Max Fried likely will return next weekend

The Braves still expect Max Fried back next week in Philadelphia, optimistic the lefty will miss only one start because of a blister issue.

Fried, 25, exited his start in Milwaukee earlier this week after a blister developed on his left index finger. He’s had recurring blister problems in the past, but Monday marked the first time he fell victim to the circumstance this season. The team placed him on the 10-day injured list.

“We'll back him off, get him good and hopefully this will be the end of it,” manager Brian Snitker said at the time. He reiterated Saturday afternoon before the Braves’ game against the Nationals at SunTrust Park that Fried is on schedule to return in Philadelphia next weekend.

Fried, who pitched five scoreless innings in his latest start, has become a crucial piece in a rotation loaded with uncertainties. In 21 starts, he owns a 4.08 ERA with 102 strikeouts and 31 walks.

Already at 103-2/3 innings, the Braves eventually were going to space out Fried’s outings in his first complete season as a full-time starter. Fried had thrown 59-2/3 major-league innings before 2019.

The Braves still couldn’t afford to lose him for a substantial amount of time. They were helped by their schedule, which features a pair of off-days surrounding a two-game series with the Royals next week. Once the Braves wrap up with the Nationals on Sunday – with Kevin Gausman on the mound – they’re off Monday, face the Royals twice, then travel to Philadelphia on another off-day.

Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran will start the two Royals games, Snitker announced Saturday. Theoretically, Mike Foltynewicz could’ve been an option to start the second game, but the Braves don’t have a plan as to when they’ll recall him from Triple-A Gwinnett.

How the team handles Mike Soroka’s and Fried’s innings in the waning months will be among the chief second-half subplots. They need Soroka, already over 96 innings, and Fried fresh for a potential postseason run.