5 observations from Mike Soroka’s rehab start in Rome

Here are five observations from Braves pitcher Mike Soroka’s rehab start Tuesday with High-A Rome, a major step in his comeback attempt after he twice sustained a torn right Achilles:

1. Soroka pitched with ease, notching three perfect innings before overcoming an error and single to complete a scoreless fourth. He threw 45 pitches (35 strikes) and struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced. His velocity was around 92-93 mph and topped at 94.

“I felt like I could’ve got outs in the big leagues tonight,” Soroka said.

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2. It was Soroka’s first time pitching in a game since March 30, 2021, the Braves’ final spring training game of last season. He hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since Aug. 3, 2020, when he first tore his Achilles running to cover first base.

Tuesday was Soroka’s longest outing since July 29, 2020, when he pitched 5 ⅓ innings against the Rays.

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3. There were times Soroka felt doubt during his rehab process. People in this life, namely his father, Gary, helped him immensely through the dark days. Tuesday’s performance reminded Soroka that he was an All-Star pitcher as recently as 2019.

“Part of you wonders whether you still have it, too, with the way baseball is going,” Soroka said. “You’re starting to see better and better talent. Baseball is getting younger. Guys are throwing harder; they’re hitting the ball farther. You start to wonder, ‘Am I still there?’ So tonight was pretty big for that, too.”

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4. Soroka wouldn’t set expectations to pitch for the Braves later this season. He’s going to evaluate himself after every start and see where he stands physically and mentally. He’s growing accustomed to new mechanics that he hopes help him maintain his health. He’s also working to find consistent four-seam command and other spring-training-like elements.

“I will pitch there (the majors) whenever we’re ready,” Soroka said. “There are still some things we need to iron out. That four-seam command, it will come. But whenever we’re ready, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

5. When Soroka re-ruptured his Achilles in June 2021, then underwent the third surgery on the tendon in a year, he admitted he questioned whether he would pitch again. Tuesday was a leap forward in his goal of returning to a major-league mound. Here’s Soroka on his final surgery:

“Something didn’t work the first time (surgery),” Soroka said. “It was a bigger surgery. It’s something they went old school with, put a whole bunch of stuff in there to make sure it’s not going anywhere. It’s scarred up. So I have a big fat Achilles now, but at least it’s not going anywhere.

“We knew the timeline would be longer. Just more time off your feet, more time for everything to forget what it’s supposed to do. Getting through it, understanding it’s not going to be perfect, but different can still be good. That was an important distinction to make at a certain point, saying it doesn’t feel completely like my left. It’s probably never going to.

“I still can jump without a problem. I don’t have to dunk off my right foot. If I was in a different sport, I’d have to cut, run routes, catch a ball in the end zone, it might be a different story. But, thankfully, we’re in a good place. I have a good home on the mound to test it out.”