ATLANTA -- Working with a short bullpen on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park, Braves manager Brian Snitker opted to gamble by handing a one-run lead in the eighth inning to Jim Johnson, who has continued to struggle since losing the closer's role near the end of July.Within a span of
ATLANTA -- Working with a short bullpen on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park, Braves manager Brian Snitker opted to gamble by handing a one-run lead in the eighth inning to Jim Johnson, who has continued to struggle since losing the closer's role near the end of July.
Within a span of four batters, Johnson was gone. And within a span of five batters, the Braves were down four runs. Thus, the sterling ninth-inning performance by A.J. Minter in his Major League debut did not have an immediate effect in the 9-6 loss to the Mariners.
However, it did create more reason to believe Minter may have been the better option to pitch in the eighth, and in many other meaningful situations the rest of the season.
"He was good, and he's going to be a guy who will be pitching meaningful innings," Snitker said. "He's that guy."
As Snitker spoke to reporters before the game, he praised Minter's capability by saying, "I'm not sure how guys get a hit off of him." Yet, instead of putting him in a high-leverage situation for his debut, he opted to go with Johnson, who has now allowed 11 earned runs over 2 1/3 innings in his last four appearances.
Snitker also opted to stay away from his top two setup men, Jose Ramirez and Sam Freeman, who both pitched each of the two previous days.
Minter touched 97.6 mph with his fastball, and recorded two strikeouts in a perfect ninth.
"It's everything you dream about as a kid," Minter said. "It's your Major League debut. I'm definitely going to enjoy this, but tomorrow is a new day. This is just a milestone. I don't want to just be a Major League pitcher, I want to be a dominant Major League pitcher."
Considered the best reliever the Braves have developed since Craig Kimbrel, Minter dominated three Minor League levels, while working with a moderated schedule as he made his way back from Tommy John surgery last year. An inflamed nerve around his left elbow sidelined him throughout Spring Training, ruining his chance to make the Opening Day roster. He then missed two months with a strained adductor muscle, and didn't reach Triple-A Gwinnett until July.
Minter has not pitched with less than three days of rest this month, but he allowed just one run over his final nine innings with Gwinnett and is seemingly poised to extend that success into the Majors. He opened his debut with consecutive strikeouts of Edwin Diaz and Jean Segura, then completed his perfect frame with Yonder Alonso's weak popout.
"You see movies about it all the time, guys running out of the bullpen to make their Major League debut," Minter said. "I definitely cherished the moment as much as I could. It's a little bit of a blur right now. But I definitely tried to remember as much as I could and soak it all up, because it only happens one time."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.