Minor visits doctor after shoulder discomfort
ATLANTA -- Mike Minor has experienced another setback and provided further reason to wonder if his left shoulder will ever prove healthy enough for him to join Atlanta's rotation at any point this season.
Minor felt more left shoulder discomfort after he began throwing off a mound again last week at the Braves' Spring Training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. He traveled to Atlanta on Sunday to be examined by Dr. Xavier Duralde, one of the multiple physicians who have not found any structural damage while examining any of the MRI exams that have been performed since this left shoulder became an issue last year.
"He's experienced some discomfort as he's started to stretch himself out," Braves director of baseball operations John Hart said. "So, we've brought him up here to have Dr. Duralde or our medical people take a look at what is going on. We don't have any recommendation yet."
After visiting Dr. James Andrews in early March, Minor began completing a variety of shoulder exercises with the hope that added flexibility would reduce some of the strain being placed on his shoulder. He proved to be pain-free while re-strengthening his arm with flat-ground throwing exercises. But the discomfort returned once he began throwing at an angle off the mound.
"Rather than have him just continue, we wanted to bring him back up and have it looked at. Obviously, we're sending him back and we'll continue to manage it," Hart said. "We just wanted to make sure there wasn't anything suspicious that was going on. At the moment, he'll return to Florida to continue the rehab. But there's obviously some level of concern because the discomfort came back."
Minor consistently battled left shoulder discomfort as he produced a 4.77 ERA in 25 starts last year. After benefiting from three months of rest this past offseason, he eased some concerns during the early portion of Spring Training. But when he felt some stiffness while throwing just his second live batting practice session of the year, he was shut down and sent to Dr. Andrews.
Given that multiple MRI exams have shown no structural damage, there is a chance Minor will eventually need to undergo an exploratory arthroscopic surgery. But Hart said it is too early to resort to that measure.
"That is something that could happen," Hart said. "But I think that is something Mike wants to avoid. We wanted to bring him up to examine all of the alternatives and options. He wants to get back. He's grinding it out. He wants to get back without having to do anything where you would have to [have arthroscopic surgery]. We're not there yet. But if this thing continues, that is certainly an option."
Minor gained a $5.6 million salary when he won his arbitration case in February. Though there is certainly reason to be skeptical, the Braves are at least holding out hope they will eventually gain a return on the investment this year.
"I'm a glass-half-full guy, but having done this a long time, [the shoulder] will have to medically tell you," Hart said. "It's going to have to tell Mike and it's going to have to tell our medical people. I'm going to remain glass half full. At the same point, I realize there is not an easy answer to this one."