LAKELAND, Fla. -- Arodys Vizcaino was not fortunate enough to again avoid Tommy John surgery. Dr. James Andrews performed the season-ending elbow reconstruction operation on the Braves' heralded pitching prospect on Tuesday morning.
Vizcaino -- rated by MLB.com as the Braves' second-best prospect and the 36th-best prospect in the game -- avoided surgery during the latter portion of the 2010 season when the Braves diagnosed him with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. After examining the same ligament on Monday, Andrews determined the 21-year-old pitcher would need more than simply rest and rehab this time.
After resting for six weeks in 2010, Vizcaino went to the instructional league and was throwing 98-mph fastballs. His elbow did not begin bothering him again until this year. He did not return to pitch after experiencing elbow discomfort during his March 3 appearance against the Tigers.
"As long as the player is functional and not having any major difficulties, you don't want to go in and do something until it gets to that point," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "That's where we are.
"There's guys that have ligaments that don't look good on MRI and they play their whole career. Greg Maddux's ligament was, from what I've been told, one of the worst-looking ligaments they have seen. But he continued to pitch and it never really became a problem."
Vizcaino will spend this season rehabbing with the hope that he will be ready to begin pitching again around the start of the 2013 season. He came to Spring Training with the hope of regaining the Major League bullpen role he held for the final two months of the 2011 season.
The Braves converted Vizcaino to a relief role in July after moving him from Class A Advanced Lynchburg to Double-A Mississippi. The club then quickly promoted him to Triple-A Gwinnett before putting him in the big league bullpen in early August.
"Our early thoughts were that he was on the bubble to go to Triple-A or make our club," Wren said. "That was our early thought coming into Spring Training. We're still looking at how the bullpen sets up."
Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlen and Cristhian Martinez are all projected to begin the season in the bullpen. Cory Gearrin, Adam Russell, Jose Asencio and Anthony Varvaro are competing for the final two spots.