Mike Soroka’s progress continues to encourage Braves

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Mike Soroka pitched a live batting practice/simulated game Saturday as he continues his way back from a torn Achilles that ended his 2020 season after three starts.

“He’s doing good,” said manager Brian Snitker, who conducted his daily media conference earlier than usual Saturday morning so he could go watch Soroka. “Really good, actually. They’re still checking boxes with him.”

It’s still unclear whether Soroka will be ready for the start of the regular season. It does appear he’s on pace to make a start during spring training, whether that’s in an intrasquad affair or against another team. Every report about Soroka has been encouraging, and that’s the best the Braves could hope at this stage.

Among those encouraged by Soroka is fellow starter and spring-training roommate Ian Anderson, who pitched opposite of Soroka in his first simulated game.

“He threw today, so I’m going to have to get back and ask him how it went,” Anderson said. “He’s happy. He’s upbeat and he’s excited, I know that.”

If the Braves opt against putting Soroka on the initial roster, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson or Huascar Ynoa could fill the rotation vacancy. The team also could temporarily proceed with four starters because of scheduling quirks. But one way or another, barring a setback, Soroka should be with the Braves sometime early this season. That will be a major boost for the World Series hopefuls.

Notes from Saturday:

- Anderson made his second spring start, allowing three runs on four hits in the Braves’ 7-1 loss to the Red Sox. Anderson struck out seven - including the first four hitters before Hunter Renfroe homered - and walked only one in 3-1/3 innings (his final frame was rolled, meaning it ended at the manager’s discretion before three outs were recorded because Anderson had reached his designated pitch count).

“I felt like the ball was coming out good and my mechanics were good,” Anderson said. “I was filling up the strike zone for the most part, so those are positives to take away. The goal was to go four innings. I had a couple long at-bats and a couple hits, so (the pitch count) can build up quick, and I hit my pitch limit. The biggest thing is getting those ups and downs, going and sitting down and getting back out there for the next inning. I was happy with the way it ended.”

- Nate Jones, the 35-year-old non-roster invitee who’s vying for a reliever role, has allowed one hit over his three scoreless outings. Jones had 6.27 ERA in 21 games with the Reds in 2020, after he returned from a season-ending right forearm injury the previous season. Despite injuries in recent years, he was a valuable reliever over a lengthy stretch. Jones had a 2.67 ERA with 164 strikeouts against 49 walks for the White Sox from 2015-19 (147 games).

Jones needs to continue his spring success if he’s going to be a surprise addition to the opening-day roster, but Snitker likes what he’s seen thus far.

“He’s intriguing, man,” Snitker said. “He’s had really good success here. It’s that different look. The ball jumps out of his hand. I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s another one we’ll keep running out there and getting a look at him. He’s had success before, and he’s throwing the ball really, really well in this camp.”

- The Braves will have a bullpen game Sunday against the Rays. Luke Jackson or Grant Dayton will start. It will be the team’s 13th exhibition contest.