Medlen struggles on blustery day; Venters, Laird updates

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Medlen struggles on blustery day; Venters, Laird updates

VIERA, Fla. – Little has gone smoothly on the mound for Kris Medlen in this spring training, but Sunday things took a challenging turn of a different sort for the Braves pitcher.

In 30 mph winds with gusts considerably stronger, Medlen gave up eight hits and six runs in five innings of a 9-3 loss to Washington at Space Coast Stadium that was stopped after seven innings due to rain and a tornado warning.

“Overall just an uncomfortable day,” said Medlen, who had three strikeouts and two walks and threw 58 strikes in 89 pitches. “I wouldn’t say it was the worst (start he’s made this spring), because I think the last one was probably the worst. But just overall uncomfortable. Just windy, and they put some pretty good swings on the ball.”

Medlen allowed 14 hits and nine runs in five innings Monday against Philadelphia, making it 22 hits and 15 runs he’s surrendered in 10 innings over his past two Grapefruit League starts.

“I gave up nine runs and 14 hits and I felt way more comfortable than I did today,” Medlen said. “I felt like a couple of balls today could have been caught in the regular season.”

Medlen mentioned Denard Span’s bloop single to right and Danny Espinosa’s three-run homer with the wind to left as balls he believed would’ve been caught in normal conditions. Not that he was blaming the weather for his woes.

“When I needed to make a pitch I probably did it 50 percent of the time,” he said. “I jammed some guys, got some groundballs, but a couple snuck through. Just another one of those outings that I’m ready to forget. I’m so ready for the regular season, you have no idea. I have one more down here and I’m ready to go back to Atlanta.”

Manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t put much stock in Sunday’s outing by Medlen.

“It’s hard to judge anything today,” Gonzalez said. “I know he had a tough time – everybody had a tough time, even holding their deliveries. There were a couple of times where (Nationals starter Jordan) Zimmermann got knocked out of his delivery, and same thing with Medlen.”

Zimmerman allowed three runs, six hits and three walks in six innings and said the wind made it feel “like I was on a ship out there.”

“That being said, I think we came out of it pretty unscathed,” said Gonzalez, who replaced his lineup regulars after three innings because he was concerned there might be a collision with players pursuing wind-blown fly ball.

The manager said he wasn’t concerned by the spring performance of Medlen, who is 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in six starts, with 32 hits (four home runs) and 19 runs allowed in 23-2/3 innings.

After moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation last season, Medlen went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts. The Braves have won a major league-record 23 consecutive regular-season games he’s started.

“I think he’s fine,” Gonzalez said.

Medlen said his main problem this spring has been poorly located sinkers, which he’s left over the plate.

“You’re going to pitches that you go to during the year that you normally make,” he said, “and they’re just not there yet. For me, they’ll come and I’m just not worried or anything. I mean, it’s something I’ve done my entire life, figure out my delivery and figure out my pitches.”

He’ll start the third game of the season April 4 against the Phillies, and will stay behind in Florida to start a minor league game Friday as his final tune-up. The rest of the team will fly back to Atlanta after Thursday’s game and spend a day at home before flying to Jackson, Miss., on Saturday morning.

Pitching plans: Braves starters will taper their workloads this week, reducing innings and/or pitch counts in the final week of spring training as they ready for the regular season.

Mike Minor is set to start Monday against the Mets and make his final spring start Saturday in the Braves’ game against some of the organization’s top prospects at the Double-A Mississippi ballpark. Sean Gilmartin will start for the prospects team, to be managed by retired Braves manager Bobby Cox for the second year in a row.

Tim Hudson, who will start opening day April 1 against Philadelphia, makes his last spring-training start Tuesday against the Tigers. Minor leaguer Daniel Rodriguez will start Wednesday against Washington and Paul Maholm, who’ll start the second game of the season, makes his last exhibition start Thursday in the Grapefruit League finale vs. Houston.

No. 5 starter Julio Teheran will stay in Florida and pitch in a minor league game Saturday for his final exhibition start.

Etc. Reliever Jonny Venters recorded two groundouts and a strikeout in a perfect inning of work in a minor league game Saturday. It was the lefty’s first game appearance since a four-walk inning March 13 vs. St. Louis, after which the Braves decided to rest him for a stretch of a longer-than-usual spring training to get refreshed before the season….

Catcher Gerald Laird was scheduled to hit Sunday back at Braves training camp and, if he had no problems with the calf he strained early in camp, play Monday or Tuesday. He’s played in only 10 games and is 2-for-20 with seven strikeouts. Gonzalez said Laird should be ready despite the lack of playing time.

“And you know what, that’s given some nice opportunities for the other two guys to play,” he said, referring to backup catcher candidates Evan Gattis and Matt Pagnozzi.

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