The Braves only have a couple of bullpen arms left from the Opening Day roster. Luke Jackson has turned into the team’s closer, and A.J. Minter has worked his way back into the mix after a dreadful start to his season. It’s unlikely the hard-throwing southpaw ever earns back his ninth-inning duties, but Atlanta could use a resurgence from the man many believed would be the best arm in the bullpen to begin the season.
Last night, Minter recorded his first save since April 24th. It was an impressive one that started with two outs and two on in the eighth inning, and the Braves leading 5-3. Minter didn’t make it easier on himself, throwing one to the backstop to advance both runners into scoring position, but he did come up with the crucial strikeout to end the inning, followed by a 1-2-3 frame in the ninth.
Since making his way back up from AAA on June 11th, Minter has thrown 7.1 innings and allowed two earned runs. Nothing spectacular, but far better results than the Braves were getting earlier in the season. However, I’m not so confident this run of play is sustainable.
While the numbers on the stat sheet have changed, on the mound, they look the same. Minter has electric stuff but absolutely no idea where it is going, which is why he’s walked six batters since returning to Atlanta. Everyone knows walks and runs go hand-and-hand with relief pitchers. Minter may have avoided a meltdown to this point, but it’s waiting around the corner if he cannot harness control.
Even worse, his poor location results in hittable pitches. He leaves way too many balls over the plate, especially in crucial situations. I, as much as anybody, believed Minter could be the next Kimbrel-esque arm to come out of the Braves pen, but he remains a liability on the mound. Until he shows he has confidence in where the ball is going, he should be limited in high-leverage situations.