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Braves still deciding Minor's return date

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ATLANTA -- After watching Mike Minor complete a bullpen session on Tuesday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell will determine how their starting rotation will shape up over the course of the next week.

As Minor spent the past few weeks making Minor League rehab starts, the plan was for him to make his regular-season debut in Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Mets. But this plan was altered when rain prevented him from making his most recent rehab start last Friday.

Because that rehab start was pushed back to Saturday and the Braves have an off-day on Thursday, the Braves now have to decide whether to start Minor or Ervin Santana in Friday night's series opener against the Reds.

If either of these two pitcher's next start is pushed back to Saturday, they would be pitching with two extra days of rest. Because Santana has already established the rhythm of his regular-season schedule, Minor seems to be the more likely to start on Saturday.

But the Braves have not completely ruled out the possibility that Minor will make at least one more Minor League start. This would allow Minor to gain more endurance. At the same time, it would also prevent Alex Wood and Aaron Harang from having to start the first two games of next week's series in Miami with two extra days of rest.

"Nothing is written in stone," Gonzalez said. "[Minor] will throw his side and we'll ask him, 'how do you feel? Do you feel like you need another [rehab start]? It's a two-way conversation and we'll go from there."

While making five starts dating back to the March 29 Future Stars exhibition game played at Class A Rome's State Mutual Stadium, Minor has not experienced any problems with his left shoulder, which was sore during the early portion of Spring Training. The soreness has been blamed on the month-long inactive stretch Minor experienced after undergoing a Dec. 31 urinary tract procedure.

If Minor does join Atlanta's rotation at some point this week, his primary concern would be how long he could last. The 80 pitches he threw during Saturday's six-inning stint with Triple-A Gwinnett stand as the most he has thrown in a game this year.

"I don't feel my shoulder anymore," Minor said. "It's been more a matter of just getting those starts and getting my pitch count up."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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