August 17, 2012 at 10:03 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
With a complete game shutout of the Padres, which followed three consecutive starts with just one run allowed, it is exceedingly difficult for the Braves to pull Kris Medlen from the rotation.
Helping the fact that Medlen to the bullpen is a bad decision is the performance of said bullpen during Medlen’s stint in the rotation. Jonny Venters and the rest of the bullpen seem to be on track, so Medlen would not really even provide much value to the bullpen when all of those relievers are going right. Would he make the bullpen better and more flexible? Yes, but his importance to the rotation as the Braves battle down the stretch one seems to exceed the importance of adding flexibility to the bullpen.
The Braves are going to have to make a difficult decision, whether it be moving Tommy Hanson out of the rotation or sticking with the six man rotation until one man falters or gets injured. For now, going through the rotation two or maybe three times with six men may work, but it is a risky proposition for the remainder of the year, considering how thin it makes the bullpen.
The Braves winning 14 consecutive starts by Medlen does not influence my point of view, but it probably influences the Braves’ front office and coaching staff. It is more about the team winning than Medlen winning, but I think the Braves planned to put Medlen in the rotation when they did early in the year to cap his innings and maximize his value to the roster. They want him in the rotation, not in the bullpen.
This puts pressure on Mike Minor and Hanson, as one poor outing could effectively mean the end to their season as a starting pitcher with the big club. With the way Minor has thrown the ball lately and the way Hanson has thrown all season, the eye is focused directly over Hanson’s head and I think he knows this. Him being sent for a rehab start was likely to buy time to figure out a plan of action rather than a necessary start to see how he felt, which is probably why he had such disdain for going to Gwinnett to throw five innings. Sending him down or moving him to the bullpen will be an exceedingly hard decision for the Braves to make, but they made a similarly hard decision when they opted to go with Tommy Hanson in his rookie year rather than stick with future Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine. Tough decisions happen in baseball, and unless an injury occurs, I expect Hanson to be the odd man out down the stretch run and in the playoffs. Hopefully tonight he makes his case.