(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Lot of questions flying about what the Braves should or will do about Mike Minor, who is now 2-3 with a 7.09 ERA in eight starts this season. He
gave up six runs in 4 2/3 innings in an 8-4 loss to the Marlins last night, to fall to 0-2 with an 11.95 ERA in his past four starts.
Minor has allowed 27 earned runs in his past 20 2/3 innings. This is after showing such promise in a three-game stretch while going 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA.
All I can tell you about what happens next is the impression I got from manager Fredi Gonzalez last night, and that’s the Braves plan to be patient with Minor and keep running him out there, at least for now.
Here was his response when asked about the trouble Minor ran into after being nearly perfect his first time through the order.
“It’s kind of a little complex,” Gonzalez said of Minor’s big-inning problems. “He is getting (after) it and then all of a sudden those type innings happen to him. That’s a young pitcher. You have to be patient with him and get him through those type innings. He will be better off on the other end when he gets through those innings.”
Gonzalez continued: “I’ve seen three, four solid innings and one big inning just kind of unravels on him. That’s just part of big league experience, getting through those innings and minimizing the damage, doing all those sorts of things. That comes with running him back and there and saying, ‘Hey, let’s get through it.’”
One thing Minor doesn’t face is questions over either his stuff – he’s still throwing with his usually velocity – or his health. And the most likely option to replace him in the rotation just had a disaster outing for Triple-A Gwinnett last night. Jair Jurrjens was ultimately charged with 11 runs (10 earned) in 4 2/3 innings against Buffalo. I had him underestimated in my tweets last night because a couple more of his runs scored after he left the game, I gather.
But Jurrjens gave up two home runs among 12 hits, walked two and struck out three. Jurrjens is now 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA in four starts since his demotion to Triple-A. Until Wednesday night, though, he had not given up more than two runs in an outing or gone any fewer than seven innings.
I’m not sure what went on with Jurrjens, but it’ll be a topic for discussion this afternoon at the ballpark.
Julio Teheran is another way the Braves could go and maybe they will eventually if Minor continues to struggle. Teheran is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in seven starts this season for Triple-A Gwinnett. He’s allowed 27 hits, including five home runs in 32 2/3 innings, walked 12 and has 27 strikeouts.
But it’s not always as simple as everybody thinks, to insert a guy in the majors who’s been pitching well in Triple-A and expect it to immediately translate. Teheran has made the jump a few times before and with mixed success. He is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three major league starts, making it past the fifth inning only once. He’s given up five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in relief. He’s given up four home runs in 19 1/3 innings over those five outings in all.
Another option would be to stretch out Kris Medlen, though the Braves would argue he’s been such a valuable piece to their bullpen they’d rather not. Plus at this point it might take some time, and possibly at trip to the minors, to stretch Medlen out. He’s pitched three innings at the most, and that was back on April 27.
Another reason the Braves would like Minor to work out is because he’s the only left-hander of the bunch, and that might be part of why he’s getting the benefit of the doubt here.
As some others have suggested, it does seem Minor is having some problems pitching out of the stretch and maybe that’s why he struggled so much last night with the command of his breaking pitches, with runners on base. He said everything offspeed was in the dirt, so the hitters weren’t offering. They could just wait on his fastball.
The numbers are pretty decisive: this season, with the bases empty, Minor has limited hitters to a .226 batting average (26-for-115) with four doubles, three home runs, three RBIs, eight walks and 34 strikeouts. With runners on base? He’s getting hit at a .422 clip (27-for-64), allowing five doubles, one triple, five home runs, 29 RBIs, seven walks and only 10 strikes.
So perhaps there something mechanical to address. Or maybe it’s a mental thing of trying to be too fine with runners on base.
Beachy vs. Nolasco
In better news, Brandon Beachy takes the mound tonight. For fear of being accused of the dreaded jinx, I’ll just say he has a pretty good ERA. The Braves have won five of Beachy’s seven starts this season, and they’ve won two of his four starts all-time against the Marlins. Beachy is 1-0 with a 4.01 ERA against them. He gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings the last time he faced them on Sept. 12. He’s a different pitcher this year, though.
Ricky Nolasco (4-1, 3.65 ERA) is trying to become the all-time winningest pitcher in Marlins history. He comes into the game tied with Dontrelle Willis with 68 wins. The Braves have faced him 20 times over his career and it’s been a mixed bag. He’s been on one extreme – with 16 strikeouts in a win over the Braves on Sept. 30, 2009 and 11 strikeouts in a win on July 4, 2010.
Then the other – the Braves have actually gotten him for four or more runs in four of his past six starts. I think some of that has to do with some injuries. I know Nolasco pitched one game against the Braves in 2010 on a torn meniscus, but last September the Braves got him for eight earned runs in 13 2/3 innings over two starts.
Ozzie on Walker
It’s always fun to sit in on a media session with Ozzie Guillen and when I got a chance yesterday to ask him about Braves new hitting coach Greg Walker, who was his hitting coach with the White Sox before both parted ways last season, he just raved.
“There is nobody on earth more happy for Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher besides their family and their wives than me,” said Guillen, who was teammates with both with the White Sox. “Greg Walker is very professional. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a players’ guy. Even when the players are not hitting good for him, they will still love. You never see him about the clubhouse. You never see him around the coaches’ room. He’s always in the cage, always working with people. I just talked to Chipper (Jones) and said thank you for treating this man the way you treat him. After the dark cloud we got back in Chicago, I can see he looks young again…”
“Greg is the type of guy he’s takes it personal. He’s got 12 players, 11 players, the one guy fails he’ll worry about that guy….I just told him too bad you’re in my same division. I’m very excited for him.”
Smoltz at Atlanta Press Club
And in the shameless promotion part of the blog, thought I’d pass along that soon-to-be Braves Hall of Famer John Smoltz is speaking Monday at the Atlanta Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon. He’ll be there to promote his book “Starting and Closing,” which has been a great read so far, so you can come and hear him talk about what went into that project and more. Yours truly has been asked to lead a Q and A, so come on out.
It’s Monday at noon at The Commerce Club located at 191 Peachtree Street on the 49th floor. Tickets are $40, which includes lunch. You can register at www.atlantapressclub.org or call 404-577-7377. Attire is business or business casual.
MLB announced today that TBS will air both the wild card games in the National and American Leagues in 2012 and 2013, as part of the new playoff format pitting two wild card teams in each league against each other in a one-game playoff. They also announced that MLB Network has been awarded two Division Series games each of the next two years as well. Those of us who don’t have MLB Network will be bummed.
1. Bourn 8
2. Prado 7
3. Freeman 3
4. Uggla 4
5. McCann 2
6. Jones 5
7. Heyward 9
8. Pastornicky 6
9. Beachy 1