LAKELAND, Fla. – Kris Medlen sat in a plastic chair in the visitor’s clubhouse Thursday morning, munching on an “I-talian” sub and conversing with reporters. “I’ll probably burp it up on the mound,” the Braves pitcher joked about the sandwich.
He held down his lunch without incident and worked two innings as scheduled against the Tigers in his first spring-training start, allowing one run, one walk and two hits in a 5-2 loss at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Get the work in, move to the next start.
“Medlen was good,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He was mixing his pitches well. He was solid.”
There are some indications that Medlen will be the Braves’ opening-day starter March 31 at Milwaukee, although manager Fredi Gonzalez hasn’t made any announcement or said when he will do so. Whether he starts opening day or not, Medlen knows he will have about six more starts this spring, of increasing duration, to build up stamina and sharpen his pitches.
“There’s still a long way to go, but successful (first outing),” Medlen said. “Miguel Cabrera didn’t take me deep, so that’s always a success.”
Yes, Medlen maintained the sense of humor for which he’s known, while describing the objective of Braves pitchers this early in spring training.
“That’s the name of spring for us as an organization, just go out there and try to locate your fastball and kind of challenge guys,” he said. “It’s not very fun when you throw 89 (mph), but you’ve still got to go out there and do it.
“It’s not the most fun when you’re having to challenge Miguel Cabrera to a fastball-hitting contest and you don’t really have a fastball.”
Staked to a 1-0 lead on Ryan Doumit’s two-out RBI triple in the first inning, Medlen gave up the tying run in the bottom of the first following a leadoff walk to Jose Iglesias. The runner advanced on a grounder and a wild pitch when catcher Gerald Laird, after straining his back in the top of the inning, was unable to get his mitt down or block the low pitch. Cabrera drove in the runner with a groundout.
Medlen gave up a leadoff single by Alex Avila in the second inning, and Francisco Martinez added a one-out single to put runners on first and second. Medlen got out of the inning without further damage with a pair of groundouts.
“For the most part I missed with some fastballs,” Medlen said. “But I think what I was most excited about was just missing down (in the strike zone). Usually it’s the opposite, I’m just up, up, up. And I wanted to make those adjustments. It’s hard to make those adjustments in live batting practice when you’ve got an L-screen in front of you, and you’re 5 feet tall trying to throw over it.” (Pitchers throw from behind the L-shaped screen in batting practice.)
“With real hitters up there and all that, it’s fun. I was walking from the bullpen with Gerald and we were both just like, I can’t believe baseball is about to start. Offseason flew by, but we’re physically ready, it’s just a matter of battling your mechanics and just kind of waiting for everything to click.”
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