On a chilly March day in Washington D.C., the Atlanta Braves defeated the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Opening Day — but lost ace left-hander Max Fried. Fried left Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, and is set to miss at least few weeks of the regular season. The left-hander’s injury marks another blow for the Braves team that is currently without a former 20-game winner and its closer.
A Look at Fried
Braves LHP Max Fried looked fine for Atlanta yesterday, but left after just 3.1 IP due to leg discomfort after attempting to cover first base in the fourth inning. The left-hander struck out two in his outing on Thursday, and gave up one run against the Nationals.
Fried reportedly suffered a hamstring strain that could keep the left-hander out for a few weeks. It’s a tough blow for the Braves, as Fried is among the league’s best in terms of control and command, and throwing off hitters’ timing. And given the recent rash of injuries that the Braves pitching staff has suffered, it adds another question mark for Atlanta in the early goings.
What it Means
Atlanta’s rotation depth was already strained heading into Opening Day. The Braves are currently without Kyle Wright, while Michael Soroka missed much of Spring Training and was sent down to Gwinnett (AAA) to ramp up. Now, Atlanta is down a third arm.
Without Fried, Atlanta’s rotation includes Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, and rookies Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd. As far as replacement options for Fried are concerned, virtually no one on the current roster would be able to slot in as a starter. Out of the team’s bullpen arms, only Collin McHugh — who’s been a reliever since 2017 — has significant Major League experience in the rotation.
Two of the obvious candidates are Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder. But as we documented a few weeks ago, both were sent down in mid-March after subpar springs. Then, there’s Darius Vines. Vines, a member of the Braves 40-man roster, had a solid 2022 that he primarily spent with Mississippi (AA). Across AA and AAA, Vines struck out 156 over 140.2 IP. The 24-year-old, according to MLB.com, boasts a plus changeup to go along with three other solid offerings.
Atlanta does have options, but it will be extremely difficult to replace the impact of Fried.