Michael Soroka impressed Wednesday, but Braves refuse to rush him

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The Braves own the biggest divisional lead in baseball, and it’s because of the talent in all facets.

Ronald Acuna Jr. is the overwhelming favorite to take home the NL MVP, and Sean Murphy has produced a similar amount of WAR. Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider are having impressive starts to their 2023 campaign, but injuries to the rotation have put a ton of added pressure on the pair.

Max Fried and Kyle Wright will be out months, not weeks, and the Braves cannot continue to throw the bullpen out there every fifth day. It’s already struggling and doesn’t need the added miles.

Jared Shuster is an option to take over one of the starting rotation spots, and he performed admirably Tuesday night in Texas against the Rangers. The former first-round pick surrendered three runs over 5.0 innings in a performance the Braves would gladly take every fifth day. He’ll certainly get another chance to prove this was no fluke, but that still leaves another spot up for grabs.

Dylan Dodd is a candidate, but nothing he’s shown in Gwinnett says he’s ready for another crack at the major league level. In five starts for the Stripers, the former third-rounder has recorded an unsightly 7.83 ERA and 1.739 WHIP across 23.0 innings. He clearly needs some more seasoning.

That only leaves one obvious internal option left — Michael Soroka.

Braves Country has been dreaming of the day they see the Maple Maddux return to the mound in Atlanta. It’s been three years since he last toed the rubber of a major league mound and four years since that magical 2019 campaign in which he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting.

He’s spent the entire season in Triple-A Gwinnett with the Stripers, accruing 24.2 innings across six starts. The numbers won’t blow anyone away — 5.47 ERA and 1.581 WHIP (before his latest outing on Wednesday) — but that’s not important.

What’s important is Soroka remaining healthy because the stuff is still there; his command is rusty and was always going to be the last thing to come around. The Braves aren’t exactly in a position to be patient, given the state of the starting rotation, but that’s exactly what they plan on doing with Michael Soroka.

“He’s working his process here every day,” Gwinnett Stripers manager Matt Tuiasosopo told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The guy’s missed so much time. … He comes ready to prepare and compete every day. He’s had some good outings, he’s had some mixed outings. But it’s all part of just getting all that rust off and getting them back out there, and just getting in that mode of competing and facing hitters.”

It’s simple, he just hasn’t been good enough to get the call to Atlanta. Soroka has looked great at times but has also looked shaky at others. There are flashes of the pitcher we once knew, and then control issues hamper his outing.

The Braves will not make a rash decision at the expense of Michael Soroka because once they bring him back to bigs, it will be with the intention of keeping him there for the rest of the season. It’s inevitable he returns, though, as long as he stays healthy.

“No doubt,” Tuiasosopo said in response to whether Michael Soroka will pitch in the big leagues. “I think we all believe that, I think he believes that. That’s part of the role that me and my staff get to be in and to kind of help him like, ‘Hey, slow it down. Don’t get so caught up in your result of this start tonight, This is a long season and, at some point, you’re going to be ready, and you’re going to be (showing) that consistency. You’re going to be in the right place at the right time, to hopefully get that call to get back to where you belong in the big leagues.’

In his latest outing on Wednesday, Soroka gave up a run in the first inning thanks to a two-out double followed by an RBI single, but it would be the only hits given up. He ended up retiring nine straight and 12 of 13 before getting the hook after hitting a batter in the fifth with two outs. His final stat line reads two hits, one run, one walk, one hit by pitch, and five strikeouts across 4.2 innings and 83 pitches.

He’s getting closer, Braves Country.

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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