Mike Minor lost two seasons due to shoulder issues, but he returned with a bang in 2017. Assigned to the Royals' bullpen out of camp, he saw an uptick in velocity across the board while working in shorter spurts. Minor also altered his pitch mix, more than doubling his slider usage at the expense of the fastball, which helped him add considerably to his strikeout rate (10.2 K/9). Control was Minor's calling card during his time with Atlanta, and he was good in that regard with Kansas City as well (2.6 BB/9). His overall stellar performance combined with injuries and struggles at the back end of the Royals' bullpen led to Minor working his way into the closer role by the end of the year, with the lefty earning his first six career saves. Minor will stretch back out and attempt to return to a starting role in 2018 after signing a three-year deal with the Rangers in the offseason.
Minor allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out 11 over five innings in a minor-league intrasquad game Friday, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports. The lefty threw 70 pitches and struck out the last seven batters he faced. Spring games against minor leaguers aren't predictive of success in the regular season, but Minor is looking like he'll have a spot in the Rangers' rotation in 2018, four years after he made his last MLB start for Atlanta. He said he feels a significant difference between now and 2016, when he was with the Royals and attempted to come back following surgery on his left shoulder. "I knew, early in the spring, that I felt different than two years ago," Minor said. "Just the progress I was making. Last time, when I got to 4-5 innings, I didn't throw as many strikes, the ball was up, couldn't throw breaking balls. Today I controlled a lot of that." Friday's effort comes after Minor threw four scoreless against the Athletics last Saturday. Manager Jeff Banister said Cole Hamels, Doug Fister and Matt Moore will start the first three games of the season, which means Minor will be one of the rotation's back-end starters.
Minor allowed one hit and struck out two over four scoreless innings in Saturday's start against Oakland. Minor was clearly pleased with his performance Saturday after he'd allowed seven runs, seven hits and three walks over his first two outings. He needed just 48 pitches to become the first Rangers pitcher to go four innings this spring. It was an efficient effort that should help his transition from reliever to starter. The right-hander has thrown just 77.2 innings since 2015 due to a shoulder injury. He's currently slated at the back end of Texas' six-man rotation, so the Rangers aren't expecting 200 innings out of him.
The Rangers are still planning on utilizing Minor as a starting pitcher this season even after supplementing their rotation depth with the February additions of Bartolo Colon and Jesse Chavez, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports. Along with bringing aboard Colon and Chavez as non-roster invitees, the Rangers signed a pair of veteran starters in Doug Fister and Matt Moore (knee) earlier this offseason on major-league deals and will give hard-throwing reliever Matt Bush a shot at winning a spot in a new-look rotation. Like Bush, Minor plied his trade in the bullpen last season, but the 30-year-old lefty has significant experience working out the rotation, as he racked up 110 starts with the Braves from 2010 to 2014 before shoulder issues prompted a move to relief. Of all the offseason rotation imports, the Rangers have the most money invested in Minor, which could afford him a long leash in a starting role even if he loses some velocity and effectiveness while working more innings than he did a season ago.
Minor has reached an agreement with the Rangers and will sign pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. Minor declined his 2018 option with the Royals after thriving in the bullpen, opening up his free agency options. According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the 29-year-old will move back into a starting role for the Rangers after working out of the bullpen in Kansas City. He will be a nice boost to a Rangers starting rotation that posted a 4.66 ERA in 2017, which ranked in the bottom half of MLB.
Minor declined his option with the Royals for the 2018 season, becoming a free agent in the process, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. Although Flanagan went on to state that the Royals have interest in re-signing Minor as the club's closer, the soon-to-be 30-year-old will have other suiters following a tremendous season out of the bullpen. Minor posted a 2.55 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 77.2 innings during his first year in a relief role, and spent the last couple of weeks in 2017 as Kansas City's main closer, saving all six of his opportunities after Sept. 15.