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Mike Soroka…Oh, what could have been.

It’s really all you can think about when it comes to Mike Soroka’s 2020 season, and in a larger context the 2020 season as a whole. The further the Braves went into battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, the more we all started to wonder how much one more ace pitcher could tip the scales. The deeper into the series the Braves went without an off day, the more apparent the need for someone to dominate a game and reset the bullpen became.

Of course, it wasn’t there. Soroka tore his right achilles on Aug. 3 against the New York Mets, ending his season before it ever really got going. He had surgery to repair the tendon five days later, and now the goal is for him to make a full recovery in time for the start of next season.

Mike Soroka, Good Start

It feels like it never happened, but Soroka actually did pitch for the Braves in 2020. He took the ball against Jacob deGrom on Opening Day at Citi Field and matched him every step of the way, firing six innings of four-hit shutout baseball in a game the Braves ended up losing 1-0. Five days later he had the honors of starting the home opener against newest Brave Charlie Morton. This time Soroka came out on the right side of the score, allowing three runs in 5 â…“ innings in a 7-4 Braves win.

Soroka struck out eight batters while issuing only three walks in his first two starts, mixing in his typical recipe of ground balls and soft contact to progress through opposing lineups. He struggled early in his third outing against the Mets, issuing four walks in 2 â…“ innings that ended up resulting in four runs. But his season ERA was 3.95, and he looked like his usual self for the most part.

Mike Soroka, The Injury

With runners on second and first and nobody out in the top of the third inning, J.D. Davis hit a ground ball to the right side. Freddie Freeman made a diving stop and fired the ball to Dansby Swanson for the out at second base, and Soroka got off the mound to cover the vacancy at first base in an attempt to turn the double play.

As he was heading over to first base though, he took a bad step coming off the mound. In an instant he tore his Achilles, and you could tell immediately it was over for him.

Soroka was helped off the field, and that was the bitter finale to his 2020 season right there. 

Mike Soroka, 2021 Outlook

Soroka is a known quantity. When healthy, he has ace stuff. Whether or not he would actually be the ace of this staff after the emergence of Max Fried is splitting hairs, but Soroka will instantly be plugged back into the top two of the starting rotation whenever he is ready to go.

When will that be? Dave O’Brien of The Athletic reported in October that Soroka is tracking to be throwing by Spring Training, but that there is no firm timeline for his return. In a perfect world, he will be ready for Opening Day. But the Braves certainly won’t rush anything with one of their franchise cornerstones. The way the bullpen and lineup picked up the slack in his absence at the end of 2020 will affirms the ability to take things as cautiously as necessary with Soroka.

Soroka entered the 2019 season working back from a shoulder injury, and didn’t make his debut until the 18th game of the season on Apr. 18. A similar situation could be on the table here, one where Soroka misses the first few weeks of the season out of caution but is still back on the mound in the very early stages of the season.

Whenever he climbs back on the mound, he is sure to get a huge ovation from Braves County, either in the ballpark if fans are permitted back inside or on couches everywhere. 

Get excited, folks.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out other Braves Player Reviews by Alan Cole here.