LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Kris Medlen understands that he will likely begin this season in Atlanta's bullpen. But over the next few weeks, the versatile right-hander wants to give the Braves every reason to remember he still has the ability to be an effective starting pitcher whenever necessary.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez seemed pleased after watching Medlen allow a run while pitching the first two innings of Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Nationals. That lone run came courtesy of the opposite-field home run that Jayson Werth snuck over the right-field wall to begin the second inning.
"Medlen was outstanding, he really was," Gonzalez said. "He threw some good changeups to some left-handed hitters, and some fastballs. That was nice to see."
Showing the ability to throw his curveball for strikes, Medlen recorded a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless first inning. Werth's homer and Bryce Harper's second-inning single served as the only blemishes during his two-inning stint.
"I had the anxious nerves before the game," Medlen said. "It was just like a regular-season start for me. I was really amped up and really ready to go."
Medlen posted a 3.86 ERA and saw the Braves go 13-1 in the 14 starts he made before undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in August 2010. Still, it appears he will begin this season as a middle reliever, someone who could lessen the strain placed on top setup men Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty.
"He's an upper-tier swing guy," Gonzalez said. "He could be your middle-of-the-rotation type of starter, and he can help you out there in those middle innings. He can do a lot of different stuff."
Freeman feels good, will play Wednesday
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman returned to the lineup earlier than he originally expected, and exited his first Grapefruit League game feeling good about the way his right knee reacted.
"Today, it felt great," Freeman said after going hitless in two at-bats during Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Nationals. "Hopefully it doesn't do anything crazy and swell up on me tomorrow. I don't think it will. So I'm traveling tomorrow and I'll get three at-bats tomorrow."
Exactly one week after his right kneecap had briefly popped out of place, Freeman found himself back at first base and taking some aggressive swings against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. The strong 22-year-old slugger grounded out in the first inning and flied out to right field in the fourth inning.
The stability of Freeman's knee was tested as he pivoted and pushed himself away from the first-base bag while holding at least one runner on during each of the first three innings. He cleanly fielded Bryce Harper's fourth-inning grounder and got back to the first-base bag six times to field throws during his four-inning stint.
"Hopefully I can get a few games under my belt and hopefully we can move past this," Freeman said. "Hopefully we never have to talk about this again."
Freeman plans to record at least three at-bats on Wednesday, when the Braves travel to Lakeland, Fla., to play the Tigers. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will watch his young first baseman play another game before determining when he might play again over the remainder of the week.
"We'll see how he comes out of it," Gonzalez said. "He wanted another at-bat today. He wants to play. Those are always good signs. That's the same thing he did last September, when he was trying to fight through [a sore quad muscle]. It's a good trait to have."
Chipper slated to miss fourth straight game
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Chipper Jones will miss his fourth straight game on Wednesday as he rests his legs. The Braves' veteran third baseman felt some soreness around his thighs while playing in Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers.
"I'll try to get over it and then ease my way back into it," Jones said Tuesday morning.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he is not concerned about this being a lingering issue for Jones, who will turn 40 in April.
"He's a 40-year-old guy and he knows his body a little bit," Gonzalez said. "When he is telling you his legs are not quite there yet, you've got to believe him. If it is March 15 or 18, then yes I would be [worried]. But if he misses the first week, I'm not really concerned about it."
Tommy Hanson felt fine during a five-minute live batting-practice session on Tuesday. Hanson, who is behind schedule because of a Grade 1 concussion suffered on Feb. 20, will throw a 10-minute live batting-practice session on Thursday. If all goes well, he will likely pitch the first two innings of Sunday's game against the Blue Jays. This would mean Kris Medlen would be pushed back to pitch the third, fourth and fifth innings of that game. ... Cristhian Martinez, a favorite to win a bullpen spot out of camp, recorded three strikeouts in two scoreless innings on Tuesday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.