When you are proceeded in a pitching rotation by the likes of Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson, you can sometimes have a tendency to fly under the radar a bit. When your team makes a move to bolster the rotation by acquiring Paul Maholm at the trade deadline and then stretching out upstart reliever Kris Medlen, you can get pushed further into the background. And when you have a 4-6 record and a 6.20 ERA at the end of June, you can be all but forgotten.
Such has been the case for Braves’s lefty Mike Minor.
But the Major League Baseball season is considered a marathon for a reason and Mike Minor is proof-positive of that mentality. With the Braves suffering the losses of Brandon Beachy, Jair Jurrjens, and Ben Sheets in the rotation, Minor was extended a longer leash to work out his issues, where most 24-year-old pitchers would have been demoted. The Braves needed him, so he needed to figure out his struggles while keeping them in the pennant race.
For their faith, the Braves have been rewarded.
Over the course of his last 11 starts dating back to July 5th, Minor has been a completely different pitcher. He has been just 4-4 during that stretch, but he’s had a 2.58 ERA over those starts, lowering his season number to 4.58 in the process while his batting average against is .206 while his BaBIP is a pesky .233. Moreover, Minor has managed to keep the ball in the park better, giving up just 7 home runs over his last 11 starts after giving up 18 in his first 15 starts on the season.
The evolution of Minor was on full display on Tuesday night, when the lefty had perhaps his best start of the season, going 7 innings and giving up just a single hit while walking 4 and striking out seven in a 1-0 Braves win over the Rockies. It was a gutsy performance in a game where both teams combined for just 6 total hits, including 1 by Minor himself.
The trick was convincing himself that he was up to the task of pitching at this level.
“I don’t stress out too much when I get runners on like that,” Minor said. “Earlier in the year, I might have told myself, ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that.’ Now it’s ‘Do this.’ I have more confidence when I throw a pitch or have to get out of [a jam], because I’ve been there this year.”
Now Minor knows he can, and the Braves can focus on holding on to the wild card in 2012.
In addition to his work at Call to the Pen, Kyle can be found casting his thoughts on small market baseball on The Baseball Big Brother Project. You can also follow his other dribbles on twitter @BBallBigBrother