NEW YORK -- After moving from the bullpen to the rotation, Kris Medlen spent the final two months of the 2012 season proving to be baseball's most effective starter. One year later, it appears he could spend the season's final two months back in a relief role.
With Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy both expected to join Atlanta's rotation in the next week, Medlen entered Tuesday night's start at Citi Field knowing his days as a starter were possibly numbered. By the time he exited in the sixth inning of a 4-1 loss to the Mets, there was little reason to believe the Braves could choose to go a different route.
"I know it's been brought up," Medlen said. "I said I don't want to go to the 'pen, but I didn't say I wouldn't go to the 'pen. I think there's a difference. If they think that is where I'll be most effective to help the team win, then obviously I'm going to do that."
If Wood proves effective against the Mets on Thursday and Beachy gets through his rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday without any problems, Medlen could be making his final start for the foreseeable future on Sunday against the Cardinals.
This certainly was not envisioned when Medlen posted a 0.97 ERA during the 12 starts he made last year. But while compiling a 5.53 ERA in his past seven starts, the competitive right-hander has fallen victim to inconsistent fastball command, which began plaguing him during Spring Training.
Medlen has still posted an impressive 2.62 ERA in 32 starts dating back to July 31. But his recent struggles combined with his previous experience as a reliever has made him the most likely option to move to the bullpen if Wood and Beachy do indeed prove they are ready to serve as dependable assets in the rotation.
"I think I've had a pretty good year from last year until now," Medlen said. "I'm just in a pretty bad stretch. Hopefully the team sticks with me with that. I'm just trying to do what I can do to control the situation. I'm just trying to stay aggressive and make the adjustments."
After allowing 10 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings over his previous two outings, Medlen got off to a good start Tuesday, limiting the Mets to three hits and one run through the first five innings. But he allowed hits to four of the five batters he faced during the Mets' decisive three-run sixth inning.
After third baseman Chris Johnson prevented a run with his diving stop on Marlon Byrd's sharp grounder, Medlen hung a curveball that Ike Davis drilled for a go-ahead double. After surrendering John Buck's RBI single, Medlen exited.
Davis has hit .333 (7-for-21) with four RBIs against the Braves. The Mets first baseman, who was sent to the Minors earlier this season, has batted .162 with 16 RBIs against every other team he has opposed this year.
"It was almost two different pitchers for the first five innings, and then he went out there for the sixth," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Medlen. "I don't know if it was command or just leaving the ball out over the plate. But the swings got better in the sixth than they were in the first five innings. So that's something we need to look at."
Medlen was perfect through the first two innings, and the only run he had surrendered entering the sixth came courtesy of the one-out RBI single Mets starting pitcher Carlos Torres sent through a drawn-in infield with one out in the third. Torres had recorded just two previous at-bats this year and a total of 15 in his career.
But it was just that kind of night for Torres, who surrendered one run and seven hits over six innings in what was just his second start of the season. The 30-year-old right-hander made an impression in the Mets' bullpen earlier this year, and now has a 0.94 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.
"I wasn't really that sharp at all today," Torres said. "I got a ton of help from the defense and a couple lucky breaks."
It looked like the Braves might have their way with Torres as they notched four hits and recorded a number of loud outs through the first two innings. But the only run they tallied came courtesy of Andrelton Simmons hitting the game's second pitch over the left-field wall for his 10th homer of the season.
After Simmons drilled his third career leadoff home run, Brian McCann drew a two-out walk to put runners at first and second. Evan Gattis followed with a sharp single that Juan Lagares fielded in shallow center before making a strong throw that denied Jason Heyward's aggressive attempt to score from second.
Chris Johnson's ground-rule double gave the Braves runners at second and third with none out in the second inning. But Torres escaped that threat unscathed when Heyward's opposite-field line drive was caught just in front of the left-field fence.
"He made some good pitches," Simmons said. "When he found himself in trouble, he made the pitches he needed. So you've got to tip your cap to him."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.