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Preparing for the end of the Mike Minor era

Mike Minor hasn't yet visited Dr. James Andrews, but it may be time to prepare for the end of his time with the Atlanta Braves.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

I am a Mike Minor supporter.

The now 27-year-old left-hander exploded during the second half of the 2012 season, posting a 2.16 ERA across 14 starts, and from that point forward, I was hooked. Minor provided his one full season of stellar work in 2013, when he threw 204.2 innings with a 3.21 ERA that was good for 3.5 fWAR, but then, things began to unravel.

Minor's 2014 campaign got off to a late start, when he had offseason surgery on his urinary tract and endured subsequent shoulder issues as a result. He made his debut on May 2, and while he performed well in that outing, things were never fully headed in the right direction on the way to an ugly 4.77 ERA (4.39 FIP) in 25 starts and 145.1 innings.

Fast-forward to the end of the 2014 season, when he was shut down as a result of inflammation in that same pitching shoulder. Optimists, including myself, pointed to the long off-season as the healing factor in providing Mike Minor with rest, but as we now know, he was scratched from a Spring Training start this week, and the dreaded news of a visit to Dr. James Andrews appeared.

What does this all mean? In short, it may be time to prepare for the end of an era.

Mike Minor is under team control for two additional seasons with the Braves, but he was awarded $5.6 million in arbitration for the 2015 season, and that provides a cost issue. We obviously don't know the result of Dr. Andrews' assessment to this point, but it is natural to assume the worst when his name is uttered. Though Minor himself is "not too concerned" with the visit, it isn't a stretch to think he could miss significant time (especially when factoring his previous ailments with the shoulder), including the viable scenario of the 2015 campaign vanishing into thin air.

If that were to happen (and I'm not necessarily predicting that doomsday outlook), it would almost certainly signal the end of his run as a fixture in Atlanta's rotation. It would be thoroughly unwise for the front office to take him to arbitration after this type of shoulder injury, and with the suddenly revamped stock of young arms in the farm system, Minor would appear to be on the chopping block with regard to the roster.

As a top-10 pick in the 2009 amateur draft, Mike Minor has been a significant investment for the Atlanta Braves, and that is worth noting. However, shoulder injuries are almost universally seen as more troublesome than elbow problems in today's game, and given Minor's lack of relative "upside" even before the ailment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain optimism.

Braves Country should certainly hope for the best following Mike Minor's visit to Dr. Andrews, but in the same breath, this could very well be the beginning of the end.

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