Top Braves prospect Graham exits start

Right-hander felt discomfort in throwing arm, expects to be OK

J.R. Graham has not allowed a home run in eight Southern League games. (Matt Slocum/AP)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | May 13, 2013 9:52 PM

Editor's note: On May 15, the Mississippi Braves announced that J.R. Graham would be placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain.

Atlanta's top prospect J.R. Graham left Monday's Double-A start for the Mississippi Braves after experiencing discomfort in his throwing arm and shoulder between innings.

Graham had tossed two scoreless frames against Huntsville, but he called for trainer Ricky Alcantara after completing his warmup pitches prior to the top of the third frame and exited the game soon after.

The 5-foot-10 right-hander said he will be evaluated in Mississippi on Tuesday, but he does not think the injury will keep him from making his next scheduled start at home against Jacksonville this weekend.

"It feels good," said Graham,'s No. 97 prospect. "I had a little discomfort and was pulled for precautionary reasons. I went back with the trainer and tested it out and it was fine. Just something didn't feel right when I was throwing, nothing specific ... just while I was warming up. There was no prior discomfort."

Graham said the injury did not affect one pitch more than any other, and he said he's never had arm issues before.

Braves GM Frank Wren confirmed Graham's opinion, describing the substitution as "precautionary" and saying he "tested well and will be reevaluated tomorrow."

The Braves' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, Graham is 1-3 with a 4.04 ERA in eight Southern League starts this year. He has struck out 28 batters and issued 10 walks over 35 2/3 innings.

"I will get it checked out and hopefully I'll be ready for my next start," said Graham, selected in the fourth round of the 2011 Draft. "My trainer said my strength and flexibility and range of motion were fine. I'll wait until tomorrow and ... just see how it goes."

The 23-year-old said he was more frustrated about having to leave the game than the prospect of potentially missing a couple games.

"I felt like I was pitching well," he said. The past couple games, I've been working on pitching on the other side of the rubber and trying different grips for my breaking ball in my bullpens so it was nice to get back out on the field."

Juan Jaime replaced Graham in the third inning and Andrew Russell (1-0) allowed a run over the next three frames en route to Mississippi's 5-1 victory. Mark Lamm earned his third save after scattering four hits and two walks while striking out three batters over three scoreless innings.

M-Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs and second baseman Tommy La Stella went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.

Huntsville's Ariel Pena (2-3) gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings. He allowed four hits and a walk while striking out five batters and uncorking one wild pitch.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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