Medlen could be Braves rotation option soon, but not yet

Kris Medlen is working his way up the Braves’ minor league system as he attempts his comeback from shoulder injuries that sidelined him for much of last season with the Royals. He had two Tommy John elbow surgeries during his years with the Braves through 2014. (AJC file photo)

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Kris Medlen is working his way up the Braves’ minor league system as he attempts his comeback from shoulder injuries that sidelined him for much of last season with the Royals. He had two Tommy John elbow surgeries during his years with the Braves through 2014. (AJC file photo)

Kris Medlen will be a terrific story if he makes it all the way back to pitch again for the Braves, but he and team officials agree the timing isn't quite right for him to replace Bartolo Colon in the starting rotation. At least not yet.

After previously coming back from two Tommy John elbow surgeries, Medlen is now coming back from shoulder problems, working his way up the Braves system without any setbacks through his first four encouraging starts. But after only two starts in high Single-A and two at Double-A, the Braves want him to continue focusing on building arm strength and getting everything right before considering the popular veteran for a major league call-up.

Medlen, 31, had a 3.97 ERA in two starts at high-A Florida, and has posted a 1.74 ERA in two starts since being bumped up to Double-A Mississippi.

“He would have been a good option, but he’s just not there yet,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t think it would be fair to him until his workload gets a little more substantial. He would be a guy you’d be real comfortable with (when he’s ready) because he knows, he can navigate around the lineup. But at this point in time, as far as he’s come and as good as he’s doing, we really don’t want to do that to him yet.

“Three weeks from now, probably be a different story. But right now I think it’s just a little too early in his workload that he’s had so far to think that would be an option right now.”

Medlen has allowed 10 hits, four runs (two earned) and three walks with eight strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings at Mississippi, where he needed just 71 pitches to work six innings (four hits, one run, one walk) in his most recent start Sunday. He could be promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett soon.

“Just trying to get a better feel for all my pitches and get deeper into games, use up some more pitches,” Medlen said.

Braves fans remember him as the baby-faced underdog who worked his way into a spot in the rotation and seemed poised for big things before his second Tommy John surgery in spring training 2014. He had a 41-25 record and 3.25 ERA in 173 games (75 starts) over five seasons with the Braves through 2013, and made headlines in 2012 when he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 50 games including 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts after a midseason move to the rotation.

He had a $5.8 million contract for 2014 and was set to be a featured piece of the Braves rotation before again tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, required a second Tommy John surgery that kept him out of the entire season, his last in the Braves organization.

The Royals gave him a two-year, $8.5 million deal because Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, a former Braves assistant GM, thought so highly of Medlen that he was willing to gamble on the pitcher coming back from a second Tommy John surgery.

After going 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA in 15 games (eight starts) for the Royals in 2015, Medlen twice was sidelined by shoulder woes in 2016 and went 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA in six major league starts. The Royals declined his 2017 option and he considered retirement, but changed his mind after meeting with a biomechanics expert in New Orleans and discussing ways that he could alter his delivery and relieve stress on his arm.