NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Mike Soroka has drawn praise for the advanced maturity and pitching IQ he has shown at a young age. But the Braves’ 22-year-old ace still had a surprising answer when asked about a timely ground ball he induced in the first inning of a 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Friday afternoon at CoolToday Park.
“We know [Mike] Tauchman was a little bit of a flat-bat guy, so we knew that was going to be our ground-ball guy down and away with the sinker.”
Seeing Tauchman ground into a double play after DJ LeMahieu opened the game by bouncing a single over shortstop Pete Kozma’s glove was not surprising. Armed with one of the game’s most lively sinkers, Soroka produced MLB’s sixth-best ground-ball rate (51.2 percent) last year.
But it certainly was different to hear a pitcher reference a pregame scouting report while talking about what he had just done while making his spring debut during a game in February. Most pitchers assured of a roster spot essentially just go through the motions at this point of the year.
But most pitchers aren’t Soroka, who produced the National League’s third-best ERA (2.68) en route to finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award balloting last year.
“That’s why he’s going to be so good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “This is all a big deal to him. That was real encouraging to see him start out like this.”
After completing a six-pitch first, Soroka used two strikeouts to pitch around a pair of soft singles during a scoreless second inning. It was an efficient and successful spring debut for the young hurler, who will have time to make four more starts before making what would be his first Opening Day start.
Cognizant of Chris Martin’s health history, the Braves have brought him along slowly during the first couple weeks of Spring Training. But the right-handed reliever could make his spring debut at some point next week.
“Those guys in that role don’t need a whole month,” Snitker said. “We can get him ready.”
Martin has fully recovered from the left oblique strain he suffered while warming up for the eighth inning of Game 1 of last year’s National League Division Series. But the Braves are just being cautious with the 6-foot-8 reliever, who has had to be careful regarding the maintenance of his back.
Adeiny Hechavarria will likely not return to action until the latter part of next week. Hechavarria was scratched after feeling left oblique tightness during batting practice before Thursday’s game against the Cardinals. The veteran infielder returned to CoolToday Park on Friday with no signs of having suffered a strain, an ailment that would likely sideline him for a few weeks.
Hechavarria is projected to open the season as Atlanta’s primary backup infielder. He should have plenty of time to make necessary preparations for Opening Day. But if he were to experience further problems, his absence could create an opportunity for Yangervis Solarte or Pete Kozma.
Spring Training results might not matter, especially those produced within the first week of the exhibition season. But the Braves have been pleased with the swings taken by Johan Camargo, who drilled a two-run homer off Yankees right-hander Deivi Garcia in the second inning Friday.
Camargo stands as the favorite in his third-base battle with Austin Riley, who has produced a couple long line drives while going 2-for-10 with just one strikeout thus far. This is an encouraging start for Riley, who struck out in 50 of his final 109 at-bats last year.
Another rough one
Kyle Muller will certainly be looking to move past this opening week of games. Muller surrendered four hits, including Bryce Harper’s three-run double, and allowed five runs while recording just one out in the fifth inning of Friday’s 6-5 split-squad loss to the Phillies in Clearwater.
Muller had hit two batters and issued a walk while making his spring debut against the Tigers on Sunday. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound lefty has retired just two of the 12 batters faced through two appearances. He ranks as the Braves’ No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline.
Max Fried will attempt to right himself on Saturday, when the Braves make the short drive to Port Charlotte to play the Rays. Fried recorded just one out while allowing the Blue Jays three hits and three runs in his spring debut on Monday. The lefty produced a 3.89 ERA through his first 24 starts last year, but he then constructed a 5.24 ERA over his remaining six starts. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio.