A balky shoulder has kept Mike Minor away from big-league competition for two seasons. He’s hoping that a new role in the Royals’ bullpen could help put his career back on track.
“I’m pretty anxious to get this thing going — to see how it reacts,” Minor said. “See if maybe the bullpen thing will work out.”
Minor, a 29-year-old left-hander, is entering his second season in the Royals organization after signing a two-year, $7.25 million contract during spring training last February. At the time, club officials were hopeful that Minor, who was coming off shoulder surgery in 2015, would return for the second half of 2016 and possibly compete for a rotation spot in 2017. But his left shoulder did not cooperate.
After beginning last season in extended spring training, Minor began a minor-league rehab assignment in early May. But his recovery was interrupted by a bout of shoulder fatigue. The issue persisted all year, Minor said.
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“I felt like I had some good days — a lot of good days,” Minor said.
“Obviously, it didn’t work out like it should.”
After a lengthy break, Minor eventually restarted his rehab assignment. But once again, he battled fatigue and discomfort as his outings stretched beyond two to three innings. The Royals would ultimately shut him down for the season. He made just 10 minor-league appearances on the year.
A former first-round pick, Minor made 110 starts for the Atlanta Braves from 2010 to 2014, posting a 4.10 ERA. But with his career stalled, he will now try to reinvent himself as a left-handed reliever. He begins spring training competing for one of the final spots in the Royals’ bullpen. He is set to make $4 million this season, which could help his cause.
“I just want to pitch,” Minor said. “I just want to get back to the big leagues, and I just want to pitch. I want to compete. It’s going to be different.”
In five seasons with the Braves, Minor made just one relief appearance. Yet the Royals are hopeful that he will see an uptick in velocity while pitching out of the pen. As a starter, his fastball hovered in low 90s. As a reliever, he might be capable of revving up a couple of extra notches.
“That’s the goal,” Minor said. “If I know I got to get three (or) six guys out … then you don’t have to really pace yourself.”
First, though, Minor must prove himself healthy — and able to recover quickly from outings while pitching in the pen.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge,” Minor said. “Like I said, I’ve never been out there.”