Minor slated to make season debut Friday vs. Giants
Lefty enters rotation to replace Hale, who will likely move to bullpen
ATLANTA -- After Mike Minor completed a bullpen session at Marlins Park on Tuesday afternoon, the Braves determined he is now set to join a rotation that has surprisingly thrived in his absence.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Minor will make his season debut when he starts Friday night's series opener against the Giants at Turner Field. Minor's return will likely knock David Hale out of the starting rotation. But Hale is expected to remain at the Major League level as a reliever.
"We just wanted to make sure [Minor] is healthy and that he feels good," Gonzalez said. "You always want to err on that side. He looks good. So we'll pencil him in there for Friday."
Minor has had his patience tested since he reported to Spring Training behind schedule because he had been inactive for a month following a Dec. 31 urinary tract procedure. More than two months have passed since he has been bothered by the shoulder discomfort he felt in February. But he still spent this past month making six rehab starts that essentially served as his Grapefruit League season.
The Braves contemplated bringing Minor back to their rotation last week, but instead sent him to make one more rehab start for Double-A Mississippi on Friday. Though he surrendered four home runs in the outing, the 26-year-old southpaw felt good as he built his stamina during the seven-inning stint that consisted of 81 pitches.
"I feel good, they just wanted to make sure I made all of my preparations," Minor said.
Minor ranks fourth among all Major League left-handers with the 2.90 ERA he has posted dating back to July 1. He will be joining a Braves rotation that had produced an astonishing 1.57 ERA entering Tuesday. The starting staff's success has been influenced by Hale's four strong starts, the best of which was completed on Saturday when he limited the Reds to two hits over a career-high eight innings.
Instead of sending Hale back to Triple-A Gwinnett to stay stretched out as a starting pitcher, the Braves are planning to send him to Atlanta's bullpen to fill the same role Gus Schlosser has assumed since the start of the season.
Hale stands as a more dangerous and versatile option than Schlosser, a sidearmer who has the ability to serve as a long reliever and ground-ball specialist. Hale's effective sinker could prove beneficial in some high-leverage appearances which call for a ground ball.
Fredi deploys lefty heavy lineup to combat Fernandez
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez could have given many of his regulars a chance to exact some revenge against Jose Fernandez on Tuesday night at Marlins Park. Instead, he opted to empty his bench and fill his lineup with as many left-handed hitters as possible to face Fernandez, who recorded 14 strikeouts over eight innings last week at Turner Field.
Gonzalez sat four of his right-handed regulars -- Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Chris Johnson and Dan Uggla -- in favor of Ryan Doumit, Jordan Schafer, Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky. The Pastornicky-instead-of-Uggla decision was the only one that did not substitute a left-handed option for a right-handed hitter.
"I put all of our left-handed hitters in there and put some guys in there that put the ball in play," Gonzalez said. "The only thing I didn't like about it is we were coming off an off-day [on Monday]. I didn't like that, but the more I spoke to the coaches and the [players], 'Why not?' Also your bench plays. I'm big about getting your bench some at-bats."
Fernandez has limited right-handed hitters to a .165 batting average and .210 on-base percentage in 33 career starts. He proved more successful against left-handers last year (.188 BAA and .283 OBP) than he has thus far this year (.276/.344).
While B.J. Upton put the ball in play during each of his three at-bats against Fernandez last week, his younger brother Justin Upton and Uggla both struck out in each of their three plate appearances against the dominant right-hander. Johnson notched one of the three hits Fernandez surrendered -- an opposite-field single in the eighth inning.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.