In August 2010, Kris Medlen underwent Tommy John surgery and felt the frustration of any player who goes through the year-long recovery period.
He worked his way back, first through the Atlanta Braves bullpen and then into the starting rotation, where he excelled. The future was bright.
Then a second Tommy John surgery was required, and the 2014 season was lost.
“It was tough enough going through it once, let alone two times,” Medlen said. “It’s a terrible feeling.”
But Medlen was feeling better Thursday upon being introduced as the newest Kansas City Royal. He signed a two-year deal worth $8.5 million in guaranteed money and a mutual option for 2017.
Medlen will make $2 million in 2015, plus $4 million more in possible incentives, and $5.5 million in 2016 with $6 million more in possible incentives.
The option is worth $10 million or a $1 million buyout.
But the Royals don’t expect Medlen to start the year with the club.
“He’s going to be more of a second-half guy for us,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “He’s going to want to get out of the gate and go, but his health and his future are a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
Medlen, 29, had surgery last March after posting a 15-12 record with 3.11 ERA in 197 innings in 2013.
He became one of the National League’s top starters after moving from the bullpen to the rotation in late July 2012, going 24-11 with a 2.36 ERA in his next 43 starts and winning NL pitcher of the month three times.
The Royals believe Medlen can recapture that effectiveness.
“We obviously believe in Kris’ makeup a great deal; he’s a winner,” Moore said. “When you watch him compete on the mound, you realize that right away.”
For the Royals, that might not be until July, which makes Medlen’s recovery period about four months longer than his original one.
“The main reason why it’s delayed is it’s his second one,” Royals head trainer Nick Kenney said. “We want to take this one a little more cautiously. … We want to be patient. It’s going to be drawn out longer on purpose to ensure his long-term health.”
Kenney said Medlen is on a throwing program and will begin a period of rest.
Medlen becomes the second Royals pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery. Luke Hochevar missed last season after a dynamic 2013 in the bullpen.
Medlen and the Braves had discussed a one-year deal but failed to reach an agreement before the Dec. 2 deadline for teams to tender contracts to their unsigned players. Remaining in Atlanta would have had its advantages. Medlen’s wife, Nicki, gave birth to their second child, a daughter, three weeks ago.
But he likes where he landed.
“I feel very comfortable with the talks we’ve had with the team and the training staff, and I’m very happy to be here,” said Medlen, a 10th-round pick by the Braves who made his major-league debut in 2009. “I feel like I have a lot of baseball left to play.”
Medlen joins a staff that is regenerating with the likely loss of ace James Shields. The Royals are soon expected to announce they’ve agreed to terms with former Pirates right-hander Edinson Volquez on a two-year, $20 million contract, along with outfielder Alex Rios.
Once they do, the team’s projected opening-day payroll figures to stand around $110 million.
The Royals, coming off an American League championship season, have announced the signing of Kendrys Morales, expected to become the team’s designated hitter.
To make room for Medlen on the 40-man roster, the Royals designated infielder Johnny Giavotella for assignment.