Can Soroka rejoin Braves' depleted rotation soon?

May 14th, 2023

TORONTO -- The Braves have a definite need for starting pitching. But they also need to do what is best for ’s future.

So, when Atlanta didn’t recall Soroka and instead constructed two bullpen games within the past five days, it seemed to stick with its plan. Everybody wants to see Soroka beat the odds by returning to the Majors for the first time since tearing his right Achilles tendon for the first time on Aug. 3, 2020. But the pitcher’s long-term interests shouldn’t be negatively impacted by the fact the Braves are going to spend at least the next two months without both and .

“[Soroka] is still working through things, he hasn’t pitched in a long time,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We’re going to need him before the year is over. We just want him to settle in and get consistent starts.”

So, while Soroka would be on regular rest if the Braves opted to bring him up to start against the Rangers on Tuesday, Snitker didn’t create a lot of confidence about the 25-year-old possibly joining Atlanta’s fractured rotation any time soon.

Soroka has posted a 5.47 ERA while totaling 24 2/3 innings over six starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. He threw 91 pitches over six scoreless innings against Omaha on April 18.

Looking to limit his early-season innings total, the Braves skipped his next turn. When the right-hander returned to the mound on April 30, he allowed 10 hits and eight runs (seven earned) over three innings against Buffalo. Soroka hasn’t thrown more than four innings or totaled more than 77 pitches in any of his past three starts, but there haven’t been any issues with his right Achilles tendon, which he tore for a second time on June 24, 2021.

“He’s had his struggles, which everybody figured he would after such a long layoff,” Snitker said. “The stuff is good. It’s just the consistency, which is what you get by making starts.”


Triple-A Gwinnett
The Braves recently signed former heralded prospect Justus Sheffield to a Minor League deal. Sheffield’s career hasn’t gone as expected, as he has posted a 5.47 ERA while combining for 48 appearances with the Yankees and the Mariners.

The 27-year-old left-hander had a 14.04 ERA in 10 appearances for Triple-A Tacoma before the Mariners released him near the end of April. Even if he never gets back to the Majors, though, Sheffield can help by eating innings at the Triple-A level.

Double-A Mississippi
AJ Smith-Shawver, the Braves’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has continued to impress since making the leap to the Double-A level. The 20-year-old right-hander recorded seven strikeouts while tossing five scoreless innings in his first home start for Mississippi on Saturday night. He hasn’t allowed a run in 21 combined innings between High-A Rome and Mississippi this year.

Not bad for a young guy who started regularly pitching in 2020, during the summer before his senior year of high school.

High-A Rome
Catcher Adam Zebrowski, who was taken in the 13th round of the 2021 MLB Draft out of NCAA Division III St. John Fisher University, had a .500 average with 20 homers and a ridiculous 1.587 OPS over 38 games during his final collegiate season. He has batted .307 with five homers and a 1.035 OPS through his first 21 games for High-A Rome this year.

Single-A Augusta
Last year’s two first-round selections are distancing themselves from the high school experiences they were gathering at this time last year.

JR Ritchie, Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect, has posted a 5.40 ERA through four starts, but he has 25 strikeouts and just three walks over 13 1/3 innings.

No. 2 prospect Owen Murphy has produced a 3.12 ERA while recording 24 strikeouts and issuing seven walks over 17 1/3 innings.