Mike Minor knows he hasn’t been as good of late as he was earlier this season for the Texas Rangers, but the stuff has still been there and opposing teams haven’t been making much hard contact against him.
The problem has been an inability to quickly dispose of hitters after getting two strikes on them or to get weak contact early in counts. Foes have fouled off a lot of good pitches, and that causes pitch counts to rise.
That happened to him again Wednesday night.
Despite some dissatisfaction, the numbers continue to show that Minor has been one of MLB’s best pitchers this season. There’s no question that he is one of the top players in the MLB rumor mill.
Many still expect the Rangers to be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline, even though they are above .500 in the first week of June, and Minor is Grade A trade bait thanks to what he’s doing on the mound and a team-friendly contract.
But Rangers players believe they will be contenders until the end. Trading away pieces isn’t in their plans.
“I think if we stay where we are right now, and we keep on winning series and we’re in contention, it sends a negative vibe to the fan base,” Minor said. “I follow it. There might be some guys that say, ‘I don’t pay attention to that.’ But there’s no way that they don’t. It’s all over the media, social media, the TVs, your agent might say something to you. You’re going to see it.
“I know where I stand. I know something could happen, but my honest opinion is if they do trade me, they’re going to go out there and buy a bunch of free agents this off-season. Unless they’re getting young, controllable guys back.”
Minor threw 117 pitches in 5 2/3 scoreless innings, but he was denied a victory as Shawn Kelley blew a save in the ninth inning. Delino DeShields ended the game in the 12th inning with a two-out walk-off single that was good for a 2-1 victory.
The Rangers are three games over .500 at 31-28. The schedule will shift from patsies to contenders the next two series with four-game sets against the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox.
Club officials have said that a team would have to bowl the Rangers over with an offer for Minor. There’s some thought that they should give Minor a contract extension to build the rotation around.
He has one season left on his contract, for $9.5 million. That rates as one of the best contracts in baseball, especially for a pitcher who ranks among the leaders in many advanced metrics.
Minor isn’t just the Rangers’ No. 1 starter. He would be the No. 1 starter on many teams.
“Right now he’s a legit No. 1,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Maybe before the season you could have made some argument is he a No. 1 or is he not? The way he’s throwing the ball right now, yeah, 100 percent. He’s arguably one of the top pitchers in baseball.”
Minor allowed seven hits, walked two and hit two, but he pitched well with runners on base. He stranded 10 runners and the Orioles were only 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position against him.
He best escape came in the fifth, when Baltimore loaded the bases with one out. Minor, though, struck out Dwight Smith Jr., who drove in six runs Tuesday, and Nomar Mazara tracked down a towering flyball by Chance Sisco.
Minor’s ERA fell to 2.55, and he struck out seven more batters. It was Minor’s fifth home start allowing two or fewer runs and his seventh start with seven or more strikeouts.
The performance didn’t do anything to knock his name out of the rumor mill.