ATLANTA -- When the Braves were going through their meetings in Spring Training, they projected Kris Medlen to be one of their top three starters, behind Tim Hudson and Brandon Beachy. But since the right-hander was preparing for his first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, they decided it was best for him to spend at least the first two months in the bullpen.
A number of circumstances kept Medlen in the bullpen through the end of July. But now that he has spent the past month proving to be the Braves' most dependable starter, they are benefiting from his time as a reliever.
"The Tommy John surgery is a secondary factor in this," general manager Frank Wren said. "The primary factor was that the most innings he had ever thrown in a year in his career was 120-something. Our normal progression with any of our pitchers is about 150, 160 innings. So we wanted to limit that. All of our staff meetings in Spring Training were predicated on those numbers and how we best utilize him."
The Nationals have used the same logic, but a different approach, with Stephen Strasburg, who has spent the entire season in Washington's rotation. Whereas Strasburg finds himself two starts away from reaching his innings limit for the season, Medlen is entering the final weeks as the game's hottest pitcher, and with no concerns about being shut down.
"I'm sure [Strasburg is] not fired up about pitching an entire season, and then when everything is on the line, it's 'Hey, you're not going to help us any more,'" Medlen said. "Being a competitor at this level, it's got to bother you. I'm just getting ready for the later part of the season. I'm excited."
Tommy John, the former pitcher for whom the popular surgery is named, has made it known that he does not support the Nationals' decision to shut down Strasburg, but it seems he agrees with the approach the Braves took while keeping Medlen out of the rotation to begin the campaign.
"Maybe [Nationals general manager] Mike Rizzo should go to the Atlanta Braves' school of shutting pitchers down, because they have Medlen," John said. "He is going to be able to pitch because they had the foresight to pitch him out of the bullpen during the first couple of months of the season. Now they have him for the rest of the year. They worked their plan better than Rizzo and Scott Boras worked their plan."
Medlen has posted a 0.54 ERA and completed 49 2/3 innings in the seven starts he has made since making his first, on July 31, and he learned on Tuesday that he had been named National League Pitcher of the Month after posting a 0.50 ERA in five August starts.
"I thought I was going to be in the rotation earlier, but I came back up and went back to the bullpen," Medlen said. "So it's fine. I've never been a complainer. I've got a job in the Major Leagues. I'm happy. Anything more than that is icing on the cake."
The 26-year-old has combined to throw 117 1/3 innings with Atlanta and Triple-A Gwinnett this season. (He was sent down for a few starts in preparation for his move into the rotation.) He could throw approximately 40 more innings before nearing the target the Braves set before the season began.
"It's worked out well, and we've got a pitcher who is perfectly suited for this," Wren said. "He went through the Minor Leagues throwing a lot of relief innings. He's flexible, and he has a very resilient arm that allows him to pitch in various roles."
The Nationals announced earlier this week that Strasburg's final start will come on Sept. 12, two days before the Braves and Nationals being their final regular-season series. The heralded right-hander has thrown 156 1/3 innings in 27 starts.
Braves keeping watch on hurting catchers
ATLANTA -- As the Braves approach the final weeks of the regular season, manager Fredi Gonzalez has indicated that backup catcher David Ross could see more playing time if Brian McCann continues to struggle and be bothered by a sore right shoulder.
But the Braves are also going to have to keep an eye on Ross, who has been dealing with a sore muscle in his left side since taking an awkward swing in San Diego last week.
McCann is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday for the first time since receiving a second cortisone injection in the shoulder on Saturday.
Despite the muscle issue, Ross was able to produce a memorable moment on Monday, when he hit a hooking two-run double using one of Chipper Jones' 34-inch, 33 1/2-ounce bats -- heavier than the 34-inch, 31-ounce bats he primarily uses.
"With the way my swing feels right now, I can't really rotate my wrist," Ross said. "I can just throw my hands, and that's what I did when I hit that ball. I just threw my hands at that ball and just flushed it."
After reaching second base, Ross rested his hands on his knees for a few seconds and appeared to be in pain, but he remained in the game and was feeling better on Tuesday.
"I'll be all right," he said. "It's getting better every day."
After striking out in the eighth inning, Ross expressed his frustration by breaking his bat over his knee. He felt fortunate that he was not using Jones' bat.
"I wouldn't have a leg if I had done that using his bat," he said.
Braves add Teheran, Gearrin to roster
ATLANTA -- The Braves added top pitching prospect Julio Teheran and right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin to the expanded roster before Tuesday night's game against the Rockies. They do not have plans to add any more players during the remainder of the regular season.
Teheran had a trying season, posting a 5.08 ERA in 26 starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. But the talented 21-year-old right-hander provided the Braves some encouragement by allowing two earned runs or fewer in three of his final four starts.
After producing a 2.55 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) with Gwinnett in 2011, Teheran spent this season struggling with his mechanics. But he made some simple changes, such as raising his glove, and displayed a more fluid delivery as the final weeks of the season unfolded.
The Braves have no plans to add Jair Jurrjens to the roster this month. The former All-Star produced a 7.04 ERA in 10 starts with Atlanta this year and was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 1 with a strained right groin. He pitched 15 innings in the four rehab starts he made for Gwinnett over the past month.
Jose Constanza won the International League batting title with the .314 average he produced for Triple-A Gwinnett. Constanza has been recalled and could spend the next few weeks platooning in left field with Reed Johnson.
Medlen recorded 12 strikeouts and did not issue a walk during his complete-game win over the Rockies on Monday. He became the fifth pitcher in Braves' history to record at least 12 strikeouts and not issue a walk during a nine-inning effort.
The others to do this are Greg Maddux (June 27, 1998, vs. the Blue Jays), Kevin Millwood (April 14, 1998, vs. the Pirates), Bob Sadowski (Sept. 5, 1963, vs. the Pirates) and John Smoltz (Sept. 6, 1998, vs. the Mets).
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.