Mike Minor is officially back!
Minor’s Royals tenure the first time around was the story of perseverance. Sidelined prior to making an appearance in the 2015 season after shoulder surgery, the Braves non-tendered him for 2016, making him a free agent. The Royals signed him to a two-year deal with the hopes he could pitch that year, but banking on the entirety of 2017. Even then, nothing was guaranteed. He ultimately made 10 starts for the organization between Double and Triple-A in 2016 before making his way back to the majors for that ‘17 season.
Once he made his return, Minor was a bright spot in an average bullpen for the Royals that season. He appeared in 65 games and pitched a team-high 77.2 relief innings with a 2.55 ERA and 10.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings.
As he comes back to Kansas City, why not reflect on his top outings from his lone season calling The K home?
1. April 3, 2017 — @ Minnesota
Minor made the Royals’ 2017 Opening Day roster and, after spending the entirety of his Major League career as a starter, was ticketed for relief.
This edition of the Royals sputtered out of the gate (stop me if you’ve heard that before), scoring just five runs total in their opening series of the season in Minneapolis. The season’s second game was the biggest blowout of the three. And in the eighth inning of a 7-1 ballgame, it was the perfect opportunity for Ned Yost to get Minor into a low-leverage situation. It was his first taste of major league action since September 20, 2014.
Eddie Rosario grounded to short for the first out. Brian Dozier topped one that went 13 feet according to Baseball Savant for a single. Minor then whiffed Robbie Grossman on a change and got Byron Buxton to swing on the first pitch and pop out to end the inning.
That qualifies as a successful comeback.
2. April 20, 2017 — @ Texas
Look, I’m a sucker for multi-inning outings from a reliever. Old school, you know. And when those are high-leverage-ish innings it’s just an added bonus.
In an early-season game in Arlington, Danny Duffy and Andrew Cashner baffled opposing hitters for more than the first two-thirds of the game before yielding to the bullpens. The relievers kept the bats at bay. By the ninth inning the two clubs had combined for eight hits and zero runs.
Minor entered the game in the bottom of the ninth. In throwing three frames, he faced 10 batters and allowed just one to reach—a walk to Rougned Odor with two outs in the ninth. To say he kept Rangers hitters off balance would be an understatement. Seven balls were put in play against Minor that evening. The maximum exit velocity was 89.2 mph on a line drive Carlos Gomez hit in the 11th. The average exit velocity was 76.4 mph.
After three scoreless from Minor (his longest outing of 2017) the Royals lost the game 1-0 in the 13th.
3. May 21, 2017 — @ Minnesota
I think we all agree that pitcher wins aren’t any kind of measure of value. However, they are important to… pitchers. Go figure.
Having said that, Minor had lost his final four starts of 2014—his previous win had come on August 28, 2014. He would earn the victory in this contest, almost two years and nine months later.
On this night, Jakob Junis couldn’t get through five innings. The Royals held a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, but a pair of walks followed by a pair of singles saw the exit of the Royals’ starter. Enter Minor. He got out of the frame without further damage and set the side down in order in the sixth. As you undoubtedly know, if the starter doesn’t go five, the win is awarded based on the discretion of the official scorer. Minor was part of a cavalcade of five relievers who secured the victory for the Royals, but he did throw more pitches and innings than any reliever who followed, so the win was definitely justified.
4. September 15, 2017 — @ Cleveland
With Kelvin Herrera struggling to close out the year, Minor stepped into the closer role. He got his first opportunity in protecting a one-run lead in Cleveland. He allowed a leadoff single to Yandy Diaz and then struck out the next three hitters. It was the first save of his career and the only time in the 2017 season he recorded all three outs in an inning via strikeout.
5. September 30, 2017 - vs Arizona
In the Royals’ 161st game of the season, and in Minor’s final appearance of the year, he recorded his sixth consecutive save. Overall, in after assuming the role of closer, Minor threw 5.2 innings allowing three hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. He did not allow a runner to score.
This was the weekend best remembered as the farewell for the core of the Royals’ championship teams. Minor did his part in locking down two of the wins in that final three game set before moving on himself as a free agent.