Max Fried was engulfed in a “whirlwind of emotions.”
Fried, the 23-year-old lefty pitching prospect, was told around 11:30 Friday night he’d jump from the Double-A Mississippi Braves to the Atlanta Braves. He will work out of the bullpen, available Saturday.
The Braves acquired Fried, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery, from San Diego in 2014 in the Justin Upton deal. Fried has been up and down since, but his latest string of starts earned him a surprise promotion.
“It’s definitely been a long journey, a lot of obstacles,” Fried said. “But I couldn’t be happier to be here.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker is happy to see Fried again. Fried appeared in three Grapefruit League games in spring training last March.
“I am excited,” Snitker said. “We’re going to put him in the bullpen and give him an opportunity, kind of break him in. When these young guys are coming up, I get real excited about all of them. We’ve been talking about them, and now that they’re starting to surface, it’s exciting.
“I was glad to see him. You think back to that first day we brought him in in spring training game against Detroit and he faced the heart of that lineup; did okay for himself. It’ll be good. We can get him in every now and then and let him get a taste of this, see what it’s all about. We think he’s a guy for us down the road.”
Fried fondly remembers his short-lived stint in spring training.
“It was invaluable,” he said. “I felt like I met a lot of these guys in spring training earlier in the year, and having some success there too definitely helps. Honestly I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I’d been three years old. Just to finally be here, it’s a little overwhelming.”
On the surface, Fried’s numbers don’t look major-league worthy: He had a 5.92 ERA across 86 2/3 innings in Mississippi. He’d walked 43 batters after walking 47 in 103 innings last season in Single-A Rome. Fried’s command had been inconsistent since returning from surgery.
Part of the issue was a recurring blister that has plagued him since May. Fried said it would jump around different spots, and while it wasn’t stopping him from taking the mound, he eventually realized he needed to address it.
“It was good enough to be able to pitch, but never to the point where I felt like I could really exert everything,” he said. “Just me being stubborn, you know, finally said it’s time to make sure I got it right. These last three starts, I couldn’t really ask for anything more. I felt confident. I felt like myself again.”
Those three starts were all scoreless outings. Fried hasn’t allowed a run in 10 innings, striking out nine and walking four in that span.
“I never really felt a groove until I finally just shut it down, got my finger right,” he said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good since I got back.”
Fried will be used out of the bullpen and in long-relief after working exclusively as a starter throughout his minor league career. Fried isn’t concerned, saying regardless of role his job stays the same.
Snitker said Fried would be a candidate to make spot starts if needed.
“Won’t hurt him to come out of the bullpen a little bit,” Snitker said. “That’s the way we used to do it. Brought a guy up, put him in the bullpen first, get him a taste, get him acclimated. And the kid’s been stretched out, he’s been starting. Something happens down the road, we need a spot starter, he’s a guy you could go to.”
Fried is the second Braves prospect to skip Triple-A in Snitker’s tenure as manager, joining shortstop Dansby Swanson last season.
“Guy’s with skills have a tendency to be able to survive up here,” Snitker said. “He’s a kid with skills. He has the stuff.”