CHICAGO -- As every Braves player and coach made his way to the top of the long staircase leading to Wrigley Field's visitors' clubhouse after Sunday's 5-1 victory over the Cubs, they were greeted with a hug or handshake extended by a smiling Max Fried, who was still basking in
CHICAGO -- As every Braves player and coach made his way to the top of the long staircase leading to Wrigley Field's visitors' clubhouse after Sunday's 5-1 victory over the Cubs, they were greeted with a hug or handshake extended by a smiling Max Fried, who was still basking in the thrill of notching his first Major League win.
"I just wanted to say thank you," Fried said. "I can't do it alone."
Showing some of that poise that intrigued scouts before he was taken with the No. 7 overall selection in the 2012 Draft, Fried was not adversely affected by the emotions that surrounded him as he progressed through his first big league start. He limited the defending World Series champions to one run over five innings and ended his outing by escaping a bases-loaded threat.
"[Fried] and his real good friend [White Sox pitcher] Lucas Giolito, I call them the biggest geeks in the world," Braves third baseman Rio Ruiz said. "You never know if they're nervous or scared. They're so composed. Today he showed that and everybody else saw what he was capable of doing."
Also freshly promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett, Ruiz tallied a career-best three RBIs in a series-finale victory that prevented the Braves from going winless over seven games against the Cubs this season. But he also indirectly provided some comfort for Fried via the strong bond the two have shared since they began playing on the same southern California travel team at 14 years old.
"I've known Rio is an unbelievable player ever since I was 14," Fried said. "So it was really nice to being out there with someone comfortable like that to be able to share this experience with."
Ranked as the Braves' 10th-best prospect by MLBPipeline.com, Fried struggled through the season's first three months with Double-A Mississippi. He was plagued with blisters, which eventually forced him to miss July's first three weeks. He returned and made three abbreviated starts before unexpectedly getting a call to the Majors to make four relief appearances in August.
Though he was sent to Gwinnett on Aug. 23 to make two starts, he hadn't completed as many as five innings since Montgomery bruised him for six runs June 17. So it's safe to say he exceeded expectations with this first big league start, which was tarnished only by an Ian Happ solo shot that immediately followed a replay review.
Much of Fried's success could be attributed to his much-hyped curveball. He induced four swings and misses and three called strikes within the 15 curveballs. He used this pitch to conclude each of his first three strikeouts. Even when he used his changeup to conclude a fourth-inning strikeout of Rene Rivera, he set it up with a trio of curves, two of which were strikes.
"I've been impressed since I was 14," Ruiz said. "It hasn't changed. It's always been that devastating. I'm just glad I don't have to face him any time soon."
Braves manager Brian Snitker wasn't ready to commit to Fried making another start, but the 23-year-old hurler certainly didn't lessen the possibility he'll start for Atlanta the remainder of the season. But there's certainly a need for him to add to his innings total (105) and a good reason to at least contemplate utilizing a six-man rotation for a turn or two.
"Wrigley Field against the defending World [Series] champs, there's a lot of energy out there and a lot of emotions," Snitker said. "I thought he handled himself really, really well."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.