Bradley’s Buzz: We won’t be seeing Mike Soroka this October, either

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

With so many good things happening over the past 14 months, a young man once among the Braves’ biggest assets has become a fading footnote. The team announced Thursday that Mike Soroka will again be placed on the injured list, thereby removing him from postseason consideration. This will be the Braves’ third consecutive October without him.

His last MLB start came Aug. 3, 2020 – three turns into the COVID-delayed season. He tore his Achilles in the third inning against the Mets. After undergoing exploratory surgery last summer to see why his leg still hurt, he tore the same tendon again. Another year of rehab ensued. He made his first rehab start on Aug. 16, working four innings of one-hit ball for High-A Rome, striking out six.

Five more starts for Triple-A Gwinnett followed. He yielded 15 earned runs and 15 hits over 21 innings. He finished with an ERA of 6.43. According to the AJC’s Justin Toscano, he also developed elbow soreness. For someone who has barely pitched over three years, that might have been inevitable. It has, alas, become the Soroka story.

He was the second draftee of the Braves’ rebuild regime of John Hart and John Coppolella in 2015. Soroka went just behind Kolby Allard, just before Austin Riley. His big-league debut came May 1, 2018. He made five starts, two of which were outstanding. He developed shoulder tightness. He didn’t pitch again that year.

The next season is the reason we still track Soroka. He made the All-Star team. He finished second in rookie of the year voting. He was sixth in Cy Young balloting. His ERA was 2.43. He worked seven NLDS innings against the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, yielding two hits and one run, striking out seven. The Braves scored three runs with two out in the ninth to take a 2-1 series lead. Soroka’s Game Score was 76. In last year’s World Series clincher, Max Fried’s was 70.

That famous game in St. Louis was played Oct. 6, 2019. We’d never heard of COVID. Fried made a name for himself in that series – as a reliever. Spencer Strider was a Clemson sophomore. Kyle Wright made four big-league starts, posting an ERA of 8.64. Charlie Morton finished third in Cy Young voting as a Tampa Bay Ray.

The Braves haven’t forgotten about Soroka, the biggest pitching prospect of their rebuild around pitching. But they can’t really count on him, can they? First a shoulder, then the Achilles (twice), now an elbow. Counting postseason, he has made 38 MLB starts. Over the past three seasons, Fried has made 78 starts.

Soroka is 25. His career isn’t over. If not for the ouchy elbow, the Braves might have considered him for the 26th spot on their postseason roster. (Teams always seek a wild card in October. He’d have been one.) Not now, though. He was on track to the Braves’ next great pitcher. They’ve had to move on without him. They’ve managed.

*Mark Bradley weighs in on issues with UCLA football, Aaron Judge and the retiring Tim Tucker.

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and collated by yours truly, available to all those who register on AJC.com for our sports newsletter. The full Bradley’s Buzz, which includes more opinions and feature items like the weekly poll and results, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. (We plan to add a Wednesday version.) We’d be obliged if you’d give it a try.