Kris Medlen will return to a Major League mound for the first time since 2016 when he starts for the D-backs tonight, but the former Braves star explains in an excellent interview with Zach Buchanan of The Athletic (subscription required) that he nearly quit pitching entirely and retired after a disappointing two-year run with the Royals. Medlen hadn’t worked out at all in the 2016-17 offseason when his wife stumbled across a YouTube video from Brent Pourciau and Steven Guadagril of Top Velocity in which a follower had requested that they break down Medlen’s mechanics in the wake of his injuries. Pourciau went through a lengthy examination of how Medlen didn’t rely enough on his lower half, and the video led Medlen to head to Top Velocity for an in-person meeting, which sparked the beginning of his return to pro ball. Both Medlen and Pourciau chat with Buchanan about the struggles, both emotional and physical, that Medlen went through in battling back from his injuries. Medlen isn’t sure how long he’ll be asked to step in for the D-backs, though 32-year-old veteran expresses excitement and gratitude over merely being able to once again take the hill in a big league game.
More on the Diamondbacks…
- A.J. Pollock is on the cusp of free agency and enjoying perhaps the finest start he’s ever had to a big league season, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic wonders if Arizona’s star center fielder is vaulting himself out of the team’s price range in the process. Piecoro points to recent $80MM and $108MM deals for Lorenzo Cain and Charlie Blackmon, respectively, in pointing out that a healthy Pollock will have plenty of earning capacity in free agency. He also quotes a pair of scouts on Pollock’s continual improvement at the plate and the fact that he projects to be a more than capable corner outfielder even if he has to move out of center later in a long-term free-agent deal. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd also recently profiled Pollock’s free agent stock, and he ranked ninth on the first edition of MLBTR’s monthly Free Agent Power Rankings.
- In a separate piece, Piecoro also highlights Dan Haren’s role with the D-backs — that of team pitching strategist. Haren took the role prior to the 2017 season, and while the ever-modest former All-Star is loath to take too much credit for any of the team’s turn in fortunes, Piecoro notes that the club went from the National League’s worst rotation ERA in 2016 to second-best in 2017. They’re off to a strong start in 2018 as well, despite some early injuries. Zack Greinke, Zack Godley and catcher Jeff Mathis all speak highly to Piecoro of the data that Haren procures and presents to the staff. In addition to customized reports with advice on how to retire specific hitters, Haren discusses how he uses his experience from pitching with eight big league teams to blend the best practices for preparation and executing a game strategy in his new role. “I thought it would be cool to help – even if it’s one person who maybe struggled in their preparation in the past and it was holding them back,” Haren says of his role with the team. “I thought it would feel really good to be a part of helping someone along with their career. Even if it’s just a little bit. Little things can really turn someone’s career around. I wanted to be a part of something.”