Medlen Rehab On Track


In case you missed it, there’s a nice article on the site about Kris Medlen’s recovery from elbow surgery (read it here).

It appears that things are going very well at the four month mark post-surgery. In fact, he’s scheduled to begin throwing any day now. Assuming the recovery remains on track, the Braves will have some tough decisions to make about how best to use him when he returns around August 1. Let’s take a look at the some of the things they’ll have to consider:

The first concern, obviously, is Medlen’s health. If he follows the normal return path, initially he’ll be throwing with a little less velocity than normal, probably in the neighborhood of 3 MPH. Further, most pitchers have mental obstacles to overcome as well; usually, they are reluctant to really “cut it loose” with any of their pitches, including hard breaking stuff. Of course, virtually none of the pitchers will admit to this, but a cursory look at Fangraphs data for several pitchers confirms this. In any case, I’d bet most of you have observed this as well.

The second concern, though just as important, is what’s happening with the starting rotation. Injuries may well dictate that he return directly to the rotation. Poor performance by one or more of the starters could well do the same. Another possibility is that there could be a strong need for a long reliever, especially from the number four and five spots in the rotation. Short stints have been an issue for Lowe for a long time, and we all know that young starters, even future Hall-Of-Famers, have a tendency to get shelled early fairly regularly.

The third concern is the state of the bullpen. I personally am not as bullish on the current ‘pen as others seem to be. I got to see Linebrink throw a couple of times last year and he didn’t look like the same pitcher as two or three years ago. I also saw Sherrill both early and late in 2010. While his stuff still looked pretty good to me, his confidence appeared to be shot. I would have thought that he would have gotten that worked out over the course of the entire season, but it didn’t look like it to me (and the Dodgers ran him out there over 60 times despite a 6+ ERA; looks like Torre was thinking the same as me!). If those two guys aren’t carrying their own weight, look out for Fredi’s bullpen usage to look a lot like Bobby’s, with 3 or 4 guys getting worn down. I will add a caveat that performance tends to vary widely from year-to-year amongst middle relievers, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see both of the new guys doing well, but it’s not what my gut’s telling me.

Looking into my crystal ball, I think we’ll see Medlen used a lot like he was when he first came up. I think he’ll work some rust out in long relief, then he’ll move into the mix for the seventh and eight innings. I would be surprised a bit to see him back in the rotation this year. I only think it’ll happen in the event of injury and even in that case the Braves may be tempted to bring up Tehran at mid-season if the pennant race is tight and he is still progressing ahead of schedule.

I’m sure all of you agree with me, right?