Mike Soroka continues comeback from injury, pitches 2 innings for Atlanta Braves

Mike Soroka gave up a homer and worked two innings for the Atlanta Braves in his 2021 debut Tuesday, an important step in the former All-Star’s return after a torn Achilles tendon.

Soroka, 23, began spring training in the sixth for the Braves in Fort Myers, Florida, as Atlanta defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-2.

The right-hander finished his first start without taking a single step back. The Red Sox put two men on the board with a hit and a walk, but Soroka got two strikeouts, including a swing by Chris Herrmann, to end the threat.

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Jarren Duran opened the next inning with a single to right field to put the Red Sox up 5-3. The Magpies gave up another walk and had two runners on after a throwing error by Yohan Camargo.

But Soroka finished off a seven-run game, forced Jeter Downs into a double play and won the save.

It was my pleasure. It was really good, Soroka said, it was good to get in a little trouble. I had to keep throwing like I would during the season.

Although Soroka has participated in simulations at the Braves’ Spring Training complex, this is his first appearance against an opponent since getting injured at 3rd. August 2020.

Soroka will begin the season on the injured list and continue to work on his arm strength at an alternative training facility in suburban Atlanta. The team hopes he can return to the rotation before the end of April.

It was a great way to end a very good spring training on a positive note, manager Brian Snitker said. You could say he hasn’t pitched in a while. There were flashes of light that were really good. But it was just great to get him there. Service to another is important.

Soroka was the Braves’ starter on opening day last season and came on after a stellar rookie season in which he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA, was elected to the All-Star Game and finished sixth in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

But he lasted only three starts after a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He was injured when he passed to first base against the Mets to cover the right-hander’s bag.

Magpie rushed to the mound for a pair of no-hit games Tuesday. He attributes the work he did during rehab to increasing his self-confidence.

Once you’ve done it in the game, you’ve done it so many times it’s no longer a thought, he said.

Without Soroka, Max Freed became the Braves’ ace last season, Ian Anderson had a great rookie campaign, and the team won its third consecutive NL East title.

Soroka looks to have a rotation that will be completed by veterans Charlie Morton and Drew Smiley, who along with Freed and Anderson will form a four-man lineup to start the season. Freed was named for Thursday’s opener in Philadelphia.

Bryce Anderson will likely join the team in a few weeks if a fifth starter is needed. But Soroka will soon be part of the mix.

It’s exciting, Soroka said. This could be one of those rotations where five guys go hand in hand. That’s where the fun is.

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