Medlen brings confidence to wild card playoff

If you weren’t listening closely you didn’t hear it. But in addition to his pitching talents, his record winning streak, and a starting nod in Friday’s wild card one-game playoff against the Cardinals, Kris Medlen has a knack for one-liners.

So when a reporter prefaced a question about one of his eye-popping statistics recently by saying “beyond the streak, which is obviously going to end at some point…,” a little voice from Medlen’s vicinity goes, “nuh uh.”

It went unnoticed, so Medlen came back with: “Will it?”

The question was more of an answer, really, and a nod to the power of his capacity for positive thinking.

The former 10th round pick of the Braves is 5-foot-10 – maybe with his hair spiked up – and his fastball tops out at about 92, but he is a sports psychologist’s dream. For those who preach picturing the positive, Medlen is a poster boy. What images can he conjure up at this point that don’t look good?

The Braves have won Medlen’s past 23 starts, one more than the live-ball record he broke belonging to Hall-of-Famers Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford. The Braves haven’t lost one of Medlen’s starts since May 23, 2010 in Pittsburgh.

It has been so long since then that when Medlen returned to PNC Park earlier this week, he didn’t remember where the visiting clubhouse was, or the food room.

That might have something to do with all that’s happened since that day: Medlen led the Braves to 11 straight wins that year, blew out his elbow, underwent elbow reconstruction surgery, endured a 13-month rehab, moved back to the bullpen, to the minors to stretch out, to the bullpen again and finally on July 31, to the rotation.

In that time, Medlen also bought a house in Duluth, met a girl, got married, and started a family.

On the eve of the first postseason start of Medlen’s career in Friday’s wild card playoff, Nicki Medlen was just grateful she’s only five months pregnant with their first child.

“I’m definitely more nervous than he is,” she said. “…I’m glad I’m not eight months pregnant and going to go into labor any time soon.”

For Kris Medlen, nervousness is pretty much his natural state. He fidgets. He finds about two reasons to slow down: watching an episode of Breaking Bad and pitching.

“I’m a little anxious and nervous no matter what the start is like,” said Medlen. “It’s a one-game situation so obviously it’s going to be a little bit stressful but (I’ll) approach it with some confidence and know that we can go to the next round….

“People approach things negatively and positively, and I’m one of the positive people. I don’t think like, ‘Oh man what if we lose.’ I’m thinking, ‘Man, what if we win?’”

It’s really not that far-fetched for Medlen to believe he can be the guy to see this through. He’s got the statistics to back it up – 15-2 with a 2.81 ERA as a starter for his career, including 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA since rejoining the rotation July 31.

And he’s got some history with pressure situations of his own.

Medlen was a ninth grader on the JV team at Gahr High in Cerritos, Calif., when he and his father showed up at a varsity game just to see how the big boys would do against West Torrance. The starting pitcher didn’t show up that day, so Coach Tom Bergeron told Medlen to go home and get his glove.

“The guy was a senior and hadn’t pitched varsity before,” Bergeron said of the scheduled starter. “I think he was scared.”

Medlen, all 5-feet, 97 pounds of him, pitched four innings of the seven-inning game and Gahr won 2-1.

“Talk about nerve-wracking,” Medlen said. “…That was my World Series right there.”

By the time Medlen was a senior, Bergeron pitched him 10 innings in a state playoff game – the maximum for a California high school pitcher in a week. Medlen played the last two innings at shortstop before his team lost in the 12th.

“He’s just not afraid,” Bergeron said. “He loves the competition. And he really loves playing baseball.”

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez understands the temptation to push the envelope with Medlen. He pitched Medlen in relief of Craig Kimbrel with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth of the must-win 2011 finale against the Phillies, when Medlen had made only one appearance in his comeback from surgery. Medlen got the out on a pop-up and three more in a scoreless 10th inning.

It’s why Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren started Medlen in the bullpen this season with an eye toward capping him at 160-innings and heeded pitching coach Roger McDowell’s advice that if they opened the season with Medlen in the rotation, it would be hard to take him out.

In 12 starts since moving to the rotation, Medlen has given up one or no runs 10 times. He’s pitched two complete games. He’s won National League pitcher of the month twice, something no Brave has done with Greg Maddux in 2001.

His idea of a bad outing was the Braves playoff clincher. He gave up three runs to the Marlins Sept. 25 but kept the team in position to win.

Medlen hasn’t been charged with a loss since the first two starts of his major league career. Even Maddux lost 14 games his second season in the majors. Tom Glavine had 17 losses his second year.

About the age when those future Hall-of-Famers were in their primes, Medlen was undergoing “Tommy John” surgery, and that’s where he believes he gained some of his greatest experience.

“When you care so much about your job and the game and it gets taken away from you, it puts a lot of things in perspective,” Medlen said. “(It) gave me a new outlook on how hard you have to work to stay here.”

Medlen’s greatest fear wasn’t failure. It was sitting in the dugout in a sling, wondering if he should have come up with a backup plan somewhere along the line. Fear was what Medlen felt after throwing a curveball 30 feet in the bullpen, thinking a scar tissue break-up was his ligament blowing out again.

