KISSIMMEE, Fla. —
Mike Minor compares last season to a nasty roller-coaster ride, one that would rival any of the bone-rattling behemoths at Six Flags Over Georgia.
He's hoping for a smoother trip this year.
The Atlanta Braves left-hander got off to rocky start to 2012, being roughed up in his debut against the Mets. After two positive performances, he spent the next two months watching a lot of balls sail over fences.
But Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez never lost faith in Minor and kept him in the rotation. It took a loss against the New York Yankees on June 12 to get back on track.
"It all changed that game against the Yankees," Minor said. "I know that's when it all turned around. I changed my plan. I still lost a few games, but it all changed. I was never worried about losing my spot in the rotation. They could have dropped me, but they stayed with me and things turned around."
Gonzalez said he didn't consider replacing Minor during a stretch in which his ERA was over 6.00 in June.
"He was in the rotation and we weren't dropping him," Gonzalez said. "I felt he could turn it around."
The patience paid off.
"I struggled and lost a lot of confidence early in the season," Minor said. "Just before the All-Star break I decided to start to attack hitters. When I saw I could do that against the Yankees with all of their hitters, I knew I could do it against anyone. I got my confidence back and I felt a lot different."
Minor give up a run in 7 1-3 innings in that game against the Yankees then lost his next two outings to drop to 3-6 on June 24. He ended the month with a win over Washington, and went 7-4 the rest of the way, winning his last five decisions. With the Braves fighting for a playoff spot, Minor was 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA in September. He finished 11-10 and a 4.12 ERA.
Minor is slated to be the No. 3 starter in Atlanta's rotation behind Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen, but the 25-year-old from Vanderbilt University doesn't care where he is slotted as long as he's starting every five days.
"I am not here to be No. 2 or No. 1," Minor said. "I am ready to roll no matter where I am. It always works out in the end. I struggled last year at times, so I still have a lot to prove, but I am ready for whatever they want me to do."
Gonzalez said he doesn't put much stock into slotting his starters.
"I go with the best pitcher on opening day," Gonzalez said. "It's like a baseball tradition. After that, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day everything changes anyway. We don't know who is going to get hurt, so everything is going to be jumbled after a few weeks. If (Minor) is No. 3, then who knows where he will be next month."