What's the biggest battle going in baseball these days? The AL East? Milton Bradley vs. his many tormentors? Nope. For my money it's the battle for the Braves' fifth starter spot.
In what was something of a surprise, the Braves called up Kris Medlen to take a shot at the fifth starters' spot in the rotation when Jo-Jo Reyes proved he couldn't hack it. The result? In his major-league debut Thursday, Medlen was charged with three hits, five runs, five walks and two wild pitches in three-plus innings. You'd have to figure with that outing that the Braves would want to see what Gwinnett's other young phenom, Tommy Hanson could do against major leaguers, right? Wrong, Medlen is going to get a second bite at the apple tomorrow, with Bobby Cox saying that he's going to start against the Giants. Given how poorly the Giants hit the ball, we can probably expect a strong outing from Medlen, which will allow him to stick in the rotation for another start or two.
But he may falter. And if he does, then we get to see Hanson, right? Wrong, because it appears as though Tom Glavine and the Braves are serious about him coming back. He pitched a rehab start on Saturday, giving up three runs on five hits while throwing 53 pitches. "I felt really good. I felt like I had as good stuff velocity-wise on my fastball as I had all spring. The flip side was I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to."
Look Braves: you're my team, and I love you, but you have to cut this out. I understand that you may want to do whatever you can to hold back Tommy Hanson's service time and maybe even showcase Medlen for a trade or something. I also understand that Tom Glavine has meant everything to the franchise since he came up in 1987 and he's entitled to at least try to pitch until it's definitively shown that he can't pitch anymore (which I think happened last year, but I digress). But right now you're a game and a half back in a very winnable division, and Tommy Hanson -- a guy with a 1.51 ERA and 73 strikeouts (against only 15 walks) in 53.2 innings -- represents the best chance to get some real production out of that fifth starter's spot.
It's probably too late to call Hanson up for tomorrow night's start, but if Medlen falters even a little bit -- and against the Giants, "falter" means anything short of excellence -- it's time to cut out the nonsense and put Hanson in the rotation and see what he has.