Kris Medlen made a name for himself as a starter in 2012. His historic second half of the season gave Braves fans plenty reason for excitement as the 27 year-old right-hander seemed to just be coming into the prime of his career. But through six Spring Training starts this year, Medlen has seemingly also reached his first speed bump as a starting pitcher.
In what has been an up-and-down spring for Braves starters not named Julio Teheran, Medlen has quickly become the poster boy for a starting rotation that critics are saying could be Atlanta’s Achilles heel in 2013. Medlen has been hit around steadily during his last three spring starts including his most recent win-aided debacle against the hated Nationals. Medlen allowed 6 earned runs against Washington in just five innings despite the Nats featuring less than half of their major league starting lineup. Just five days prior, Medlen surrendered 9 earned runs on 14 hits against another divisional rival in the Phillies.
So now, less than one week removed from Opening Day, Braves fans are scrambling frantically to understand what has happened to the under-sized ace that conjured so many Greg Maddux memories just a few months ago. But before you jump on board with the naysayers and the Medlen doubters, it is important to remember two key details about Medlen this spring.
First, it is only March and none of these games have counted. It’s a clichéd phrase that beat writers and coaches have worn out over the years. But it’s only overused because it applies to almost every Spring Training season. There are always players that have disappointing preseason’s before turning it on in April. And there are always pitchers that spend most of their time working on new pitches or mechanics rather than getting hitters out. Of course Medlen and the Braves don’t like seeing a bloated 7.23 ERA in just 23.2 innings pitched. And sure, nobody ever likes suffering embarrassing losses to the Phillies and the Nationals, no matter what’s on the line. But the beauty of it all is that six days from now, none of it will ever matter. The slate will be wiped clean, and Medlen will be given a fresh start and a chance to learn from some of his early mistakes.
But in case that doesn’t soothe your worries, keep in mind that Medlen has had a busy spring off the field as well. After welcoming his first child into the world in early February, Medlen has understandably had to split time between budding star and budding dad. While working the corners with a mix of fastballs and changeups seems dire to us, it is undoubtedly the middle-of-the-night rockings and early morning diapers that have consumed most of Medlen’s time, and nobody can blame him for that.
With one tune-up start remaining before the Braves crank it up on Monday, expect Medlen to bounce back with an improved comfort level in preparation for his first start of the season. By June I suspect the Medlen fears will be a thing of the distant past. This is the same guy that produced wins in 23 consecutive games started, remember?