Following a career-year, the 2023 campaign didn’t start out the way A.J. Minter, or the Braves, envisioned.
Despite being one of the most used relievers in all of baseball, the hard-throwing lefty was sporting an unsightly 8.05 ERA following a May 13th outing against the Blue Jays, giving up 17 earned runs over 19 innings. Given Minter’s volatile track record over his career, it convinced many that he may need some time in Gwinnett to figure things out. It worked in 2021, so perhaps it could work again in 2023. However, that’s never something that ever crossed the mind of Brian Snitker.
Following that rough series against the Blue Jays, the Braves manager had some encouraging words for Minter regarding his standing in the bullpen.
“Hey, I’m gonna keep throwing you out there,” Minter said Snitker told him, via Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal Consistuation. “Everything that’s been going this way, it’s been unlucky. But don’t lose confidence because I’m going to keep putting you in those situations.”
Ever since, Minter’s looked like an entirely different pitcher. Last night, Snitker entrusted him to close a pivotal game against the Mets because Raisel Iglesias had thrown three times over the last four days. It’s a role that Minter has struggled with in the past, but on Wednesday, he was perfect, shutting down the Mets in order on just 10 pitches.
The scoreless outing pushed Minter’s ERA since the Toronto series to 1.93 to go along with a 2.54 FIP. Opponents are hitting just .200 off of him over that stretch with a paltry .552 OPS.
However, Snitker’s trust in Minter has existed for much longer than just this season. He’s recognized his talent every step of the way, and he realized that the Braves need Minter at his best if they want to accomplish their ultimate goals. Even in 2021, Snitker never showed a lack of faith him. If it were up to Snitker, Minter probably never would have been sent down, even if it’s something he needed. Every time Minter was available in Atlanta, he was put to use in high leverage situations. And despite complaints from fans, it paid off when it mattered most.
Minter played a critical role in the Braves World Series run. He was perfect against Milwaukee over 1.1 innings and tossed six scoreless innings against the Dodgers. Minter did have one shaky outing during the World Series, but the Braves never would have won the World Series without him. And if there going to do it again, they will need him to be at his best, which Minter believes is ahead of him.
“I’m just a little bit wiser and more mature,” Minter said, via Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “And things are gonna eventually start going your way a little bit better. Not saying it’s all gonna be great. You’re obviously gonna have to keep making pitches. But it’s never as bad as what you seem, and it’s never as good, too. You just have to trust the process and trust that it’s a long 162-game season.”
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire