Kris Medlen hurls shutout in fourth start for Braves

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Kris Medlen was so impressive while filling in for Tommy Hanson that the Braves had already decided to go to a six-man rotation in anticipation of Hanson’s return this week. Tonight he ensured that someone else is going to the pen if they opt to return to five starters next month.

Making his fourth start after 38 relief appearances, Medlen pitched a shutout against the Padres on Thursday. Backed by two homers from Chipper Jones, he allowed five hits, walked none and struck out six in the 104-pitch gem.

Medlen had a 2.48 ERA as a reliever this season, but he’s been even more spectacular as a starter. He’s allowed just three runs in 25 2/3 innings to date, good for a 1.05 ERA. The Braves have won all four of his starts.

How Medlen will hold up as a starter is the big question mark. The Braves knew they were taking a risk when they shifted him from the rotation to the pen in 2010, and he ended up hurting his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was kept in the pen initially this year in part because the Braves were confident about their starters but also because they wanted to save wear and tear on his arm.

Still, there wouldn’t seem to be any going back now. Depending on how Hanson looks in his return and whether Ben Sheets and Paul Maholm can continue their surprising success, it’s possible Medlen will be the Braves’ second or third starter in the postseason, should the team advance.

Yankees acquire A.J. Cole from the Nats

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The New York Yankees have acquired reliever A.J. Cole from the Washington Nationals for cash considerations.

Cole was supposed to be the Nats’ fifth starter this year but that didn’t work out too well. He pitched in four games for the Nats, starting two, to the tune of a 13.06 ERA, having given up six home runs in 10.1 innings. That’s . . . something.

Don’t get too used to Cole on the New York roster, as this seems like one of those “give us an arm” for a couple of days deals, after which Cole will be DFA’d and will either accept an assignment to Scranton or be cut loose. Such is life at the fringes for a guy who is out of minor league options.