So when it comes to this winning streak, Medlen isn’t big on superstitions. The red T-shirt he wears every day isn’t for luck. It’s out of support for a friend and former college baseball player who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. The peanut butter and honey sandwich Medlen makes before every start is for a high-energy meal that won’t “weigh him down.”

Medlen, whose father Ray drives a big-rig truck for Fed-Ex and mother Susan decorates cakes at Albertson’s grocery store, is confident but grounded. When reporters have asked him recently about breaking Ford and Hubbell’s record, Medlen said: “I don’t belong with them.”

Back in Southern California, the coach who sent Medlen out to start as a freshman on the fly, has heard him say that. And Bergeron has another thought: “What if he does?”

48 comments Add your comment

Big Ed

October 4th, 2012
3:50 pm

First. Go Braves!!!

Dave P

October 4th, 2012
3:55 pm

GO BRAVES!!!!

CLE

October 4th, 2012
4:02 pm

Fantastic article, Carroll.

A Place for Facts

October 4th, 2012
4:03 pm

Great article, Carroll!

Slips

October 4th, 2012
4:07 pm

perfect assessment DOB. Kris Medlen really could be in a position to take over this city the way the Maddog and Galvine and Smoltz did 10+ years ago. Wouldn’t have it any other way than him pitching game 163.

Slips

October 4th, 2012
4:07 pm

and by DOB I mean Carroll!

Warhead

October 4th, 2012
4:08 pm

SpideyMatt

October 4th, 2012
4:12 pm

Carroll, you were in the zone with this one! Thanks for another great read!

I’ve made the transition from nerves to excitement about the game tomorrow, and Medlen is the main reason for that.

GO BRAVES!!!

Max Sizemore

October 4th, 2012
4:25 pm

Very nice writing. Very.

Kris

October 4th, 2012
4:25 pm

Medlen will win. He has a great first name.

Max Sizemore

October 4th, 2012
4:30 pm

Those Braves fans who like to read about defensive metrics should like the following:

http://www.actasports.com/statoftheweek/

Dum-Bass

October 4th, 2012
4:41 pm

Would love to be the only person listening in on a conversation between Medlen and Yogi Berra! What a hoot that would be! YB, is the king of one-liners, and my all time favorite is “you have to go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

Columbus

October 4th, 2012
4:44 pm

Medley? Does it not say “Medley” on page 1? Uh huh.

JoeBravesFan

October 4th, 2012
4:46 pm

Medlen has played spectacularly this season, but if he wins this play-in game, you can bet he’ll be in a Braves uniform for as long as he is able to play. Can’t wait to see him dominate the Red Birds tomorrow! GO BRAVES!

medley

October 4th, 2012
4:48 pm

who is medley…gotta love the ajc

Tip O' the Cap

October 4th, 2012
4:51 pm

Impressive words from the young-Maddux, uhm, Medlen. Thanks Carroll.

Just The Facts

October 4th, 2012
4:55 pm

He has the perfect make-up for this start. Go Med-Dawg!

Darryl Blackberry

October 4th, 2012
4:59 pm

Offnote

October 4th, 2012
5:27 pm

I know others have written this; but with Medlen, Beachy, and Hudson, the Braves have a super trio.

First, I hope they go far this post-season.

Offnote

October 4th, 2012
5:27 pm

I know others have written this; but with Medlen, Beachy, and Hudson, the Braves have a super trio.

First, I hope they go far this post-season.

JNick

October 4th, 2012
5:29 pm

Best article I’ve read on AJC all year. Thanks Carroll.

IHEARTCARROLL

October 4th, 2012
5:47 pm

Honestly Ms. Rogers, a great piece of writing. If they every ban sports altogether, you could have a career in literature. And I’m not saying that just because of my moniker.

Brave New World

October 4th, 2012
5:48 pm

Carroll: Great article! Thanks.

ChipperisGod

October 4th, 2012
6:07 pm

This article got me pumped. I’m already pumped, can’t concentrate on school today. But now I’m super pumped. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Meds is focused and locked in. Ross I think calls a better game than Mac, and will continue to do the same tomorrow. Great moves all around by Fredi. It’s tough to start Ross over Mac, but I think it’s the right choice given the circumstances.

Get em Med Dog! Go Braves!

J J

October 4th, 2012
6:17 pm

pitching is going to do you no good. you have to score rund. as long as you got Hooters hero bossing the game. YOU ARE DONE>

Quack Quack

October 4th, 2012
6:25 pm

Hey Carroll Rogers, Great article. I think Kris Medlen has what it takes to be out next HOF player. What confidence. He is smart, and a studier. He will know every twitch that each batter will have, and go right after them. I feel the stars are lining up in our favor for a deep October!

GO BRAVES!!!

Keith

October 4th, 2012
8:35 pm

Carroll,

Definitely one of your best recent blogs. Excellent work into the humanity side of all things Medlen. Well done.

