The Sports Xchange
By Guy Curtright
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Atlanta Braves may have to open the season without 13-game winner Mike Minor in their starting rotation.
The left-hander was not cleared to throw off the mound when exhibition games began after experiencing soreness in his shoulder that was likely the result of pushing things after not getting in much throwing in the offseason.
Minor had a medical procedure on his urinary tract Dec. 31 and was inactive in January while recovering.
The Braves hope the 26-year-old former first-round draft choice will be able to avoid starting the season on the disabled list, but he will not be able to get in the normal amount of Grapefruit League innings.
“He could start the season with us, and we think he will,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Because if you look at the schedule we don’t need a fifth starter till around (April) 10th, 11th or 12th, right around there. We we can bump him back all the way to there, or we can plug him in anywhere we want to.”
Minor was playing long toss without pain and expects to make his exhibition debut by mid-March. The Braves can begin the season with a four-man rotation because of two early off-days.
“I think I’ll be ready,” said Minor, who is eying a start on April 12 or earlier. “Either way, I’m going to be fine.”
Minor had a cystoscopy performed by a specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after having difficulty urinating for the past two years. It worsened to the point where he had to go to the emergency room and a specialist said he had scar tissue built up inside his urethra.
The former Vanderbilt standout was 13-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 32 starts last year in his third full season in the majors, striking out 181 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings.
Minor is penciled in for one of the top three spots in the Braves rotation, joining Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen. If he is not ready to start until mid-April, Brandon Beachy would likely move into the top trio, with Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia or David Hale become the fourth starter.
The Braves opened the Grapefruit League season Feb. 26 with Garcia pitching against Detroit at Champion Stadium. He was to be followed in the rotation by Medlen against the Tigers at Lakeland, Brandon Beachy against the Houston, Teheran vs. Washington and Alex Wood and David Hale in March 2 split-squad games against the Tigers and Astros.
Minor doesn’t know when he’ll be ready for his first spring start.
“I don’t want to put a date on it, but I think I will be good,” he said.
MLB Team Report - Atlanta Braves - NOTES, QUOTES
—SS Andrelton Simmons’ seven-year contract guarantees him $58 million and covers his first two years of potential free agency. The Gold Glove winner gets a $1 million signing bonus to go with a $1 million salary for 2014, then $3 million in 2015, $6 million in 2016, $8 million in 2017, $11 million in 2018, $13 million in 2019 and $15 million in 2020. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Simmons said. “I know I’m happy, though. I can tell you that. I’m really happy.”
—INF Ramiro Pena, coming back from surgery last June for a torn labrum in his right shoulder, had no limitations from the start of spring training. Pena was batting .278 in 50 games last season when he was hurt making a throw from third base. The switch-hitter can play all infield spots and excels at the plate against right-handed pitching.
—OF Joey Terdoslavich increased his chances of opening the season with the Braves by turning in an impressive performance in the Dominican Winter League. The switch-hitter batted .291 in 24 regular-season games and then .329 in 16 playoff contests. He has played first and third base, and will get a look behind the plate this spring.
—RHP Kris Medlen will spend the rest of spring training growing his hair back out after having his head shaved to benefit the Rally vs. Cancer campaign against the disease in children. “I’ve done way crazier stuff to my hair when I was in high school and whatever else,” he said. “This is nothing. It is obviously supporting some kids who are going through a tough time.”
—UTL Ryan Doumit, acquired in a trade from Minnesota as a bat off bench, is not expected to catch much for the Braves. He did not go behind the plate at all for the Twins after suffering a concussion last August. The veteran switch-hitter will be a backup at first base and in the outfield with the Braves.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “For us, it was something of a no-brainer that (Andrelton Simmons) was going to be part of the core of young players that we wanted to sign long-term. We believe he’s the premier shortstop in the game.” — Braves general manager Frank Wren.