The Atlanta Braves received some unfortunate news Tuesday that they would be losing their ace pitcher, Max Fried, with no timetable for his return. Now, with Fried and Kyle Wright on the IL, the Braves could be in serious trouble moving forward.
The Braves are currently entering their toughest stretch of the season, playing four teams that are currently 21-game winners (Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers) with the rest (Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies) playing highly competitive baseball right now, minus the Oakland Athletics, who have only won 8 games.
The Braves have been dealing with injuries all season long but have yet to relinquish the NL East from their grips and have won an NL league best 24 games. So, there’s no way they could lose now, right? It’s a long season, but the Braves have their work cut out for them if they want to win their fifteenth division title. And needless to say, the Fried and Wright injuries put the Braves in a troubling position.
Here’s a list of ways the Braves are in trouble:
Fried & Wright cause Braves trouble by not returning until late in the season, or not at all
The injuries to both starting pitchers are alarming because no one knows the extent as to how injured they really are outside of the reports. But knowledgeable baseball fans can read between the lines.
When Wright was removed from his last start on May 6, he gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits through only two innings. When he was met on the mound by pitching coach Rick Kranitz, there was an obvious intense conversation going on between the two, one where Kranitz eventually walked off and asked for the trainer and then Braves skipper Brian Snitker relieved Wright of his duties for the evening. No one quite knew what was going on other than Wright was out of the game. And now he’s on the 15-day IL with “right shoulder inflammation,” which is the same shoulder that was injured before the season started.
Kyle Wright is exiting this game early after a mound visit from Brian Snitker, Rick Kranitz and a Braves trainer. pic.twitter.com/PJ7o1t1byF
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) May 3, 2023
Fried was also injured earlier in the season after leaving the game early in his first start against the Nationals when he aggravated his left hamstring while running to cover first base. The injury caused him only to miss two starts, though, and the Braves, luckily, kept winning games in his absence.
But now Fried faces a much larger task with a strained left forearm, which is obviously his pitching arm. He’s already had one Tommy John surgery back in 2014, so the Braves and Fried are hoping to avoid another, although no UCL damage was detected. What makes this injury so concerning is, similar to Wright, but worse, there’s no certain timetable on his return.
The Braves are looking at an extended period without their top two pitchers, which even with their what seems to be plethora of arms, won’t be easy moving forward. It’s easy to believe that with both pitchers proving to be injury prone this season, both could be shut down entirely.
Lack of remaining starting pitching
The Braves have always been known for their arms, especially during this recent run where they seemingly just keep pulling them out of nowhere. But the farm is running thin. It seemed as if at the start of the season that the Braves were going to be running into a problem of having too many arms.
The hope was that Ian Anderson, who has a World Series game win on his resume, would return to form after being sent back down to Triple A Gwinnett last season and returning there this season. However, he just recently had Tommy John surgery and will be out for a while. He’s not the only one, though, as one-time promising SP Huascar Ynoa is also recovering from Tommy John surgery he received last September.
That leaves Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster, the two young, promising pitchers that the Braves initially started the season with. Both had promising springs, but they have both showed their need for more time down in Triple-A to develop.
Mike Soroka getting rushed
It seems very unlikely, but if the Braves get desperate enough for starting pitching, they could up the timetable on Mike Soroka’s return, that is if he’s shown clear signs of being healthy. When he was starting for the Braves all the way back in 2020, he was dominant.
But after tearing his right achilles tendon twice, there’s every bit of reason to be cautious. Plus, he’s still working his way back to form at the major league level in Triple-A. The Braves would seemingly risk more of their future in bringing him back this season, in any way.
Nobody is trading for starting pitchers in May
If this were after the All-Star break, maybe, or closer to the trade deadline, but no teams are going to be willing to trade their starting pitchers away right now, even the Royals and A’s. So, the Braves are going to have to hope they can survive this treacherous month of May with what they have, hoping that their explosive offense, which gets Travis d’Arnaud back on Tuesday, will carry them.
With the Braves, however, it’s likely that could try to pull some sort of wizardry like they always do throughout the last couple of seasons and find a hidden gem that no one wants, that will produce just long enough to get them past this stretch of the injury bug. The first pitcher that comes to mind that’s a free agent is former Diamondback Madison Bumgarner, who went unclaimed on waivers last month. Honestly, this seems like a perfect fit for the Braves right now, similar to when they picked up Pablo Sandoval during the 2021 season.