Minor might be too valuable to trade right now
It will be interesting to see what transpires before this year’s Trade Deadline arrives at 4 p.m. ET Sunday. Forced to guess, I’d say there’s a good chance Braves general manager Frank Wren will pull the trigger on a deal. But I’m certainly not convinced that Carlos Beltran or another big-name acquisition will be spending the final two months in Atlanta.
As last week progressed, it became apparent the Braves have no desire to trade Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado or Arodys Vizcaino. As one National League scout said, “they still remember the (Mark) Teixeira trade.”
It also seems some members of the organization believe Mike Minor should be thrown in this same “untouchable” category. With the organization’s abundance of young pitching talent, it might be easy for some to give up on Minor. But it should be remembered, he is just two years removed from Vanderbilt and that he stands as the organization’s only Major League-ready left-handed starter.
There is certainly a time and place to debate about how important it truly is to have at least one left-handed starter in a rotation. But right now it seems more important to evaluate what Minor has done since the Braves made him the seventh overall selection in the 2009 Draft and gave him a $2.42 million signing bonus.
Still struggling to find consistency with his secondary pitches, Minor has spent most of this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. But during his most Major League start on June 21, he limited the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings and showed why many believe he could be a solid number three starter.
Given that Beltran is only going to be around for two months, it’s easy to see why the Braves would be reluctant to give the Mets a chance to benefit from Minor’s development over the next few seasons.
Pirates Fever comes to Atlanta: Whenever a Braves fan says “Where were you when Sid slid?”, I have to think back to that October night of my freshman year at the University of Dayton. After Sid Bream slid across the plate with the winning run to end the 1992 National League Championship Series, I was among the Pirates fans living in Stuart Hall who were accused of creating a disturbance.
Whatever might have been said or thrown that evening is no longer important. But it is funny to think about how rough it felt when they levied me with a $30 fine.
Nineteen years have passed since that 1992 NLCS ended with a very effective Tim Wakefield simply watching Doug Drabek and Stan Belinda blow a two-run ninth inning lead. The Braves have become a model franchise and the Pirates have spent most of the past two decades standing as one of professional sports’ worst franchises.
But for the first time since Sid slid, the Pirates come to Atlanta this week for a meaningful series. Despite losing three of their past four games, the Pirates entered Monday tied with the Cardinals and Brewers for first place in the National League Central standings.
These leaders in the NL Central standings rank third in the NL Wild Card standings, standing 5 1/2 games behind the front-running Braves. The only team in front of these clubs is the D-backs, who have whittled their deficit to four games with the realization that they’ll spend the rest of the season without Stephen Drew.
The Braves haven’t played great ball since the All-Star break and they enter this series having lost four of their last six games. They’ve spilt their first 10 games since the break and had to erase four-run deficits to record two of those victories.
Remember back before the break, when it seemed highly unlikely that the Braves would score four runs or allow four runs in a single game.
Well now that Dan Uggla has shown some encouraging signs of life and the offense is starting to take shape, the pitching staff needs to return to form. Or maybe these pitchers simply needed to return to Atlanta, where they don’t have to deal with the difficulties presented by Coors Field and Great American Ball Park.
Odds and ends: This week will provide a homecoming for fan favorite Matt Diaz, who has hit .273 with 11 doubles and no homers in 176 at-bats for the Pirates this year. Recognized as a left-handed killer in Atlanta, he has hit .286 (26-for-91) against left-handed pitchers and .259 (22-for-89) against right-handed pitchers this year. When he signed with the Pirates in December, he talked about the difference manager Clint Hurdle could make in Pittsburgh. Right now, it looks like he’s batting 1.000 with that prediction.
Weather permitting, Chipper Jones is expected to return to the Braves lineup tonight. This means Martin Prado will return to left field and Nate McLouth will have to see what his role becomes. Instead of revealing his plans when asked what he planned to do when this time arrived, manager Fredi Gonzalez remained silent knowing what this game does to plans. Now with Jordan Schafer having missed four straight games with a sore left middle finger, there’s at least a chance McLouth will continue to see some time in center.
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