7/27/2013 3:05 P.M. ET
Minor adds back-foot cutter to repertoire
By Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- The Cardinals had not seen Mike Minor in a regular-season game since May 11 of last year, so many of their right-handed hitters were surprised to see the left-hander challenge them inside on Friday night with a cut fastball that started inside and dove to their back foot in the batter's box.
"He's throwing a little cutter now," right fielder Carlos Beltran said after Friday's game. "He didn't have that before. That's another pitch that, as a hitter, he puts in your head. He was basically in the bottom part of the strike zone and did a good job."
The back-foot cutter was just one facet of Minor's dominant start, with St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina's solo home run in the second inning the only blemish over seven strong innings in the Braves' 4-1 win.
"I made sure I established in, so even if it wasn't a fastball, it was a cutter at the back foot, which makes them move their feet or makes them think in," Minor said. "They have to respect it, and then I think I had a couple of strikeouts with fastballs in, and they have to make a decision."
The pitch, which Minor said on Saturday was too slow to be considered a true cutter, typically sits between 86-87 mph at the beginning of games and drops a few clicks as his start goes on. While it has always been part of his arsenal as a back-door pitch over the outside corner to righties and a front-door pitch on the inside edge to lefties, Minor has only recently developed the confidence to throw it low and inside to righties in game situations.
It resurfaced for good in his July 3 start against Miami, and since that game, Minor is 2-2 with a 2.62 ERA and only two home runs allowed, one on a four-seam fastball to Miami's Justin Ruggiano and one on the changeup he left over the plate to Molina on Friday night.
"I gave up a lot of home runs last year on it, so I kind of just canned it," Minor said of the cutter. "Lately, [catcher Brian McCann] has been calling it more, and I know when he calls it, it's either down at the knees for a strike or it's a ball. I just make sure, 'Hey, if you're going to throw this, you're going to make sure it's in and make sure it's down. You're not going to leave it up.'"
Slowly, Minor is building up trust in his ability to bury the cutter and limit mistakes against right-handed hitters to add another option to the arsenal of pitches and locations with which the lefty has stumped batters.
"Beginning of the year in the bullpens, I was throwing some good ones, but I was too scared to throw it in the game because I had flashbacks to Spring Training of the ball going straight down the middle," Minor said. "But I took a chance, I started throwing it in 0-0 counts. It's got a little bit of movement, and that's all you need."
Beachy set to return after final bullpen session
ATLANTA -- Braves starter Brandon Beachy must go through one final bullpen session without incident before he makes his official return to the Atlanta rotation from Tommy John surgery that has sidelined him since last June.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was "95 percent" confident that Beachy would start the series opener against the Rockies on Monday night, contingent upon the right-hander responding well overnight to Saturday's bullpen work.
"We flew him in last night just to make sure he throws his side here, and make sure that [pitching coach Roger McDowell] sees him and we see him and our people see him and be good to go after the side today," Gonzalez said.
Beachy was encouraged by his final rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday, in which he struck out three and allowed two hits over six innings. He learned of Tim Hudson's season-ending injury after he had left the game.
"I was inside, just went over and checked my phone, and I had a couple of messages saying, 'Hey, did you see what happened to Huddy?'" Beachy said. "I found the video shortly after and it made me sick to my stomach. I felt terrible."
If Beachy is not able to start on Monday for some reason, the Braves would likely turn to one of their starters in Gwinnett or to reliever Kameron Loe, who had been starting for Gwinnett before joining the Braves bullpen during the team's most recent road trip.
• Paul Maholm played light catch for the second straight day on Saturday, but the veteran left-hander is still in the early stages of returning from a left-wrist contusion that forced his early exit from his July 20 start in Chicago.
Maholm was slotted to head to the 15-day disabled list on Thursday while left-hander Alex Wood took his place in the rotation, but Tim Hudson's season-ending injury the night before eliminated the need for a roster move. Maholm could still hit the DL in a few days when the Braves activate a starter for Monday night's game.
• Wood came through his start last Thursday free from any of the issues with the cuticle of his left index finger that plagued him in his first Major League start on June 18. A callous on the finger that had developed from the way Wood holds his curveball softened during the rookie's time in the bullpen, leading the cuticle to cut and bleed during Wood's return to a starting role at the time.
Wood said on Saturday that he threw plenty of curveballs during the bullpen sessions sandwiched around his start last week with Triple-A Gwinnett before returning to the mound for his second Major League start. He threw 90 pitches over 4 1/3 innings, striking out five and allowing eight hits in the Braves' 7-4 loss.
• Jordan Schafer ran on the outside edge of the infield before Saturday's game after encouraging results from his straight-line running the day before. Meanwhile, B.J. Upton took a couple of sprints to first base out of the batter's box, testing the effect of acceleration on his strained right adductor muscle.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.