For the first time in more than two calendar years Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka took the mound in an official game Tuesday night. Soroka, who has missed most of the past two years with Achilles injuries, struck out eight of the 14 batters he faced and tossed four scoreless innings in a minor-league rehab start with the High Class-A Rome Braves.
“I’m glad for him. I’m sure he’s anxious to get things going. It’s been a long time since he’s been under the lights. It’s nice to see him start the rehab process,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this week. Soroka threw 45 pitches (35 strikes) in his four innings Tuesday and reportedly sat 92-94 mph with his trademark sinker.
Soroka, who is still only 25, initially tore his Achilles covering first base on Aug. 3, 2020, and needed season-ending surgery. Then, in June 2021, Soroka tore the Achilles again — he “felt a pop” as he walked to the clubhouse — and required a second surgery. Soroka was nearing a minor-league rehab assignment at the time and the Braves were hopeful he could return in August.
Now more than a full calendar year removed from his second Achilles surgery, Soroka faced hitters in simulated games at Atlanta’s spring complex the last few weeks, and now he’s graduated to competitive games. The Braves have not said how many rehab starts Soroka will make, but the fact he threw four innings and 45 pitches Tuesday suggests it may not be a long rehab.
Atlanta recently sent the struggling Ian Anderson to Triple-A and have used prospects Bryce Elder and Kyle Muller as spot starters in the interim. It stands to reason Soroka will step into what was once Anderson’s rotation spot when the Braves deem him MLB ready. The Braves also figure to monitor rookie Spencer Strider’s innings down the stretch.
Soroka, the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up to Pete Alonso, threw 174 2/3 innings with a 2.68 ERA that season. That was the year MLB set all sorts of home run records and Soroka, with his heavy sinker, led qualified pitchers with a 0.72 HR/9. He has a career 2.86 ERA in 37 starts and 214 innings spanning 2018-20.
The defending World Series champs entered Tuesday with a 71-46 record. They are 48-19 since June 1 but remain 4 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East. The Braves have a six-game lead for the top National League wild-card spot.