Once a rising star, Medlen gets another chance at stardom with Royals

Kris Medlen had strong 2012 and '13 seasons before undergoing Tommy John surgery last March.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals general manager Dayton Moore looked like a happy man Thursday.

Moore had just introduced his latest signing, right-hander Kris Medlen, and this was anything but your typical splashy, big-monied, Hot Stove free-agent signing.

This was a signing that pumped the scout’s blood in Moore — a risky-but-potentially-high-reward acquisition that energizes true baseball evaluators.

"We’re very excited for his future here," Moore said, smiling.

Medlen, 29, was one of the game’s up-and-coming stars in 2012, when he went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts for the Braves (10-1, 1.57 overall). He followed that up in 2013 by going 15-12 with an impressive 3.11 ERA.

Then disaster struck. Again. For the second time in Medlen’s young career, he injured his elbow last spring and needed to undergo Tommy John surgery, which he had last March.

Thus, the risk for Kansas City.

But the Royals are in no hurry to rush Medlen, who will not be in contention for a job in the starting rotation during spring training, a rotation that appears to be filled anyway with Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie.

"We’re viewing him next season as more of a second-half guy," Moore said. "There’s no need to hurry him."

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Medlen’s contract, in fact, reflects that patient approach. His two-year deal is worth $8.5 million — $2 million this season, $5.5 million in 2016 with a $1 million buyout on a $10 million mutual option in 2017. There also are $4 million incentive clauses in 2015 and $6 million in incentive clauses in 2016.

The Royals believe that once healthy, Medlen could become a mainstay in their rotation.

"He has the command and he has the stuff," Moore said. "He has shown that on a very competitive level."

For now, Medlen and the Royals will take a very cautious route in his rehab. Trainer Nick Kenney already has slowed Medlen’s throwing program that Medlen had started with the Braves.

"For him to come back completely healthy," Kenney said, "we need to reduce the volume (of throwing) and go very conservative."

Medlen likely won’t even start facing hitters again until sometime in April, Kenney said.


"That’s probably the earliest you’d see him out on a (minor-league) rehab," Kenney said.

Although Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar had his Tommy John surgery within a few days of Medlen’s last March, the two timetables are not comparable, Kenney said. Hochevar is expected to compete for a bullpen spot during spring training.

"The difference is that this is Kris’ second (Tommy John surgery)," Kenney said. "You have to be extra careful, extra cautious. We want him to come back and be the pitcher he was."

All that is fine with Medlen.

"I trust the training staff and I trust Dayton," Medlen said. "That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here is I felt really comfortable with them."

Medlen, who had his first Tommy John surgery in 2010, also has something to prove. He admitted to being disappointed that the Braves — the only team he has known — decided to non-tender his contract last month.

"That didn’t feel good," he said. "But I understand the game. It can be hard to justify what I was making considering the uncertainty of my situation."

The Royals and Moore were more than happy to give Medlen another chance.

"The upside is there," Moore said.

A scout’s dream.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.