Brian Snitker’s relentless faith in A.J. Minter has paid major dividends

MLB: APR 27 Guardians at Braves

Being a baseball manager is one of the most thankless jobs in sports. There aren’t a ton of X’s and O’s, most of the decisions are the same from game to game, and there are a million-plus couch managers with a beer in their hand saying they could do your job better on a nightly basis.

There’s no question that being a manager in Major League Baseball isn’t quite as taxing as coaching a football team, but there are aspects that go beyond the surface level, and they are the ones that differentiate the good managers from the truly great ones.

The perfect example of this is Brian Snitker‘s handling of A.J. Minter. On Sunday night, the Braves left-handed set-up man was asked to save a one-run game because the typical closer — Raisel Iglesias — was unavailable. The result was a walk-off homer to Brandon Nimmo. It was the second time in two weeks Minter had blown a ninth-inning save opportunity, and both ended with a two-run walk-off homer.

For his entire career, Minter has struggled in save situations. It’s a much different feeling than pitching in the seventh or eighth inning. They are the hardest three outs in the sport every night, and any reliever will say the same.

But instead of just accepting the fact that A.J. Minter has pitched poorly in the ninth inning, Brian Snitker opted to throw him right back into the fire last night in a save situation against the Cubs. It wasn’t the prettiest of saves, as Minter allowed the first two runners to reach base, but a critical double play eased a lot of concerns and led to his first save of the season.

These are the kinds of things that often are forgotten about later in the year. But at some point, perhaps even in the postseason, the Braves are going to need to turn to A.J. Minter to get the final three outs. So instead of just letting Sunday night replay in his head until he’s called upon for a save weeks later, Brian Snitker showed faith in one of his top arms in hopes of him regaining some confidence in save situations. It may not seem like much now, but it could pay major dividends down the road.

This entire situation is eerily reminiscent to what took place back in 2021. A.J. Minter was really struggling for much of the year. So much so that the Braves opted to send him to Gwinnett to work on some things. When he returned, there were more hiccups, but Brian Snitker kept turning to him in critical situations, knowing how badly they would need him in the postseason.

The result? A.J. Minter threw 6.0 innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts in the NLCS against the Dodgers, helping the Braves to their first World Series appearance in 20 years. Ever since that moment, he has become one of the most consistently dominant left-handed relievers on the planet.

In a lot of places, A.J. Minter may have never gotten those opportunities, especially in high-leverage situations. Brian Snitker’s relentless confidence in his guys is a primary reason why Minter is about to get paid in a big way very soon, and yesterday was another perfect example of why Snitker is a step above the rest when it comes to managing a ball club.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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