The Atlanta Braves are emerging from their roughest period of the 2023 season so far. The challenges they've faced extend beyond tough competition, as they've also had to cope with the absence of key players from their starting rotation. Early this May, Max Fried and Kyle Wright, two crucial starters, were placed on the injured list (IL). Despite these setbacks, the Braves and their talented roster have maintained their momentum, recording a 14-12 record in the month with one series remaining against the struggling Oakland Athletics. Now, this series holds an additional significance: the return of Mike Soroka.

For the past three years — 1,029 days to be exact —  Soroka hasn't pitched on a major league mound. In August 2020, during the early stages of the global pandemic, Soroka faced a more personal battle. He suffered a torn right Achilles tendon injury that threatened his career. Unfortunately, the adversity didn't end there, as he re-injured the tendon when he returned to Truist Park for rehabilitation a year later. Even during his rehab starts in Gwinnett last season, Soroka had to be shut down due to shoulder soreness after the minor league season concluded.

Enduring three surgeries for his torn Achilles tendon, countless hours of rehabilitation, and repeated setbacks, it would have been understandable if Soroka had struggled to recover both physically and mentally. However, against all odds, he finds himself once again donning the Braves uniform in a major league game, albeit in front of a crowd that resembles a minor league gathering in Oakland, CA. Yet, it's a perfect opportunity in the perfect situation.

2. Perfect timing for Mike Soroka, other side of the injury bug

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Ironically, Mike Soroka's return coincides with the absence of two standout starting pitchers who have carried the Braves over the past two seasons, both of whom are now on extended IL stints. Soroka didn't secure a spot during Spring Training like most had hoped this season, nor did he receive a call-up due to roster expansions in September, as many anticipated last year. He's back in the majors because, like him, other players have suffered injuries. While their injuries may not have been as severe as Soroka's three years ago, his return to the major league mound is prompted by the Braves' current predicament.

With Soroka rejoining the team midway through the season, it's likely that some pressure will be alleviated whereas it wouldn't have earlier. Braves fans, in particular, may have high expectations for the 25-year-old, but not to the extent they would have if he had entered the starting rotation on Opening Day.

Let's not forget that Soroka was once seen as the potential ace of the Braves. Before his unfortunate setbacks, he showcased an impressive 15-6 record and a stellar 2.86 ERA in his first 37 starts.

However, due to the limited number of starts and his prolonged absence from the major leagues in recent years, it becomes challenging to gauge expectations for Soroka. His insurmountable injuries couples with his limited stats create uncertainty regarding his performance going forward. Nevertheless, the Braves remain hopeful.

1. Away from home

As Soroka takes the mound on Monday's game against the A's, he will find himself far away from Truist Park and Atlanta. Furthermore, he will likely face a crowd of fewer than 10,000 fans in attendance. This may prove beneficial for the young pitcher, as the pressure to deliver in front of a sold-out crowd in Atlanta could have added to the intensity of his remarkable comeback.

The Oakland Coliseum is the ideal venue for Soroka's return, for multiple reasons.

The A's currently hold the dubious distinction of being the worst team in the league, possibly in MLB history when all is said and done. With a record of 10-45, the A's will face one of the league's top teams in the Braves.

Anything can happen in baseball, and there is always a chance that the Braves might falter against the A's in the final series of the month. However, it bodes well for the Braves that this is Soroka's comeback game, against a struggling A's team that appears clueless about how to rectify their abysmal performance. In a way, it will feel like Soroka is facing another one of the minor league teams he encountered during his rehab assignments in Gwinnett.

As Soroka returns, he'll be welcomed by fans and Braves staff members alike. Yet, make no mistake — there will be apprehension in the air. Every move he makes will be observed with bated breath, with hopes for his continued health.