Gonzalez said that though Medlen prefers to start, his versatility and ability to pitch in long relief will garner him a spot in the bullpen at the beginning of the season but that he will be "stretched out" like a starting pitcher in Spring Training in the event of injuries wreaking havoc on the rotation. He will probably start some split-squad games and come in relief to throw multiple innings after a starter in other games.
“He could jump in there as a starter if he needs to,” Gonzalez told ajc.com. “So we’ll stretch him out, get to four or five innings there at the end [of spring training] like every other starter, and then if everybody is healthy – which is a good sign – then he’ll go to the bullpen and do whatever we want as far as those middle innings.”
Though Medlen missed almost all of 2011 while recuperating from Tommy John surgery, he threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in September. In 2010, he went 5-0 in 14 starts before going under the knife.
The whole long relief thing — I don’t want to say I’m better than that, but I feel like I want a role and I want to be a starter,” Medlen said. “Once you get the taste of controlling games and setting the tone, that’s my thing. I’m like, dude, I’ve got to do that again. But I’m just excited to be healthy, either way.”
As of now, the Braves have one rotation opening, which is expected to go to Mike Minor, Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado. With Tim Hudson likely out until May, another of those three will likely take his spot in the rotation.
“I know Huddy’s going to miss some time, but I know there are like eight, nine dudes going for five [starting] spots,” Medlen said. “Obviously my goal is to be a starter; that’s what I want to do. I think they’re talking about stretching me out, but I don’t know exactly.”
It seems Gonzalez may be onto something with using Medlen as a reliever. Medlen has a 6-2 career record as a starter with a 4.31 ERA. Though he has a 3-5 record as a reliever, his ERA sits at 3.23, and his strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio is a full two points higher.
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