Minor still looking to find consistency on hill

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mike Minor was one of the best pitchers in the Majors during the final three months of the 2012 season. But as he grinded through the first inning of his Grapefruit League debut, he looked more like he had while struggling through the first three months of last season.

Minor was charged with two earned runs and three hits while working the first two innings of the Braves' 9-5 win over the Nationals on Tuesday afternoon at Champion Stadium. The 25-year-old left-hander opened and closed his 28-pitch first inning with strikeouts. But in between, he surrendered three hits and issued two walks.

"His first hitter he nailed the glove with every pitch," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Then the next hitter he walks the guy on four straight pitches."

After issuing a four-pitch walk to Danny Espinosa, Minor allowed Bryce Harper to bounce a double over first baseman Freddie Freeman's head. One out later, Ian Desmond and Chris Marrero extended Minor's first-inning woes with consecutive singles.

With Minor on a 40-pitch limit, the Braves were prepared to lift him during the second inning. But the southpaw rebounded with a 10-pitch perfect second inning that included strikeouts of Eury Perez and Espinosa.

Minor's first-inning struggles might have been influenced by a one-hour rain delay that preceded the start of the game. He left the clubhouse before media members were granted access during the game.

"That's the first time out, maybe the delay screwed him up a bit," Gonzalez said. "But I like the way he came back in the second inning and got through it clean."

Minor was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation when he posted a 6.20 ERA through his first 15 starts last year. But he turned things around by posting a 2.21 ERA in his final 12 starts of the year. That was the third-best mark posted by a big league pitcher during that span.