Bravers rookie Medlen gets rude welcome to majors

Kris Medlen watched the Rockies put the finishing touches on his major-league debut from the top step of the Braves dugout, chin on the handrail.

That might have been the only way Medlen kept his head from hanging.

The 23-year-old called up to replace Jo-Jo Reyes in the rotation was welcomed to the majors with a blow to the gut Thursday night at Turner Field. He lost control in a wild fourth inning and wound up charged with five runs, the last three of which rounded the bases as he watched from the top step.

His first major-league hit allowed was the 2,001st of Todd Helton's career. Medlen will remember the 2,002nd even less fondly. Helton hit a grand slam off reliever James Parr to score three runners Medlen left on base.

Parr had been the one trying to keep Medlen's mind from racing before the game, asking from one locker over how his round of batting practice went.

There wasn't much to say at the end of the fourth inning, when Parr returned to the dugout down 6-0 in an eventual 9-0 loss. The two friends slapped hands before Medlen headed for the Braves clubhouse.

"The fourth -- it's just puzzling to me," a dejected Medlen said afterward. "It's disappointing, really disappointing."

Those three runners who scored on Helton's home run reached in the most excruciating way possible for Medlen. A guy who prides himself on throwing strikes walked back-to-back hitters on eight pitches, including a pair of wild ones to the backstop.

That drew manager Bobby Cox and assistant trainer Jim Lovell to the mound to check on Medlen. He told them he was OK, but then hit pitcher Aaron Cook with the bases loaded to score a run.

"No injury, no nothing, the ball was just coming off a little bit differently," Medlen said. "I can't explain it, but whatever it is, it's unacceptable. ... That's something I really take pride in, throwing strikes, attacking the zone, repeating my mechanics, and the wheels just fell off."

Medlen was 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA at Class AAA Gwinnett when the Braves decided last week they'd call him up. His debut was pushed back from Tuesday to Thursday because of a rainout, leaving him almost a week to think about it. That looked like about a week too long Thursday night.

Medlen is a bundle of nervous energy to begin with; as a kid his parents used to put him in the car and drive him somewhere to have a conversation with him, so he wouldn't make them dizzy pacing.

His parents Ray and Susan, his girlfriend and an old friend watched from the SunTrust seats behind home plate -- compliments of Derek Lowe -- as Medlen worked through nervous energy in the first inning, giving up a pair of two-out hits, a balk and a run.

It had been six days since Medlen called his mother in Abilene, Texas, from Buffalo where the Gwinnett Braves were. He had been to visit Niagara Falls and wanted to tell her about it. He called her again 45 minutes later.

She was thinking he must need something. Instead, he said, "Mom, what are you doing on Tuesday?"

Soon, they were both in tears.

Tuesday became Thursday, and Thursday didn't turn out to be much to celebrate. His parents were needed for comfort. Living with these results for five days might be hardest of all.

"Just take it in and work on it tomorrow," Medlen said.