PHILADELPHIA – In the spring, one of the main Braves storylines focused on Mike Soroka’s rehab and, in the bigger picture, his potential return to the majors this season.
Soroka officially made it back to the mound, but his season ended in disappointing fashion.
Soroka is going on the injured list with elbow soreness, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There is no structural damage to his elbow, but the Braves officially shut down Soroka for the remainder of the season.
The right-hander may not have pitched off a big-league mound, but he might deserve credit for pitching in games this season after tearing his Achilles tendon twice in less than a year.
“I don’t know how he did it, especially that second time,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “The hands he was dealt, what he had to go through mentally as much as anything. … That’s a lot. That’s a big mental drain and everything when you’re going through that.”
Soroka made six rehab starts this season, the past five for Triple-A Gwinnett. With the Stripers, Soroka pitched 21 innings over five starts, allowing 20 hits, including three home runs, and 15 earned runs for a 6.43 ERA to go with an 0-2 record. He struck out 17 and walked seven. Before those, Soroka struck out eight batters over four innings and allowed one hit for High-A Rome.
“A lot of things were good, it’s just the durability thing,” Snitker said of Soroka’s time in the minors this year. “When you haven’t pitched a lot, it takes a while. Sometimes, I think you got to look at it like things happen for a reason.”
In May, the 25-year-old told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he hoped to pitch 60 innings through the end of the regular season, and that he and the club wanted to keep him under 100 innings total. Instead, the Braves kept Soroka in Triple A, which allowed him to continue pitching consistently. Gwinnett’s regular season ends Sept. 28.
Soroka, who made his MLB debut in 2018, has a 2.86 ERA over 37 career starts. He was an All-Star in 2019. Before tearing the tendon in 2020, he appeared to be one of the game’s great young pitchers.
Snitker saw one positive: At least Soroka won’t be rehabbing an Achilles tendon this offseason. He might be able to experience a normal offseason – after his elbow heals – before entering spring training in 2023.
“I think it’s probably good for him that he did get back and get going to some extent,” Snitker said. “Now, he can just kind of shut it down, get well and get ready for next spring.”
Acuña out of lineup
Around 20 minutes before Thursday’s opener at Citizens Bank Park, the Braves scratched Ronald Acuña from the lineup with mid-back tightness. He has been playing every day in right field following a stretch during which the club used him as its designated hitter.
Acuña was unavailable, Snitker said after his team’s 1-0 loss. The manager said he believed Acuña felt the tightness at the end of batting practice, when he was hitting in the cage. The Braves are unsure if he will play on Friday, but they will evaluate him in the hours leading up to the game.
Acuña has looked more like himself lately. In the Braves’ most recent homestand, the outfielder went 7-for-23 with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs. He walked twice and struck out five times.
Acuña has struggled at the plate for much of this season, but his recent stretch has looked promising.
Dansby Swanson hit leadoff for Acuña, and William Contreras moved to second in the order (where Swanson was before the switch).
Similar offensive numbers
The Braves arrived in Philadelphia with 13 games to play in the regular season. Their basic offensive numbers look as if they could be similar to last season’s (if not almost identical).
In 2021, the Braves ranked third in baseball with 232 home runs. They were eighth with a .754 OPS. They scored the eighth-most runs (790).
To this point in 2022, their 224 homers are second, as is their .762 OPS. Their 731 runs are third.
The Braves have a talented lineup. But again and again this season, they have proved to be relentless. They are a collection of talented individuals, but they also seem to fit together.
“I feel like it gives a lot of credit to our front office, putting guys together that will work, not just going after the top guy in each position,” Michael Harris said. “I feel like that doesn’t necessarily work. It’s just different guys that fit into different pieces with different teams. Different parts of the lineup do different things. I feel like it’s good that we don’t have all power hitters, all contact hitters, all whatever.
“I feel like we all just work together and we have good chemistry and we help each other out because we want to see the best for each other. We just want to go out there and win every night.”
Strider progressing positively thus far
Spencer Strider, who is dealing with left oblique soreness, seems to be headed in the right direction.
Snitker said Strider performed core exercises Wednesday, then did the same Thursday. He was also scheduled to play some light catch Thursday.
“He feels good,” Snitker said. “What they put him through was good.”
Snitker said he was not ready to pencil in Strider to start sometime early next week, but added that he spoke to the athletic training staff, and the news seemed to be encouraging. The manager said the club should know more in a couple of days, when Strider might be able to begin long-tossing.
“It’s all looking pretty good,” Snitker said. “I’m just so glad he mentioned something and didn’t try to pitch through it and then (not) say anything about the (oblique soreness).”
Braves hope Kirby Yates can return before season’s end
Kirby Yates felt like he was trending up before experiencing right elbow inflammation. In an interview after the team placed him on the 15-day injured list, Yates said he hopes his season is not over.
Snitker on Thursday said the Braves hope Yates can return in the next couple of weeks. The regular season ends on Oct. 5 in Miami.
However, Yates is still shut down. The Braves hope his elbow improves. When it does, he will need to go through a throwing progression before returning to the mound.