ATLANTA >> The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves took a huge blow when young pitching star Mike Soroka was lost for the season today after tearing his right Achilles tendon against the New York Mets.
Soroka was hurt in the third inning after delivering a pitch to J.D. Davis, who grounded the ball toward first baseman Freddie Freeman.
After completing his follow-through, Soroka broke toward first to cover the bag — only to go down on his first step off the mound. The right-hander let out a scream and appeared to know right away it was a devastating injury, one that ensures he won’t be back on the mound until 2021.
“There’s no sugarcoating it,” Freeman said. “It’s just a terrible injury for somebody so young, so bright, so determined to be great at this game.”
Soroka tried to walk gingerly for a couple of steps before dropping to his knees. He couldn’t put any weight on the leg as he was helped toward the clubhouse with the assistance of a trainer and manager Brian Snitker.
“It’s a freak thing that happened,” Snitker said, delivering the grim news after the Braves lost 7-2 to the Mets. “I’m sorry it did.”
Atlanta is now faced with the daunting task of replacing one of baseball’s brightest young stars, a pitcher who turns 23 on Tuesday but already displayed enormous poise and command of his pitches during his first full season in the big leagues.
A native of Canada, Soroka went 13-4 with a dazzling 2.68 ERA in 2019, earning a spot in the All-Star Game. He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting and sixth for the Cy Young Award, leading the Braves to give him the opening day nod when the pandemic-affected season finally began less than two weeks ago.
Now, just 11 games into a 60-game sprint, the Braves have a huge hole to fill in a rotation that already has been a trouble spot.
One-time ace Mike Foltynewicz was sent outright to minor league camp after getting hammered in his first start of the season. Talented but unproven pitchers such as Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint have yet to show the sort of consistency Atlanta needs.
Especially now, with the Braves losing the guy who held down the top spot.
“Somebody else is going to get an opportunity,” Snitker said. “Things like that happen. These guys will regroup. Somebody is going to get an opportunity to do something really good. Our young guys are going to continue to get better. We’re going to be fine.”
Soroka was making his third start of the season. He came in having allowed just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings but struggled against the Mets, giving up three hits and four walks. He was charged with four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings, the second-shortest outing of his career.
Unfortunately for Soroka, he won’t get a chance to make up for it this season.