Soroka back on disabled list for shoulder issue

Michael John Graydon Soroka was born Aug. 4, 1997 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Braves drafted Mike Soroka in the first round (28th) of the 2015 draft. In 61 minor league games (59 starts), Soroka has a 2.91 ERA and 287 strikeouts in 330 2/3 innings. A non-roster invitee, Soroka has struck out three batters in three innings. On Thursday, Soroka struck out Miguel Cabrera on a 95 mph fastball that impressed Cabrera.

Mike Soroka went back on the 10-day disabled list Friday for the second time in five weeks because of rotator-cuff inflammation in his pitching shoulder. But the Braves and their prized rookie said they’ve been assured there’s nothing structurally wrong and that it’s not a major concern.

They will, however, make sure to bring him back slowly to avoid another recurrence this season.

“Something still isn’t right,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s got (something) in there. We’ve got to shut him down for a while and try to get him right.”

The 20-year-old is the youngest pitcher in the majors and one of baseball’s top prospects. The Braves obviously want to err on the side of caution, after thinking he was ready the last time and seeing him pitching splendidly in his first start back from the DL, then struggle Tuesday against the Blue Jays in his native Canada.

“We haven’t really set a timetable right now,” said Soroka, who spent 3-1/2 weeks on the DL the first time, making an auspicious return June 13 by taking a no-hitter to the seventh inning against the Mets. “One thing I learned from the first time around – you start to look too far ahead, you start to press and you start to push yourself maybe a little too fast.”

His velocity was down Tuesday at Toronto when Soroka, making his fifth major league start and a homecoming of sorts – he’s from Calgary -- matched career-highs with four earned runs and eight hits allowed, including six doubles in 4-2/3 innings.

“I didn’t know if it was just equated to pitching at home, that’s kind of what I thought it was,” Snitker said, “that he was trying to amp everything down and not get overwhelmed. But then when he came in after the game, they looked at him and talked to him and there’s more to it than that.”

The Braves thought they were going to have to make a decision on what to do with one of their six healthy starters once Mike Foltynewicz came off the DL in the next few days, but the Soroka situation makes that point moot once again, for the time being.

Foltynewicz, who’s been on the 10-day DL with triceps tightness, is tentatively set to start Monday against the Reds.

The Braves purchased the contract of veteran outfielder/utility man Danny Santana from Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

An MRI exam of Soroka’s shoulder Thursday showed the same thing as an MRI last month – no tears, no structural damage, just inflammation.

The Braves and Soroka, who is 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in five starts, were relieved it wasn’t anything serious. But all parties were in agreement that he needed to stop throwing for a while, get the inflammation out and do the stretching and exercise work he did since the last diagnosis to get a proper balance in the muscles of his shoulder to prevent this from becoming a lingering issue.

“I don’t know exactly the length. It’ll be more than a couple of days,” Snitker said when asked if Soroka would be shut down for a few days or something longer. “It’ll be a more extended period, try and knock everything out and then go from there, then just work back.”

Soroka’s first DL stint began May 17 and lasted nearly four weeks, and after making two convincing rehab starts, albeit only a combined eight innings in the two games, he returned in resounding fashion by taking a no-hitter to the seventh inning against the Mets on June 13. He gave up just one hit and one walk and had four strikeouts in 6-1/3 scoreless innings that day.

Then came Toronto, and his velocity was down significantly – in the low 90s in the early innings and below 90 mph in the fifth. His fastball is usually in the mid-90 mph range.

“Yeah, honestly it just wasn’t there initially,” he said of his arm strength in the Toronto game. “And then I noticed because some pitches you try to get after it a little bit, fastballs in fastball counts on the corner that you say I’m going to put a little extra on, you peek up and you see something (velocity) that’s not the same. Maybe it’s a little down and sometimes you have those days, but definitely there in the fifth inning, 88 (mph) -- that’s not where I’m at.

“Like I say, nothing grabbed, nothing hurt, but just, that’s not where it needs to be at all. It was confirmed with everything we had before (same MRI results, same diagnosis), all the docs and trainers that examined me are all confident that’s what it is.”

Soroka said he felt great during the start against the Mets and didn’t notice anything unusual warming up before the Toronto game.

“The fifth inning I came out there and it was noticeably slow,” he said. “At least early in the game, even though the numbers (mph) on the board were down, it felt great, it felt awesome, my pitches still seemed to have bite on them. And it wasn’t taking away from anything. But once we got to the fifth it got a little tighter and that’s when…

“It’s not fatigue. I know what fatigue feels like and the ball still comes out when you’re tired. I know that we’ll be doing our best to make sure this doesn’t come back. ... “It’s about making sure we get it out of there and then knowing what we need to do to make sure it never comes back.”

Having to go on the disabled list twice in his first two months in the majors is frustrating, but Soroka at least knows what to expect in rehab this time. He’s confident that the exercises and stretching routines work, he just might need to do more of them to prevent a recurrence.

“A little rotator-cuff inflammation. Irritation from just the way that things were pulling in there when my arm cocked back,” he said. “That’s all it really was. Like I said, there’s nothing torn, nothing strained, it’s just irritation and inflammation in there….

“Going into it the second time, it’s too soon, but knowing what’s ahead of me and knowing it’s something that maybe we have to take slowly, it’s definitely not going to be something that. ... I mean, I’m going to be getting there in a few days where I’m wanting to throw again. But it might be the smarter thing to do just to back it up a little more and make sure it is gone.

“It doesn’t do anybody good for me to be pitching like this and going on and off the DL. That’s not the goal of anybody. So just knowing what we’re going into this time and being sure, we’ve got a great training staff and we’ve got a great plan ahead to make sure this doesn’t pop up again.”