As he walked off the field without even seeing the trainer, it was clear that the Atlanta Braves might be in the market for a new starter this Spring.
Kris Medlen was seen favoring his elbow in his start Sunday against the New York Mets. After he threw one more pitch, he walked off the field and was then tended to. Officially, the team is saying that Medlen has a right forearm strain, but according to sources, that injury could be due to an issue with the elbow. He will be evaluated on Monday to see if there is structural damage to his elbow.
Medlen is no stranger to elbow problems, having Tommy John surgery and missing pretty much the whole 2011 season. When he came back, he pitched at a pace that got him votes in the 2012 MVP voting, going 10-1 in 12 starts and 50 total appearances. The team set a MLB record when they won 23 consecutive games that Medlen had started in dating back to 2010. He secured the record in the final regular season home game that Braves legend Chipper Jones played in Atlanta.
2013 wasn’t as nice to Medlen, as he struggled to be over .500 for most of the season, finishing strong at 15-12. He gave up almost 9.0 H/9, and his strikeout numbers were down. With those struggles, he pitched to a 1.7 WAA.
Medlen has high expectations for the 2014 season, and the team most likely expected him to carry this staff and be the Opening Day starter. Through his “struggles” of 2013, the Braves held confidence in Medlen (as they should) and there is little doubt that he could have easily won another 15 games for the team in 2014.
Even if Medlen goes down for a long period of time, which I hope doesn’t happen, there’s no need for the team to press the panic button and make a desperate move. There is a good chance that the team can patch the hole long enough to find what they need to replace him — that is if he has to miss a lot of time.