During spring training this year, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor basically gave the Braves an ultimatum. “I’ve been in Triple-A all last year pretty much,” Minor said in March, “and the year before I had some time [in the majors]. I’m getting older every year, so there’s no reason for me to be sitting in Triple-A.” He stated plainly that if the Braves didn’t have room for him in their starting rotation this season, they might as well trade him. As they say Mr. Minor, be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.
Minor started out the year well enough, going 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in his first four starts, but then the bottom fell out, and fell out quickly. In his last four starts his ERA has jumped up to 7.09, and he’s given up 27 earned runs (including seven home runs) in 20.2 innings. His last two starts – against the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins – Minor hasn’t been able to get out of the fifth inning. The Braves bats bailed him out of a couple of starts even though he left them in huge run deficit holes.
So now manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell have to answer some crucial questions. What’s wrong with Minor…how can it be fixed…and what should they do with him until it is fixed? Minor’s strikeout numbers are still good (23 K’s in 20.2 innings in his last four starts), which would lead the coaches to believe that this isn’t a problem with his stuff. The high number of home runs given up, along with teams stringing together numerous hits in a single inning on multiple occasions would suggest that it might have to do with pitch location. Minor would agree. “I’m just making too many non-competitive pitches,” Minor said Wednesday.
The problem is that the Braves just don’t have many options in this situation. Jair Jurrjens has struggled in his Triple-A assignment thus far, so bringing him back up to replace Minor is just swapping one problem for another. Moving Kris Medlen out of his bullpen duty would disturb the one part of the Braves pitching that has been fairly consistent. If you bring up Julio Teheran from Gwinnett and send Minor down, you leave the Braves without a left-handed starter in their rotation. Rock…meet hard place. You two should get along just fine.
Between Minor’s competitiveness, and Gonzalez and McDowell’s patience, they can hopefully come up with something to fix this before things get too far gone with Minor. When a young pitcher gets his confidence shaken, many times it’s very hard to get back.