How Fried, Morton IL moves impact NLDS rotation

September 25th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

As the Braves have rolled through this season, the sense has been they just need to stay healthy and avoid what occurred last year, when they entered the postseason with weakened forms of and .

All seemed to be going well until this past weekend, when both Fried and were placed on the injured list. But before panicking and assuming a second straight quick playoff exit is in the cards, this year’s adversity is much easier to manage than last year’s.

First of all, Fried’s postseason availability shouldn’t be influenced by the blister that appeared on Sept. 12 and reappeared during Thursday’s start against the Nationals. Whenever he throws over the next two weeks, his index finger will be protected by tape or some kind of adhesive bandage.

So, Fried will start either Game 1 or 2 of the National League Division Series. He would then be available to make an additional start in the best-of-five series on regular rest. Is there a possibility the blister could become problematic again between those two potential starts? Of course. But a couple weeks of treatment might be enough for the Braves lefty to rid himself of the blister.

This is at least more manageable than the virus that led Fried to lose 15 pounds between his final regular season start and his start against the Phillies in Game 1 of the 2022 NLDS.

As for Morton, the right index finger strain he suffered on Friday night will keep him out of the NLDS. But there is hope he’ll be ready in three weeks, when the NLCS begins.

Instead of using Morton to start Game 3 of the NLDS, the Braves could turn to Bryce Elder, who ranks eighth in the NL with a 3.63 ERA. That certainly seems to be a better option than last year, when the Braves sent Strider to the mound for Game 3 of the NLDS, despite the fact he had thrown off a mound just twice over the previous 26 days. 

The Braves targeted two to three innings for Strider. He earned a third inning with the utter dominance he displayed in the first two. But he immediately hit a wall, and everything fell apart during that third.

If Elder were to struggle, or get through the lineup a couple times before the fifth, Kyle Wright could be used to help bridge the gap.

This is all hypothetical, as we all know it doesn’t take long for plans to deteriorate in the sports world. But because Elder would at least enter Game 3 ready and capable of giving the Braves some length, this option seems better than last year’s. 

But what might really separate the current situation from last year is the schedule. The off-day following Game 1 allows the Braves to plan to use just three starters in the NLDS. Fried and Strider could both make a pair of starts, as long as Fried’s blister cooperates, and the Braves seem confident it will. 

So, instead of worrying about not having Morton for one start, it might be better to focus on the chance to get four combined starts from Fried and Strider in a five-game series.