Before Mike Minor turned around his 2012 season and got into a groove at the midway point, one rough inning usually was the Braves left-hander’s undoing. The Cardinals had such an inning against him Thursday.
Minor had allowed one hit and one walk through four crisp innings, but the Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth and came away with four runs, five hits and three walks in the inning during a 5-4 Grapefruit League win against the Braves at Roger Dean Stadium.
“That’s tough, but you’ve got to get him through those innings,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who left Minor in for the entire inning, when he threw about half of his 88 pitches. “Other than that (inning), he did a lot of good things.”
After allowing one hit in three scoreless innings March 3 against Detroit and three hits in four scoreless innings Saturday against the Yankees, Minor had 11 scoreless innings going before the St. Louis fifth.
Oscar Taveras singled to start the inning, but tried to stretch it to a double and was thrown out by left fielder Jordan Parraz (who also went 4-for-4 with two doubles). Pete Kozma followed with a single and scored on a Tony Cruz double.
Minor had faced three batters in the inning and given up three hits, all with two strikes after getting way ahead in counts. Things got worse when he walked relief pitcher Shelby Miller. One out later, Matt Carpenter reached out to hit a breaking ball for a two-run triple to the right-center gap. As the inning wore on, hitters fouled off pitches in longer at-bats.
“I felt strong today,” Minor said. “I just kept having to throw over and over and over to the same guys. … I don’t know, maybe I was getting a little tired. It was a long inning.”
Gonzalez was asked if he was pleased with where Minor was after four spring starts.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think today is going to benefit him. He got himself in a little trouble there in the fifth inning, and you’ve got to get through it. He’ll be better off for it the next time around. You like to see some adversity a little bit in spring training because they are going to face that during the season.”
Medlen OK a day later: Kris Medlen’s pitching arm checked out fine again Thursday morning, 12 hours after being struck in the triceps by a line drive during a 2-1 win against Miami.
Casey Kotchman’s liner hit Medlen with two outs in the fifth inning. Medlen had mild triceps tightness afterward and was examined Thursday by Braves head trainer Jeff Porter at the team’s training camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Gonzalez said Medlen would make his next scheduled start.
It was only the second hit of the game against Medlen, the other on a comebacker that hit the toe of his left shoe.
Hale sent down: Prospect David Hale was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett late Wednesday, but not before leaving a good impression. The Marietta native had three strikeouts with one walk in two hitless innings Wednesday against Miami, including consecutive strikeouts after the Marlins got the potential tying run on third base with one out in the ninth.
“He’s got some quality pitches,” Gonzalez said. “He elevated the fastball, he can sink it. He’s been impressive.”
Hale, 25, was a third-round draft pick in 2009 out of Princeton. In his first major-league camp, he allowed six hits and three runs in nine innings over five appearances, with four walks and eight strikeouts.
Wood reassigned: Prospect Alex Wood worked the final two innings Thursday and finished a solid few weeks with the big club. He was reassigned to minor league camp after the game.
The former University of Georgia lefty has a 93-95 mph fastball and an unorthodox delivery, and Gonzalez said he showed he could help the Braves as a reliever if needed. For now, he’ll get stretched out as a starter in his first full season of pro ball.
Wood, 22, was a second-round draft pick in June and posted a 2.22 ERA in 13 starts at Class-A Rome, with 52 strikeouts and 14 walks in 52 2/3 innings. He gave up three hits and a run in two innings Thursday, the only earned run against him in seven innings this spring.
All three batters he faced in the seventh were left-handers, and Wood got ground outs by Jon Jay and Adron Chambers and a fly by Matt Holliday.
“He’s nasty against those left-handers,” Gonzalez said.
Etc.: Reliever Jordan Walden threw a bullpen session of more than 30 pitches, his second since getting an epidural last week for a bulging disc. His next step is to throw live batting practice or pitch in a game. Walden has not pitched since his Feb. 23 spring debut. … The Braves play the New York Mets at 1:05 p.m. Friday at Champion Stadium, with Tim Hudson to face Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner. … Sean Gilmartin pitched Wednesday in a prospects game in St. Petersburg, allowing one hit and two walks with three strikeouts in four scoreless innings against players from various major league teams.