“It was a perfect way to end a really good spring training,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Soroka’s fastball registered 93-94 mph. His breaking ball was sharp, although his control wasn’t. He seemed comfortable back in his element.
“You could tell he hadn’t pitched in a while,” Snitker said, “but there were flashes of really good.”
Entering the game in the sixth inning in Fort Myers, Fla., Soroka struck out the first Boston batter he faced, Jeter Downs, on three pitches. He allowed a one-out single and a two-out walk before ending that inning with another strikeout.
In the next inning, Soroka allowed a leadoff home run to Jarren Duran. A walk and an error prolonged the inning, which Soroka characteristically ended by inducing a double-play grounder .
That completed the Braves’ 5-3 win, which was limited to seven innings, and spring training.
“I was obviously pretty anxious to get in (a game),” Soroka said. “We kind of had these last couple days circled on the calendar. We did everything we could to (reach) that.”
Now, as his teammates go to Philadelphia for Thursday’s regular-season opener, Soroka will return to Atlanta and work out at the Braves’ alternate training site at Gwinnett County’s Coolray Field. He’ll pitch in simulated and intra-squad games there over the coming weeks. The Braves hope he can join their rotation by late April, although there are no assurances.
“Everything is coming along really well,” Soroka said. “Our medical staff and training staff have been so good with keeping things in check. … Basically, I had to do two spring trainings in one. Really, it was kind of learning how to run, be agile again, be an athlete and still do the pitching part of it.
“It was nice to be able to go out (Tuesday) and get a good run in from the bullpen and get a good sendoff, too. I mean, I got the save, got to be able to say good-bye to the team, got to kind of act like it was the last inning of a start. That’s cool, too.”
When he was injured, Soroka’s first target was to be back in the rotation by opening day 2021. But he is OK with it not working out quite that way.
“We ... understand there’s a couple things we have left to do,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we finish all of the rehab part of everything. … I can go out there and compete, but it’s a matter of making sure that we get to truly 110% of where I was before, to where there is no problem, and once I’m back, I’m back.
“We’ve said (recently) that mid-to-late April is kind of the goal. And we’ve got to see how things go – obviously got to build up a little bit. . … It’s going in the right direction. Excited to be back, whenever that may be.”
A National League All-Star in 2019, when he was 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts, Soroka was injured in his third start last season as he came off the mound on the way to cover first base. He underwent surgery four days later and then began the long road back.
“I know he’s being smart about coming back,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “It’s just a matter of building those innings back in-game. ... I’m excited for him, and I know he’s doing the necessary things that he needs to do in order to get back and be a big impact on this team.”