Outlook: Floyd could join Braves' rotation in May

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Gavin Floyd attempts to return from reconstructive elbow surgery, he will continue to be cognizant of the fact that a premature return could negatively affect his future. But the Braves right-hander can't help but be excited about his progress, which has allowed him to remain hopeful of joining the rotation in May.

"I'm just super thankful," Floyd said. "You hear a bunch of stories and testimonies about how different guys have recovered and how guys have recovered. I've had my soreness and stuff. But for some reason, I've recovered well and fast."

Floyd began throwing curveballs last week and was cleared to begin mixing in some sliders during a 75-pitch bullpen session he completed on Friday. The 31-year-old right-hander will continue throwing both his breaking balls as he increases each of his pitch counts during his next two bullpen sessions.

If Floyd continues to make pain-free progress, he'll be cleared to begin throwing live batting practice at some point during the early portion of March. As he increases his workload and endurance with these exercises, he'll be moving toward being cleared to begin a rehab assignment, which will essentially serve as his Spring Training.

"It's been flying by," Floyd said. "It's crazy to think maybe a month from now, I'll maybe be pitching in a game. It's pretty cool."

Floyd's excitement is also a product of the fact that this is the best his elbow has felt in more than two years. He endured two disabled list stints after the 2012 All-Star break and then pitched through pain before undergoing surgery in May to repair tears to his ulnar collateral ligament and flexor tendon.

After the surgery, the White Sox indicated Floyd would need 14-19 months to recover. But encouraged by the medical reports they reviewed, the Braves signed Floyd in December with the belief he could join their rotation in May, which would be 12 months after the surgery.

"He's fine," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think he's right where he's supposed to be. He just needs to keep hitting those marks the trainers set and keep progressing from there."

La Stella looking to show Braves he's ready

MLB Rookie Prg: Tommy La Stella, ATL, 2B

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tommy La Stella has gained comfort in his progression through the early portion of his first big league Spring Training. Now the intriguing young second baseman is looking forward to showing the Braves he is capable of competing at the Major League level if he receives the call at some point this year.

"I'm definitely prepared to step in and do whatever is asked of me," La Stella said. "Whether that is at Triple-A, the big league level or wherever it happens to be, I feel like I am ready."

It appears La Stella will begin the upcoming season at Triple-A Gwinnett. While gaining some more seasoning at the Minor League level, the 25-year-old second baseman will have a chance to improve his still suspect defensive skills and strengthen the offensive approach that has proven successful through the early portion of his professional career.

La Stella batted .343 with a .422 on-base percentage and .473 slugging percentage in 324 plate appearances with Double-A Mississippi last year. He extended that success as he hit .290 with a .904 OPS in 62 at-bats during the Arizona Fall League.

Since being selected by the Braves in the eighth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, La Stella has batted .327 with a .908 OPS. His advanced plate discipline has allowed him to walk more frequently (111 times) than he has struck out (88 times) in 999 professional plate appearances.

"Offensively, I was pretty pleased with my approach (last year)," La Stella said. "It still is an ongoing process. It's one of those things you never really stop learning. So, I made some strides last year and hopefully I can do that again this year."

The Braves will likely begin this season with Dan Uggla starting at second base and Ramiro Pena serving as the primary backup infielder. If Uggla were to extend his struggles and La Stella continues to impress at Gwinnett, there is a chance the intriguing young infielder could get a call to Atlanta at some point this season.

Worth noting

• Gonzalez will announce his Spring Training rotation on Monday. Freddy Garcia and David Hale are expected to be among the pitchers who will take the mound for Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers at Disney.

• With physicals complete, the Braves will return to their normal schedule on Monday. The workouts for Monday and Tuesday are slated to begin at 10 a.m. ET.