‘He should be back stronger than ever’: Braves’ Spencer Strider is latest injured star

Baseball world reacts to Braves ace’s elbow surgery
Atlanta Braves' Spencer Strider sits in the dugout during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Spencer Strider sits in the dugout during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

MIAMI — As they prepared for this weekend’s series, the Marlins knew they would face Max Fried, Chris Sale and Charlie Morton. There was one notable name missing.

Spencer Strider.

The Marlins know this as well as anyone: Two of their pitchers – Sandy Alcantara and Eury Pérez – are out after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Strider was the latest baseball star to require an elbow procedure: On Friday, he underwent surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow with an internal brace. He’ll miss the remainder of the 2024 season.

“As much as I don’t want to see Strider facing us, I want to see him pitch in the major leagues for a long time,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker told reporters before Saturday’s game.

Schumaker, a baseball fan himself, speaks for everyone. Strider’s injury, and subsequent procedure, is another alarm bell for the sport’s most pressing issue. The game, of course, is better when its most talented players are healthy, but no one knows how to prevent these injuries – or if it is even possible to do so.

There is a human at the center of this. Strider, who had Tommy John surgery in 2019, will miss his age-25 season. Another year gone, just like that.

Those who know him are hurting for him.

“The thing is, you know how hard they work and what they’re after,” Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He does everything right – which, that’s probably the tough thing, right? I had positive thoughts going in, and we got the best-case scenario, right?”

By “best-case scenario,” Kranitz meant, “It wasn’t, like, the full ligament replacement, so that’s a good thing.”

A traditional Tommy John operation reconstructs the damaged UCL by replacing it with a tendon graft from elsewhere in the body. An internal-brace procedure, on the other hand, fortifies the existing UCL with fiber tape.

The recovery should be shorter than that of a normal Tommy John procedure. If all goes well, Strider could return to pitching in around 12 months instead of missing most of the 2025 season, too.

It’s still a bummer.

“But knowing him and knowing the person, he’s going to be up for the challenge, just like he was the last time (in 2019),” Kranitz said. “He did the last time when he was in college and did it all by himself, and now he’s got an opportunity to be with our people to really get him to where he needs to be. Yeah, it was hard, it was hard. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game. But yeah, I really felt for him, for sure.”

In 2020, Chris Sale underwent Tommy John surgery. At the time, he pitched for Boston. He missed that season and a majority of 2021. He feels for Strider.

“That’s a tough blow,” Sale said. “It’s never easy to get through something like that. But, on the flip side of things, him having gone through something similar before and just who he is – his makeup, his personality, his work ethic, his dedication – he’s gonna be in as good of a spot as anybody for something that’s not the best situation. He takes really good care of himself, he works really hard. We got the best guys in the world here to help him get through it. There’s no doubt in my mind (that) whenever he gets back, he’s gonna be right where he needs to be.”

Strider. The Rangers’ Jacob deGrom. The Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani (though he’s still hitting). Cleveland’s Shane Bieber. Alcantara. Pérez.

“It stinks,” Schumaker said. “We’re going through it, but every team is going through it. We have to figure this out and it starts down at the youth sports. My (16-year-old) son’s in high school, and he has a kid on his team that’s having Tommy John surgery. The whole baseball community has to figure this thing out.”

“Yeah, it’s hard,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Obviously, you want to see those guys perform and play. Injuries have been a part of baseball, and they’ll always be. You just battle through it – as an industry, as a team. It’s just something you’re always gonna have to deal with.”

On April 5, Strider reported elbow discomfort after his start. The next day, the Braves announced that his MRI revealed damage to the UCL in his right elbow.

Then and there, it seemed like surgery was inevitable – even if nothing was finalized.

So on Saturday, Snitker said he didn’t have much of a reaction to the news becoming official.

“I knew that probably was gonna happen,” he said. “But he should be back stronger than ever. If anybody’s gonna overcome something, it’s gonna be that kid.”

Stripers push back Bryce Elder

Bryce Elder was supposed to start on Saturday for Triple-A Gwinnett. He will instead start on Sunday.

The Stripers simply adjusted the rotation. Elder is fine. The Braves haven’t revealed their rotation plans, but moving Elder to Sunday might just give them better flexibility to handle any situation with their arms.

“And it might be just because when that (vacant rotation) spot comes around, we don’t know (what we’ll do),” Snitker said. “Darius (Vines) is here. ...(Vines) might have to pitch today. So we have to protect ourselves.”