The career of Mike Soroka has been incredibly somber up to this point. He burst on the scene at the tender age of 20, making five impressive starts before he was shut down for the season with shoulder inflammation — the first of many injuries that have plagued his career thus far.
2021 was Soroka’s coming out party. He stayed healthy all year and finished sixth in the NL Cy Young race after posting a 2.68 ERA over 29 starts. If that wasn’t enough, he also pitched spectacularly in his lone postseason start, tossing seven innings and surrendering just two hits and one run. At just 21-years-old, the table was set for him to become the ace of the Braves staff for the foreseeable future.
But on the afternoon of August 3rd, in front of a stadium filled with empty seats and cardboard cutouts, everything changed. Soroka attempted to field a weakly hit grounder in front of the mound, and he immediately went down, riving in pain. Further tests were taken, but they weren’t necessary. Within minutes, it became obvious he suffered a torn Achilles, arguably the most devastating injury in all of sports.
Despite the injury, Soroka’s attitude surrounding the situation remained upbeat. He reached out to fellow athletes who suffered from similar injuries for advice and was fully convinced he would come back from the issue a better player.
Fast forward a year, and Mike Soroka is on the mound for the first time in a live game. He’s ahead of schedule in his rehab and nearing a return to the major-league club. Then, disaster strikes again; this time in an almost unthinkable fashion. Soroka is walking to the field when he feels a pop in his surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Soon after, it was confirmed that he had re-torn Achilles. The road to recovery was underway once again.
Even with modern day medicine, many athletes struggle to return from one Achilles injury, but two is oftentimes career-ending, which makes Soroka’s upbeat response to the second Achilles tear — especially considering how it happened — so admirable.
Fans only have access to a fraction of his life, but in every public appearance he’s made over the last two years, his passion to return and return at a high level radiates. It really feels like a situation where it doesn’t matter how many times Soroka gets knocked down, he’ll get back up and keep punching. But after his latest injury, it’s fair to wonder if his successful return will be with the Braves.
Yesterday, it was announced Mike Soroka is experiencing elbow inflammation. There is, thankfully, no structural damage, but he will be shut down for the remainder of the season.
Mike Soroka is going on the injured list with elbow soreness, according to a source. There is no structural damage. This ends his season.
— Justin Toscano (@JustinCToscano) September 22, 2022
In reality, the Braves never really expected Mike Soroka to come back and contribute to the major-league club this season. The goal was for him to return and get some reps in the minors, which he accomplished. The results probably weren’t exactly what Soroka was hoping for, given his lofty expectations for himself, but 2022 was a step in the right direction for the Maple Maddux. What’s next is the million dollar question.
Soroka is set to enter his third year of arbitration. Last year, the two sides were able to avoid arbitration, settling on a one-year, $2.8 million contract, which was the exact same amount he made in 2021. Will they be able to do something similar this time around?
My guess would be yes. It would feel wrong watching Soroka make his return in another uniform, and the Braves have already put enough time and effort into getting him to this point. I also thought — despite the numbers in Gwinnett — the stuff looked great. If he can stay healthy, he’s going to be a major-league pitcher again. In my opinion, another few million is worth seeing the situation through, at least for one more year.
With that being said, if there were ever a situation where the Braves needed some extra cash to make a more substantial acquisition, moving on from Mike Soroka is a possibility, especially if they plan to make a move for another starter. Given payroll is expected to rise again in 2023, I find it unlikely, but we are getting to the point where the conversation is beginning.