As the MLB regular season gets set for its final month, the Nationals and Braves are preparing for what should be an exciting two-team race for the N.L. East crown. But despite an expected close finish, the Nats maintain their plans to shut down ace Stephen Strasburg before the season ends. The Braves on the other hand, are deciding to continue rolling with Kris Medlen, another young pitcher who had Tommy John surgery towards the end of 2010.
Medlen has, however, pitched just 87 innings this season compared to 145 13 for Strasburg. The Braves started the right-hander in the bullpen which is why his innings total is so low.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Atlanta GM Frank Wren gave manager Fredi Gonzalez a choice regarding Medlen at the beginning of the season: start him in the bullpen and extend his season or begin with him in the rotation and risk having him shut down. The Braves reportedly would have stuck with a 160-180 innings limit if needed, similar to the Nats.
It presents a different scenario for the Nationals and teams dealing with pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery. For Strasburg and the Nats, the situation is much different considering the money and expectations involved. Medlen was not a former number one pick and at this point isn't expected to someday be one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Braves also already lost their ace pitcher this season when Brandon Beachy underwent Tommy John back in June.
The Nationals wanted Strasburg to begin this season like any normal starter would, with a full spring training and starts every fifth day. They had no intention of putting him in the bullpen and likely never considered it.
Time will tell which team, if not both, made the right decision. But nonetheless, the Braves are moving forward this year with Medlen and expect to have him for the pennant race and in the playoffs.