Braves’ Max Fried set to return Friday at Mets

September 5, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) delivers a pitch during the first inning in a MLB baseball game at Truist Park on Saturday, September 5, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
September 5, 2020 Atlanta - Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) delivers a pitch during the first inning in a MLB baseball game at Truist Park on Saturday, September 5, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Braves lefty Max Fried will return from the 10-day injured list Friday and start the series opener at the Mets.

Fried last pitched Sept. 5, when a sharp decline in velocity sounded alarms across his five-inning start. Three days later, Fried was placed on the IL with a left-side muscle spasm in his lumbar spine.

The Braves felt Fried would benefit from additional rest and were confident it would be a short absence. Fried missed only one start.

“Initially, I didn’t think it was going to be too long,” Fried said. “It was just more of the next day (after my start) and the day after that it was a little sore and lingering. I just wanted to make sure we knocked it out so it wasn’t a problem (moving forward). I’m feeling really good now and I’m excited.”

Fried is among the front-runners for the National League Cy Young award. He enters his 10th start with a 1.98 ERA and 47:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50 innings. He’s held opponents to a .206 average.

The Braves couldn’t afford to lose Fried for a large chunk of time. He’s been the rotation’s lone stable presence throughout the season. First baseman Freddie Freeman called Fried the team’s first-half MVP because he provided the stability so desperately needed after the rotation was decimated by injury and ineffectiveness.

Fried doesn’t expect any lingering effects from the injury. He’s thrown nearly every day while sidelined. The southpaw likely will make two more starts before the postseason begins.

“My back locked up on me,” Fried said. “The more I was trying to go out there, it stiffened up the later it got in there, just at that point we didn’t want to take too many risks. I knew it was muscular. I knew it was tightness in the back that just locked up on me. We’ve been doing a really good job getting treatment and making sure it won’t happen again.”

The Braves' rotation is coming together with Fried, Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright and now Cole Hamels, who made his debut Wednesday. They’ll need each one of them given the new postseason layout. When teams enter the Texas or California bubble, there won’t be any off days in series until the World Series. The scheduling quirk will require different pitching strategies than usual postseasons.