LAWRENCEVILLE — Kris Medlen does everything fast.
He talks fast, he runs fast, and when he’s on the mound, he works fast.
A former infielder, the Gwinnett Braves’ 23-year-old right hander has always been a fast worker, and with the way he’s been pitching this year, he’s not going to slow down anytime soon.
Medlen improved to 5-0 on Monday with a 6Ã scoreless outing in the G-Braves’ 4-0 win over Durham. He hasn’t surrendered a run in 20À innings, his ERA for May is 0.00, and he leads the International League with five wins and an ERA of 0.96. He’s also second in the league in strikeouts with 44, which is 13 behind teammate and roommate Tommy Hanson.
"He’s making me look like a genius," Gwinnett pitching coach Derek Botelho said.
That’s not too bad considering Medlen, who struck out 10 batters on May 6 against Syracuse, is considered by most scouts as the second best pitcher in Gwinnett.
"He’s earned it," Medlen said looking over at Hanson. "He’s worked hard and does everything he needs to do. He’s got unbelievable stuff."
Does not being in the spotlight bother him? Nope.
"It’s fine," he said, "I’ll stick in the back. Publicity’s not going to help me get in the big leagues."
While his name isn’t tops among scouts, Medlen’s having a little fun with his friend this season.
"I’m bragging because I’m doing way better than him this year, finally," he said.
Hanson nods, then chimes in.
"It’s friendly competition," said Hanson, who is 1-3 with a 1.99 ERA this season.
That competition comes a year after Hanson helped Medlen make the switch from the bullpen to the starting rotation.
"I guess he mentored me even though I’m older and I can beat him up," Medlen said. "He kind of talked me through it."
The change came rather easily for Medlen, who recorded seven consecutive saves when he played with the Rome Braves in 2007.
"Besides the pitch count and getting tired late in the game, it really wasn’t that much of an adjustment," Medlen said. "You don’t want to change the way you pitch just because you’re a starter."
The way he pitches is fast. Not fast as in he has an overpowering fastball, but fast as in he likes to get on the mound, get set and let it go. There’s no overdrawn delivery and no dilly dallying around the rubber.
"As a former infielder I know how important it is to be on your toes," he said. "Knowing that, I don’t want a slow game."
Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said that type of pitching helps his ball club.
"He sets the tone for the whole game," Brundage said. "He knows his strengths. He’s not a power pitcher, he just forces batters to make outs."
Most of those outs come from an above average change-up and a fastball and curveball that he consistently throws for strikes.
"He’s got an outstanding change-up that he’s not afraid to throw during any count," Botelho said. "Hitters know it’s coming and they still can’t hit it."
That has been evident not only during Medlen’s scoring streak, but throughout the whole season. In his three starts since an April 25 no decision against Charlotte when the streak started in the third inning, Medlen has surrendered seven hits and opposing hitters are hitting .152 against him for the season.
"I’m just making pitches when I have to, and I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I’m taking my time and going over my pitches and going over what I do before I do it," Medlen said. "That’s the big difference from this year and last year."
This year’s he’s pitching the best in his career, and everyone surrounding the young right hander knows that playing in the Major Leagues isn’t a matter of if, but when.
"He’s got to keep having quality outings," Botelho said. "There’s no major flaws in anything he does. When the call comes, it comes, and he’ll be ready to go."
Medlen knows it’s out of his hands, but the fact that he’s gone from the 28th best prospect in the Braves organization after being drafted in 2006 to the pinnacle of the minor leagues in just three years, has him thinking of a possible call up.
"It’s the front office’s decision," Medlen said. "I’m just going to go out there and try to make pitches and let everything fall into place.
"But it’s hard to say you’re not thinking about it when you’re as close as you are."
No one knows when Medlen will get the call up to the majors, but once he gets there everyone will know that his rise to the professional ranks happened just like everything else in his life: fast.
And he wouldn’t want it any other way.