Anytime a pitcher has a second Tommy John surgery, his chances for a full recovery are a bit lower than when coming off the procedure for the first time. But if anyone can do it, bet on Kris Medlen.
The Braves were unable to take that gamble, however, at least with guaranteed money. Medlen signed a two-year contract Thursday with the Kansas City Royals, which includes an option for 2017.
A year ago Medlen was scheduled to be the Braves ace, with Tim Hudson leaving for San Francisco. But in March in Port St. Lucie in a game against the Mets, Medlen threw a pitch that made him jump off the mound in obvious pain. It was determined a few days later Medlen needed a second TJ surgery.
You cannot blame the Braves for being skeptical about Medlen returning to form. It hasn't happened very often that a pitcher has returned to his former self after having a second major elbow procedure. We all saw first-hand how difficult it was for Jonny Venters, who eventually had to have a third elbow procedure.
Medlen was first drafted by the Braves in the 10th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He rose quickly up the minor leagues and made it to the majors in 2009.
But at the end of his 2010 season, when Medlen was on a roll as a starting pitcher, he had his first surgery, which knocked out most of the next season. Medlen then returned as a reliever to start 2012 but was placed back in the rotation late in the year and thrived again in that role.
Then in 2013, Medlen started all but one of his 32 games pitched. He was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, with 197 innings pitched.
Medlen was prepared to be the leader of a young staff last season when he was injured in spring training.
As a starting pitcher, in 61 games, Medlen was 30-13 with a 2.96 ERA. He had a 2.92 ERA in 91 games out of the bullpen.
The Braves continue to look for one more starting pitcher to fill out the rotation. The Royals are losing James Shields through free agency, but Medlen and Edison Volquez, who was signed earlier this week, should make the Royals' rotation stronger.
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Braves lose Medlen to Royals
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