ATLANTA — Gavin Floyd’s first start for the Braves in his return from Tommy John surgery will come Tuesday against the Cardinals as he fills in for Ervin Santana, who is being skipped with a bruised thumb on his throwing hand.
Floyd was removed from the disabled list prior to Sunday’s game against the Giants, and to clear space for the 31-year-old right-hander, reliever Ian Thomas was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.
"When I knew I was getting close and that everybody was doing well in the starting rotation, I was curious about what they were going to do," Floyd said. "I kind of wanted to be prepared for whatever they were going to say … obviously I feel real good, I feel strong. I’m ready and it is what it is right now."
Speculation surrounded how the Braves would handle the return of Floyd, who had thrown six rehab starts. He had already used up the maximum 30 days of his assignments and needed to be activated Sunday.
But Santana’s bruised hand, which he suffered on an inside fastball from the Reds’ Homer Bailey on April 25, created a spot for Floyd to step in — beyond that, though, his role remains up in the air.
"I’m getting mentally, physically prepared for Tuesday, that’s my focus," Floyd said. "Just go out there and be as focused as I can be on each pitch and get a chance to win."
Floyd, signed to a one-year, $4 million contract this winter, hasn’t pitched since April 27, 2013 for the White Sox, as his season ended after five starts. He has a career 70-70 record with a 4.48 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with Chicago and the Phillies.
Santana, 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in five starts, has been a big part of the early success of the Braves’ rotation, which has a 2.67 ERA. He doesn’t expect the bruise to keep him out for any extended period of time and said he’ll throw long-toss this week before tossing a side-session sometime next week. While his hand didn’t bother him much after the start against the Reds, the issue returned on Thursday vs. the Marlins.
"After that game I felt better, but then when I pitched in Miami, after the fifth inning it was swelled a little bit, so that’s why I told (manager) Fredi (Gonzalez) that I couldn’t pitch anymore because I could barely hold the ball, so that’s why they made that decision to skip the start."
Meanwhile, Thomas’ move will allow him to be stretched out as a starter after making 10 appearances out of the bullpen, where he had a 4.26 ERA, six strikeouts and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He’ll join Gus Schlosser, who is also moving from reliever to the rotation in Gwinnett after he was optioned following Friday’s return of Mike Minor.