A small blister on the finger is a mere annoyance for the average person. But for a baseball pitcher it can cause major problems and, in some cases, become an issue that stalls careers.
Braves rookie Max Fried, a consensus top-100 prospect entering the season, was pulled from the seventh start of his major league career Thursday at Milwaukee after three innings when a blister began to form on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Fried, who had blister problems several times in his minor league career, “because we’ve done everything -- or I’ve done everything in my power -- to kind of prevent it with treatments and all that kind of stuff. So for it to keep coming back up, it’s frustrating.
“I want to be out there, I want to try to give the team the best chance to win.”
Fried, 24, might have to go on the disabled list. But Braves manager Brian Snitker hoped that getting him out of the game after three innings, before it became a full-fledged blister at least avoided a long-term DL stint.
“He’s had a history with the blister thing,” Snitker said. “When it kind of surfaced I didn’t want to take any chances, so I shut him down. ... It was starting to be enough of a problem, and it was going to be a problem, and I think if he’d have kept pitching it might have been a big problem.
“I didn’t want to take a chance of something busting loose really bad and missing a significant amount of time.”
To Fried’s credit, he didn’t use it as an excuse for his woes in the first two innings, when he blew the 2-0 lead he was staked to in the first by allowing a run in the bottom of the first and three runs in the second inning.
“I mean, I didn’t notice anything (in the first two innings),” said Fried, who was charged with four hits, four runs and three walks and had only one strikeout, after striking out a career-high 11 in 6-2/3 scoreless innings in a Saturday win at St. Louis. “It’s just one of those things, early on I was having a little trouble locating the fastball as well as I wanted and I was falling behind in counts too much.
“There’s no excuse for that, I’ve got to keep pounding the zone and get ahead.”
Snitker, too, didn’t think the blister caused Fried’s struggles in the first two innings.
“The fastball command wasn’t there like it was the other day in St. Louis, pretty much,” Snitker said.
Fried’s vaunted curveball also wasn’t as sharp as it had been at St. Louis, but it was the heater that Snitker said was the real issue.
“The fastball command, that’s big here. And it was good the other day, in St. Louis he was spot-on and tonight it wasn’t. I don’t know that it was so much blister, just didn’t have command today,” Snitker said.
Blisters plagued him last season at Double-A, contributing to a 5.92 ERA at that level and forcing him to the DL. That delayed his major league arrival until he and the Braves thought they had the issue under control.
Fried will hope for a quick recovery so he can make another start next week. But he knows there’s a good chance the Braves will err on the side of caution with him and put him on the DL.
In that case they’ll presumably need another starter Wednesday, since they prefer to use off days in the schedule to give extra rest for their starters rather than skip someone’s turn.
Veteran Brandon McCarthy is on the DL with knee tendinitis and hasn’t gotten over that ailment yet, Snitker said. Luiz Gohara is in the bullpen now and could be moved back to the rotation, or the Braves might consider bringing up prospect Kolby Allard for his first start. Allard currently is scheduled to start Saturday at Triple-A Gwinnett.
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