In the past couple of days, as the Braves evaluated Max Fried’s forearm discomfort, he feared the worst.
“Absolutely. You never know,” Fried said. “You want to make sure that you can take every step and try to diagnose what’s going on. Obviously, I was feeling something. To be able to have some confirmation of what I was feeling in reality, it was a little relieving. Also relieving to know it wasn’t necessarily serious. Caught it before it got really bad. The objective now is to do everything that I can to get as strong as possible and have a really good foundation.
“When I do come back, I don’t want any more issues.”
The Braves on Tuesday placed Fried on the 15-day injured list with a left forearm strain. They recalled left-hander Danny Young to take Fried’s roster spot.
When baseball fans hear “forearm strain,” they think: Tommy John surgery. In this case, the Braves said Fried didn’t have a tear of his UCL. He won’t need Tommy John surgery.
He simply needs to let the strain calm down a bit, then build back up before returning to the mound. (Fried had Tommy John in 2014, when he was in the minor leagues.)
It’s impossible to know when Fried may return from this injury. The only certainty seems to be this: He will need much more than the 15 days on the 15-day injured list. First, he must feel no pain or discomfort in his forearm. Then he’ll need to ramp up, which can take time after a pitcher has been shut down for a while.
“Right now, I know that we’re not trying to put any timelines on anything,” Fried said. “The priority is to get back, get healthy and make sure this kind of doesn’t happen again. We took imaging and everything, as far as you know, structurally looks really good. So that was very encouraging. Now, it’s just about letting the muscle heal and rest and make sure I build up properly so can can come back and finish strong.”
Asked if the Braves believe Fried can return when there’s still a large chunk of the season remaining, manager Brian Snitker said: “I don’t know.”
After Friday’s start, Fried didn’t give any indication that he might be injured. He reported the discomfort Saturday. “It just wasn’t the same, normal day-after soreness that I was having,” Fried said. He had Tommy John surgery almost a decade ago and said he couldn’t recall the exact feeling to compare it with this one.
On Friday, Fried allowed seven runs (five earned) on eight hits over six innings. He served up two home runs. He committed two throwing errors, both to first base. It was a rare off-night.
“I think a lot of the times, for me personally, if something is acting up, command will start to waver a little bit, (but) you still are able to keep the velocity up,” Fried said. “Just wanted to make sure that, just coming off an injury, I didn’t want things to compound and get really bad. Talking to the medical staff, we just wanted to make sure we did everything we possibly could to make sure this was quick, seamless easy. And we did it so there were no long-term effects, or it was not a long-term injury, it was more on the short term.”
Before Friday he was dominant.
Over three starts after coming off the injured list, Fried spun 16-2/3 scoreless innings against San Diego, Houston and New York – all expected to contend for postseason spots. Through five starts (26 innings) this season, Fried has a 2.08 ERA.
This is Fried’s second time on the injured list this season. On opening day, he suffered a left hamstring strain while running to cover first base.
Fried said it’s been a crazy couple of days as the Braves have figured out everything with his forearm strain. He said he’s “relieved and excited to get into this process and get back out there soon.” At this point, it’s unclear when he may return.
If you think about the time it might take for him to allow the injury to heal and then add in the time it might take to build up, it seems Fried will be out at least a month and a half.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” Fried said. “I don’t think anyone wants to be hurt or to go on the IL. I pride myself on trying to be able to make my starts and give us a chance every single time I take (the ball). For me, it’s tough knowing that I’m not going to be able to put on my spikes and go out there and compete with these guys. There’s that, but also at the same time, knowing this is short term. I’m looking forward to getting back out there this year, so I’m really excited about that.”
The Braves have holes to fill in their rotation. Before Fried’s injury, the off-days this week meant they wouldn’t need a starter until May 16. Now, they must replace Fried and Kyle Wright, who suffered a right shoulder strain last week.
Dylan Dodd, Jared Shuster and Michael Soroka are three starter options. The Braves feel confident in their depth.
“I better,” Snitker said, laughing.
He then added: “It’s what you do here. What we go through every year. There’s always challenges, and it’s never easy. There’s always obstacles. You plan. You huddle up and see what’s the best possible way forward to make it work the best we can.”
One silver lining: It’s May 9. There’s a lot of season left.
“It’s a long season,” Fried said. “We’ve got a lot of really good players and guys that want to be out there. I want to make sure that I’m not a fraction of myself, or just a little less. I know how important it is to go out there and win ballgames. It’s obviously really tough because I want to be out there, I want to pitch. It’s what I love to do. I love competing with these guys every day. But I also know that if I keep pushing it and it’s long-term, it’s not good for the team.”