The Atlanta Braves have been patiently waiting for the return of their ace, Max Fried. Fried has been working his way back the last month and made his final rehab start for the Gwinnett Stripers on Saturday afternoon.
Things continue to progress well for the Atlanta lefty as he completed his fourth and final rehab start on Saturday evening in Jacksonville. Fried lasted 4.1 innings and allowed 2 runs on 5 hits with 2 walks on 4 strikeouts. He threw 79 pitches with 49 of those being for strikes. The plan was for him to reach between 75-80 pitches so mission accomplished.
Atlanta hasn't announced yet when Fried will rejoin the team but it's assumed that he will join the team and start when the Braves travel to Chicago to face the Cubs. His start on Saturday puts him in line to start game one of that series.
Fried looked really good before going down with an injury. His ERA was at 2.08 through 26 innings pitched. He walked 6 batters and struck out 25 through that time frame and opponents were batting just .232 against him.
The Braves somehow have the second-best team ERA (3.87) in the National League despite injuries to losing Fried and Kyle Wright. They've also experienced hits to their bullpen which has the best bullpen ERA (3.67) in the NL.
The offense is as good as it is and has helped out a good bit too but the pitching has held its own thanks to Elder pitching better than expected, Charlie Morton finding his groove, and Spencer Strider being... well, Spencer Strider.
The team has needed to rotate starters and engage in bullpen games to fill the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation and nothing has really worked out. Getting Fried back in his role will take care of one of those issues and leave Atlanta with one less thing to worry about.
Yonny Chirinos could be the fifth starter but his inability to throw his slider for strikes limits him to two good pitches. He seems more suited for a bullpen role. A.J. Smith-Shawver has shown some promise but has struggled a bit. Michael Soroka hasn't been able to limit the home run ball and find that consistency and control that makes him so effective.
Alex Anthopoulos hasn't ruled out the Braves going out and acquiring another starting pitcher but with a lot of teams still in contention, getting a deal done could be tough. Bullpen options definitely seem easier for AA to acquire but Atlanta also has some players coming off of the IL soon and would lift the bullpen.
No matter what happens at the trade deadline, the Atlanta Braves will be happy to welcome their ace back into the rotation.