LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Kris Medlen prefers to start, but he has the versatility to pitch well in relief and he knows the Braves have top prospects competing for starting jobs.
And so the bullpen is where the Braves plan to use him in 2012. However, manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated Monday that Medlen would get “stretched out” like the projected starters this spring, just in case.
“He could jump in there as a starter if he needs to,” Gonzalez said. “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.”
Gonzalez said Medlen would probably “piggy back” with another starter in spring games, coming in to pitch multiple innings after the starter leaves the game. He could also start some split-squad or “B” games.
“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.”
Medlen missed most of 2011 recovering from ligament-transplant elbow surgery, but returned for two scoreless relief appearances in the last week of the season (2-1/3 innings, one hit, no walks, two strikeouts).
He was 5-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 14 starts in 2010 before blowing out his elbow.
The Braves have one opening in the rotation, and Mike Minor will compete with prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado for that job. Another will probably fill in while Tim Hudson is on the disabled list in April recovering from back surgery.
“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.”
Prado glad to be back
Left fielder Martin Prado was at the center of trade rumors that began soon after the season ended, and Gonzalez called him in November to explain as best he could what was going on.
After being connected with various proposed deals involving Colorado, Baltimore and among other teams, Prado wasn’t traded. When he reported to camp Monday, four days before position players were due, he sounded as determined and focused as ever.
“[Trade rumors] is part of my business I cannot control,” he said. “I love this team. I’m so glad, so thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had from them. I love every single guy in this clubhouse and this team. I’m probably going to be a Brave, but things happen.”
Prado is back for his second season as a left fielder and Chipper Jones’ backup at third base, and this time he said he knows exactly what to expect and how to prepare.
The former utility infielder was an All-Star second baseman in 2010 in his first full season as a lineup regular. Prado didn’t complain after being switched to accommodate Dan Uggla, whom the Braves acquired in a November 2010 trade.
“Now I have more of an idea what I need to do, because some days you’re playing left field and some days third base,” he said. “I have to be ready for every scenario.”