It was out of an abundance of caution that the Braves placed Mike Soroka on the 10-day disabled list Thursday because they didn’t want such a talented 20-year-old prospect wondering whether the soreness in the back of his pitching shoulder was something to worry about.
They recalled fellow rookie Max Fried from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Thursday night’s series finale against the Cubs at SunTrust Park.
The Braves and Soroka himself seemed certain that his issue wasn’t serious and an MRI and other tests came back negative. It might be only the routine sort of soreness that pitchers get while competing at the highest level, but Soroka never had such issues, and the Braves didn’t want to risk having the prized right-hander pitch through it.
“It’s just something I’d been pitching through a little bit,” said Soroka, who is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in three starts since he was called up this month. “Sometimes you don’t know if (it’s) new soreness. Shoulder soreness comes and goes away. But it didn’t really go away. ...
“They thought precautionary, just to make sure it goes away. It’s a long season and a lot of first-time, high-stress pitches. Just want to make sure it’s all under control and I’ll be back helping the club win soon.”
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Braves manager Brian Snitker said Soroka would rest until the soreness is gone, then make a minor-league rehab start and probably rejoin the rotation after that. There’s no timetable for his return, but it sounds as if he could be back within two weeks, barring any setbacks.
Soroka, the youngest pitcher in the major leagues, said he felt some tightness during his start Saturday at Miami, but didn’t really think much about it until after the game when the tightness didn’t dissipate. He pitched well, posting a personal-best seven strikeouts in 4-2/3 innings while allowing eight hits, one walk and five runs, only one of which was earned.
He threw his regular between-starts bullpen session this week and mentioned the shoulder soreness to trainers and Snitker only Wednesday.
“It’s nothing structural or anything like that for concern,” Snitker said. “It’s something that he even said, ‘I could pitch through it.’ But if guys bring it up, there obviously is something there because this is a kid who doesn’t have any history of having anything wrong. I mean, he was solid as a rock his whole minor league career and the innings that he’s logged and all that, so it’s more of just taking a precaution and taking care of it.”
Soroka has allowed 21 hits, 10 runs (six earned) and four walks with 15 strikeouts in 14-2/3 innings. The 6-foot-4 Canadian had a terrific debut May 1 at New York, allowing just one run, six hits and no walks in six innings.
He struggled in his second start May 6 against the Giants, giving up seven hits, four runs and three walks in four innings, then bounced back from that outing with a solid performance against the Marlins.
“This is something that’s new. I never spent any time on the DL,” Soroka said. “So I knew it was a little different. It wasn’t a pain. I felt it a little bit through (the start at) Miami, but it’s just one of those things I thought might go away. And it never did. So it’s best to take a precautionary and make sure it didn’t open up anything else….
“Just a little tightness. Felt a little locked up. It didn’t really bother me on the mound. I hadn’t really felt it. But it kind of took longer and longer to get loose. I thought it was best to bring it forward because it just doesn’t do anybody any good to go out there when I’m less than 100 percent, right? It’d be better off for the team to have a guy that’s 100 percent (healthy) pitching on the mound for a win.”
Soroka was asked whether he changed his delivery or pitching mechanics at all since arriving in the majors.
“No, definitely not,” he said, adding that Braves physical therapists have worked out a program to help him avoid similar tightness going forward. “Just little things come up. I think they described it as a throwing-type specific injury; or not an injury, but just a way that your body compensates. (Pitching is) all one-sided. Just loosening that up and make sure we even it out on both sides.”
Soroka said the tightness was in a specific area: “Just the very back of the shoulder. … Just kind of rib-cage and scapula tightness pushing everything together.”
“It’s a young kid that’s been pretty solid his whole career,” Snitker said, “and now he feels a little something, so he probably doesn’t know what it is. If he goes and he pitches, it’s probably something that might just be normal and doesn’t even think anything of it. But right now because he was aware of it, I don’t want to send him out there with something he could probably get through, but it’s in the back of his mind that he hasn’t experienced yet. So that’s a part of the process, too.
“Plus the fact that I don’t want to take a chance because we’ve got a long way to go. He’ll be fine. I don’t think we expect this to be anything more than, calm it down, probably get a rehab start, and if everything goes good, be back here.”
Fried, another highly regarded rookie, was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in four relief appearances earlier this season for the Braves, after going 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA in nine games (four starts) last season. Coincidentally, his first major league start was against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sept. 3, and Fried was impressive, pitching five innings of one-run ball for the win.
The 24-year-old left-hander was 1-1 with a 2.75 ERA in four minor league starts this season.