LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – After going through more than a year of rehab following Tommy John surgery, then excelling while pitching on a strictly monitored schedule pitching and rest during the 2016 season, Braves left-hander A.J. Minter looked forward to being let loose this year to really show what he could do.
He’ll have to wait a little longer.
Minter has inflamed nerves in the outer, upper part of his left forearm and hasn’t been permitted to throw since a live batting-practice session one week ago. He had tingling his hand and fingers after that session, symptoms he’d experienced the previous couple of weeks but in this instance worse than before.
“It started acting up the first day I got (to spring training),” Minter said. “I’ve been pitching on it. It feels fine pitching, it’s just kind of after the fact, it kind of gets irritated. So they’re just taking it slow.”
Minter, 23, underwent several tests in an examination and said he was diagnosed with radial tunnel syndrome, which is caused by pressure on the radial nerve, usually at the elbow. It’s not considered a serious injury among pitchers, typically treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medication and rarely requiring surgery.
Minter has been on daily anti-inflammatories – a “dose pack” – for five days and said he had begun to feel improvement and was scheduled to do some light throwing in the next day or two. He said he fully intends to be ready when the season begins at whichever minor league level he’s assigned.
“I threw a live BP, which went good, it was just afterward, the next day, it was a little tight,” he said. “Nothing too serious, just kind of taking it slow…. I’m Starting to feel (the anti-inflammatories), it should clear up right away.”
Selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2015 draft out of Texas A&M, Minter completed his rehab under the Braves’ watch the rest of that year and during the early months of 2016, then posted a 1.30 ERA with 47 strikeouts and no homers allowed in 34 2/3 innings during 31 relief appearances last season at three levels from low Single-A to Double-A. In 18 games at Double-A Mississippi, he had 31 strikeouts with six walks in 18 2/3 innings.
When spring training began last month, Minter said, “Tommy John (rehab) is a long process, something that you can’t rush. Yeah, it’s hard – every outing, I had to wait two days (to pitch again) – so I was definitely itching to get out there some more and throw some more innings. But I completely agree with the way they handled my situation. I couldn’t be happier.”
His mid- to upper-90s velocity had returned and Minter said, “My arm feels 10 times greater than it’s ever felt before. I’m just excited for this year.”
The aggressiveness and confidence that attracted the Braves to Minter were also readily apparent at the outset of his first major league camp.
“Obviously the ultimate goal is to be a major league pitcher,” he said. “But I want to be the best pitcher in major league baseball. That’s my goal and my attitude and that’s what I strive for. Yeah, hopefully sometime this year I’ll get the call up, but that’s something out of my control. I can only get better each and every day, and take this spring training to my full advantage and just get better and soak up everything here.”