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ANTA -- Kris Medlen has drawn comparisons to Greg Maddux while proving to be baseball's most impressive pitcher over the past two months. This was certainly not something Medlen envisioned six years ago, when he began his professional career wondering why the Braves did not fully appreciate his potential as a shortstop.
"When I was at [Rookie-level] Danville, we got to take batting practice a couple of times," Medlen said. "I thought I was the best shortstop out there. I really felt that. I saw guys that were like second-rounders and third-rounders. I was like, 'Really, how did I not [get recognized]?' I was like, 'I can do that.' Now that I'm here, not so much."
Now that the Braves have reached the postseason for the second time in the past three years, it is not surprising that they have tabbed Medlen to start Friday's Wild Card game against the Cardinals at 5:07 p.m. ET on TBS to determine which of the National League's Wild Card entrants will advance to face the Nationals in the NL Division Series.
The do-or-die playoff can be viewed as cruel within the baseball world. But the Braves certainly have reason to feel good about the opportunity to go with Medlen. They have won each of the past 23 games that he has started. No other team in Major League history has experienced such a streak with a pitcher.
"I'm in the middle of everything right now, so I think it's kind of hard to look back on it," Medlen said. "But I think the first week or two of the offseason -- whenever that is -- I think it will be easier to look back on stuff. But it's been the ride of my life. When you go through some adversity and come back with the kind of success that I've had, it's awesome. It's crazy."
Crazy would describe the numbers that Medlen has produced since the Braves finally moved him from the bullpen to the rotation at the end of July. He has compiled a 0.97 ERA and limited opponents to a .191 batting average in his 12 starts this season.
Hank Aaron, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones are among the established figures who have compared Medlen to Maddux.
"It's a fun guy to catch, and he's easy to catch," Braves catcher David Ross said. "The guy can throw three pitches for strikes to both sides of the plate. He's pretty easygoing and fun to play with. I'm excited."
There is no doubt that Medlen is excited about the opportunity to pitch in the do-or-die game. But it does not appear the fun-loving and jovial pitcher will be negatively influenced by the nerves he will experience while pitching on this grand stage.
"I think it's the anticipation part of it that gets me," Medlen said. "The drive to the field and all of that, that stresses me out a little bit. But once I'm on the field and on the mound, it's kind of like riding a bike, and everything feels normal. Like I said, it's the anticipation of the whole thing."
After addressing the media on Thursday afternoon, Medlen joined his teammates on the field for batting practice and once again managed to make some of them laugh.
"He's a smart guy, but he takes this light-hearted," Ross said. "When he found out during BP that I was catching, he said, 'Let's go stand in our bubble together.' He just jokes around. It is what it is, and we'll have a lot of fun tomorrow."
When Medlen arrived to the Major League level as a wide-eyed young pitcher in 2009, he was overwhelmed with nerves during his first two starts. Ross got in his face during one of those outings and stressed the need to concentrate.
It is safe to assume Ross will not be delivering the same message on Friday. But his veteran presence could certainly be a calming influence on Medlen.
"[Ross] almost invents stuff in the middle of the game, which kind of fires you up," Medlen said. "I mean, you haven't thrown a certain pitch the entire game, then when we need to make a pitch, he'll call an inside changeup to a righty, and you're just like, 'OK. Are you sure?' So it makes you want to execute it. It's great, he sticks every pitch for you."
After continuing his tradition of eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich before each of his starts, Medlen will prepare to make his first start against the Cardinals. Each of his five previous career appearances against St. Louis came in a relief role.
"I'm just going to approach it the same as every other start," Medlen said. "I had 11, 12 starts this year, and they really don't matter anymore. It's a Game 7 thing. You just go out and don't talk. You just go do."