The Braves are the first team in MLB history to have two sub-22 year olds make the All-Star team.
Mike Soroka was named a National League All-Star on Sunday evening, making him the youngest pitcher in franchise history to achieve the honor. The 21-year-old starter joins Ronald Acuna, 21, and Freddie Freeman as the Braves' representatives at next month's event in Cleveland. Manager Brian Snitker will be part of the coaching staff.
“It’s indescribable,” Soroka said. “It’s something that wasn’t on my mind for so long, really. The beginning of the season was just about being back in the big leagues, being able to prove myself to the team and be out there every fifth day getting back after it. I strung a few (good starts) together at the beginning of the year, and there’s rumblings, all that stuff. You have to put that out of your mind because it’s so far away.
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“So to get that call when we’re in there — Snit gave us the news in the clubhouse — to share it with all these guys who’ve been there with me and ultimately the reason I’m there; I wouldn’t be there without their plays behind me. … I’ve learned from all of them and wouldn’t be here without them.”
In his first full season, Soroka has already realized much of the potential that made him the franchise’s No. 1 pitching prospect. A command savant, Soroka is second in MLB with a 2.13 ERA and fifth in WHIP (0.980).
The Canadian righty outpitched defending Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom Friday, his most recent start. Soroka has a 67:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 84-2/3 innings. He's made 14 starts despite missing spring training and a portion of April due to a shoulder issue.
“He gets it,” pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. “He understands himself very, very well. He’s very calm, his demeanor. Nothing seems to rattle him when he’s out there. He’ll reach back and make a pitch. A lot of times guys have to grow into that or they go into that overthrowing. That’s not him. He has a good sense, good feel for what’s going on out there. He sees the game a little differently than some.”
The Braves held a team meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday to inform Soroka he’d be an All-Star. He got an ovation from his teammates. Snitker described Soroka as “stunned.”
“The maturity of the kid, what he’s done,” Snitker said. “It’s a great honor for our organization, for him, for what he’s accomplished. … He got a round of applause from his teammates. They were all happy for him and he had some great things to say to them. It’s one of the coolest days of my job, when you get to give them the All-Star invites.”
Soroka has downplayed All-Star talk for much of the year, both with media and in his own mind. He’s commonly praised for his maturity and level-headed outlook. That mindset helped him temper any hopes to make the midsummer classic.
The consistency he’s provided has been especially rewarding. Soroka debuted last season, making only five starts before right shoulder inflammation ended his season. He watched the Braves win 90 games and return to the postseason without his efforts.
Soroka worked extensively through the offseason so he’d be ready to compete for a rotation spot in spring training. But he overextended himself in workouts, hurting his shoulder again and spoiling his bid to open the season with the big-league club.
Yet he swiftly returned, almost immediately cementing himself as the Braves’ best starter. The best starter on the team with the NL’s second-best record on Sunday — as a 21-year-old.
“Age has always been a question coming up, the youngest to do something, Ronnie, (Ozzie) Albies, they fall into that category,” Soroka said. “I think a lot of watching them, understanding that it can be done. Don’t put limitations on things because you’re a little younger. And to not use it as an excuse either. It’s easy to go out there and say ‘Oh, you’re only 20 years old and you’re in the big leagues, and failure is OK.’
“It’s going to happen. But to move on, that’s where I think we’ve done a good job of learning from each other. It’s pretty cool, but what means the most to me is being able to go out and compete with the guys.”
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