NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Two years after being moved to the bullpen for the postseason, Max Fried has earned the honor of being an Opening Day starter.
Braves manager Brian Snitker found Fried on Thursday morning and told him he will start the April 1 season opener in Philadelphia. The left-hander earned National League Cy Young Award consideration last year and has the potential to continue being one of the game’s top starters for many years to come.
“It’s something you dream about and something you work for,” Fried said. “But to have [Snitker] actually walk up to me and tell me this morning was pretty special.”
Fried will throw approximately three innings in his final Spring Training start on Saturday and then prepare to become the first left-hander to start for the Braves on Opening Day since Tom Glavine in 2002.
With last year’s Opening Day starter Mike Soroka set to miss the season’s first few weeks while recovering from right Achilles tendon surgery, the Braves really only had to choose between top free-agent acquisition Charlie Morton and Fried, who was a key reason they got within one win of the World Series last year.
Fried went 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA and finished fifth in last year’s NL Cy Young Award balloting. He produced a quality start in three of his four postseason starts and proved to be the rock of a rotation that was decimated by injuries and the declines of both Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb.
“His body of work last year put him in position to get this honor,” Snitker said.
Fried, White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito and Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty have been friends dating back to their days as teammates at Harvard-Westlake School in the Los Angeles area. Each of them will be their team's Opening Day starter this year.
“That’s crazy,” Fried said. “I’m really happy and really excited for those guys. They worked extremely hard to put themselves in that position. To be in that position and share that feeling with those guys is pretty cool.”
Fried’s rise over the past couple years has allowed him to begin realizing many of the expectations set when he was selected by the Padres with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. He missed all of '15 recovering from Tommy John surgery and was traded to the Braves before the start of '16.
Fried debuted for the Braves near the end of 2017, but he spent half of '18 in the Minors and didn’t establish himself as a big league starter until '19. He won 17 games that year, but a late-season decline put him in the bullpen for the playoffs.
Having the chance to aggressively pitch with max effort as a reliever seemed to be beneficial for Fried, who also added a slider to his repertoire in 2019. His confidence and competitive spirit shined after Soroka was lost less than two full weeks into last season.
“I think it’s just the evolution of a young pitcher,” Snitker said. “It takes a while. It takes a lot of experience to get to that point. He’s going to continue to get better because he’s one of those guys who is trying to figure out a way to get better.”