April 29: Soroka has been cleared to begin “simple” throwing exercises, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com, adding that the Braves indeed feel the righty is more than a month away from returning. Manager Brian Snitker indicates that Soroka effectively has to “start over” with his buildup to the season. “We’ve just got to be patient with him,” said Snitker.
April 27: Braves righty Mike Soroka has yet to pitch in 2021 thanks not only to last year’s season-ending Achilles tear but also due to some inflammation that’s popped up in his shoulder. While Soroka’s most recent MRI did not reveal any structural damage, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported today (video link) that it did show some lingering inflammation. Soroka won’t begin throwing until that’s cleared out, and at that point, he’ll effectively need a full, Spring Training-esque buildup before he returns to the big leagues. Morosi suggests he isn’t likely to return until sometime in June, at the earliest.
That’s a tough blow for Braves fans and for a team that was originally hoping to have Soroka back around late April. The Braves are likely proceeding with some extra caution, however, as Soroka was twice placed on the injured list during his rookie season due to shoulder troubles — the second stint proving to be a season-ender
Soroka returned with a flourish in 2019, rattling off 174 2/3 innings of 2.68 ERA ball, a 20.3 percent strikeout rate, a 5.8 percent walk rate and a league-best 0.7 homers per nine innings pitched. He appeared in just three games last season, however, before suffering a torn Achilles tendon when coming off the mound to cover first base on a grounder to the right side of the infield.
It’s been another rocky season for the Atlanta rotation, which added veterans Charlie Morton ($15MM) and Drew Smyly ($11MM) on a pair of relatively high-priced one-year deals this winter. Braves starters have combined for a 5.29 ERA that ranks 29th of 30 teams.
Morton leads the club with five starts and 28 1/3 innings pitched, but he’s struggled to strand runners and is has a 4.76 ERA in the earlygoing (albeit with much better secondary marks). Max Fried has struggled through three starts and is currently alongside on Soroka on the injured list due to a hamstring strain. Smyly has also had an early IL stint, while Ian Anderson hasn’t quite replicated last year’s brilliant rookie showing.
Among the team’s fill-in starters, Huascar Ynoa has impressed, piling up strikeouts in bunches while yielding just six runs through 21 frames. The results haven’t been as sharp for either Bryse Wilson or Kyle Wright, though Wilson has made just two appearances and Wright only one.
For the time being, the Braves will roll with Morton, Anderson, Smyly, Ynoa and Wilson starting games. It’s a solid bunch, but the absence of the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up (Soroka) and the 2020 fifth-place Cy Young finisher (Fried) is rather glaring. A healthy group of Soroka, Fried, Morton, Anderson and Smyly could be one of the most imposing rotations in the Majors, but it doesn’t seem like we’ll see that quintet together in the near future.