8/3/2014 3:24 A.M. ET
Kimbrel contributes shaky multi-inning relief
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Maybe Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez should have given Craig Kimbrel a chance to notch the final five outs in Game 4 of last year's National League Division Series. But as this season has progressed, Kimbrel has provided some indication of why Gonzalez opted not to give him a chance to work multiple innings during that postseason contest.
"He's obviously got the makeup to do it," Gonzalez said. "But to do it is a little more difficult than just sitting in a [television] studio and thinking, 'Oh, he can throw two innings and not everybody can do it.'"
Kimbrel completed his latest shaky multi-inning appearance during Saturday night's 3-2, 12-inning loss to the Padres. The All-Star closer walked the bases loaded and then allowed Will Venable to hit a walk-off single.
"I didn't expect to go out there and give up the walks and lose the game tonight," Kimbrel said. "I expected to go out there, make pitches, throw two innings and then do what I had to. It just didn't happen tonight."
Fatigue seemed to play a part as Kimbrel matched the career-high 38 pitches he totaled on April 21, 2011, when he completed the most recent of the two-inning outings of his career. The 26-year-old hurler has now completed at least four outs in seven of his 276 career appearances. He had allowed a run in just one of those previous six appearances.
But this marked the second time this year that he has been shaky while working during two separate innings. As he walked three of the first four batters he faced in Saturday's 12th inning, he conjured memories of May 29, when he entered to end a two-out, eighth-inning threat and then did not retire any of the four Red Sox batters he faced in the ninth.
"You've got to go out there and find out if you can do it or not," Kimbrel said. "I didn't do it tonight. But that doesn't mean I won't do it next time."
Heyward returns to Braves' lineup after back injury
SAN DIEGO -- As the Braves dropped the first four games of their current road trip, manager Fredi Gonzalez anxiously awaited the opportunity he finally gained on Saturday, when he placed Jason Heyward back into his starting lineup.
After running a few sprints in the outfield early Saturday afternoon, Heyward deemed himself ready to resume his starting right-field duties against the Padres a few hours later. The 24-year-old outfielder had missed the previous four games with a lower back strain that he initially felt on July 24, while attempting to make a catch in foul territory at Turner Field.
"When you're talking about an impact guy like that being out of the lineup, four days seems like a month," Gonzalez said.
Braves orthopedist Dr. Marvin Royster gave Heyward a clean bill of health after examining him on Friday.
Braves to skip Minor's next turn in rotation
SAN DIEGO -- Instead of sending Mike Minor to the Minor Leagues to iron out his difficulties, the Braves are instead going to skip his next turn in the rotation. The struggling southpaw is currently slated to rejoin the rotation for an Aug. 12 start against the Dodgers.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Minor will be used out of the bullpen next week. The hope is that the struggling left-hander will have time to make the adjustments necessary to distance himself from the troubles he's experienced while posting a 7.33 ERA and allowing opponents to produce a .403 on-base percentage in his past 10 starts.
"Minor was good with it," Gonzalez said. "He understood completely.'"
With two scheduled days off this upcoming week, the Braves were able to set this plan without affecting any of the other starting rotation members.
Gonzalez said he will spend the next week attempting to get Minor some multi-inning relief opportunities that would allow the southpaw a chance to work on his fastball command and also possibly regain confidence in some of his secondary pitches, namely his slider.
Minor's inability to consistently command his fastball and slider has led him to struggle against left-handed hitters. Though the sample size is not significant, it's certainly alarming that lefties have hit .384 (33-for-86) with a .426 on-base percentage against Minor. These two stats sat at .217 (39-for-180) and .260 last year.
Left-handed opponents have recorded six fewer hits in 94 fewer at-bats against Minor thus far this season.
After allowing a pair of two-run shots to Tommy Medica on Friday night, Minor has now allowed 1.65 home runs per nine innings. If he had compiled enough innings to qualify among the league leaders, that would stand as the second-worst mark in the Majors.
"You see some of those pitches Medica hit, not to take anything away from him, but those are middle-middle pitches," Gonzalez said. "Those pitches should be taken [deep] or used to decapitate one of the infielders. They're just bad pitches."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.