Michael Soroka made his long-awaited 2023 Spring Training debut on Wednesday afternoon as the Braves socked a 5-3 win over the Tigers in in Lakeland, FL. Orlando Arcia reached base three times and drove in four of the Braves’ five runs, including a three-run homer, just a couple of days after becoming the de facto Opening Day starter at shortstop.
Let’s start with Soroka. Working on a low pitch limit of around 35, the righty faced eight batters and retired four of them, including issuing one walk and striking out a batter. His day started with a flubbed grounder by Ehire Adrianza at second base, and he spiked his first two sliders of the day, followed by an RBI single yielded to Riley Greene. A comebacker fielded with no issues, a strikeout, and a flyout ended his first inning of work. In the second, Soroka issued a leadoff walk, and then had that runner score on another wacky defensive sequence featuring a hit-and-run and then a wild throw by Magneuris Sierra that went way over third base and let the runner score. After that, there was another soft tapper for an out, and another single, and that was it for Soroka.
Overall, it was pretty much ye olde first Spring Training outing for a guy coming off a cavalcade of injuries and setbacks. Soroka was throwing 90-94 and changing speeds pretty often, but seemed to have little feel of the slider, which was responsible for a bunch of nowhere-near pitches that ultimately led to his walk. To be clear, he did pull off a few nice sliders, including both called strike one and swinging strike three to Spencer Torkelson for his lone strikeout, but a bunch were just flying out of the hand like a bird that really hates its current circumstances.
After that, there was probably little of interest for anyone on the pitching end of things for the Braves. Michael Tonkin relieved Soroka and later gave up another run thanks to more shoddy defense, including an RBI single that deflected off Adrianza’s glove on a poor slide/dive attempt. Dylan Lee struck out two of the five batters he faced in 1 1⁄3 innings of work. Ty Tice, Matt Swarmer, Trey Riley, and Caleb Barger finished out the pitching slate, combining for five innings of one-hit, one-walk, three-strikeout relief.
Offensively, it was the Orlando Arcia show. The newly-minted (newly-anointed?) starting shortstop went 2-for-4 with a walk. That walk started the game and eventually was at the forefront of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first, but Arcia didn’t end up scoring. In the second, Arcia had a hard-hit, inside-out liner to right that was caught. In the fourth, he blooped in a single to left center for the Braves’ first run. Then, in the sixth, after back-to-back one-out singles, he victimized a hanging breaker down the pipe for an absolutely crushed three-run homer. The funny thing about that is that Arcia was basically dead-red on fastballs with no shot against breaking stuff last year, so crushing a slider isn’t quite what I’d expect him from him, but it was also a horrendously awful slider from Jose Cisnero.
Beyond that, not much happened. Forrest Wall collected two more hits in a nice Spring Training effort. Sam Hilliard’s great March continued with a perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate that also included a walk; Hilliard’s double was the only other extra-base hit on the day for the Braves beyond Arcia’s homer and drove in Wall in the sixth after Arcia’s homer. Magneuris Sierra also had two hits and has had himself a fine-enough Spring Training as well despite mostly just appearing at the tail end of games.
Tomorrow marks one week before Opening Day, and the Braves will host the Mets in North Port.