LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — While the Braves have scored 35 runs in the past two games against the Phillies and Pirates, Atlanta pitchers have also allowed 19 runs in those wins, including 14 earned runs in nine innings against starters Kris Medlen and Mike Minor.
Minor was charged with 10 hits, five runs and three walks in four innings Wednesday against Pittsburgh, after giving up six hits, four runs and four walks in five innings of his previous start Thursday against the Cardinals.
The left-hander has a 5.50 ERA in five starts, allowing 23 hits, 11 runs and 12 walks with 15 strikeouts in 18 innings.
“I don’t know, it’s just one of those things where I threw a lot of fastballs again, a lot of first-pitch fastballs, and we didn’t throw many off-speed pitches,” said Minor, who pitched to backup catcher candidate Evan Gattis. “We didn’t go inside a lot to righties. So those things will be different during the season.”
Asked if that strategy was the plan going into Wednesday’s game, Minor said, “We really don’t talk about it. It’s kind of just like, whatever Evan puts down. I didn’t shake (off signals) many times, maybe twice because I wanted to throw a certain pitch. But most of the time it’s whatever he puts down to throw. Evan’s never really faced a lot of these teams, so he’s just kind of going with the flow and I tell him, whatever he thinks just put it down.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wasn’t concerned with Minor’s struggles in the past week.
“Just missed his command a little bit,” he said. “I saw a guy that was not as sharp as he was before, but nothing to worry about. We got his pitch count up to the middle-80s, so he’ll be good to go. He’ll get another start, maybe two starts, and get him ready for the season.”
Minor said he just began working on a two-seam fastball (a sinker).
“A couple of times I fell behind in the count trying to throw, say, a 1-0 or 2-0 sinker that’s out of the zone, then I go 3-0 or 2-0,” he said. “Those were a couple that got hit. But I feel like I need to throw that in the game to see what it really does, because in the bullpen (between starts) I’m not going to be throwing full-speed.”
With two starts left before his first regular-season start, he said he would continue to work on the sinker.
“Yeah, just to kind of locate them,” he said. “Because the ones that did move were way out of the zone, and the ones that didn’t were just right in the zone, pretty much right down the middle. I need to try to locate them with movement, find that grip and release point.”
Walden return: Pitching for only the second time all spring and first time since Feb. 23, Jordan Walden shook off some rust and said his troublesome back didn’t given him any problems during an inning of work Wednesday. He gave up an infield single, one run and two walks and had one strikeout in the fifth inning.
The hard-throwing reliever got an epidural injection a week ago to relief pain from a bulging disc in his back.
“I felt good, back was fine,” he said. “I’ve just got to work on my mechanics. I think everything will be fine. Ever since I got that epidural shot I really haven’t even felt it. Feeling good.
“Now I’ve just got to get my command and everything with pitching back on track.”
Walden said he hoped to be able to pitch every other day for the remaining eight days of Grapefruit League games, but Gonzalez said the team would likely not pitch him that frequently right away. That would seem to rule out Walden having enough time to get ready before the season begins April 1, but Gonzalez said it’s possible he could start the season on the 25-man roster and not the 15-day disabled list.
“I wouldn’t rule out opening day yet,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously we’ll see how he feels after today, and how many outings we can get him. But I wouldn’t rule him out. I think we’ll take our time with him, but those relievers, you give them four or five (appearances) and he’ll be good to go.”
Etc. The Braves reassigned lefty reliever Dusty Hughes to their minor league camp Wednesday. He impressed team officials while allowing only one run and five hits in seven innings. The next round of roster cuts is expected after Saturday’s split-squad games…. Reliever Jonny Venters hasn’t pitched since his four-walk outing March 13, but the lefty and Gonzalez said Venters is healthy and just got time off from games because the spring is longer than usual and he had six appearnaces in the first 2-1/2 weeks of the Grapefruit League scheduled. He threw a side session in the bullpen Wednesday morning.