Soroka appeared in the Braves’ last spring training game in Fort Myers, Fla., Taking over in the bottom of the sixth with Atlanta leading the Boston Red Sox 4-2.
The 23-year-old right-hander successfully completed his first run of work without giving up a race. The Red Sox put two on board with a hit and a walk, but Soroka recorded two strikeouts, including Chris Herrmann swinging to end the threat.
Jarren Duran started the next set with a heavy practice on the right field wall to bring the Red Sox to 5-3. Soroka started another walk and again had to face two runners on board after Johan Camargo’s throwing error.
But Soroka closed out the seven-innings game with Jeter Downs throwing a double play, earning a save.
“It felt good. It felt really good, ”Soroka said. “It was pretty nice to have a little bit of trouble. I had to continue to pitch as I would during the season. ”
While Soroka had pitched mock games at the Braves’ spring training complex, it was his first appearance against an opposing team since his injury on August 3, 2020.
Soroka will start the season on the injured list and continue to build arm strength at the alternative training site in suburban Atlanta. The team are hoping he may be ready to join the rotation before the end of April.
“It was a perfect way to end a really good spring training on a positive note,” manager Brian Snitker said.
“You could say he hasn’t pitched for a while. There were flashes that were really good. But it was just good to get him out. Throwing against someone else is important, ”he said.
Soroka was the Braves’ day one starter a season ago, after a brilliant rookie season in which he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA, was selected for the All-Star Game and finished sixth in the NL Cy Young Award ballot.
But it only lasted three starts after the start of the pandemic shortened 2020 season.
Pitching against the New York Mets, Soroka collapsed to the ground after snapping towards the first to cover the sack on a grounder on the right side. He screamed and knew immediately that it was a devastating wound.
Soroka took off from the mound on a few games on Tuesday without any concerns. He credited the work he did during his rehabilitation for boosting his confidence.
“Once you’ve done it in a game you’ve done it so many times already that it’s not a thought,” he said.
Without Soroka last season, Max Fried established himself as the ace of the Braves, Ian Anderson had an excellent rookie campaign and the team won their third straight NL East title.
Even with a lack of depth in the rotation, Atlanta earned a victory after reaching the World Series, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-game NL championship streak after losing a 3-1 lead.
Soroka is eager to be part of a rotation that has added veteran free agents Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, who will join Fried and Anderson in a squad of four to start the season. Fried got the nod for Thursday’s opener in Philadelphia.
Bryse Anderson will likely join the team in a few weeks when a fifth starter is needed. But it shouldn’t be long for Soroka to be part of the mix.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It could be one of those rotations where five players are just trading hands, competing against each other. This is where it is the most fun. ”
NOTES: After being scratched the night before due to strain in his right calf, SS Dansby Swanson returned to the lineup. It will be ready to go on the opening day.