The Braves aren’t yet concerned with Mike Soroka’s and Max Fried’s innings pitched. As they’ve stressed throughout this season, they’ll handle their young arms on a start-to-start basis.
Fried is fresh off six strong innings against the Mets on Tuesday, bringing his total to 126-1/3. Soroka, set to start Friday, is at 128 innings. Both are instrumental to the team’s success, but they’re also undertaking their first full seasons as major leaguers.
Braves manager Brian Snitker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos have maintained the same philosophy since April. They’re going to let the kids pitch, only concerning themselves with workload limitations if necessary.
“As a young GM, I was pretty militant with innings and things like that, and it didn’t work,” Anthopoulos said last week. “Even when I was in L.A, obviously they’re as good an organization as you can find, we were very cautious with Julio Urias, and he still got hurt. You can go through a lot of examples.
“We’ve talked to both of them about being open and communicating with us. I think Snit’s done a good job when he’s been able to save some bullets. We don’t skip our fifth starter. We take advantage of the off days, and we watch them start-to-start.”
Fried, 25, has a 3.99 ERA through 23 starts (25 appearances). He’s struck out 128 while walking only 38. His makeup and repertoire — which includes a dynamic curveball that resonates similarly to fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw — makes him one of the more intriguing developing pitchers in the National League.
Until this year, it had been a frustrating two seasons for Fried. He bounced between the majors and Triple-A and shifted back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. All while battling recurring blisters that prevented himself from establishing a clear role.
Fried has dealt with a blister once this season, around the All-Star break. When the team looks back on it, that wasn’t the worst outcome, considering how he’s recovered.
“That might’ve been a blessing in disguise, just to get him farther into the season,” Snitker said. “Knock on wood, it’s been really good now. I think any chance we could’ve got for both those guys to get deeper into July was good.”
Soroka, 22, is an All-Star in his first full season. The right-hander, who was limited to five starts last season because of shoulder inflammation, has a 2.31 ERA with a 103:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21 starts. He’s shown no signs of issues since missing spring training with shoulder discomfort.
Regarded as perhaps the organization’s premier pitching prospect, few could’ve expected Soroka to blossom so quickly. His performance is even more impressive with context: He fought his way back twice from those problems in his throwing shoulder.
“I can tell you last September, Soroka was dying to come back,” Anthopoulos said of Soroka, who was shut down in June 2018. “He was throwing in instructs. He was ready to go. For his career, as much as we could’ve used him in the playoffs, it wasn’t the right thing for him.
“We’re going to put their careers first. If we think the appropriate thing is to scale down or shut down, we’ll do it. But as we sit here today, we haven’t made arrangements to do that. We’re just going to play it by ear.”
The Braves need Soroka and Fried fresh for October, so monitoring innings is a reasonable topic among outsider discussions. But as Snitker said, it’s not as though either pitcher is approaching a significant innings number for 40 games remaining.
“They’re not piling up yet,” Snitker said. “They’re not close to 200 innings or anything yet. I keep alluding to the fact I think their time in between starts is what’s important for these guys, in conserving and making do with innings, the stressful innings. It’s good that they’ve gotten this far and haven’t really missed many starts.
“We’ve done a good job getting them extra days every now and then. The schedule has provided that. It’s good.”