On Monday morning, a few hours before the Royals officially reinstated him from the 60-day disabled list, Kris Medlen picked up his phone and texted Brandon Beachy. After Medlen tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow last spring, an injury that required a second Tommy John surgery, he bonded with a group of teammates and fellow recipients of elbow reconstruction, a group that included Beachy, Jonny Venters and Peter Moylan.
Now Beachy was set to pitch for the Dodgers, against the Braves, of all teams, at Turner Field on Monday. Medlen wanted to offer encouragement to Beachy, just as he reached the end of his own journey back from surgery.
“We didn’t give each other a chance to feel down on ourselves,” Medlen said before Monday’s game against Pittsburgh. “We drew a lot of inspiration from each other, and kept kicking each others’ (backsides).”
The Braves will not benefit from the diligence of Medlen. Instead, he will contribute to the Royals’ second-half push for the playoffs.
To make room on the roster, the Royals optioned pitcher Yohan Pino to Class AAA Omaha.
Medlen could contribute as a starter later in the season. But for now, manager Ned Yost will use him as a long reliever.
“He’s built up to 100 pitches,” Yost said.
Prior to the operation, Medlen posted a 2.47 ERA as a starter and a reliever for Atlanta in 2012 and 2013. Medlen declined to voice a preference for his role.
“I know I’m in the ’pen right now,” Medlen said. “I’m not in a place to really care about any of that stuff. I feel very good physically and mentally. I’m ready to go. I’m not worried about all that stuff.”
Medlen made six starts on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment earlier this summer. His ERA was 3.56 across 30 1/3 innings. He felt encouraged by his last outing, when he threw seven scoreless innings for Class AA Northwest Arkansas.
In that outing, Medlen discerned the proper amount of sharpness on his fastball, which allowed his curveball and changeup to flourish. He had felt rusty at the start of his throwing program.
“In the beginning, I was a little nervous, because I felt like I had never thrown a baseball before,” Medlen said. “But it just kept getting better and better.”