IcemanSports

Kris Medlen-Ace in the Hole

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EXCLUSIVE Q&A BELOW WITH KRIS MEDLEN!

When you think of the best pitchers in baseball or “Aces” the first names that often come to mind are: Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee… and rightfully so.  One pitcher you may see added to this list in 2014 is the new “Ace” and veteran of the Atlanta Braves staff Kris Medlen. 

Delegated to the bullpen after Tommy John surgery in 2011, it looked as if he had found his niche as a middle reliever.  But after the Braves starting rotation was plagued by injuries in 2012, Medlen took over the #1 starter role and has yet to look back.  Since moving back into the rotation, Medlen has gone 25-13 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.095 WHIP with 277 strikeouts.  Compared to many top level pitchers, those statistics paint the portrait of a number one starter in the NL East division.

Only 28 years old and in his prime, I feel he is poised to take the next step in his development and become an elite pitcher.  At one point in his career, he appeared to be a laid-back kid content with his place on the roster, but over the last two years he has evolved into a seasoned pitcher with playoff experience and a hunger for championships: a perfect fit to lead this staff.

Now a husband and father, Medlen and this new found maturity will certainly translate to dominance on the mound.  I had the privilege of interviewing him yesterday and you can tell by the way he conducts himself and the way he owns the mound that a bright future awaits him.  Not only will he be considered our “Ace” (A title I should note he does not believe in) but I am willing to say he will finish in the top 5 in the Cy Young Race as early as this year.  Kris Medlen is the Braves new Ace in the Hole.

Kris Medlen Q&A

IcemanSports: What is the biggest difference between Kris Medlen in 2013 and 2014?

Kris Medlen: I’ve had a full year of dad strength build up, so that helps. The experience that I had being a starter for a full year and understanding what it takes to keep your body healthy for a full season, how your arm and pitches react to fatigue throughout the year, and what you need to do when you may not have your best stuff to still get guys out.

IcemanSports: Do you truly believe you are ready to make the next jump in your career and is that jump to be the #1(ace) starter for the Braves?

Kris Medlen: I’ve always believed I’ve been good enough to match up against anyone/team, but I feel like too much is put on the word “ace”. At this level any pitcher can beat any team any given day. And throughout the year number 1′s go against number 5′s all the time, it almost doesn’t even matter. Just as long as each guy is preparing himself day in and day out for his job, you don’t need to worry about an “ace” because an “ace” can’t pitch everyday.

IcemanSports: After another tough post season loss do you believe we need one more veteran in the rotation?

Kris Medlen: I’d be a fool if I didn’t admit us losing Tim Hudson was a big deal, but we played without him and guys rose to the occasion because we knew we had to. Tim has been so great for my development as a pitcher and person. Guys come and go every year, and you need to deal with that. And what better way than to be thrown into the fire and develop on the job.

IcemanSports: With such a young rotation, and now a guy the younger pitchers will look up to, what is your advice to the young staff now that you have the experience, and are considered the veteran of the staff?

Kris Medlen: Trust your stuff and know you belong at this level because guys don’t accidentally make it this far. It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication throughout our entire lives and you need to know that you can be competitive. Also, don’t give hitters too much credit; even the good ones get out 7 out of 10 times. Attack the strike zone.

IcemanSports: With Chipper retiring and McCann gone who do you think are the guys taking over as the leaders of this young Braves team?

Kris Medlen: Bmac and Chipper both had to become leaders at a young age and with the youth on this team guys like Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Mike Minor, Craig Kimbrel are easy candidates for leadership, not to mention the veteran experience we do have on the team as well.

IcemanSports: Do you think Freddie’s big contract will change him? Will this become a distraction for other players becoming a free agent?

Kris Medlen: Well I think it’s obvious about what the Braves organization feels about Freddie Freeman with the contract he just signed, but no one in our lineup deserves it more than Freddie Freeman. He’s a dynamic player and a humble person and is more than capable of carrying the load that comes with expectations that his contract brings. If you do things correctly, the business side of things will never interrupt what goes on at the field.

IcemanSports: Do the current Braves pitchers ever pick the brain of previous legends Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz? If so what is the best advice you have ever received from them?

Kris Medlen: The Braves organization has been lucky enough to have pitchers of that caliber and have also been lucky enough to constantly have these players around after retirement. Any time these guys are around they make themselves available for anything. It hasn’t necessarily been advice given from any former player, but they are examples of how to carry yourself professionally on and off the field.

IcemanSports: What does it take to be the ace of a contender? Are you ready for this challenge?

Kris Medlen: I wouldn’t know, I don’t think of it that way. Like I said, the word “ace” is thrown around a lot but if each guy in our rotation thinks of himself as an ace we will consistently put ourselves in good positions to win games, which is always the most important thing.

IcemanSports: What is your favorite part about Spring Training?

Kris Medlen: This year I’m definitely excited about taking my son to Disney World for the first time.

IcemanSports: What does your off season normally consist of as far as preparation for the upcoming season?

Kris Medlen: A full month off after the season. Lifting weights and cardio up to New Years, day 1 of January begins my throwing program combined with workouts until spring training.

IcemanSports: Does you feel like the Braves get enough respect since most experts once again are picking the Nationals to win the division?

Kris Medlen: The Nationals have gotten a lot of attention for a reason, they are a very good team with a lot of good young talent and we respect them as opponents. The game is played between the lines and that’s all that matters. We look forward to the challenge of defending our national east title against four quality opponents. It’s what we live for.

I want to give a HUGE shout out to Kris’s wife Nicki Medlen who made this interview possible.  We, at IcemanSports, wish the Medlens a great trip to Disney World with their newborn son Max and a successful season with the Bravos.

 

Matty Ice 2/11/14