SARASOTA, Fla. -- Mike Minor's numbers weren't as impressive Thursday afternoon as they were in his first start of the spring, when he pitched two shutout innings with three strikeouts against the Tigers, but that didn't stop the 24-year-old lefty from feeling even better about his three scoreless innings of work during the Braves' 2-1 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.
Minor gave up three hits and two walks, and didn't strike out any batters, but he allowed no runs, induced plenty of weak contact and got to implement his changeup more often than in his first outing.
"The first one looked good on paper or whatever, but this time I felt like I hit more corners, and this isn't their first game," Minor said. "I just felt a lot better out there, a lot more smooth with how the ball was coming out of my hand."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez agreed, saying Minor looks like "a different guy in general" than the one who posted a 4.14 ERA over 15 starts last season.
"I think there's a comfort level there. There's a mindset that he belongs," Gonzalez said. "That's maturity and knowing that he can get a Major League hitter out."
Minor went into Thursday's start looking to work more on his changeup. He said he used it often and was mostly happy with how he threw, but he admitted he left too many pitches in the zone that, fortunately for him, turned into fly-ball outs or double-play groundouts.
Catcher David Ross knew Minor had his fastball command under control, so he wanted Minor to focus on his changeup Thursday. That's the fine line catchers have to walk this early in Spring Training, Ross said: wanting to get opposing hitters out while also making sure his pitchers get their work in.
Going forward, Minor plans to pitch four innings in his next outing, working more on his breaking ball as he continues to build up arm strength.
"He looked good today, mixed his pitches well, good fastball command, which is No. 1 for me early on in Spring Training," Ross said. "I'm just glad he moved the ball in and out with his fastball, got some ground balls. The changeup for me is a lot better than in years past. It's gotten even more movement. He's come a long way in the few years that he's been here, and I think he's going to be a huge part of our staff."