Tag:Mike Minor
Posted on: August 14, 2011 7:48 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:58 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Giant series in Atlanta edition

Before they were champions, the Giants were just trying to get out of Turner Field with their season still alive.

They trailed the Braves by a run with two out in the ninth inning of Game 3, an out away from going down in the series two games to one and facing elimination the following night. In 27 2/3 innings against Braves pitching, they had scored just five earned runs.

In their entire magical month, the Giants would never come closer to going home disappointed.

They made it out of Atlanta, thanks to a big hit from Aubrey Huff and a couple of big errors from Brooks Conrad, and then an Alex Gonzalez error and a Cody Ross hit the following night.

They went on to win it all, and they never came as close to elimination as they were on that Sunday night at Turner Field.

The Giants are back in Atlanta this week, and while it's an exaggeration to say that they need to save their season again, they certainly aren't coasting back to the playoffs. With 11 losses in their last 16 games, the Giants have allowed the Diamondbacks to grab a two-game lead in the National League West.

If they get to October, the Giants could well run into the Braves again (although based on the standings after the weekend, the NL West winner would open against the Phillies). They'd face a different Braves team than the one they beat last October, because Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens missed that series with injuries, and Dan Uggla and Michael Bourn weren't yet with the Braves.

Even so, the Giants only outscored Atlanta 11-9 in the four playoff games, and just eight of the Giants' 11 runs were earned. The Giants hit .212 with a .583 OPS in the series.

They won, and they went on to win it all.

But they'll never forget those nights at Turner Field.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. At the July 31 deadline, the Braves refused to trade any of their four big pitching prospects. Now two of the four are in the big leagues, and a third -- Randall Delgado -- will arrive in time to start in Giants at Braves, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Turner Field. The 21-year-old Delgado has made just two starts in Triple-A, but he won both and didn't give up a run in either of them. Delgado made a spot start for the Braves earlier this year, losing to the Rangers. He joines Mike Minor in the rotation (Minor will face Tim Lincecum on Thursday), while Arodys Vizcaino is in the bullpen, and Julio Teheran (who made two spot starts earlier in the year remains in Triple-A.

2. Justin Verlander, who won his 100th game last Thursday in Cleveland, has the most wins of any active pitcher under 30. No surprise there. But did you realize that Ervin Santana is second, with 85? And did you realize that Santana's ERA since the All-Star break is 1.09, the best of any big-league starter? Santana makes his most important start yet, facing C.J. Wilson in Rangers at Angels, Wednesday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. The Rangers, who led the second-place Angels by just one game a week ago, opened up a four-game lead on Sunday, heading into the four-game series that begins Monday night.

3. Santana has the best ERA in baseball since the All-Star break. Ian Kennedy has the most wins, with six (to go with a 2.14 ERA). Kennedy and the surprising Diamondbacks get a big test this week, with a trip that will take them to Philadelphia (where they'll see both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee) and to Atlanta. Kennedy faces Vance Worley in Diamondbacks at Phillies, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.



Posted on: March 24, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Beachy to be Braves' 5th starter, Jurrjens OK

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Brandon Beachy will be the Braves' fifth starter.

That's assuming they don't need him to be the fourth starter.

Beachy won the spring competition over Mike Minor for the lone open spot in the Braves rotation, and Thursday morning the team told Minor he would be optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Then, on Thursday afternoon, fourth starter Jair Jurrjens had to leave his start against the Blue Jays after just one inning, because of discomfort in his right side.

If that sounds ominous, Jurrjens insisted that it shouldn't. He said he's sure he'll be able to make his final spring start, next Tuesday in Atlanta against the Twins, and that he'll be ready for the season.

"It was just a little discomfort, and they didn't want me to make it worse," Jurrjens said. "If it was serious, I wouldn't have been able to pitch to another batter. If it was the oblique, I wouldn't be able to stand up."

Jurrjens said he felt the pain, which he described as more of a cramp, when he retired Yunel Escobar on a ground ball for the second out of the first inning. Jurrjens then struck out Jose Bautista to end the inning.

Jurrjens won 14 games for the Braves in 2009, but he was limited to 20 starts because of injuries last year.

