As excited as Kris Medlen was to accept an offer to play in the World Baseball Classic earlier this month, the closer he got to his pregnant wife’s due date, the more he realized he’d made the wrong decision.
He informed the Braves and Team USA manager Joe Torre Thursday he would be withdrawing.
“Being asked to play for Team USA was really crazy and awesome,” Medlen said. “But I think I may have jumped the gun committing that early. I was so fired up about it. Then once I came back down off Cloud Nine, I was like ‘Wait, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this.’”
His wife Nicki is due to have a son, their first child, on Feb. 5. Medlen still plans to report to Braves camp with pitchers and catchers Feb. 11, but after their baby’s two-week check-up, his wife’s father is planning to drive her to Lake Buena Vista, Fla. where she and the baby will stay for the rest of spring training.
To pitch in the WBC, Medlen would have had to leave for Arizona a week later and possibly be gone much of the next few weeks.
“It just didn’t seem right to me,” he said. “(Withdrawing) was a no-brainer after I thought about it.”
Medlen worried changing his mind would disappoint people, especially since “it’s not like the baby snuck up on me.” But he said Torre understood.
“Torre was like, ‘It looks like you’ve already got it figured out that family always comes first,’” Medlen said.
Medlen revealed his decision publicly Friday at a Braves caravan stop in Lawrenceville, when a fan asked him about the WBC during a question-and-answer session.
While this means the Braves can keep a closer eye on his workload during spring training, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said more important than that were Medlen’s personal priorities.
“I think he made a good call,” Gonzalez said. “You only have your first baby once.”
That leaves closer Craig Kimbrel as the Braves’ only representative on Team USA. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a native of Curacao, plans to play for the Netherlands and utility infielder Ramiro Pena for his native Mexico.
“Other than getting a starting job with the Atlanta Braves, this was the coolest opportunity I’ve had,” said Medlen, who would have worked with pitching coach and former Brave Greg Maddux. “You always see guys from other teams coming up and shaking each other’s hands, like they know each other. I don’t have that. So I think it’d be cool to play with some guys from other teams. Obviously the Greg Maddux thing would have been cool, but priorities.”