10:02pm: Soroka’s season is over, manager Brian Snitker confirmed to reporters (including Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Fortunately, imaging didn’t reveal any structural concerns and Soroka will not require surgery. With only a few weeks left in the regular season and Soroka unlikely to crack Atlanta’s playoff rosters regardless, the team will play things cautiously and shut him down.
10:00am: The Braves announced today that they have recalled right-handers Darius Vines and Ben Heller. In corresponding moves, righties Michael Soroka and Collin McHugh have each been placed on the 15-day injured list, Soroka due to right forearm inflammation and McHugh due to right shoulder inflammation.
Soroka started last night’s game for Atlanta but lasted just three innings, allowing five earned runs. Manager Brian Snitker spoke to reporters after the game, including David O’Brien of The Athletic, explaining that Soroka was experiencing numbness in the fingers of his pitching hand. “I think it’s probably a big deal,” Snitker said.
Further testing will surely come, with more information to follow based on that. Whatever the eventual results, it’s yet another frustrating setback for a pitcher who has had more than his fair share. After he made 29 starts in 2019 with a 2.68 earned run average, it seemed like he would be a cornerstone of the club’s rotation for years to come. But he then missed most of the next three seasons due to injuries, with two ruptures of his right Achilles tendon being the main culprit.
This year, he was slowed by a hamstring issue in the spring but had been largely healthy since then, getting frequently optioned to Triple-A and back as needed. He has a solid 3.41 ERA in 87 Triple-A innings this year but has a 6.40 mark in his 32 1/3 big league frames. After so much missed time, just being able to take the mound and take on that workload has to count as a big win, but he’s now facing yet another injury setback.
McHugh, now 36, signed with Atlanta on a two-year, $10MM deal going into 2022. The first season of that deal could hardly have gone much better, as he posted a 2.60 ERA over 69 1/3 innings. This year, however, his ERA has climbed to 4.30 in his 58 2/3 innings. Last year’s strikeout rate of 27.6% has dropped to just 17.5% this year, while his walk rate has climbed from 5.1% to 8.2%.
The club is in comfortable position right now, with a lead of 14.5 games in the National League East and even a lead of 3.5 games over the Orioles for best team in the majors. They will cruise into the postseason but will have a bit less pitching depth for the next few weeks and perhaps into October. A quick turnaround from either pitcher or a deep postseason run from the club could get Soroka or McHugh back into the mix but the time left in the season is narrowing quickly.
Atlanta will eventually have to make decisions about the future of both pitchers. McHugh’s contract contains a $6MM club option for 2024 with a $1MM buyout. Soroka will be eligible for arbitration again and due a raise on this year’s $2.8MM salary. He’s in his final option year and is slated to be out of options next season, which will give him less roster maneuverability going forward.