I'm going to be fine," Gonzalez said after the Braves claimed their 8-6 win over the Cubs at Turner Field on Wednesday night. "It's just a little sore."
As Wednesday night's late innings developed, it became apparent that there must be something wrong with Gonzalez. There were a number of instances where he could have been used, but instead Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to go with more inexperienced relievers.
During his postgame media session, Cox only indicated that he likely wouldn't throw again on Thursday. Last week, he gave the left-handed reliever a two-day break that ended up being one in which he didn't pitch over the course of four days.
That break ended on Monday night, when Gonzalez threw 23 pitches and issued two walks against the Nationals. Since the conclusion of that outing, which was staged in chilly conditions, his elbow has been bothering him.
After converting each of his 24 save opportunities through the first five months of last season, Gonzalez missed all of September with a sore elbow. When they completed the January trade that brought Gonzalez to Atlanta in exchange for first baseman Adam LaRoche, the Braves were confident that Gonzalez's arm was healthy.
Throughout March, Gonzalez confidently said his elbow was fine. But last week, after throwing a perfect inning against the Nationals, he didn't speak with the same kind of confidence.
Instead, he said, "I'm getting closer to where I need to be." While he wasn't specifically talking about his elbow, there's a definite chance he was hiding some discomfort at the time.
Through his first 6 1/3 innings with the Braves, Gonzalez has surrendered eight hits and issued six walks. In 54 innings with the Pirates last year, he limited opponents to a .213 batting average and issued 31 walks.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.