MIAMI -- The Braves know they might spend the remainder of this season without top prospect Mike Soroka in their starting rotation, but they remain hopeful closer Arodys Vizcaino will eventually rejoin what currently stands as a thin bullpen mix.
Before Monday night's series opener against the Marlins, Braves manager Brian Snitker said Soroka and Vizcaino are both at least a couple weeks away from being cleared to begin throwing. The respective shoulder ailments that have sidelined the pitchers will influence the club's mindset as needs are assessed leading up to next week's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"I don't see Viz missing the year," Snitker said. "I think at some point -- because he's a one-inning guy -- we can get him back. I say that, but until we get him throwing, we don't know."
Given Vizcaino has been bothered throughout this season with what has been termed right shoulder inflammation, there is certainly reason to be uncertain about his durability. The veteran reliever made just three appearances between two disabled list stints over the past five weeks. If he does not begin throwing again until the middle of August, he likely would not be deemed ready to rejoin Atlanta's bullpen until some point in September.
While Vizcaino would have time to prepare for his one-inning role, Soroka would need to progress through what would essentially be another Spring Training before being deemed ready to make a big league start. If he does need a little more than a month after beginning to throw again in mid-August, there's certainly reason to anticipate he won't make another start for Atlanta this year.
"He's still a couple weeks away from starting to throw and doing the treatment exercises and all of that," Snitker said. "It's hard to put a timetable on him until he actually starts doing that. He's going to be closing in on a couple months, so we'll just have to see. It's not going to be a situation where we're going to push him. It's going to be when he is ready."
Soroka made his first three career starts in May, then missed a month with shoulder discomfort that reappeared after just two starts following an activation in June. The 20-year-old hurler was hopeful to begin throwing again after the All-Star break, but the Braves' medical staff recently determined he needs a couple of more weeks to rest what does not appear to be a structural issue.
As Vizcaino has made a total of three appearances dating back to June 17, his absence has been felt by the Braves' relatively inexperienced bullpen. Closer A.J. Minter and Jesse Biddle have continued to be reliable assets. But the extended struggles of Dan Winkler, Shane Carle and Sam Freeman have influenced belief that Atlanta may need to add at least two relievers to remain legit postseason contenders.
"We're not that deep," Snitker said. "When you lose a guy like that and it pushes everybody up a notch, it's a pretty big deal. We're lucky we have had guys who have done a good job in more increased roles. You lose one of your matchup keys late in the game when you have to close with A.J."
Albies remains on schedule
Snitker confirmed he remains hopeful Ozzie Albies will return to the lineup for Thursday night's series opener against the Dodgers. The All-Star second baseman has been sidelined since exiting Friday's night's game against the Nationals with a tight right hamstring.
"I'm thinking if we give him today and tomorrow, and he receives treatment, he'll be pretty good to go full bore on Thursday," Snitker said. "That's the hope."
Odds and Ends
• Brandon McCarthy (right knee tendinitis) still does not appear ready to resume throwing off a mound. The veteran starting pitcher has spent the past couple of weeks recovering at his Arizona home, but he's expected to rejoin the team on Thursday in Atlanta.
• Over the past two seasons, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Albies have joined a rare list of Braves that have been used as a leadoff hitter at 20 years old or younger. The others are Andruw Jones, Glenn Hubbard, Rod Gilbreath and Remy Hermoso.