The 24-year-old Beachy, who debuted with the Braves last September, has a 1.80 ERA in three official spring appearances, and also was impressive in a "B" game start against the Cardinals.

Minor, who was the seventh pick overall in the 2009 draft (and also debuted last year), had an 0.90 ERA in three spring appearances.

"We just feel Brandon gives us a better chance to win right now," general manager Frank Wren told MLB.com . "It was a tough decision to make."

Posted on: September 26, 2010 9:35 pm
 

3 to watch: The Fitting three into two edition

As Bruce Bochy walked out to the field for batting practice Sunday, he turned back with a message.

"Kansas City, 1," the Giants manager said. "See, I'm watching the scoreboard."

For four more days, Bochy will keep watching, and not to see if the Royals score another run. For four more days, the Giants and Padres and Braves will eye each other from a distance, knowing that all three teams remain very much alive and that only two playoff spots can be divided among them.

It's really that simple now in the National League. The Phillies are in, and the Reds are basically in, too. The Rockies, it now seems certain, are out.

So among the Giants, Padres and Braves, the teams that end up with the two best records will make it. The team that ends up worst among those three won't.

As the week begins, Bochy's Giants have the advantage, holding a half-game lead over the Padres (and thus holding first place in the NL West) and holding a one-game lead over the Braves (who trail the Padres by half a game in the wild-card race).

The Braves have other advantages, mostly because the Padres and Giants meet at the end of the week (meaning that for the last three days of the season, one or the other them has to lose), but also because their final three games are against the Phillies, who by then will no doubt have officially clinched the NL East crown and will be more focused on preparing for the playoffs than on beating the Braves.

But the Braves have other issues, mainly that they're not playing nearly as well as the Giants or Padres are right now.

In any case, it should be a fun week for everyone, at least until one of the three teams gets knocked out.

"Intense," Giants outfielder Cody Ross said. "This is as much fun as I've ever had playing baseball."

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Braves have their final six games at home, where their 52-23 record is the best in the majors. That much we know. Now, if we only knew who was going to pitch. The Braves told reporters Sunday in Washington that Jair Jurrjens may get a shot in his sore knee Monday, in hopes that the pain will let up enough that he can start a game for the first time since Sept. 14. There's been some thought that Jurrjens could return for Marlins at Braves, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Turner Field , but the Braves also said that they've considered bringing Tim Hudson back on three days' rest to make that start. If Jurrjens can't go, and if manager Bobby Cox doesn't want to use both Hudson and Derek Lowe on short rest, the other option would be to use rookie Mike Minor, who seems to have hit a wall and is 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts this month.

2. The Padres have rotation questions of their own, and the biggest one is how Mat Latos will do. Latos has been San Diego's top starter all year, but in his last three starts he's 0-3 with a 13.94 ERA, and has lasted a total of just 10 1/3 innings. Latos faces Ryan Dempster in Cubs at Padres, Tuesday night (10:05 ET) at Petco Park . The way the Padres' rotation sets up, Latos would also start the final game of the season, Sunday in San Francisco.

3. So how about the Giants? They have Monday off, and that leaves them with the question of whether to pitch Tim Lincecum on his normal day, in Diamondbacks at Giants, Thursday afternoon (3:45 ET) at AT&T Park . The other option would be to pitch Barry Zito Thursday on normal rest, and save Lincecum for the first head-to-head game with the Giants on Friday night. Bochy said Sunday that such a plan hasn't yet been discussed, but he added that they will "talk about the club and any changes" on Monday. As of now, the pitching matchups for the series with the Padres would be Zito vs. Clayton Richard on Friday, Matt Cain vs. Tim Stauffer on Saturday and Jonathan Sanchez vs. Latos on Sunday.
Posted on: September 19, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 6:03 pm
 

3 to watch: The Philly dilemma edition

Three games back of the Phillies in the National League East, the best thing the Braves have going for them is six remaining head-to-head meetings with the Phils, starting with a series that begins Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Two and a half games ahead of the Padres in the NL wild-card race, the biggest thing the Braves have going against them is that they play six of their final 12 games against the league's best team -- the Phillies.

