The Braves are way past doing the warm and fuzzy thing this season.
So, as we search for other reasons to be stirred in the final month of regularly scheduled baseball, a feel-good story of Hallmark proportions appears just in time in Royals blue.
There’s a certain Beaver-Cleaver-faced pitcher out there who two days ago made his first start since October 2013, completing a comeback from a second Tommy John surgery. He won, pitched six strong innings, and just might be a very important component of the Kansas City rotation come the postseason.
Kris Medlen may be my favorite player ever, for a very selfish reason. Part of his oft-interrupted Braves career coincided with my son’s deployment to Afghanistan. Medlen always made a point to ask how it was going on that front, displaying a heartfelt interest. The old man appreciated it. I, therefore, am physically incapable of typing anything critical about him.
Then, throw in the bonus of a dogged comeback against steep odds, and you have the potential for a great September (and beyond) celebration.
“I’m so tired of watching baseball on TV,” he said shortly after the Royals activated him in July, initially for spot bullpen duty. The defending AL champion had scooped him up in the winter after he was released by the Braves.
Medlen affixed his flat-billed blue cap and went out and beat the Orioles in his first start Monday. He handled the personal triumph with aplomb.
“I’ve said from the get-go, I didn’t want this to be a pity party or a ‘Yay, you did it,’” he told the K.C. media. “I just expected to come here and work and produce. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team.”
It would strain reality to expect Medlen to recreate what he did in 2012, when he emerged from the Braves bullpen and simply refused to lose (the team over one stretch won 23 consecutive games he started). He finished that season 10-1 (the lone lose in relief) with a 1.57 ERA. He was downright Maddux-like.
He remains unimposing on the mound. He has two Tommy Johns in his past, and the success rate plummets on the second cut.
But you discount him at your peril. And why would you want to? His is such a compelling baseball tale in the making, with the local supply running so low.