Braves’ Charlie Morton placed on injured list, won’t pitch in NLDS

WASHINGTON – As much as the postseason is about talent and depth, it is also about luck – good or bad. A terrific team can overcome certain circumstances, but any group needs a couple fortunate breaks along the way.

Two weeks before the postseason, the Braves were dealt an unfortunate blow when Charlie Morton injured his finger in Friday’s shortened start.

The Braves on Sunday placed Morton on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 23, with right index finger inflammation. The MRI, completed Saturday, confirmed the finger sprain as the cause of that inflammation, manager Brian Snitker said.

Morton will not pitch in the NLDS. The Braves hope he can return for the NLCS, if they advance.

“There’s never a good time, as we saw last year at the end of the year,” Snitker said on Sunday morning, ahead of a doubleheader at Nationals Park. “It’s just those hurdles that you have to handle and adjustments you have to make, and put things together, and probably do some things that you wouldn’t normally do, I guess, to get through. Not anything or any hill that we haven’t climbed before, that’s for sure.”

Last September, Max Fried fell ill with a stomach bug that impacted his postseason preparation and performance. Spencer Strider also suffered an oblique injury that forced him to take time off before ramping up and starting in the postseason.

And on Friday, Morton felt something in his finger during the first inning against the Nationals. Catcher Sean Murphy asked him if everything was fine, and Morton told Murphy he felt he injured his finger.

Morton’s 15th day of the 15-day injured list stint is Oct. 7, which is the date of Game 1 of the NLDS at Truist Park. Thus, Morton officially won’t be eligible to be on the roster for that round. Players who become eligible during a series can be injury replacements, but this won’t happen with Morton, as the Braves have ruled him out for the NLDS.

They believe he’ll be ready to pitch again if they make it to the NLCS.

“Well, hopefully,” Snitker said. “He’s gonna have to go through the process and everything. He just kind of got ruled out for the Division Series because of it, and hopefully with the added time – I think when you’re looking at the calendar, it’s going to be over three weeks, so hopefully the best-case scenario is that he could be ready for that if we advance.”

Morton’s injury could have ripple effects, considering he could’ve been the Braves’ third starter for the postseason. It could be disastrous. But it seems manageable.

This season, there is a built-in off day betweens Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS. (This off day was in the American League side of the bracket last year.) So, say Max Fried – who is on the injured list because of a blister, but will be eligible to be on the NLDS roster – starts Game 1 for Atlanta. With the off days in the series, the Braves can use Fried and Spencer Strider twice. They would likely only need the third starter for Game 3 on the road.

This person could be Bryce Elder. Kyle Wright is part of the Braves’ pitching depth, but Snitker on Sunday said the club planned to use Wright out of the bullpen for the doubleheader. The Braves had originally planned for Wright to start one game of the doubleheader, but they gained a roster spot by placing Morton on the injured list.

“If we use him out of the ‘pen, we can see him in different scenarios,” Snitker said of Wright. “He’s up to 80 (pitches), so if we need him to do that, he can do that. It’s more just kind of not taxing him as much and maybe getting more out of him.”.

The immediate plan for Morton is unclear, Snitker said. Morton went back to Atlanta, where doctors and specialists will determine the next steps going forward.

Last season, the Braves saw fluke incidents with Fried and Strider hamper their postseason run. They hope Morton’s injury isn’t the same. Morton is not Fried or Strider, but he has pitched to a 3.64 ERA over 30 starts this season – at age 39, no less!

But the Braves will go forward. This is nothing they haven’t dealt with before.

These situations happen.

“They’re all unfortunate,” Snitker said. “There’s never good timing for all that kind of stuff. But hopefully we have the depth to cover everything up and be able to go on to be competitive.”

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