Because Medlen faced the unchallenging Miami offense for his season debut as a starter we have to take it with eleven grains of salt, but he looked great. His performance Tuesday night made me wish he’d been part of our rotation all year, as many fans have argued all season long. Never did he show a sign of fatigue, nor did he look uncomfortable in the starter role. Even if the skies didn’t open up after the fifth inning, his night was over because the club wants to ease him into the role and protect his arm, but he certainly seemed ready to pitch another two or three innings, or perhaps even complete the game.
With Hanson being placed on the 15-day DL for a lower back strain, the Braves have practically no other option than to make Medlen a member of the starting rotation, at least temporarily. While Hanson’s nagging injury is troubling news, I’m excited for Medlen to get a few starts and prove that he deserves to take the hill every five games. He gave up just one earned run over five innings and performed very efficiently, throwing just fifty-seven pitches. Medlen allowed only four hits and one walk to go along with his three strikeouts. If he continues to pitch this way while Hanson is out, I can’t imagine the Braves deciding to make him a spot starter or send him back to the bullpen.
Suddenly we’ve got six serviceable starting pitchers (once Hanson returns). Hudson is his usual self, Sheets has given us more than anyone expected, and even Mike Minor has begun to turn his season around with four consecutive quality starts. In July, he posted a 1.98 ERA and allowed only six earned runs. Given Medlen’s debut as a starter and his appearances as a reliever this season, I fully expect him to continue to pitch effectively. And then we have our newest acquisition, Paul Maholm. He’s been having a great season with the Cubs (which is no simple task), especially of late, earning five wins and no losses in his last seven starts.
It will be interesting to see who is assigned the spot starter role once Hanson returns from the DL. Barring another injury, someone will have to be excluded from the regular rotation. The probability of a six-man rotation is miniscule. I view these next couple weeks as a competition between Minor, Maholm, and Medlen (the three M’s?) for the bottom spots in the rotation.
With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, I now feel like we dodged a bullet by not trading for Dempster. If you asked me about the possibility of trading for Dempster a few weeks ago, I would have called it pivotal for the team’s success this season. Now the idea of renting him for half a season seems ludicrous. Instead we got Maholm for Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman (which, as a package even, I value as lower than Delgado). And Maholm comes with an option for next year, an affordable one at under seven million should we decide to hold on to him. We even got Reed Johnson out of the deal, a useful fourth outfielder and pinch hitter. Having him available as a bat off the bench makes me a bit more confident in the offense going into the last two months of the regular season.
Looks like the front office made a smart move for once. Of course they tried to get Dempster, but he rejected the deal. In any case, we are shaping up to be real contenders.