Soroka tears right Achilles, out for season

August 4th, 2020

ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman heard yell in pain and then looked to see the young hurler on the ground. A short time later, Freeman and his Braves teammates learned they will spend the remainder of this season without their ace.

Soroka tore his right Achilles tendon in the third inning of a 7-2 loss to the Mets at Truist Park on Monday. His absence damages the World Series hopes of the Braves, who now have a gaping void within a rotation that already had a few holes.

“To sum it up, this night just sucks,” Freeman said.

Quite frankly, there wasn’t any way to sugarcoat what happened. The hope is Soroka will return to form and continue to be one of the game’s top pitchers next year. But his presence will be severely missed by a team that is bidding for a third straight National League East title.

Soroka was taken to a nearby hospital for an MRI exam and thus was not available for postgame interviews. His injury affected the emotions of his teammates and opponents from throughout the league. Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty was among the players who tweeted good wishes soon after the injury occurred, saying, “Prayers up for Soroka.”

"It kind of makes you sick, honestly,” Mets outfielder Michael Conforto said. “I can tell you a lot of us felt that way, just the way he went down and what we were hearing it was. ... We heard it was the Achilles. He's a bright young star, and we know he'll come back and be the same guy."

While winning seven of their first 11 games, the Braves have shown the potential to have both a strong lineup and bullpen. The primary concern centered on a rotation that could rely on Soroka, Max Fried and maybe hope on the other three days.

Now Fried will be carrying the load for a rotation that lost Soroka when he attempted to break off the mound to cover first base on J.D. Davis’ grounder to Freeman.

“I heard him yell and then I also heard, ‘No one is covering first,’ from their first-base coach,” Freeman said. “That’s when I looked back and saw him on the ground. Didn’t know what the injury was until he got up and couldn’t walk.”

Soroka fell to the ground after pushing off the mound with his right foot. He rose a moment later, limped for a few steps and then went back to his knees, where he remained while being checked by assistant trainer Mike Frostad and manager Brian Snitker.

“When I went out there, [Soroka] said he knew it was [the Achilles],” Snitker said. “It’s a freak thing that happened. I’m sorry it did.”

This will certainly not be a celebratory birthday for Soroka, who turns 23 on Tuesday. He produced the NL’s third-best ERA (2.68) last year and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award balloting.

“When you lose one of the top pitching arms in this entire game for the whole season, it’s pretty tough,” Freeman said. “He was just about to take off. He was unbelievable as a rookie last year and he was off to an incredible start again.”

Overcoming this injury will likely be the Braves’ greatest challenge. Their rotation is now without four projected starters. Cole Hamels (left triceps tendinitis) will not be eligible to be activated from the 45-day injured list until September. Félix Hernández elected not to play after reporting to Summer Camp. And Mike Foltynewicz was designated for assignment and outrighted to the alternate training site last week.

“No one is going to feel sorry for us,” Freeman said. “It has to be next man up. Someone is going to get a great opportunity to fill a role and have a great season.”

Maybe Foltynewicz will regain some of the weight he lost and more importantly the velocity his fastball lacked over the past month. Maybe top pitching prospect Ian Anderson will make an impact when he debuts or maybe Kyle Wright will live up to his tremendous potential over the next couple of weeks.

The Braves could also attempt to trade for a starter in what could be a thin market as teams account for this year’s expanded playoff field. None of these potential fixes sound as comforting as counting on the consistency Soroka would have continued to bring to the mound every five days.

But it’s far too early to determine all has been lost with this one injury.

“Somebody else is going to get an opportunity to do something,” Snitker said. “These things happen.”