ATLANTA -- Medicine will help Daniel Winkler deal with the physical pain that he will feel over the next few days. But there might not be a remedy for the mental anguish the Braves reliever will feel as he deals with the reality that his promising start to this season was derailed by a gruesome injury that casts some doubt about his future as a Major Leaguer.
Winkler was one out away from completing preserving a one-run lead and completing a scoreless seventh inning during Sunday afternoon's 12-7 loss to the Cardinals. But the only thing he will remember from this outing is the extreme pain he felt in his right elbow before he staggered toward the Braves dugout and fell to the ground just beyond the first-base line.
"All that was running through my mind was not now, not again," Winkler said. "Hopefully, the ligament is still fine and it's just bone."
An X-ray taken at the stadium showed Winkler fractured his right elbow. A MRI exam, which could be performed as early as Monday, will show whether the 26-year-old right-hander incurred any other structural damage to the elbow, which was surgically repaired via Tommy John surgery during the 2014 season.
"At the time, I didn't know if he was holding his elbow or holding his side," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Believe me, I was hoping it was his side."
Winkler missed most of the 2015 season after the Braves selected him out of the Rockies organization in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. He earned a spot in Atlanta's bullpen with an impressive showing during Spring Training this year and, before Randal Grichuk came to the plate, he had retired seven of the eight batters he'd faced during the regular season.
After getting ahead of Grichuk with an 0-2 count, Winkler missed the strike zone with three straight pitches. He felt some discomfort with one of the sliders he threw during this sequence. But that discomfort paled in comparison to the pain he felt when he attempted to throw the 3-2 cutter that sailed more than 10 feet behind Grichuk.
"On the slider, I kind of felt something with my elbow," Winkler said. "I didn't really think much of it, but I got the cutter away and I heard it crack. I knew exactly what it was when it happened. It didn't feel good.
"I know I can compete up here, and I know I should be up here. That's probably the most frustrating part about it. I just can't get healthy. I sit out for a year-and-a-half or two years and then this happens. It's alright. It's part of God's plan, and I've just got to go with it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.