Despite losing multiple members of their starting rotation to injury during spring training, the Atlanta Braves have quietly put together one of the top rotations in baseball to start the 2014 season. The group has carried the team on their backs in the early going, leaving the Braves atop the NL East by a surprising margin. And now reinforcements appear to be coming: The team announced on Tuesday via Twitter that left-hander Mike Minor will make his season debut this Friday against the San Francisco Giants.
Arguably one of the team’s top starters during the 2013 season, when he went 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while topping 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career, Minor has been on the shelf for much of April thanks to some shoulder soreness that cropped up early in spring training. He had undergone emergency surgery late in the offseason to relieve a urinary tract concern, disrupting his normal offseason workout routine. The organization promptly shut him down for rest before working him back up on a rehab schedule that simulated much of what a normal spring training schedule would have entailed.
The 26-year-old has made five appearances (four starts) throughout his rehab process, throwing a total of 22 1/3 innings across three different levels. He’s allowed 20 hits and just four walks while striking out 19 during that stretch. Reports early last week suggested that he could have been in line to make his season debut for the team on Saturday, but those plans were scrapped once his last rehab outing was postponed due to rain. Minor's return means the exit of David Hale from the Braves' rotation. Hale, a third-round pick in 2009, was 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA through four starts, including an eight-inning outing this past Saturday in which he allowed just one run to the Cincinnati Reds. Given his experience working both out of the rotation and from the bullpen, Hale had long been expected to be the odd man out once Minor was ready to return, but he is expected to move into the Braves' bullpen as opposed to returning to the minor leagues.