Fried goes on IL with back spasm

September 8th, 2020

ATLANTA -- Instead of giving an extra day or two of rest, the Braves decided to place the National League Cy Young Award candidate on the 10-day injured list with a left side muscle spasm in his lumbar spine.

“We’re extremely confident this will be a short stint,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said. “He’d tell you the same thing.”

All indications are Fried will miss just one start and possibly be activated when eligible on Sept. 16. Still, this lower back ailment is a blow to the Braves who accounted for their fractured rotation by making a couple other moves on Tuesday.

Kyle Wright, who was already announced as Tuesday night’s starter, was recalled from the team’s alternate training site. In addition, popular, but seldom-used utility man Charlie Culberson was designated for assignment to create room for right-handed reliever Jacob Webb, who was activated from the 45-day injured list.

“As you would expect, Charlie was a complete pro,” Anthopoulos said. “He understood where the club was and the position we’re in. Right now, we had a greater need for an arm, especially with Max down.”

Along with owning the National League’s third-best ERA (1.98), Fried stood as the only Braves’ starter to complete five innings or more at least three times this year. He has more than capably carried the load for a rotation that has seen each of its original members either injured or demoted this year.

But it wasn’t going to benefit Fried or the Braves to have him attempt to continue dealing with the restrictions he felt while allowing a season-high three runs over five innings against the Nationals on Saturday. His four-seam fastball averaged 90.9 mph in that outing, far more than just a tick down from the 93.9 mph average produced in his previous eight starts.

“Obviously we want Max out there for all of his outings,” Anthopoulos said. “But it’s also about being smart and making sure we have this addressed as we move forward.”

Fried has dealt with some lower back tightness that worsened during Saturday’s start. The expectation is he will be ready to start the Sept. 16 series finale in Baltimore. But the Braves might choose to push his return back to Sept. 18 to account for Cole Hamels, who potentially could make a unique season debut against the Orioles next week.

Hamels, who recently recovered from left triceps tendinitis, will throw live batting practice again on Thursday. If all goes well, the Braves could ask him to throw 2-3 innings against the Orioles on either Sept. 15 or 16.

But given Hamels hasn’t faced an opposing team since last September, the Braves may opt to have him initially begin to build innings in a simulated game at the alternate training site. Either way, the hope is he’ll be ready to make at least a couple starts within the regular season’s final two weeks.