Here’s the way I see it:

Cardinals definitely have the experience and offensive edge but the Braves have:
Best starter
Best MLB bullpen
Best NL defense
Chipper’s last year

Braves win 3-1. Go BRAVES! :)

Keith

October 4th, 2012
8:37 pm

Re: JJ

Actually, the Braves won’t have to score but maybe 2-3 runs to win. And chipper/Freeman/Bourn who all have been hot lately will provide those rbi.

Go BRAVES!

Yogi Berra

October 4th, 2012
9:45 pm

Dum-Bass..Number 8 is behind the plate for this Season Game. 94 wins and you still must win a stupid play-off game with someone 6.5 games back. Bud needs a kick in the a@@.

Csonka

October 4th, 2012
10:00 pm

Outstanding column on an extraordinary guy. Great job, Carroll.

LetsGoMedlen

October 4th, 2012
10:13 pm

Great article.

To SpideyMatt: I’ve made the transition as well.

Atlanta believes in you Medlen, and we believe the Braves can make it over this hurdle. Do us proud!

bostonbravo

October 4th, 2012
11:16 pm

saw him on MLB TV today..this kid is & always has been a CLASSIC!! Only butt holes like Fredi & Frank can screw it up. This guy is a legend/nonconformist type made for NYC or LA. He’s Jim McMahon, Tim Rossovich, Rocker, Gene Simmons, Roger Clemons all in one! The “Media” will give him up in a second for the millions he’ll be needing to stay in sleepy Atlanta.

SpideyMatt

October 5th, 2012
6:26 am

To LetsGoMedlen: He seems to have a way of instilling confidence in folks, doesn’t he? I think he has that same affect on his teammates. They play hard for him.

To ChipperIsGod: I felt the same way after reading this. I forwarded the link to a few buddies with the subject line “Get pumped.” :)

GO BRAVES!!!

J J

October 5th, 2012
7:29 am

As long as you have the Hooters hero on the team, you LOSE. See you next year.

Carroll beat Bisher

October 5th, 2012
8:24 am

Carroll, you painted the corners with this article, really pounded the zone. Furman-esque writing. You are on a 162 game winning streak, keep it up!

Quack Quack

October 5th, 2012
8:27 am

@J J…..Hey DH, and in your case that does not mean designated hitter, so sad to hide behind a computer screen and make comments that mean nothing to anyone. You really should try and make better use of your time. Being a cyber bully is a sickness. I hope you get well soon.

GO BRAVES!!!

SimpleDawg

October 5th, 2012
8:42 am

Medlin…….. ’nuff said.

SimpleDawg

October 5th, 2012
8:42 am

Medlin…….. ’nuff said.

J J

October 5th, 2012
9:16 am

@Quack Quack I am a whole lot healthier than the Braves are. They have 2 broken down catchers. A 3rd baseman who would rather be at Hooters. A SS who is a rookie and doesn’t have a clue how to play in plat offs A 2nd baseman who continually K’s. A CF who would rather be a National.. That leaves only 3. Not enough to stop the slaughter.

J J

October 5th, 2012
9:16 am

@Quack Quack I am a whole lot healthier than the Braves are. They have 2 broken down catchers. A 3rd baseman who would rather be at Hooters. A SS who is a rookie and doesn’t have a clue how to play in plat offs A 2nd baseman who continually K’s. A CF who would rather be a National.. That leaves only 3. Not enough to stop the slaughter.

bravesfan

October 5th, 2012
9:18 am

Braves fans, let’s start from the first pitch today and get loud and support the BRAVES
be the 10th man today from the get go.

J J

October 5th, 2012
9:40 am

wheres the other 9. definitely not on field

lee

October 5th, 2012
9:43 am

medlin has 4 pt plus era in 5 2/3 against stl this year???? not too positive.

Don

October 5th, 2012
10:29 am

Regardless of anything else, there are two bright spots:
(1) We will not have to see Bobby Cox managing,
(2) We will not have to see Andruw Jones comming to the plate.

BosnianBaller

October 5th, 2012
12:57 pm

I am hoping for a win today. If anyone remembers Medlen’s first career start it was the worst start for any one pitcher that I have seen.I just hope he isn’t nervous today like he was back then

a fan

October 5th, 2012
2:38 pm

JJ
BITE ME bet we hear from you tomorrow you sorry ass.

JMac

October 5th, 2012
3:18 pm

I believe the streak will end today. Kris might pitch a great game, but somewhere, sometime the streak will end, and I think it will be today. The Cardinals have some history in things like this. This century, they have won more regular season games than any other NL team; won more playoff games than any other NL team; won more World Championships(2) than any other NL team. They have been basically in a pressure packed September race the past 2 seasons, where every game was huge, having faced and won every challenge. The Cards are playoff hardened, while the Braves are not used to this kind of pressure. Cardinals win today, then knock off the Nationals and advance to the NLCS with a chance to defend their Championship.

http://zht138.com/fqsq/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=1859216

October 5th, 2013
10:35 pm

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