Michael Soroka’s latest injury ends his season but isn’t expected to require surgery

AP photo by John Bazemore / Atlanta Braves starter Michael Soroka pitches during Tuesday night's home game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Braves pitcher Michael Soroka, a former MLB All-Star, is out for the rest of the 2023 season but did receive a bit of good news: His latest injury apparently won't require surgery.

The Braves placed Soroka on the 15-day injured list Wednesday in another setback for the 26-year-old right-hander whose once-promising career was sidetracked by a pair of major leg injuries.

After putting Soroka through a battery of tests, team medical staff determined that forearm inflammation was the cause of numbness in Soroka's fingers. No tears were found, leaving rest and rehabilitation as the most likely path to recovery.

"He's done for the year. It's not anything he's going to have time to come back from," manager Brian Snitker said late Wednesday night. "He'll be shut down, and then he can kind of concentrate, when he gets ready, on his offseason program."

Soroka returned this season after twice tearing his right Achilles' tendon in previous years, and Snitker initially feared this was another devastating setback when the pitcher exited after getting roughed up in a 10-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night. Snitker sounded more optimistic 24 hours later.

"It's one of those things that just happens," the veteran manager said. "I think what he did after coming back and getting this far is pretty good. Credit to him and his work ethic and determination and everything that he's done to get this far, into September."

Soroka, who has pitched most of the season at Triple-A Gwinnett, lasted just three innings in the series opener against the Cardinals. He allowed five runs and four hits, including two home runs.

Atlanta reliever Collin McHugh joined Soroka on the 15-day IL with right shoulder inflammation, having given up four runs in three innings after taking over for him in Tuesday's loss. The Braves recalled right-handers Ben Heller and Darius Vines from Gwinnett in corresponding moves.

Soroka was an All-Star in 2019, when he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in his first full season with the Braves. He finished second in the voting for National League rookie of the year and sixth in balloting for the league's Cy Young Award.

Then, in Soroka's third start of the pandemic-delayed 2020 season, the pitcher tore his right Achilles' tendon during a routine fielding play.

After a follow-up procedure to address complications and nine grueling months of rehab, Soroka blew out the tendon again while simply walking into Atlanta's Truist Park, not long after a protective boot had been removed.

Other than one spring training appearance shortly before the start of the 2021 season, he did not pitch at all the past two years.

Soroka finally returned to the mound this season, though he started out in the minor leagues as the Braves tried to ensure he was fully recovered and had regained the form he showed before the Achilles' injuries.

There were some promising outings at Gwinnett, where Soroka went 4-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 starts, but he never resembled the guy who was one of baseball's most dynamic young pitchers.

The Braves, who have the best record in the majors this season, brought him up three times to make spot starts in their injury-plagued rotation. Soroka went 2-2 with a 6.40 ERA in 32 1/3 innings, surrendering 36 hits, 12 walks and nine homers over six starts and one relief appearance.

Now his future in the big leagues is at another crossroads, though Snitker praised Soroka for getting this far.

"After everything he's been through, holy cow, there ain't nothing going to stunt that guy," Snitker said. "He's had everything thrown at him you can probably have these last few years and handled it all. He's a strong individual."

The 36-year-old McHugh has been a workhorse in the bullpen, logging 58 2/3 innings in 41 appearances. Only Michael Tonkin (68 2/3 innings) had put in more time among Atlanta relievers this year.

Still, McHugh struggled with a 4.30 ERA, allowing 70 hits with 22 walks, and there was plenty of speculation that he might be dropped from the postseason roster by the Braves, and especially if injured relievers Nick Anderson or Jess Chavez were able to return.