Kris Medlen is coming back to the Braves in hopes of reviving his career where it began.
The veteran right-hander, among the Braves’ most popular players of the past decade, signed a minor league contract this week after spending the past two seasons with the Royals, who declined a 2017 option.
After coming back from two Tommy John elbow surgeries and then missing much of the 2016 season with shoulder problems, Medlen , 31, considered retirement in the fall before deciding to begin working with a biomechanics expert to refine his delivery in hopes of continuing his career.
“I’m giving it a go and Coppy (Braves general manager John Coppolella) and Co. are being patient and 100 percent supportive,” Medlen said in a text message. “Couldn’t be happier about the situation compared to where I was mentally about four months ago.”
His Braves contract doesn’t include an invitation to major league spring training; he’ll spend the spring rebuilding arm strength and continuing to work on his delivery.
“Could’ve been invited, but I’m in New Orleans working with a bio mechanics dude, attempting to figure things out,” Medlen said. “Was late getting ready this year because I was contemplating hanging ‘em up (retiring)…. From where I was a few months ago, I’m a different person. I was about as low as it gets.”
Medlen debuted in the majors with Atlanta in 2009 and went 41-25 with a 3.25 ERA in 173 games (75 starts) over parts of five seasons with the Braves through 2013. He was a sensation in 2012, going 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 50 games including 9-0 with a microscopic 0.97 ERA in 12 starts after a midseason move to the rotation.
The affable Southern California native had his second Tommy John elbow surgery with the Braves during spring training 2014. He missed that entire season and then left as a free agent, signing a two-year, $8.5 million deal with Kansas City – a contract that reflected how highly he was thought of by Royals general manager Dayton Moore and other former Braves officials in the Royals front office.
After going 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA in 15 games (eight starts) for the Royals in 2015, Medlen had shoulder injuries twice during the 2016 season and was limited to six major league starts, going 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA and more walks (20) than strikeouts (18) in 24 1/3 innings.