How Braves reliever A.J. Minter has stayed confident, positive during struggles

Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter reacts after giving up a hit during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Truist Park, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Braves relief pitcher A.J. Minter reacts after giving up a hit during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Truist Park, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz /

At one point during the Braves’ series in Toronto last month, manager Brian Snitker called A.J. Minter into his office.

Minter lugged a 7.50 ERA to Toronto. And in his one appearance versus the Blue Jays, he allowed two earned runs over an inning, which pushed his ERA to 8.05. He was confused. Sure, he knew he could improve in certain areas, but he felt like part of this was an avalanche of bad luck.

He needed to hear what Snitker told him.

“Hey, I’m gonna keep throwing you out there,” Snitker said, as relayed by Minter. “Everything that’s been going this way, it’s been unlucky. But don’t lose confidence because I’m going to keep putting you in those situations.”

Minter had let in run after run. He saw ball after ball find a hole – some hit harder than others. It seemed hitters were making him pay for every single missed location. And at times, they were hitting pitches he thought he executed. All along, Minter took heat from some in the fan base.

Snitker – the wise baseball man who has seen everything the game has to offer – helped instill confidence in Minter. The left-hander, who was among the top relievers in baseball a year ago, appreciated the boost.

“Everyone wants a manager that believes in you whenever things aren’t going good,” Minter said. “That’s what makes Snit one of the best managers in baseball. He’s a player’s coach before anything. He knows how hard baseball is, and he gets it. And from him, just to call me in the office and say, ‘Hey, I still believe in you,’ it just makes me feel better. It just kind of takes the weight off my shoulders.”

‘It’s a hard game’

In his last six appearances dating to May 27, Minter has hurled 5-1/3 scoreless innings. He has struck out six batters while walking one. He hasn’t given up a hit.

Yes, this is a small sample.

But it is encouraging if you’ve followed Minter’s trajectory this season.

To begin the season, he surrendered only two earned runs over his first nine innings. Then? Eleven earned runs over 4-1/3 innings across five outings.

For context: Before this, Minter – who has pitched 277 innings in the major leagues – never had a stretch in which he allowed 11 earned runs over only 4-1/3 innings.

He has struggled and been demoted and experienced pitfalls, but nothing like this – at least statistically.

But Snitker remained confident in him because of the conversations the two had. “He wasn’t panicking,” Snitker said. “He still felt good about his stuff, himself.” And Snitker knows how difficult baseball can be. He preaches it a lot.

“It’s a hard game – a really hard game – no matter what position you’re playing,” Snitker said. “Whether you’re a hitter, pitcher, whatever, you’re gonna go through pitfalls, and you’re gonna have to fight your way through. As long as these guys believe in themselves, they will come out of it.”

But this is the key question: How did Minter keep believing? Before this scoreless stretch, opponents had scored on Minter in nine of 15 outings. In four of those, he surrendered multiple runs.

How does a reliever keep the faith when so much is going wrong?

This, Minter said, comes from experience. The Braves sent him down in 2019, then again in 2021. And in 2019, he got hit around, then began not trusting his fastball and, thus, not pounding the strike zone. The walks shot up.

“And that just snowballs,” Minter said.


“I’m just a little bit wiser and more mature,” Minter said. “And things are gonna eventually start going your way a little bit better. Not saying it’s all gonna be great. You’re obviously gonna have to keep making pitches. But it’s never as bad as what you seem, and it’s never as good, too. You just have to trust the process and trust that it’s a long 162-game season.”

During Minter’s struggles, many of the underlying numbers told a different story than his ERA. At this moment, his expected ERA – which takes into account the amount of contact and the quality of contact – is almost two and a half runs lower than his actual ERA. At one point last month, Minter’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was .392, which seemed to indicate he had been the victim of bad luck, considering his hard-hit rate was lower than it was last season.

But many fans see only the ERA and direct results.

Context can be lost.

“It just kind of makes you kind of just want to prove the doubters wrong again,” Minter said. “It fuels you at the same time. So I plan on getting back on everyone’s good side again.”

‘It’s just all about staying positive’

Earlier in his career, Minter met Sam Lima, who is a licensed mental health counselor working with the Braves. Whenever Lima is in town, the two will go for a walk on the field and just talk. Minter finds the mental-skills work beneficial, and it ties into what he’s doing.

“Whenever I’m out on the field, I’m confident,” Minter said. “I’m saying, ‘Here it is. I’m going to throw it in the zone. See if you can hit it.’ But here recently, it’s been more of, ‘OK, I’m not throwing in the zone, I’m trying to get a swing and miss. ‘And I think that’s something that’s really helping me right now is in the mentality of, I’m not just throwing in the zone. I’m trying to get you to swing at it and miss it.”

That – trying to get swing and miss – is a different outlook for Minter.

How did he develop it?

“It’s just more of a self-positive belief,” he said. “It’s crazy. It’s just like in golf. If you think negative thoughts, negative things are gonna happen. If you’re thinking positive thoughts on the mound and being the aggressor, the attacker, and truly believing in what you’re putting out, it’s a good recipe.”

Minter and Lima have developed a friendship. Minter said it’s nice to be able to bounce anything off Lima.

“You have to put out positive beliefs out to the universe, because whenever you do, you almost trick your mind into believing it,” Minter said of what Lima has taught him. “It’s just all about staying positive, and actually speaking it into existence is the biggest thing.”

‘But I’m not quite great yet’

“I think I’m still a really good pitcher,” Minter said. “But I’m not quite great yet. I still have some things that I could get better at.”

Last season is last season. Minter wants to repeat it.

“The one thing I lack is, anyone can put together a really good season. It’s all about being consistent,” Minter said. “And in my past, it’s always been really good, really bad, really good, really bad. I just want to be consistently, really good. There’s still things to work on, for sure.”

Minter said it begins with fastball command. If he locates his fastball, he’ll limit the walks. And if his stuff is working well, he’ll strike out hitters, which leaves him less susceptible to bad luck because the ball won’t be in play as much. Everyone goes through struggles, he said, but the great athletes limit the damage.

After Tuesday’s win over the Mets, Minter was asked why his past five outings have gone much better. He said he’s locating his cutter better and keeping it down.


“Honestly … I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing,” Minter said. “I wish I could tell you I was doing something different.”

On Wednesday, before a sixth consecutive scoreless outing, Minter said he understood it was only five games.

“That’s nothing in the grand scheme of things,” Minter said. “I still have a long way to go. I want to get back to form. It’s trending in the right direction, so hopefully I can keep that going.”