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Medlen ready for a return to rotation

Right hander in Gwinnett to stretch out and return to starting role for Braves

POSTED: June 1, 2012 9:02 p.m.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Kris Medlen last put on a Triple-A Gwinnett Braves uniform in 2009, just before being called up to Atlanta for his major league debut.

Now the 26-year-old right-hander, who was pitching out of the Atlanta bullpen this season before being designated for assignment, is back at Coolray Field to begin what could be as brief as a three-start minor league stint in order to be stretched out for a spot in the Atlanta rotation.

His first start for the International League South-leading G-Braves is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Saturday against second-place Charlotte in Lawrenceville.

“Once I begin this process tomorrow I’m all in and I’m ready to get going and get back up there,” Medlen said Friday on transitioning back to a starter. “Just for my career and all, that’s what I want to do. I’m a former position player and I love the entire game and the competitiveness that obviously pitching brings to the table, but starting is just a whole different beast, because its not just one inning it’s a marathon.

"You get a chance to set the tone in the game and let the defense work behind you. That’s what I love doing and hopefully they like when I’m on the mound.”

Medlen was a major league starter, and a good one, before being shut down in August 2010 to undergo Tommy John surgery. That season, over 107 2/3 innings as a starter and a reliever, Medlen was 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 31 appearances, 14 as a starter.

He actually returned from his recovery period late last season, pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

While he was stretched out to 60 pitches in spring training this year, Medlen said the plan was for him to be in the bullpen to start, although there would be an evaluation of the team around June to determine if a change needed to be made.

With 2010 All-Star Jair Jurrjens back in Gwinnett after a rough start this year in the majors (9.37 ERA), and Mike Minor (6.98 ERA) and Randall Delgado (4.58 ERA) also having troubles, the decision was made.

Medlen said he wasn’t overjoyed with the news, but he understands the reason.

“They say its a good thing and after the initial news it’s like, I don’t know, but I understand the intent of everything so hopefully it all works out,” he said. “I plan on making it work out, and it’d be better for me in the long run.”

He said the goal is to throw four innings or 60 pitches today, and to work up to at least 100 pitches by the third start. After then it will be determined how much, if any, time Medlen still needs before returning to Atlanta.

He said that just being back in the minors brings a new perspective.

“There’s a reason that everyone strives to be up there (in MLB). It’s just a different game,” Medlen said. “Once you’re up there and you come back down, and I’ve been here two days now, it gives you a different perspective. You’ve got to keep working and work your way back up there, it’s what everyone’s striving to do down here, and what everyone’s trying to avoid up there is to get sent down here.”

At least, however long he’s in Gwinnett, his commute is quite a bit shorter.

“I live in Sugarloaf, in Duluth, so I’m four exits away,” he said. “So gas-money wise, it’s awesome.”

And as long as he’s pitching for the G-Braves, he has a chance to help them stay in first place.

“I enjoyed my time here in 2010. A great coaching staff, great facilities and the team’s in first place too, so why wouldn’t you want to play for a team that’s in first place?” Medlen said. “I couldn’t be happier with the situation knowing that the goal is to have me back up there as a starter.”

And once he’s back up to Atlanta, he’ll be looked upon to pitch another Braves team back into first place.


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