Soroka’s injury setback the first domino to fall in Braves pitching battle

Joe Patrick
February 26, 2019 - 3:03 pm
Atlanta Braves pitchers, from left, A. J Minter, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and Max Fried run sprints

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One of the names floating around the Braves’ presumably vacant fifth (and potentially sixth) spot in the starting rotation was the hard throwing right-hander Mike Soroka. But now it appears he’s out of contention to make the Opening Day roster after being shut down with shoulder soreness.

Soroka, a player that has succeeded at every level since turning professional when the Braves selected him with its first pick in the 2015 MLB draft, has to be frustrated. Manager Brian Snitker admitted to media with the team at spring training that the injury is indeed going to set him down the pecking order. And in the Braves system — especially among the pitching staff — down the pecking order is not where one wants to be.

With a deep crop of young talent on the mound with the likes of Luiz Gohara, Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright among them, it can be easy to get buried.

It has to be especially difficult for Soroka due to how close he’s come to breaking through as a big-leaguer. Soroka got his first taste of the major league level last season when he made five starts, but again it was that same right shoulder that put an end to his major league campaign. In fact, Soroka and the Braves suspect it was his overexertion in an effort to get back to his old self this year that likely caused the soreness.

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So, where does this leave the Braves?

They’ll be alright. It’s likely that two of Atlanta's top pitching prospects will make the Opening Day roster — one of which will land in the bullpen to pitch long relief and make spot starts. The Braves have more than enough talent to select from for these roles.

For Soroka, he’ll need to be patient and produce for the Gwinnett Stripes in Triple-A while he waits for an opportunity to make an impact for the Braves. It’ll be an exercise that tests him as much physically as it will psychologically. Bitter pills like this are tough to swallow, especially when the promised land has once seemed so close to reality. It’s a testament to Soroka’s professionalism that he was willing to let the doctors know (eventually) about the soreness in the first place, when some others might try to play through it and keep it a secret.

For those of us trying to make sense of the Braves pitching options, at least it clears up the picture. Slightly.

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