A.J. Minter chosen to start Game 5 for Braves

Braves pitcher A.J. Minter delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the ninth inning in a MLB baseball game on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Braves announced that left-handed reliever A.J. Minter will start Game 5 on Friday in his native Texas as the Braves try to earn a World Series berth. Minter is the first pitcher in MLB history to make his first career start in a postseason game.

Minter will begin a bullpen game for the Braves, who lead the Dodgers 3-1 in the National League Championship Series. The game is scheduled to begin at 9:08 p.m. at Globe Life Field.

“We talked after the game last night and came up with (Minter),” manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know that there was a right or wrong answer doing this. We knew it was going to be a bullpen game. Everybody will be available. We’ll let the game dictate (how long Minter goes and who we use). Before we start, we’ll have a tentative plan and see where the game takes us.”

The Braves are well-positioned with their bullpen after Huascar Ynoa covered four innings in Game 3 and Bryse Wilson pitched six innings in Game 4. The Dodgers are starting right-hander Dustin May.

This will be the first start of Minter’s career. The Tyler, Texas, native last started at Texas A&M in 2015. He made four starts, earning a 0.43 ERA across 21 innings.

“A.J. came to me earlier in the year and said, ‘If you want to start me, use me as an opener for two or three innings, I’m more than up for doing that,'” Snitker said. “(He’s starting today) mainly because he had a day of rest, and he hasn’t been used a lot. He’s only pitched once in this series. He’s probably one of the freshest guys we have.”

Minter, 27, is in his fourth major-league season. He rebounded after a disappointing 2019 campaign, posting a 0.83 ERA with 24 strikeouts against nine walks in 22 regular-season appearances (21-2/3 innings). He’s allowed one run in three appearances (2-1/3 innings) this postseason.

“He’s put together an unbelievable year,” said veteran reliever Josh Tomlin, a fellow Tyler native who works out with Minter. “He’s been very consistent, and not just on the mound. The pre-work, his readiness, his preparedness. Everything about him this year has been a little bit different. A little more focused, it seems like, not that he wasn’t focused last year.

"It’s almost like he got humbled a little bit and was ready to turn the page on last year. He’s ready, focused and I feel like he’s the right man for the job.”

The Braves announced Minter as their starter roughly 7-1/2 hours before Game 5. If the series extends beyond Friday, they have more certainty to their rotation. Max Fried would start Game 6 and Ian Anderson would get Game 7.

This will be the first time the Braves deploy the bullpen-game strategy in the postseason. Minter could pitch beyond the first inning depending on how the frame goes, Snitker said.

“We’ve done it a couple times this year when we started with Ynoa and wanted him to go maybe three innings,” Snitker said. “We’re kind of forced into it. I’d much rather have Mike Soroka here making this start tonight, but it is what it is and this is where we’re at. ... It’s uncharted territory for all of us. We’re going to play it by ear and see what happens."

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