Former Atlanta Braves player Kris Medlen might have thrown his last pitch, but that doesn’t mean he has interest in leaving the game forever.
Medlen appeared on Atlanta Journal-Constitution Braves beat writer David O’Brien’s podcast “Truth, Lies and Sacrifice Flies” and discussed his decision to retire. Medlen’s career ended as a Triple-A pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, with whom he made his final MLB appearance on May 4.
As the 32-year-old Medlen told O’Brien, the mental strain of taking the mound finally became too much.
“I felt like I exhausted all options, and to do that, I think it’s OK to kind of walk away. Obviously, it was still a tough decision,” Medlen said. “After a few years in the big leagues and experiencing what I have experienced up there, you start grinding in Triple A and it just feels a lot different. Physically, how baseball used to feel for me before the multiple Tommy John [surgeries], it was exhausting. Every start was exhausting. I was in good shape, but every start was mentally exhausting.”
Medlen had his finest moments at the big league level as an Atlanta Brave. A former 10th-round pick by the team, Medlen won 34 games, notched 434 strikeouts and posted a 2.95 ERA over the course of five seasons.
Medlen appeared on the brink of becoming the Braves' next ace in 2012 when he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA and received consecutive National League Pitcher of the Month awards. During that season, the Braves won 23 consecutive games in which Medlen started.
Medlen's potential, however, was ultimately derailed by an elbow injury that required his second Tommy John surgery.
Despite the list of achievements, Medlen said his greatest memories are the relationships built while he was a Brave, which included meeting his future wife Nicki in Atlanta. Medlen also told O’Brien the long-lasting friendships became evident again once he retired, as former teammates such as pitcher Derek Lowe reached out once the news broke.
“From the get go, I loved the organization and the setup. Man, it was the whole package for me. It really led me in a good direction in developing as a pitcher and having really good examples up top,” Medlen said. “It was just always really inspiring to be a part of an organization [like the Braves]. I still live in Atlanta and still consider that organization family. I owe everything to them because they gave me a shot, a little 5-10 righty from Norwalk, California. I’m forever grateful to the organization.”
As far as what’s next, Medlen hasn’t settled on anything concrete just yet. He said on the podcast that coaching interests him, though having to begin as a minor-league coach and work his way up the ladder like he did as a pitcher “just sounds terrible to me.” Medlen also brought up the idea of broadcasting, a popular venture for many former baseball players.
Whatever move Medlen makes next, he said he hopes it allows him to give back to the sport.
“I love the thought of paying it forward,” Medlen said. “I was given so much in terms of coaching and teammates, I just had an unbelievable time that I feel like I need to pay it forward. I don’t know what it will be. I would love to coach or broadcast and talk about baseball, little things like that to keep me busy.”