Veteran pitcher Kris Medlen hoping to land job with Arizona Diamondbacks
PEORIA, Ariz. – As it stands now, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting rotation is set.
There are no jobs to be won here in spring training. They currently belong to Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley.
But no big-league team goes through an entire season with just five starters.
The D-backs last season had 10 different pitchers make at least one start. So, the team is going to need to find reinforcements.
“We feel like we have a lot of depth to choose from if something were to back up on us with our five. We know who our five are. We feel very good about that. I think they were the catalyst for what led to a successful year last year,” manager Torey Lovullo said.
“We know that at times you’re going to have to dip into the six, seven, eight and nine area of starting pitchers, and we feel like we have a good group that we can choose from, a good pool that we can choose from.”
That pool, according to Lovullo, includes internal candidates Matt Koch, Braden Shipley and Albert Suarez; the latter of whom the D-backs plucked from the San Francisco Giants in the Rule 5 draft.
There are also minor league prospects—right-handers Taylor Clarke and Jon Duplantier—to be considered. And then there’s Shelby Miller, a wild card, who likely won’t be available until mid-season, at the earliest, following Tommy John surgery.
Left-hander Anthony Banda would’ve also made the list if he hadn’t been traded to help facilitate the acquisition of outfielder Steve Souza Jr.
And Lovullo mentioned one more name, a veteran, 32-year-old Kris Medlen.
Signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, Medlen is two years removed from his last big-league start.
Shoulder issues sidelined him for most of 2016 and Medlen, who twice has undergone Tommy John surgery, spent all of last season in the minors, pitching at all three levels—and going a combined 5-8 with a 4.95 ERA—in the Atlanta Braves’ organization.
“I think I figured some things out. I made 20 starts for the first time in a couple of years, so it was good for my mind, go and pitch without any kind of limitations,” he said, before adding, “Arizona was nice enough to give me a chance to make the team.”
Again, for that to happen coming out of spring training, Medlen would likely do so as a reliever, which wouldn’t be a new role. He’s come out of the bullpen on-and-off throughout his seven-year Major League Baseball career.
And then who’s to say, should an injury occur, the D-backs wouldn’t call on Medlen to start a game.
“He was practically a Cy Young (candidate) with the Braves back when he was really charging through and establishing himself, so we know that there’s a track record there,” Lovullo said, referring to Medlen’s 2012 season when he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 50 games, including 12 starts.
“It’s mostly from a health standpoint,” Lovullo continued. “As far as the surgeries and everything has been put behind him, I think he had a full year, a full load last year, so we feel like things are progressing for him.”
Medlen pitched Monday. He went one inning, allowing two runs on one hit—a ninth-inning two-run home run by San Diego Padres designated hitter Raffy Lopez—with one walk, three strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch in what was his third Cactus League appearance.
At 32, Medlen is closer to the end than the beginning of his career. Yet, in the last year, year-plus, he’s made some mechanical adjustments, which he believes may have contributed to some of his arm injuries, and worked to strength his legs to help lessen the stress off his upper body.
Medlen and the D-backs have a decision to make this month. According to reports, Medlen’s deal includes an opt-out if he is not on the 40-man roster by March. 27.
“I’m at the point in my career where I want to play baseball and I want to do it healthy and wherever that it is, that’s kind of where it’ll be,” he said. “But, I’m confident I can make the team and I’ll maintain that until they tell me otherwise.”
A former 10th-round draft pick, Medlen has maintained a positive attitude throughout all the ups and downs over his baseball journey.
“I don’t think I’ll be the first one to be in this situation. Injuries derail a ton of guys. I just think over the course of however many years you kind of gain a stronger mental game out of it, having to bounce back. I mean, it’s life,” he said.
“People deal with stuff all the time, getting knocked down and having to get back up and show up and do their jobs. It’s just we get to do it on TV and make money while we get to play a game.
“I’m just fortunate to have the career I’ve already had. Just trying to hang on as long as I can because it’s so much fun. It’s cool to bounce around and see different organizations and meet different guys and stuff, so it’s just all positive from my standpoint.”