Starved for consistent starting pitching, the Royals received a modicum of positive news on Saturday night. Kris Medlen allowed just one unearned run in 4 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class AAA Omaha.
The performance came against Nashville, the Class AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Medlen struck out five while issuing just one walk. His pitch count topped out at 69 pitches, his highest in three rehab starts. The Royals’ brass offered solid reviews, Royals manager Ned Yost said.
“Everybody that watched it was very impressed,” Yost said. “He had three pitches working.”
The performance comes at a volatile time for the Kansas City rotation. As Medlen started in Nashville, a Royals starter was getting shelled at Kauffman Stadium for the second straight night. On Saturday, it was right-hander Chris Young, who allowed seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in a 13-5 loss to Houston. Young fell to 2-7 with a 6.54 ERA in 53 2/3 innings this season. He has allowed a league-high 21 homers.
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Medlen could be positioned to offer help to a beleaguered rotation. For now, however, Yost said he would likely make another rehab start.
“He’s throwing the ball good,” Yost said. “We need to get him built up and get him some consistency. He really took a good step yesterday in terms of his command.”
Medlen, 30, began the season in the starting rotation before shoulder inflammation led to a trip to the disabled list in early May. The injury came after a rash of ineffectiveness. He had recorded a 7.77 ERA in six starts, issuing 16 walks in 20 1/3 innings.
After a slow and deliberate recovery, Medlen began a rehab stint at Class AA Northwest Arkansas on June 15. Five days later, he allowed four earned runs in three innings in his second start a Northwest Arkansas. He transferred to Class AAA Omaha on Saturday. Medlen said his third rehab start represented progress.
“I actually just dialed it back a little bit,” he said. “I think I was just getting real excited the first couple of starts and I was a little inconsistent.”
Medlen spoke inside the Royals’ clubhouse on Sunday morning. He returned to Kansas City after his start and will remain until his next rehab start.
“Every bullpen that I’ve thrown, I’ve been pretty relaxed and been throwing it where I want to and wondering why I can’t do it in the game,” Medlen said. “So I kind of dialed it back yesterday and relaxed and I had three pitches [working] and I was under control.”