"It is tougher," Chipper Jones said. "But I don't think we'd want it any other way."

One reason, of course, is that the Braves would like to think that they can still win the East. To win the East now, they need for the Phillies to lose. The best way to guarantee that the Phillies lose is to beat them yourself.

The other reason is that the Braves actually have a winning record against the Phillies over the last two years. They went 10-8 last season, and they're 7-5 so far this year.

"The one thing we have done really well the last couple of years is play well against the Phillies," Jones said. "And we're going to have to. They're the best team in the National League, and for some reason, we get sky-high to play them.

"To beat them, we need to play a near-perfect game."

But to make the playoffs, the Braves don't need to finish ahead of the Phillies. They just need to win the wild card -- although that might necessitate beating the Phillies a few times.

"Now we can't split hairs," club president John Schuerholz said. "Now it's about getting to the playoffs."

But still, Schuerholz said he doesn't mind it that half of the Braves' remaining schedule features the Phils (with other six games against the Nationals and Marlins).

"It might be the energy level we need," he said. "They will be energized games."

And they're leading off this week's edition of 3 to watch (which doesn't include the Rangers, Twins or Reds, even though all three could clinch their divisions in the next few days:

1. The Phillies were easily able to adjust their rotation, so that the Braves will face Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, maybe the closest thing we've seen to a true Big Three since the days of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The Braves would have had a harder time making similar adjustments, and thus ace Tim Hudson won't pitch in this series. The Braves planned to start off with Jair Jurrjens, in Braves at Phillies, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park , but Jurrjens hurt his right knee in a bullpen session last Friday in New York. So 24-year-old Brandon Beachy, who was in Florida with the Braves' instructional league team, will get the start and make his major-league debut. Rookie Mike Minor and young Tommy Hanson are the other two Braves starters this week. The Phillies' Big Three would be lined up again to pitch in the final three regular-season games in Atlanta, although if the Phils have wrapped up the division by then, there's a chance they wouldn't all pitch.

2. Elsewhere on this site , I made what I thought was a reasoned but traditional case for Felix Hernandez as the American League's Cy Young leader. Hernandez could help his own case considerably with a big performance in Mariners at Blue Jays, Thursday afternoon (12:37 ET) at the Rogers Centre . The Jays have hit a major-league high 128 home runs in 69 home games (nearly two a game), and they average more than five runs a game at home. Hernandez hasn't faced the Blue Jays yet this year. Neither has CC Sabathia, who never lined up with any of the Yankees' first five series against the Jays (but figures to pitch in Toronto during the Yankees Sept. 27-29 visit).

3. First, Sabathia has a rematch with Tampa Bay's David Price, and if it's anything like their last game, it might be the 1 to watch this week. The first time around, a week ago in Florida, Sabathia and Price combined for 16 scoreless innings (eight apiece), while allowing just five hits (three of them off Price). They hook up again in Rays at Yankees, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium , and by the time it's over, we should have a better idea of who wins the American League East (and who's the AL wild card), and also of who is the leading threat to Hernandez's chance to win the Cy Young.


Posted on: August 20, 2010 1:57 am
Edited on: August 20, 2010 9:09 pm
 

3 to watch: The Legends of the dugout edition

Between them, they've managed nearly 8,000 major-league games. But do you want to guess how many games Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella have managed against each other?

It's not as many as you think. Only 81, with three more coming this weekend in Chicago -- presumably the final three, with both Cox and Piniella saying they'll retire at the end of the season.

The tally so far, according to research through baseball-reference.com , has Cox with 41 wins and Piniella with 40. They've never met in the playoffs, even though Cox went to the postseason 15 times with the Blue Jays and Braves, and Piniella made it to October seven times with the Reds, Mariners and Cubs.

Cox, whose Braves lead the Phillies by 2 1/2 games in the National League East, has another chance at the postseason this year. Piniella, whose Cubs are 22 games under .500, has a chance to go home when the regular season ends on Oct. 3.

And that, of course, is why Derrek Lee agreed to leave Piniella and join Cox, approving the trade that gave the Braves their new first baseman. The trade was finalized while Lee was sitting in the Cubs dugout during their Wednesday loss to the Padres, and Lee's first game for the Braves will be Friday afternoon against the Cubs.

