Notes: King Félix deals again; Minter sent down

March 10th, 2020

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- threw five solid innings for the Braves against the Red Sox on Monday night, giving further reason to expect the seemingly rejuvenated former ace could extend his career within Atlanta’s rotation.

Hernández constructed his finest outing of the spring, recording six strikeouts and limiting Boston to one run over five innings in a 2-1 loss. The 33-year-old right-hander has allowed three earned runs while totaling 13 2/3 innings over four starts. He has time to make three more starts before the regular season.

So does Hernández believe he’s done enough to position himself for a rotation spot?

“I’ve got to keep doing my job,” Hernández said. “It’s not my decision.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker will spend the next couple of weeks making evaluations to determine how to best fill his two rotation vacancies. Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright and Hernández are the candidates for these spots.

“He needs to keep going and then we’ll re-evaluate the whole thing,” Snitker said. “We’ve got seven starters we’re stretching out, and they’re all seven doing pretty good. We’ll just have to wait and see. I think [Hernandez’s] next couple starts are on the road. He’ll likely see some ‘A’ lineups. That will be a test also.”

If Hernández were to win one of the two available spots in Atlanta’s rotation, he will be the focus of one of Spring Training’s best feel-good stories. The 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner, “King Félix” posted a 5.42 ERA from 2017-19 as injuries limited him to just 60 games (59 starts). He was forced to settle for a Minor League deal, which includes a $1 million salary if he is placed on the Braves’ active roster.

Hernández limited the Red Sox to just one extra-base hit, Andrew Benintendi’s first-inning leadoff double that center fielder Ender Inciarte nearly snared after ranging all the way into left field. The veteran hurler induced a double play after not retiring any of the first three batters in the fourth inning. Hernández then struck out three of the last five batters he faced.

Minter optioned
A year ago, left-hander and right-hander came to Spring Training with the potential to be among the Braves’ top relievers. But neither was considered a likely candidate to begin this season in a significantly improved Atlanta bullpen.

So it was no surprise when both relievers were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday. For Minter, it’s a reminder of how much his stock has plummeted since he tasted big league success at the end of 2017 and then experienced a serviceable stint as Atlanta’s closer in 2018.

“I think what it shows guys is how fragile this really is,” Snitker said. “You’re never guaranteed anything and how quick things can change if you’re not careful. You approach every day as a big deal.”

Minter was never right after his left shoulder was jammed during minor car accident experienced in the early part of last year’s Spring Training. The 7.06 ERA he produced in 36 appearances (29 1/3 innings) last year certainly wasn’t envisioned when he was striking out 43.3 percent of the 60 batters faced in 2017. His stuff wasn’t as dominant in 2018, but he still posted a 3.23 ERA over 61 1/3 innings.

“With consistent work, he’s going to continue to get better,” Snitker said. “We’ve seen what he can do and we just want to get him back there.”

Langeliers continues to impress
With the Braves playing split-squad games on Tuesday, Snitker took advantage of another chance to put in the starting lineup Monday. The 22-year-old catcher, who was selected with the ninth overall pick in last summer’s MLB Draft, has made a strong impression during his first big league camp.

“The kid has been very impressive all spring, the way he has handled himself,” Snitker said. “I’m just excited to watch him play. He was a pretty polished kid when we got him [out of Baylor University]. He does it the right way.”

Langeliers struck out in both of his two plate appearances on Monday, but he is 5-for-11 with a homer in Grapefruit League play. The rocket-armed catcher will likely begin his first full professional season with either Class A Rome or Class A Advanced Florida.

Up next
The Braves will play a split-squad doubleheader on Tuesday, when they host the Astros at 1:05 p.m. ET and travel to Sarasota to play the Orioles at 6:05 p.m. ET. Likely Opening Day starter Mike Soroka will make his third spring start in the day game. Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis will be in the lineup when highly regarded prospect Ian Anderson starts the night game. Both games can be heard via Gameday Audio.