The Braves pitching staff underwent another round of cosmetic surgery Tuesday when struggling starter Kevin Gausman was placed on the 10-day injured list and reliever A.J. Minter was retrieved from Triple-A Gwinnett in hopes he has worked through his pitching demons.
Gausman lasted only 2-1/3 innings Monday against Pittsburgh, giving up four runs (two earned) before manager Brian Snitker pulled him. In his previous two outings, Gausman surrendered 15 earned runs over only six innings.
The team said he was placed on IL with a foot injury, plantar fasciitis. He would not throw for at least a week, Snitker said, and then they would reappraise.
Coming into the spring, Minter was being measured as a potential closer, but shoulder issues curtailed his spring training. And once the season began, he never seemed comfortable or in command.
As well as calling his demotion to the minors a reality check, Minter termed it a chance to work on an important supplemental pitch to his fastball – his change-up – without the pressure of major-league game situations.
After a month in Gwinnett, Minter returned calling the change, “my best pitch now.”
“I feel confident with it,” he said Tuesday. “I felt like I didn’t throw it as much as I needed to at the beginning of the season and now – I don’t want to give away too much stuff – but obviously I think it’s going to be a weapon for me.”
That would be a noticeable departure from his earlier outings this season. “He could almost never get to (the change-up) when he was here before because his command was so erratic with his fastball,” Snitker noted.
Working so often from behind in the count, Minter never felt comfortable throwing a secondary pitch that he didn’t completely trust.
In 15 appearances with the Braves this season, Minter put up a 9.82 ERA and struggled with his control – walking nine while striking out 16. In Gwinnett, his WHIP was less than half that of his Braves number (1.03 to 2.36).
He appeared in nine Triple-A games, throwing 10-2/3 innings, striking out 15, walking two. He yielded two home runs, both in a single outing, and departed Gwinnett with a 2.53 ERA.
Snitker said that the Braves were pleased with both Minter’s change-up and a bit more fastball velocity than he displayed in Gwinnett. “That and the fact that he’s gone multiple innings (twice working two innings in a game), which was good for him because he’s never done that before,” Snitker said.
“He needed to back off the throttle a little bit, and at the time we sent him down, we thought it was going to be good for him,” the manager said.
Mostly, Minter just wants to put the past couple of months far behind him, out of sight.
“It was hard mentally, physically,” he said. “It’s not the way I wanted to start the season, obviously. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s in the past, it’s over with. I had the opportunity to have a second chance, go down to Triple-A and work on what I needed to work on and I’m glad to be back here.”
Getting a little deep, he added, “Baseball isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy. For me to go down and experience that is going to help me as a player and a person – that’s the only way I can look at it.”
“I’m excited to be back here, getting to see these guys again, being up here with this ball team with what they’ve done this last month, it’s exciting to be back.”
Minter is eager to again show the promise he did in 2018, when he was a consistent late-inning presence, putting up 15 saves and a 3.23 ERA.
He said he returns refreshed, mentally and mechanically.
“Now I feel like I’ve fixed those mechanics and can go back to being myself,” Minter said. “Ready to get everyone’s trust back.”
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