LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Kris Medlen stepped off the elevator onto the mezzanine level of Champions Stadium, where a few of his Braves teammates were waiting in line to be shuffled around for photo day.
A rack of jerseys and a table of hats were waiting as the teams public relations staff helped each player find their size; the Braves around Medlen were each pulling on their jerseys. The right-hander could only laugh when he was told his wasnt there.
With only a few jerseys on hand, players were forced to wear whoevers shirt was their size and Medlens was currently on the back of Tyler Pastornicky. He immediately went in search of the young utility player.
He was in the back of the line and I asked some of the younger guys if he could go ahead and go, hes wearing my jersey, Medlen said. Plus, they wanted me to wear our strength coachs (Phil Falco) jersey and thats four sizes too big on me.
His No. 54 jersey finally in hand, Medlen pulled it on as the staff went over his commitments for the day: photos, promo videos and one-liners.
I have to read lines, Medlen said, before switching into a monotone robot voice. I swear this is natural.
Medlen made his way out into the stadium, where a he read lines for MLB before answering questions on the Braves rotation and the bullpen.
Wait, one of the MLB cameramen said when they appeared to be done filming. Can you read one of the lines again? A big bird flew behind you.
Too dramatic? Medlen deadpanned.
Too much like a scene out of The Birds, the cameraman answered.
Continuing on his tour of duty, he headed over to a FOX Sports South shoot, where, upon seeing the FOX Sports polo shirts surrounding him, Medlen jokingly said, This is the worst."
He pulled back a black curtain and stood in front of the FOX Sports South cameras. Told the one-liners hed be repeating, Medlen said, Oh, great. Youre going to want me to be all serious. He repeated the sentences, only once breaking into a smile.
This is our team.
Follow the Braves at FOX Sports South.com.
Youre watching the Braves on SportSouth.
Medlen walked toward the collection of photo station light stands and backdrops set up for The Associated Press, Getty Images, USA TODAY Sports and MLB as well as in-house photographers from the Braves and Disney.
Obviously Im serious on the mound, but I just hate waiting in line and all that stuff, Medlen said. Its so awkward and so uncomfortable. Some of the stuff we did three or four days ago with the Braves for the Jumbotron, youre reading a teleprompter and I got my name wrong. just stuff I get flustered about all the time.
At each station, Medlen held up a piece of paper with his name printed on it. He had crumpled it up and stashed it in his pocket.
That papers seen it all, a Braves photographer said.
After making his rounds through each photo station, Medlen headed toward a tunnel, where 6-foot-4, 230-pound Evan Gattis and Ernesto Mejia, who is 6-foot-5, 245 pounds were waiting in line, watching pitcher Brandon Beachy pose for photos for Baseball Digest.
I got the two biggest guys in camp here, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Medlen said, flexing.
Medlen, 27, did a bit of flexing of his own last season.
He opened the season in the bullpen, making 38 relief appearances before he was moved to the starting rotation. He went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA, 84 strikeouts and 10 walks over 82 23 innings over 12 starts. The Braves would win 23 consecutive games Medlen started, eclipsing the record of 23 set by Hall of Famer Whitey Ford from 1950-53.
People kept reminding me (of the run), Medlen said, but being in the moment I got there because I took it one pitch at a time, because I took it one start at a time. It just became a little body of that I had for that year. I dont know at the beginning I was sitting there just like, How am I doing this? or Whats happening? But I was just like, Youre doing this. Youre the one with the ball. Youre the one in control. So I just kind of just took it and ran with it.
Fredi Gonzalez unveiled a spring rotation led by Tim Hudson for Fridays opener against the Tigers, with Paul Maholm, Julio Teheran, Medlen and Mike Minor, to follow. Its a schedule that would put Medlen on pace to be the Opening Day starter when the Braves face the Phillies on April 1.
Hes gone from reliever to a potential Opening Day starter with an historic run to his credit, but Medlen says it doesnt create any more pressure than he would have already faced heading into 2013.
I put the most pressure on myself, I believe, he said. Ive worked my butt off this offseason, the same as I did last offseason. I simplified things last year. It sounds so clich, but I took it one pitch at a time and I didnt have any time where youre laying in bed after one of your starts and youre saying Man, why did I throw that? I thought about what I was going to do before I got there and simplified and it got me a pretty nice run at the end and Im here trying to do the same thing.
For the second straight offseason, Medlen has faced a major change in his personal life. He and wife Nicole were married last February, and a week before pitchers and catchers reported at camp they welcomed their first child, Max Michael.
Nicole, Medlen says, lets him get his sleep and he takes the day shifts after practice.
But he admits hes somewhat limited in what he can do for his son at this point.
I hear the easiest part is now, Medlen said. Obviously, they dont sleep as much. They eat and poop and I can only (help) with one of them.
Medlen posed for the Baseball Digest photographer, then did a shoot with Topps for his baseball card with the field as the backdrop. As Medlen walked back into the mezzanine level, he asked a Braves staffer if he was finished. She nodded and Medlen threw up his hands in triumph.
He removed his jersey, pressed the down button to take the elevator back to the clubhouse. But, as he waited, a Braves photographer grabbed him.
We need to do one more with you, he said.
Medlen stood in front of a bright light as the photographer used an iPhone to film video of the pitcher running his hands across the bill of his hat, Tupac thumping in the background.
Reliever Jonny Venters watched from behind, and when Medlen was done, they switched positions, Medlen leaning in as Venters was told to put his glove in front of his mouth and nose.
Ive got a secret, Medlen whispered, the two pitchers breaking into laughter.