SARASOTA, Fla. – Mike Minor is benefitting greatly from the 15 starts he made for the Braves at last season. His manager and catcher see it – and say it bodes well.
The young left-hander made his second start of the spring Thursday. He threw three innings and allowed no runs, three hits, one on the infield, and walked two in a game the Braves eventually lost to the Orioles, 2-1. Minor also induced two double-play grounders as he worked on his breaking ball and change-up.
“I think he is a different guy in general, after seeing him in September,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “There is a comfort level there. There is a mindset that he belongs.”
Minor went 5-3 with a 4.14 ERA with 70 strikeout and 30 walks last season. He made nine starts in August and September after injuries to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
Catcher David Ross said that because Minor’s fastball command was so good Thursday, they worked on off-speed pitches to expand his repertoire.
“He had good fastball command, which is number one for me early on in spring training,” Ross said. “The other stuff he will get a feel for to get over. He threw a really good change-up. His breaking ball is, like every spring, the last thing to come from most pitchers. I’m just glad he moved the ball in and out with his fastball, got some ground balls and his changeup is a lot better than years past, it’s got more movement. He’s come a long way in the few years he’s been here.”
Minor said he will work four innings in his next start, which will come Tuesday against the Marlins, as he continues to build arm strength.
“It’s just getting out there and try to establish the strike zone,” Minor said. “Once you establish that you can try to pick corners. Right now, I’m still trying to concentrate on my breaking ball, flick it in there for 0-0 [count] and try to bury it. Same thing with the change-up. I threw a couple today it was 0-2, 1-2 that were too much in the zone. During the season you want to get that out of the zone.”
Working on secondary pitches is what Gonzalez says he wants to see him from his pitchers as they make their second spring starts.
“I thought he did that very nicely with his changeup,” he said. “ … That is what we’ve got to start seeing, want to start seeing, that command of those secondary pitches. He had that today.”
Hanson debuts Sunday
Gonzalez confirmed the Hanson will make his spring debut on Sunday in the home game of a split squad contests with the Blue Jays. Hanson, who is coming back from a concussion suffered in a one-car accident two weeks ago, threw a final batting practice session at the team’s Disney complex Thursday.
Left-hander Sean Gilmartin will start the road game in Dunedin.
The Braves play split-squad games against the Mets (home) and Yankees (away) on Friday. Starting at Disney will be Randall Delgado and starting in Tampa will be Julio Teheran. The game against the Yankees will be shown on the MLB Network, the Braves first televised game of the spring.
Brandon Beach will pitch Monday and Minor on Tuesday. Gonzalez has yet to decide if Delgado or Teheran will start Wednesday.
Braves still with one win
The Braves (1-5) lost Thursday after the Orioles plated runs in the seventh and eighth innings at Ed Smith Stadium. J.J. Hoover took the loss after he allowed two hits and two walks in the eighth inning.
Eric Hinske had given the Braves a 1-0 lead with a home run to right field in the top of the seventh when he connected on a hanging breaking ball from Zach Philips.
“I’ve been kind of searching up there, not feeling too hot, just trying to find my timing,” Hinske said. “The first pitch of that at-bat was a fastball middle in and I fouled it off the right way. I was like ‘There it is.’ Then he hung a breaking ball and I hit a home run. Sometimes it just takes one little thing and you click in.”
The Braves had the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth inning but failed to score with Brandon Hicks struck out and Ernesto Mejia hit into a double play. The Braves also loaded the bases and failed to score in Wednesday’s loss to the Tigers.
“Yes,” Gonzalez said when asked if he was concerned by the 1-5 start. “In the grand scheme of things you want to win ball games. I don’t care if they are in the Grapefruit League or an inter-squad game back on Field No. 2. You want to win ball games. We are playing some good baseball and the winning will come. We are getting some people on base. … It’s coming. It’s still early. The number one thing right now is being healthy.”