A.J. Minter formally re-entered the Braves’ reliever mix Tuesday, completing his journey back after getting jettisoned to the minors for early-season struggles.
Minter entered in the seventh inning of the Braves’ 7-5 victory against the Pirates, coaxing a fly ball from hot-hitting first baseman Josh Bell to end the inning. Jung Ho Kang led off the ninth with a single before Minter got a grounder and strikeout.
Anthony Swarzak relieved Minter, allowing a triple to Bryan Reynolds that scored Minter’s base runner.
“He was good,” manager Brian Snitker said of Minter. “I thought he did a good job. It was good to get him back in the fold. He’s another one who, if his command is good and he’s staying ahead of hitters, he’s going to be successful.”
The Braves demoted Minter on May 9 after eight of the last nine hitters he faced reached base. The assumed closer, Minter couldn’t find the strike zone – an inconsistency that left the Braves no other choice. The lefty had walked nine in 11 innings.
Minter appeared much improved with Triple-A Gwinnett. He struck out 15 and walked only two in nine appearances (eight of which were scoreless). The Braves have always counted on Minter as an asset in their bullpen, even upon his demotion.
They’re hoping he’s physically caught up after a shoulder injury derailed his spring, while his confidence is back to where it should be for an arm expected to handle late-inning situations. They won’t stray from using him in any circumstances moving forward.
“With A.J., we never thought of him as a strictly match-up guy either,” Snitker said, expressing confidence in his southpaw. “When he’s throwing like he can, it doesn’t matter what side you’re batting from.”
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