Senior Baseball Columnist

Weekend Buzz: Medlen also had Tommy John but the starter excels while Strasburg sits

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Kris Medlen is 7-0 with a 0.81 ERA since moving into the Braves' rotation from the bullpen. (Getty Images)  
Kris Medlen is 7-0 with a 0.81 ERA since moving into the Braves' rotation from the bullpen. (Getty Images)  

The Weekend Buzz while you were wondering when the Redskins are going to shut down Robert Griffin III. ...

1. Greatest hits Medlen: Kris Medlen is no Stephen Strasburg.

Two key differences: Medlen never was a headline-inducing phenom (he was a 10th-round pick in 2006) and ... he's still pitching.

Um, make that still pitching despite undergoing Tommy John ligament transfer surgery within two weeks of Strasburg's in 2010.

Actually, "pitching" is underplaying it. What Medlen is doing is absolutely dominating, carving up opposing hitters like so many rotisserie chickens. And with the Braves moving to within 5 ½ games of the Nationals on Sunday, wouldn't it be the height of irony if Medlen helped lead the Braves past the Nats in the NL East while Strasburg is forced to watch?

When Medlen baffled the Mets in a rain-shortened outing Saturday night, it was the 19th consecutive time the Braves won when he started. That's the longest streak in one pitcher's starts since the 2001 Yankees won 20 consecutive starts by noted Sugar Land Skeeters hurler Roger Clemens.

Medlen now is 7-0 with a 0.81 ERA in eight starts since moving from the bullpen this year.

Ah, the bullpen. It's how the Braves slowly brought him back from surgery, and it will be the blueprint everyone points to if the Nats' season implodes post-Strasburg (lets it make clear, that's a very big "if").

Because baseball's hottest pitcher worked in the Braves' bullpen for the first four months this season, Medlen's innings-pitched odometer currently reads a manageable 123 1/3 (including minor-league work this summer). Strasburg, 24, was at 159 1/3 innings pitched when the Nationals told him to hang 'em up following Friday's start.

Medlen, 26, now is 13-0 over his past 24 starts overall. And until surrendering a run against the Rockies last week, he had compiled a streak of 34 2/3 scoreless innings.

Three weeks left and the Braves, winners of five in a row, are in great shape for October. Hey, wait a minute! We heard the same thing a year ago before September came crashing down on them.

But their bullpen isn't gassed now as it was a year ago, and part of that is because of the sound strategy of using Medlen in relief early, to help lighten the workload for Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel.

And an important byproduct of that is that Medlen, unlike Strasburg, still has miles to go before he rests this season.

"He can pitch into, oh, November 30th," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez quipped to USA Today's Paul White the other day.

2. Shutdown innings: The Nationals shut down Jordan Zimmermann early last season, Strasburg early this season, can't wait to see who gets the plug pulled early next season. Davey Johnson? Kidding.

Johnson has had a great season, a Manager of the Year season, but the Strasburg stuff over the weekend could -- and should -- have been handled with more tact. Blaming Strasburg's fragile and overwhelmed state of mind as the chief reason for not allowing him to make one more start was a disservice to a kid who has poured his guts out for the Nats.

"I don't know if I'm ever going to accept it, to be honest," Strasburg told reporters. "It's something that I'm not happy about at all. That's not why I play the game. I play the game to be a good teammate and win. You don't grow up dreaming about playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter. It's going to be a tough one to swallow."

How about for his Nationals' teammates? You get a legitimate crack at a World Series, and your organization sidelines the staff ace? You can't blame Strasburg for feeling like he's letting down his teammates even though it's not his fault, not in the least.

So now the question becomes, can the Nationals win without him? Into Sunday's game, with a rotation that still includes Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler, the Nats' 3.30 rotation ERA led the majors.

3. Nationals sympathy: The Cubs shut down Jeff Samardzija, 27, after 174 2/3 innings. But when they looked up, unlike Strasburg's Nationals, they still weren't in contention.

4. Jerry Meals: Please, can't somebody shut him down?

5. Ice-and-bandage brigade: The Orioles lost Nick Markakis (thumb) for the season, Mark Teixeira (calf) couldn't play for the Yankees Sunday, the Dodgers scratched starter Clayton Kershaw (hip) on Sunday, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp (shoulder) is out, and the Brewers' Ryan Braun (wrist) and Corey Hart (ankle) had to leave Sunday's game against the Cardinals. This after the Cardinals lost Rafael Furcal (elbow) for the season and the Dodgers lost Chad Billingsley (elbow) for the season. Attrition, that's what it's all about at this time of the year.

6. Memo to Pittsburgh: Hey Pirates, Lord knows, we're all pulling for you. The entire country, except for maybe pockets contending with you for a wild-card spot like St. Louis and Los Angeles. But you make it so hard for us, Pirates. Seven errors on Friday night? Are you serious? That's the most for Pittsburgh since Sept. 16, 1985 (Stats LLC). And it's one short of the franchise record of eight set on Sept. 17, 1939. At one point Friday, the Buccos had no runs, one hit and seven errors. Suddenly, it's not even so much about the playoffs as it is about not extending the Buccos' North American professional sports franchise record for consecutive losing seasons to 20. The race is on: Now 72-68, the Pirates must go at least 9-13 through season's end to finish with a .500 record or better.

7. Foley's Pub? No, Chipper's: The famed baseball-themed Irish tavern renamed itself this weekend as Chipper Jones made his last career appearance in New York, one more testament to Jones' enduring feats that over the years provoked a love-hate relationship with Mets fans. As Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez quips, he can't tell if they love to hate him or hate to love him in Queens. Can't decide which I like better, that the Mets presented him with a cool 3-D pop-art painting highlighting his career at Shea Stadium, or that it caused our Eye on Baseball blogger Dayn Perry to compare it to the album art of Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

8. John Farrell to replace Bobby V in Boston? Rumors are spreading like tea in Boston's Harbor. Don't know if they're true, but it sure seemed weird when, with the Blue Jays in Fenway Park over the weekend, the Blue Jayus' manager walked to the mound to make a couple of pitching changes for the Red Sox. (OK, that was a joke. This isn't: Boston now is 63-78, the Royals now are 63-77).

9. Tom Kelly Day: The Twins finally retired the No. 10 of the legendary manager who pulled the strings for two World Series wins (1987 and 1991) and played an instrumental role in helping build the club into one of baseball's most respected organizations. In true Minnesota fashion, the first 10,000 fans attending received a commemorative mini-oar inscribed with a T.K. quote that is painted onto a wall exiting the Twins' Target Field clubhouse: "We're all in this boat together. Everybody grab an oar."

10. Get well soon, Brandon McCarthy: Guy endures a two-hour surgery to relieve pressure on the brain, and he comes blazing out of it on Twitter with this gem: "The good news in all of this is that I set up my fantasy lineups beforehand. So there shall be no excuses at this point."

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