Atlanta Braves starter Mike Minor continues to struggle this season. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — After a career year for the Braves in 2013, left-hander Mike Minor hasn’t been the reliable starter they urgently need in the rotation this season.
The Marlins knocked around Minor during a 6-5 victory at Turner Field on Tuesday. The Braves, who entered the day a game behind the Nationals in the NL East, lost for the third time in five games since the All-Star break.
It was Minor’s first start since the break and the results weren’t much better with the extra rest. He lasted just three-plus innings against the Marlins, who got to him for 10 hits and six earned runs, and the Braves couldn’t complete a late rally.
“I’m a little concerned because we’ve seen so much better than that (from Minor),” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’ve seen a couple of good outings, and then one like tonight, and then a couple of good outings. So we’ll keep working, we’ll keep trying to figure it out because he’s a big piece of our rotation right now.”
In 2013, Minor’s second full season in the majors, he posted career bests in ERA (3.21), wins (13), innings (204.2) and strikeouts (204.2). There was reason to believe he could be an experienced anchor in the rotation behind Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran.
When Medlen and Brandon Beachy were lost for the season with elbow injuries in spring training, Minor was thrust into a more important role. So far he hasn’t handled it well.
After Tuesday’s game Minor’s season ERA stands at 5.32. He’s allowed four or more earned runs in four of his past five starts and opponents have 10 or more hits against him in five of his 14 starts overall.
“We looked at film (and) I’m pretty much the same pitcher as last year,” Minor said. “Maybe just not executing pitches and really going after it and nibbling or aiming the ball. Last year I threw a ton of (fastballs) 90, 91 mph and just went after guys. I wasn’t as tentative towards contact and this year it seems like I am pitching to (avoid) contact.”
Minor got a late start to spring training. He had a medical procedure on his urinary tract in December and then developed shoulder soreness when he resumed throwing in January. At the time, Minor said he normally begins his offseason throwing around Christmas and rushed back to too soon after taking time off following the procedure.
But Minor said he feels fine physically and believes he can turn things around for his next start.
“I’ve been saying that all year, though,” he said. “Every time I go out there I feel I’m going to have a good game. I feel physically strong and mentally I’m good, and then it so happens I have a bad game. The bullpen has been picking me up all season long. They did a hell of a job tonight and we almost squeezed out a win.”
At the Chicago Cubs on July 12 Minor allowed six runs and 11 hits over six innings but earned the win when the Braves posted an 11-6 victory. The Braves’ offense couldn’t bail Minor out this time in spite of facing Marlins starter Jacob Turner, who was making his first return start since being demoted to the bullpen in mid-June.