PHILADELPHIA -- When June was nearing its end, Mike Minor was answering questions about the possibility of being removed from the Braves' starting rotation. Three months later, he is being asked about the impressive turnaround that has him primed to be a key part of Atlanta's postseason rotation.
"He went from possibly being on the brink of being sent down to being one of our most consistent pitchers over the last month or month and a half," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "He's been outstanding. He can go out and compete with anybody."
Minor took another step in his maturation process when he held his concentration after being given a seven-run, second-inning lead against Roy Halladay and the Phillies on Saturday. The 24-year-old has won four consecutive decisions and posted a 2.37 ERA in the 14 starts he has made since exiting June with a 6.20 ERA.
Minor has limited opponents to a .197 batting average and .247 on-base percentage during that 14-start span dating back to July 5. His teammate Kris Medlen is the only Major League pitcher to allow a lower batting average and on-base percentage during that time.
"It's just experience," Minor said. "It's about having a better game plan, pitching to my strengths and kind of knowing the guys and how to pitch them."
After selecting Minor out of Vanderbilt University with the seventh overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the Braves were forced to rush the left-hander to the Majors a little more than a calendar year later. The need for more development was evident, as Minor struggled near the end of the 2010 season and proved inconsistent during the 15 starts he made in 2011.
But over the past three months, Minor has made the Braves thankful that they remained patient through the growing pains.
Freeman trying to rediscover consistent stroke
PHILADELPHIA -- When Freddie Freeman returned to Citizens Bank Park on Sunday morning, he made sure to watch video of his three-run home run off Roy Halladay in the first inning of Saturday's win over the Phillies. Freeman is hoping the long ball will spark him down the stretch and allow him to escape the inconsistencies that have plagued him over the past month.
"I'm really struggling to find that consistent swing," Freeman said."It's like one swing feels great -- like with my first at-bat Saturday -- and then all of the sudden I'm under everything. I don't know if it's the same thing that happened to me last September. I'm just trying to get my swing back. I think we're almost there. There is light at the end of the tunnel."
Freeman batted .282 with 13 home runs and a .817 OPS in his first 95 games of the season. The 23-year-old first baseman entered Sunday hitting .216 with eight home runs and a .771 OPS over the last 42 games.
Freeman has had to deal with some discomfort in his left index finger since getting hit by Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes' throw in early June. But he said the finger has had nothing to do with his most recent struggles.
"Obviously, it's still there but it's not affecting anything," Freeman said. "Some days, it hurts a little more than others. But once the game begins, the adrenaline kicks in and I can't really feel it. It's not affecting my swing at all. It's just one of those slumps that everybody goes through."
Michael Bourn said his left thumb was still quite sore when he awoke on Sunday. The Braves do not believe there is anything structurally wrong. But they will send Bourn to see hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie on Monday.
After getting a chance to rest on Sunday and again during Monday's off-day, Bourn hopes to return to the Braves' lineup on Tuesday. The All-Star center fielder jammed his thumb with a headfirst slide into second base during the fourth inning of Saturday's win over the Phillies.
Jones was out of the lineup for the last scheduled game of his career in Philadelphia on Sunday. Jones' two-hit performance in Saturday's win over the Phillies moved him past Lou Gehrig and into 57th place on the all-time hits list. He needs one hit to tie Roberto Alomar for fifth place on the all-time list for switch-hitters.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.