Mike Soroka re-tears Achilles, out for season

Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka re-tore his right Achilles and will require season-ending surgery, the Braves announced Saturday.

Soroka felt a pop in his right Achilles while walking to the clubhouse at Truist Park on Thursday. An MRI revealed a complete re-tear of the tendon. Soroka’s surgery will be scheduled within the week, according to the team.

It’s devastating news for Soroka, 23, who tore his Achilles during a start Aug. 3 and has experienced multiple setbacks in his comeback attempt.

“I hate it for him, he’s such a dedicated kid,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s been through a lot. Worked extremely hard in his rehab. When I talked to him (Saturday) morning, as he always does, he’s put things in perceptive, and he’s ready for this next journey he’s going to go on.”

Soroka spent last offseason rehabbing and progressed enough to appear in the Braves’ final spring-training game in March. The team hoped he would return in late April, but Soroka was stalled by right-shoulder inflammation, forcing the Braves to shut him down.

Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka delivers in the sixth inning of a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Fort Myers, Fla. (John Bazemore/AP)

Credit: John Bazemore

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Credit: John Bazemore

In May, Snitker revealed that Soroka was feeling discomfort in his Achilles and required exploratory surgery in Green Bay, Wis., where he underwent his first surgery. Soroka underwent exploratory surgery May 17, and it showed a rare situation that was causing his pain. Soroka’s body was rejecting the internal sutures placed in the Achilles during his initial surgery. The Achilles itself was healed from the first procedure, Soroka said.

The team did not rule him out for the season, even recently expressing hope that he could return later in the summer (“We thought maybe, before the end of the year, he’d be back,” Snitker said). Soroka himself didn’t put a timetable on it, just saying he wanted to be diligent with his process. When he spoke with reporters just over a week ago, Soroka was in good spirits, saying his Achilles felt healthy, and he was pleased with his progress.

Then came Saturday, when the Braves announced Soroka again tore the Achilles while walking into the clubhouse for his usual rehab. The “anomaly,” as Snitker called it, happened Thursday, the first day Soroka was out of a walking boot.

“He’ll do whatever he has to do (to get back),” Snitker said. “Just like he did before. He checked all the boxes. Things were going good. He felt great. He was very optimistic. And then this happened. It’d set any of us back, even if you weren’t an athlete. The thought of what you have to go through again. I’m sure it took him a while to sit there by himself and get his thoughts together and process everything. When it happens, you have to give somebody space and time to do just that.

“Talking to him, he’s optimistic that they’ll get this thing worked out, and he’ll go through it again. That’s a great way to look at it. There’s nothing he can do. It’s done. I applaud him. I admire the kid’s spunk to have the outlook he does.”

After undergoing his next surgery, which will be his third in less than a year, Soroka will start back from the beginning, trying to overcome two Achilles tears to continue his once promising young career. Snitker said the only comparable situation, adversity-wise, he could remember was former Braves reliever Jonny Venters, who underwent four elbow surgeries in his career.

A healthy Soroka was expected to sit atop the Braves’ rotation for the long term. In his last full season – 2019, his lone complete campaign as a major leaguer – Soroka was an All-Star and had a 2.68 ERA in 29 outings, helping the Braves win 97 games and the National League East title. Because of injuries, Soroka has started only 37 games since his debut May 1, 2018.

“I expect (Soroka) to get back,” Snitker said. “This kid is determined. I’d never bet against this guy ever. Ever. He’s probably more determined than ever. As big a gut-punch as this is, I see this kid coming back stronger than ever. He’s going to do everything possible. He’ll be smart about it. He’ll check the boxes and be back out there again pitching.”

Realistically, the earliest that could happen is midseason 2022. Soroka has a long process ahead of him to reach that point, but if Snitker’s word accurately reflects his mindset, Soroka is up for the latest challenge.