ATLANTA -- As his struggles have extended over the past six weeks, Mike Minor has created reason to wonder if he has been hiding an injury. The Braves left-hander contended he was healthy when asked after allowing 10 hits in a season-low three innings in a 6-5 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday night.
But that did not stop Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez from approaching Minor about his health on Wednesday afternoon.
"That was my biggest concern, 'Are you healthy?'" Gonzalez said. "He said, 'I feel great.' So now that we've got that out of the way, let's work on mechanics or delivery. Hitters and pitchers get out of whack."
When Minor posted a 3.07 ERA through his first seven starts this year, he looked much like he had while producing a 2.90 ERA during the 47 starts he made from July 5, 2012 through the end of last year. But while posting a 7.86 ERA and surrendering a .362 batting average in his past eight starts, the southpaw has fueled some of the concerns that were present when he battled a cranky left shoulder during the early days of Spring Training.
Minor blamed the shoulder discomfort on the accelerated preparations he had to make after an internal surgical procedure had kept him sedentary throughout most of January. But he has never since complained about shoulder discomfort.
An American League scout present for Tuesday night's game said he is convinced that Minor is injured. While this theory is shared by some, the 26-year-old lefty has continued to show relatively normal arm strength. In fact, per Fangraphs.com, the average velocity of his fastball, curveball and slider has been higher than it was last year.
"I'm pretty much the same pitcher as last year," Minor said. "Maybe I'm not just executing my pitches or maybe just not going after guys, kind of nibbling or aiming the ball."
Minor and pitching coach Roger McDowell will spend the next few days attempting to find the mechanical flaws that have led the southpaw to allow at least 10 hits in four of his past eight starts. Before this stretch, he had allowed double-digit hit totals in just three of 92 starts.
"You start off Spring Training with an injury and you come in with a different feel and a different mindset and you're trying to feel for certain things," outfielder Jason Heyward said. "It's tough to go out there and compete the way you can. For him, I'd say that's the biggest difference."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.