Spring roommates Soroka, Anderson to compete for rotation job

January 26th, 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.

In addition to competing for a spot in the rotation, Michael Soroka and will spend the next couple of months vying for refrigerator space.

One of the Braves’ most interesting Spring Training battles this year pits Soroka against Anderson for the rotation’s fifth spot, a contest between two talented young right-handers who have been detoured during the early portion of their respective careers.

They are also great friends who will once again live together during Spring Training, in the house Anderson recently purchased near the Braves’ complex in North Port, Fla.

“[Ian is] definitely my best friend on the team,” Soroka said. “We’ve been together for a long time. It’s ironic that we had never played together before being at Triple-A last year. I think we’re both fairly mature and understanding that we’re both going to do what we need to do. We both wish the best for each other.”

A few years ago, it would have seemed ridiculous to think these two would have to fight for a rotation spot. But that was before Soroka twice tore his right Achilles tendon and before Anderson struggled last year. Their paths merged as they spent the final weeks of the 2022 season together at Triple-A. Now they are looking to journey back to the big leagues.

Soroka and Anderson are both wise enough to know they aren’t necessarily just vying for the fifth spot. Yes, there’s currently just one opening, but anything could happen over the next few weeks and months. Both will be going to camp to prove they can again be effective starters.

Even if just one of them is needed in the rotation to begin the season, both will make starts this year as long as they remain healthy.

Soroka is facing a significant challenge after tearing his Achilles in August 2020 and again in June 2021. Time will tell whether he can get back to where he was during his 2019 rookie season, when he ranked third in the NL with a 2.68 ERA. He has always shown great determination and dedication, traits that have carried him through inactivity over the past two years.

But now he must prove he can physically handle the rigors and challenges of performing at the highest level.

“I feel great,” Soroka said. “I’m pretty much where I would be any normal year.”