Braves left-hander Max Fried said he was so focused on his job that he didn’t notice which Tigers batter would lead off the sixth inning until he heard the announcement over the stadium speakers:
“The first baseman, Miguel Cabrera!”
That’s Detroit’s feared slugger, a two-time AL MVP. By contrast Fried is a prospect who had yet to face major league hitting in a live game.
Fried got Cabrera to ground out. He got the same result against J.D. Martinez, another big bat. And he ended the inning by striking out Justin Upton, yet another accomplished slugger in Detroit’s powerful lineup.
It wasn’t an official game but it was a good Grapefruit League debut for Fried.
“That’s what you want to do,” Fried said. “These are the guy’s you want to face. For me, it was obviously a nice outing. I felt good. Everything is starting to click. My fastball command was really good. I couldn’t be happier.”
Fried is a former top prospect trying to make his way back from Tommy John elbow surgery in August 2014. The Braves acquired Fried as part of the haul they got for sending Upton to the Padres in December 2014 and Fried sat out the 2015 season while mending.
Fried was the 2016 organizational pitcher of the year for the Braves in 2016. Against the Tigers Fried showed off his big curveball and a fastball that reaches 95 mph.
“Right now, at this point, I’m feeling the best I ever have as far as my location, my stuff,” he said. “I’m really trying to ride it into the season and not do too much, stay within myself.”
Fried finished 2016 at low Single-A Rome and figures to begin this season at a higher level. The Braves have a recent history of giving their pitching prospects quick promotions so, if Fried continues to develop, it may not be long before he’s facing big-league hitters in official games.
“This has been one of my dreams to face these guys,” Fried said. “I’ve always seen these guys on TV growing up so being on the same field competing with them, it’s unbelievable.”