The Atlanta Braves are playing their brains out at the moment with eight straight wins under their belt including a pair of wins to start their series with the current NL East leaders, the New York Mets. However, one of the more exciting bits of news from the past few days wasn’t from the big league club, but instead on the injury front as Mike Soroka, who tore his Achilles in August 2020 and then again in June 2021, made his first rehab start down with the Rome Braves on Tuesday evening.
First things first, Soroka looked great on the mound. His final line was four innings (one more than was expected) with one hit, no walks, and eight strikeouts. While he was up against high-A hitters, for a guy that has been out as long as he has been, everything passed the eye test as well. His sinker was 91-92 and he was dotting it throughout the bottom of the zone, his breaking ball was in the 84 mph range and got some silly swings and misses (although it did not necessarily have the usual two-plane movement which was interesting), and he mixed in a few changeups as well. After the game, Soroka was very quick to point out that while his four-seam command wasn’t where he wanted it yet, his sinker right now is “as good as it has ever been.”
WATCH: Mike Soroka shined bright in Rome tonight. A day highly anticipated by many and thought about so many times by Mike. My report also involves a little motivation by the late Kobe Bryant, compliments of Soroka’s Dad. #ForTheA pic.twitter.com/TchIdLskEx— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) August 17, 2022
The biggest takeaway from Soroka’s presser after the game is that he is just glad he is healthy. “I feel good. That is probably the biggest thing to come out of that game....to just be healthy, right? Going back to that game in spring training, it was just kind of the start of a road downhill. This was the first game in a long time where I could come out of it healthy.” Soroka also mentioned that his second Achilles surgery was significantly more extensive involving extra sutures and a graft that has made his right Achilles significantly thicker with more scar tissue as well as a bit tighter than before his injury.
Overall, Soroka was really happy with his performance. Again, he specifically mentioned that his four-seamer, which was hitting 94 mph in the fourth and final inning of his rehab start, was where he wanted it but was certain that that will come back as he gets feel back for the pitch. He also mentioned that he wished he had gotten a ground ball to field to “get that out of the way” but was clear that he had been doing a lot of infield drills. “I felt like I could’ve got outs in the big leagues tonight. Whenever we’re ready, I’m ready. Let’s go.”
"I felt like I could've got outs in the big leagues tonight. Whenever we're ready, I'm ready. Let's go."— Justin Felder (@Justin_FOX5) August 17, 2022
Our story on @Mike_Soroka28's rehab appearance for @TheRomeBraves, which went about as well as (or better than) anyone could've hoped pic.twitter.com/l7b2373yDE
One theme that was present throughout Soroka’s comments after the game was overcoming doubt in whether or not he could recover and be a big league pitcher again. “Ironically, I didn’t have too many problems trusting my Achilles the first time around. Clearly, I probably should have. The second time around is a lot harder, right, because you were told the first time around that ‘its not gonna happen, its not gonna happen’ and then it does. A lot of that has been just putting one foot in front of the other, quite literally, every day.” Soroka also mentioned that working out in Utah led to some changes in his mechanics that have the distinct goal of trying to help make him less injury prone. Our plan at Battery Power IS to put together a piece comparing his mechanics before and after to help dissect those changes, so keep an eye out for that.
Finally, Soroka was asked if he could potentially rejoin the big league team this season. While he had repeatedly noted that right now, he is laser focused on just taking one rehab start at a time, he didn’t completely discount the possibility. “I will pitch there whenever we’re ready.” He also noted that he wasn’t even sure when his next rehab appearance was going to take place.
While the most important thing in his first rehab appearance is that Soroka appears to be healthy and well on his way down the road of recovery, it is hard not to be excited with his performance. His stuff was incredibly sharp for a guy that has gone through what he has for as long as he has, so maybe it isn’t so far-fetched that we could see him in the big leagues in 2022. It would be hard to fault Soroka and the Braves, though, if they played it safe and targeted a 2023 return.