"I told him to go get his uniform off, he wasn't on our team anymore and I didn't want him stealing our signs," Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster joked with reporters after the game. Dempster will be the first Cubs pitcher to face Lee, as he's the starter Friday. "He started trying to bribe me and asked me how I was going to pitch certain hitters. Sneaky dog."

On to 3 to watch:

1. According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News , the Giants sent playoff ticket invoices to their season ticket holders this week. As Baggarly said, incredibly bad timing, with the Giants falling six games behind the Padres in the National League West, and dropping out of the wild-card lead, as well. It doesn't help that ace Tim Lincecum has been pitching poorly, and it may not help Lincecum that his next start comes against Chris Carpenter, in Giants at Cardinals, Saturday night (7:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . A year ago, Lincecum against Carpenter would have been a Cy Young elimination battle. Now, with the Cards falling 3 1/2 games behind the Reds in the NL Central, it looks more like a wild-card elimination battle.

2. The Braves have the worst road record (27-33) of any team that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. With the Phillies getting healthy and hot, that may need to change if Cox is going to get that going-away postseason gift. This weekend against the struggling Cubs would be a good place to start. We'll know by the time Mike Minor faces Randy Wells, in Braves at Cubs, Sunday afternoon (2:20 ET) at Wrigley Field .

3. No matter how good or bad the teams out West are, East Coast teams always seem to fear West Coast trips, especially late in the season. Sure enough, the Rays lost the first game of their current seven-game trip to the coast, falling to the A's, 4-3, on Thursday night. The Rays are actually 6-4 on the Coast this season, but they're 16-19 since the start of 2008 (basically, since they've been good). The big game this weekend is the matchup of Dallas Braden and Matt Garza, in Rays at A's, Sunday afternoon (4:07 ET) at the Coliseum , in a matchup of two of the five pitchers who have thrown no-hitters this season.


Posted on: August 8, 2010 6:11 pm
 

3 to watch: The Minor phenom edition

This spring, when all the talk in Braves camp was about Jason Heyward, Bobby Cox was already talking about Mike Minor.

"He could come fast," Cox said, knowing the Minor had only pitched in low Class A.

But Bobby, you're retiring this year. You won't see him.

"I'll come and watch him," Cox said, with a big smile.

Minor has come faster than even Cox expected, so fast that when he makes his big-league debut on Monday night, Cox will indeed come and watch him -- as his first big-league manager.

The Braves need Minor now, because Kris Medlen is on the disabled list, and possibly on the way to Tommy John elbow surgery. The Braves called on Minor, because the 22-year-old left-hander was 4-1 with a 1.89 in six starts in Triple-A, after starting the season in Double-A.

And in a week that also includes the returns of Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Zambrano, first-place showdowns in the National League Central and American League Central and Cliff Lee against the Yankees, Minor heads off this edition of 3 to watch:

1. Minor was the Braves' first-round draft pick in 2009, out of Vanderbilt, where he was a teammate of Tampa Bay's David Price. He was picked six spots behind Strasburg, and one spot ahead of Mike Leake, who starts Monday night for the Reds against the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Minor will be making his debut, in Braves at Astros, Monday night (8:05 ET) at Minute Maid Park . One more Minor fact: He'll be the first left-hander to start a game for the Braves this year.

2. It's tempting to leave a Strasburg start out of 3 to watch for the first time ever, with so many other good games this week. But let's be honest. Strasburg hasn't started a game since he felt tightness warming up for a scheduled July 27 start against the Braves. All eyes will be on him when he takes the mound (assuming he does) for Marlins at Nationals, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park . The time to leave him out of 3 to watch could be coming soon, but it's not here yet.

3. Seeing Lee pitch against the Yankees, which he'll do in Yankees at Rangers, Wednesday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark , will have us looking back and looking ahead. Back at Lee's two wins over the Yankees during last year's World Series, and at the Yankees' attempted trade for Lee on July 9. Ahead at the possibility that Lee stands in the Yankees' way this October, and to a potential bidding war over Lee between the Yankees and Rangers (and no doubt others) this winter.
 
 
 
 
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