Braves monitoring health of O'Flaherty, Walden

Relievers making progress, could play in Grapefruit League by next week

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Braves will spend the next couple of weeks monitoring left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty and right-handed reliever Jordan Walden as the two attempt to distance themselves from recent ailments.

With O'Flaherty no longer bothered by the left groin strain he suffered during the first week of Spring Training, most of the concern centers around Walden, who has been bothered by a bulging disc in his back over the past two weeks.

Walden has felt some relief since traveling to Atlanta on Wednesday to receive an epidural injection. If he continues to make progress over the next couple of days, he could begin throwing off the mound again this weekend.

Because Walden continued to throw on flat ground while his back was ailing, he has maintained his arm strength. This could allow him to pitch in a game at some point next week. His only appearance this year came on Feb. 23, when he allowed the Yankees four runs -- one earned -- on three hits in one inning.

"I've been long tossing every day until [Wednesday]," Walden said. "My arm is good. I've just got to get rid of my back [discomfort]."

O'Flaherty has made steady progress since suffering the groin strain nearly a month ago. But the fact that he was shut down from all throwing activities for a short period has forced him to build arm strength before being cleared to pitch in a game.

If O'Flaherty reacts well when throwing one or two live batting practice sessions over the next few days, the veteran reliever could make his Grapefruit League season debut by the middle of next week.

"The only reason it has taken so long is when I first strained it, we had to pretty much shut down throwing," O'Flaherty said. "I was only about two bullpens deep at that time. Normally you show up in Spring Training with three, four or five in and then go through the whole routine."

O'Flaherty, Walden and Jonny Venters are projected to enter the season as Atlanta's top three setup men. Recent speculation that Venters could be traded appears to be unfounded.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.