Morton to miss NLDS with right finger injury

September 24th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- Max Fried will be available to start for the Braves during their National League Division Series. Charlie Morton will need to wait for the possibility of making a start in the NL Championship Series.

Morton was placed on the 15-day injured list with a sprained right index finger and Allan Winans was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to start the first game of a split doubleheader against the Nationals on Sunday.

The sprain was confirmed when Morton underwent a MRI exam on Saturday in Atlanta. This was the initial diagnosis provided after the 39-year-old hurler exited Friday’s start at Nationals Park after one inning and 24 pitches.

“We were looking at the calendar and it’s going to be over three weeks [of recovery],” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “So, hopefully, best-case scenario, he could be ready for [the NLCS] if we advance.”

One year after being weakened in the postseason by Fried’s virus and Spencer Strider’s left oblique strain, the Braves are again dealing with rotation health issues at an inopportune time.

Fried was placed on the injured list after a blister developed again on his left index finger during Thursday night’s start against the Nationals. He is eligible for activation on Oct. 7, which is when Game 1 of the NLDS will be played.

Morton won’t be eligible for activation until after the NLDS roster is set. He could be added to replace an injured player, but the Braves anticipate he won’t be ready to pitch before the NLCS begins on Oct. 16.

With the start of the NLCS still three weeks away, there’s at least a chance Morton will be part of the plans for that best-of-seven series.

“There’s never good timing for all of that kind of stuff,” Snitker said. “But hopefully we have the depth to cover everything up and go on to be competitive.”

Morton felt discomfort in his finger with one out in the first inning of Friday’s 9-6 win over the Nationals. He finished the inning, but he didn’t return for the start of the second.

With an off-day after Game 1 of the NLDS, Strider and Fried could end up making two starts, both with regular rest, during the best-of-five series. Bryce Elder, who ranks ninth in the NL with a 3.63 ERA, could now replace Morton as the projected Game 3 starter.

Kyle Wright will move to the bullpen during the final week of the regular season. The Braves want to get a feel for whether Wright’s stuff could be effective as a reliever during the playoffs. The right-hander has made just two starts since missing four months because of right shoulder inflammation.