Braves’ Mike Soroka has setback, to have second Achilles surgery

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA — Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka experienced a setback in his recovery from surgery to repair his torn right Achilles tendon and will have a follow-up procedure next week.

Soroka was the Braves’ opening day starter in 2020. He suffered the season-ending injury against the New York Mets on Aug. 3.

Soroka, 23, had not begun throwing but was expected to return to the rotation this season. Now those plans are in doubt.

Manager Brian Snitker said that Soroka will have exploratory surgery early next week in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“I hate it for the kid,” Snitker said. “He’s worked so hard to come back. I hate it for him personally to have this setback.”

Soroka emerged as one of the foundations of the Braves’ rotation in 2019, when he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA. The Canadian earned a spot in the All-Star Game, finished second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting and sixth for the Cy Young Award.

Even without Soroka, the Braves won a third consecutive NL East title and advanced to the NL Championship Series last season. Two other young pitchers, Max Fried and Ian Anderson, helped lead the rotation.

The Braves signed veterans Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly in the offseason, and right-hander Huascar Ynoa has emerged with his 4-1 record as a surprise force in the rotation.

Fried was the team’s opening day starter this season.

Snitker said a strong start by Bryse Wilson in a 5-3 loss to Toronto was an encouraging sign of the team’s pitching depth. Wilson allowed two runs in six innings following his recall from Triple-A Gwinnett. Wilson was optioned to Gwinnett as right-handed reliever Chris Martin was activated from the 10-day injured list.

Martin said Soroka’s setback was “obviously a huge loss.”

“Hopefully he gets better and he can get back as soon as possible,” Martin said.

Snitker said no one incident led Soroka to seek a medical opinion on his recovery.

“There was something that wasn’t right, he could tell,” Snitker said.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.