NEW YORK -- The Reds’ rotation this season has relied heavily on a trio of rookie starters: right-handers Graham Ashcraft and Hunter Greene and left-hander Nick Lodolo. After fellow starters Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle were dealt ahead of the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline, the attention will continue to sit squarely on the shoulders of those rookies.
But for the Reds to continue a successful start to the second half, they will need more from the new ace of their staff: veteran southpaw Mike Minor. In Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Mets at Citi Field, Minor threw a season-high 110 pitches and went at least five innings for the eighth time in his 12 starts this year, but he also gave up four runs on five hits and three walks.
The 34-year-old, who missed the season’s first two months with a left shoulder injury, was hurt most by a pair of home runs from Francisco Lindor in the third and Jeff McNeil in the fourth, but it was McNeil’s RBI single in the sixth that ended Minor’s night.
“Really didn’t have a whole lot tonight,” Minor said. “I thought we had a good game plan; I just couldn't execute. … I was a little off. [I was] just trying to make some pitches, get some ground balls, flyouts, but the two home runs obviously killed me. I felt like we had to grind through it.”
That type of outing has often come to pass for Minor this season, as he has only thrown a quality start once: a six-inning, two-run start against the Braves on July 1. Even that wasn’t enough to earn him the victory, however, as those have been hard to come by for the southpaw this year.
Tuesday’s result dropped him to 1-9 with a 6.24 ERA -- which would be the highest in a season in his 11-year big league career.
That’s part of what has made this campaign particularly frustrating for Minor, who was an All-Star as recently as 2019, when he also finished eighth in balloting for the AL Cy Young Award.
“It’s been obviously really difficult,” Minor said. “I haven’t had it my whole career, this bad at least. It’s just been a struggle every week, every game. I feel like even when I have good stuff, something happens, and it’s not going to be a good game. So that’s just where I'm at.”
Despite those struggles, Minor has become a well-respected figure in the clubhouse. With a team as young as the Reds, he provides an especially important voice as someone who has had a multitude of experiences throughout his time in the Majors.
Given the recent injuries to the Reds’ rotation -- Greene and right-hander Robert Dugger both went on the 15-day injured list last week -- Minor’s role as a stabilizing force comes into focus even more, as does his inventory of knowledge.
“I wouldn’t say look at the way I’m pitching, but I can answer a lot of questions,” Minor said. “I feel like I’ve been through everything. I’ve been through the ups and downs, I’ve been through rehabbing, being hurt, being healthy, having good years, having bad years, being in the bullpen, being a starter. There’s not much I haven’t experienced. So if somebody has a question, they know they can come to me.”
That’s no small impact for the Reds, including in the eyes of manager David Bell. Though he is well aware of Minor’s struggles, he is equally assured that the lefty has it in him to continue to help the team build a winning ballclub.
Even though the Reds dropped their first series after the All-Star break to the Mets with Minor on the mound, he has the season’s final two months to make a difference on the field and off it.
“I think he has very high standards; he’s been successful for a long time,” Bell said. “So he may not think it was one of his best starts, but … I still feel like he gave us an opportunity to win that game.
“He’s going to have better starts. Like I said, he expects to have a great start every night, but tonight was, in my mind, he gave us everything he had.”