Little has gone smoothly on the mound for Kris Medlen in this spring training, but Sunday things took a challenging turn of a different sort for the Braves pitcher.
In 30 mph winds with gusts considerably stronger, Medlen gave up eight hits and six runs in five innings of a 9-3 loss to Washington at Space Coast Stadium that was stopped after seven innings due to rain and a tornado warning.
“Overall just an uncomfortable day,” said Medlen, who had three strikeouts and two walks and threw 58 strikes in 89 pitches. “I wouldn’t say it was the worst (start he’s made this spring), because I think the last one was probably the worst. But just overall uncomfortable. Just windy, and they put some pretty good swings on the ball.”
Medlen allowed 14 hits and nine runs in five innings Monday against Philadelphia, making it 22 hits and 15 runs he’s surrendered in 10 innings over his past two Grapefruit League starts.
“I gave up nine runs and 14 hits and I felt way more comfortable than I did today,” Medlen said. “I felt like a couple of balls today could have been caught in the regular season.”
Medlen mentioned Denard Span’s bloop single to right and Danny Espinosa’s three-run homer with the wind to left as balls he believed would’ve been caught in normal conditions. Not that he was blaming the weather for his woes.
“When I needed to make a pitch I probably did it 50 percent of the time,” he said. “I jammed some guys, got some groundballs, but a couple snuck through. Just another one of those outings that I’m ready to forget. I’m so ready for the regular season, you have no idea. I have one more down here and I’m ready to go back to Atlanta.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t put much stock in Sunday’s outing by Medlen.
“It’s hard to judge anything today,” he said. “I know he had a tough time – everybody had a tough time. There were a couple of times where (Nationals starter Jordan) Zimmermann got knocked out of his delivery. Same thing with Medlen.”
Zimmerman, who said the wind made it feel “like I was on a ship out there,” allowed three runs, six hits and three walks in six innings.
“That being said, I think we came out of it pretty unscathed,” said Gonzalez, who replaced his lineup regulars after three innings because he was concerned there might be a collision with players pursuing wind-blown fly balls.
The manager said he wasn’t concerned by the spring performance of Medlen, who is 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in six starts, with 32 hits (four home runs) and 19 runs allowed in 23-2/3 innings. He went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts last season.
Medlen said his main problem has been sinkers left over the plate.
“You’re going to pitches that you go to during the year that you normally make,” he said, “and they’re just not there yet. They’ll come and I’m just not worried. It’s something I’ve done my entire life, figure out my delivery and my pitches.”
He’ll start the third game of the season April 4 against the Phillies, and will stay behind in Florida to start a minor league game Friday as his final tune-up. The rest of the team will fly back to Atlanta after Thursday’s game and spend a day at home before flying to Jackson, Miss., on Saturday.
Roster moves: The Braves reassigned pitchers Wirfin Obispo and prospect Sean Gilmartin to minor league camp Sunday, but it won’t be surprising if either is back with the big-league team at some point during the season.
Obispo, a hard-throwing reliever, was just about perfect in five appearances, allowing one hit and no walks with six strikeouts in four innings.
“I think if we get an opportunity to bring back Obispo, if we need innings, I’m going to bring him back,” Gonzalez said. “He was interesting. Very interesting. He put up good numbers and (his delivery) was funky; he’s got good stuff.”
Obispo was a candidate for the final bullpen spot. But two others, Cristhian Martinez and Anthony Varvaro, are out of minor league options and would have to be put through waivers before they could be sent to the minor leagues.
Gilmartin, 22, had a 7.62 ERA and .386 opponents’ average in four games (two starts), but the left-hander has made a good impression in two spring trainings.
“He gives us a little depth there in Triple-A in case something happens up here,” Gonzalez said. “You feel comfortable with that. Love everything about him — his professionalism, his work ethic, the way he goes about his business is off the chart.”
Pitching plans: Braves starters will taper their workloads this week, reducing innings and/or pitch counts in the final week of spring training as they ready for the regular season.
No. 5 starter Julio Teheran’s final spring start will be Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale against the Astros. He won’t make his season debut until April 6 or April 7, and will be available out of the bullpen in the first few games of the season.