O'Flaherty's back OK, but discomfort keeps Walden out
Setup man moves past injury history; new Braves reliever dealing with tightness
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves setup man Eric O'Flaherty has not experienced any back discomfort through the first three weeks of Spring Training. But right-handed reliever Jordan Walden is battling back discomfort that could sideline him for at least another week.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday that O'Flaherty had not experienced any recent back discomfort. But he said the left-handed reliever's previous history with back problems influenced the team's decision to delay his first appearance until at least the second week of the exhibition season, which is one week longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic.
O'Flaherty made sure to point out Friday that his back has not bothered him at all this year. He said the fact that he has not pitched in a game is a result of a slight left groin strain that he suffered during the first week of camp.
O'Flaherty said the groin has steadily improved to the point where he could be cleared to throw in a game next week.
"I did a lot of work in the offseason, and my back has never felt better than it does now," O'Flaherty said. "It has not been an issue at all."
Walden has been dealing with what he describes as "tightness in his back." The issue prevented him from making his scheduled appearance against the Nationals on Tuesday.
"That day was bad," Walden said. "It was tight. I went out there and I was trying to be easy on it and it wasn't working."
Walden has realized some improvement as he has spent the past few days taking anti-inflammatory medication and completing rehab exercises.
"A couple more days on this medicine and then I can be re-evaluated," Walden said. "This is the first time it has really bugged me really bad. I'm trying to take care of it now so I can be ready for the season. It's getting better. That's all I can say."
Walden allowed three hits and four runs -- one earned -- in one inning against the Yankees last Saturday. That is the only exhibition appearance made so far this year by the 25-year-old reliever, who was acquired from the Angels in exchange for Tommy Hanson on Nov. 30.
Teheran carries winter success into spring
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez liked what they saw in December when they watched Julio Teheran pitch in the Dominican Winter League. During his first two starts of the Grapefruit League season, Teheran has given them more reason to believe he is ready to serve as Atlanta's fifth starter.
Teheran strengthened his bid to win the fifth spot by limiting the Nationals to one run and one hit in three innings of Friday night's 6-5 loss to the Nationals at Champion Stadium. The top pitching prospect displayed an impressive two-seam fastball while recording five strikeouts and throwing 26 of his 34 pitches for strikes.
"This is the third outing I've seen him, going back to his last outing in the Dominican," Gonzalez said. "His command was excellent there, and it has carried over. I've seen a better sinker the last two times out than I did in the Dominican."
Bryce Harper's wind-aided, opposite-field home run accounted for the only damage incurred by Teheran, who threw 14 pitches while striking out each of the final three batters that he faced.
"From what he showed today, I think he definitely could pitch here," Harper said. "He had pretty good stuff."
Teheran is battling for the rotation's fifth spot with Sean Gilmartin, who is scheduled to pitch three innings on Saturday against the Astros.
• Jason Heyward homered for the third time within a span of 10 at-bats in Friday's first inning, and then perfectly placed a bunt single down the third-base line in the fifth inning. Heyward has been working on his bunting in hopes that it will decrease the number of defensive shifts teams utilized against him.
• Dan Uggla struck out four times on Friday, and has seven strikeouts in his past nine at-bats.
• Craig Kimbrel will pitch against the Astros on Saturday and then take an early-morning flight to Phoenix on Sunday to join Team USA in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.