There is no structural damage in Mike Minor’s shoulder, but the Braves left-hander is expected to start the season on the 15-day disabled list for the second consecutive season.
Minor received a favorable diagnosis from his Monday visit to renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who found inflammation of the rotator cuff but no ligament, tendon or other structural damage.
They still don’t know exactly what has caused the shoulder discomfort that forced him to shut down early in spring training for a second straight year, but Andrews thinks it could stem from Minor becoming too tight from lifting weights and other chest exercises.
Minor had an MRI exam and got an anti-inflammatory injection from Andrews on Monday and will rest for two weeks, after which he’ll be evaluated to determine if he can resume throwing. Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said it is safe to assume Minor will start the season on the DL.
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,” Hart said. “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.
“I went to (Andrews) 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 (shoulder) 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.
Minor had said before he went to see Andrews that he hoped to have some definitive answers. Did he get them?
“Yes and no,” he said. “They say there’s not anything wrong structurally, which is good. But it’s more a ‘Let’s just see if this works, then kind of ramp you back up.’ Hopefully the shoulder exercises — we’re going to knock those out twice a day for the next two weeks — hopefully that’ll help. Because they said a lot of it’s coming from the cuff and it might just be weak.”
Hart said he knew Minor was concerned last week about this becoming a repeat of 2014.
“I talked to Mike at length before he went (to see Andrews) and I know that was a concern of his. Is this going to be the same as last year?” Hart said. “I personally don’t think that anybody really feels that way. It’s an entirely different situation. At least from Dr. Duralde, he did not think it was the same thing as it was last year and my assumption is that Jim Andrews didn’t feel that way either.
“And I think in Mike’s mind, that’s why he went ahead and took the injections — ‘Let’s go ahead and go with this protocol’ — because it would seem confusing a little bit because I know this guy took some injections last year and had to fight his way through to get 145 innings.”
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