Braves’ Minor has no structural damage to shoulder

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Mike Minor and the Braves heard just about the best diagnosis they could’ve hoped for from Dr. James Andrews, who said Minor has inflammation of the rotator cuff but no structural damage in his pitching shoulder.

That’s the good news. The bad, if you want to view it that way, is that Minor still doesn’t know exactly what caused the shoulder issues that forced him to be shut down early in spring training for the second consecutive year, and will land him on the 15-day disabled list at the start of the season for the second year in a row.

Minor had an MRI exam and an injection from Andrews Monday and will rest for two weeks, after which he’ll be evaluated to see if he can resume throwing. Last year he missed much of spring training and all of April with shoulder tendinitis, then struggled through a career-worst season, going 6-12 with a 4.77 ERA in 25 starts while dealing with intermittent soreness.

“(Braves orthopedist) Xavier Duralde saw him a few days ago,” said John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations. “The good news is that (Andrews gave) pretty much a parallel diagnosis. The MRIs were as clean as you want to see.”

The MRIs that Minor got at the beginning and end of the 2014 season also showed no structural damage. While that’s obviously a far better outcome than if they’d shown a tear that might require season-ending surgery, Minor and the Braves still don’t have an exact diagnosis for what’s caused stiffness and pinching in his left shoulder.

But Andrews gave him an opinion that made sense to the pitcher. He told Minor that too much weightlifting and certain other exercises probably contributed to tightness in his upper body that’s not ideal for a pitcher.

“I went to him for another opinion,” Minor said. “He kind of gave me the same kind of idea that our doctor was saying, besides the fact that, hey, let’s just shut down the upper-body lifting because you’re getting tight every time you’re lifting and that could be contributing to the pinch in the top. So if I just stretch and keep my shoulder strong, but not doing any push-ups or chest exercises, even the back exercises, kind of keeping them at bay to be a bit free-and-easier, then maybe it won’t pinch as much up there.

“There’s nothing wrong with the MRIs and stuff, so there’s no surgical procedures or anything (required). It’s just frustrating, more or less.”

With Minor expected to be on the DL to start the season, the Braves will have two openings in their rotation. Hart said for now, at least, they intend to go with in-house options. They can take two starters instead of one from the group that’s been competing for the No. 5 spot: veteran left-handers Eric Stults and Wandy Rodriguez, prospects Mike Foltynewicz and Manny Banuelos, and two others who’ve pushed their way into the discussion, Cody Martin and Chien-Ming Wang.

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