ATLANTA -- Braves reliever Jordan Walden needed only five pitches during his bullpen session on Monday afternoon to know the nagging groin issues he has been dealing with still felt a few days away from subsiding. After cutting that throwing workout short, Walden has moved back into wait-and-see mode, confirming that the Braves must continue to be creative in navigating the later innings until one of their top setup men returns.
"When you're dealing with legs and groins and that kind of stuff, you just have to wait and see and go from there," manager Fredi Gonzalez said on Tuesday. "I'm still optimistic that he'll get it cranked up again in the next week or so. Hopefully, anyway, because that's a big piece in our bullpen."
Walden has not pitched since an impressive two-inning appearance on Aug. 21 in which he struck out four Mets and threw a total of 25 pitches. The soreness developed while he was jogging before a game in St. Louis just after the two-game series in New York, and Gonzalez has been forced to transfer his typical workload to fellow setup man Luis Avilan and other members of the bullpen ever since. Avilan worked a scoreless ninth inning to close out yesterday's 13-5 win over the Mets, a situation that would not typically call for one of the team's top relievers.
The recent additions of Freddy Garcia and Kameron Loe give the Braves two long-relief options down the stretch that will protect the rest of the bullpen on days when the score gets out of hand or a starter is forced into an early exit. When Walden is able to return, Gonzalez will be able to reset his relievers into their accustomed situational roles. Thanks to the September expansion of the maximum number of players on the roster from 25 to 40, the Braves can go day to day with the right-hander in dealing with the temperamental nature of his groin injury.
"I think if this happened before September, he's a [disabled list] candidate," Gonzalez said. "Now you don't have to DL him. You can wait day to day with him and bring a couple guys up to cover."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.