The baby Braves called up another top prospect in pitcher Mike Soroka, who was scheduled to start Tuesday night against Noah Syndergaard and the first-place New York Mets.
The 20-year-old right-hander from Canada gives the Braves the three youngest players in the major leagues. He joined outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who is about four months younger than Soroka, and 21-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies.
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”To a man, I think they all have a lot of confidence in their abilities,” manager Brian Snitker said. ”A lot of these guys have come up together and competed together and it’s fun for all of them when they get the call.”
The previous big league team to have three players as young as Albies in the same starting lineup was also the Braves – 40 years ago. Third baseman Bob Horner, second baseman Glenn Hubbard and center fielder Eddie Milner started in a 2-1 loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 24, 1978.
The infusion of youth has helped Atlanta get off to a surprisingly strong start after four straight losing seasons. The Braves went into May at 16-11 and trailing the Mets by just 1 games in the NL East.
”It says a lot about our organization, where we’ve come and how they’ve put this whole thing together,” Snitker said. ”The organization is going in the right direction. It’s kind of what we’ve been talking about for years and now we’re starting to see the fruits of the labor.”
Acuna made a huge impact during his first week in the big leagues, hitting .421 (8 of 19) with a home run into the second deck at Cincinnati, four RBIs and a stolen base.
Albies came up to the Braves last season and quickly established himself as a key player. He went into Tuesday’s game leading the team in homers (nine) and RBIs (20) while hitting .293.
Albies and Acuna occupied the top two spots in the batting order Tuesday, with Soroka hitting eighth. The last major league team to have two players under age 21 in a starting lineup was the Mets, with shortstop Ruben Tejada and pitcher Jenrry Mejia on Sept. 15, 2010.
Atlanta selected Soroka’s contract from Triple-A Gwinnett, one day after the team optioned right-hander Chase Whitley to its top farm club. The move allowed the Braves to give Julio Teheran an extra day of rest before his next scheduled start – Teheran left Friday’s outing with tightness in his back.
”That’s kind of what it’s about,” Snitker said.
Teheran threw a bullpen Sunday and is slated to pitch Thursday against the Mets. Left-hander Sean Newcomb was bumped back from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Soroka was a first-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2015 out of high school in Calgary, Alberta, and quickly rose through the minor league ranks. Last year, he went 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA for Mississippi in the Double-A Southern League.
Moving up this year to Triple-A Gwinnett, he was 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA and one shutout in four starts, earning a promotion to the big league club. He allowed 17 hits in 22 2/3 innings, with 24 strikeouts and just five walks.
”The kid’s beyond his years as we saw in spring training, so I’m excited,” Snitker said. ”Just a very mature kid, how he goes about it, how he carries himself.”
Soroka left 16 tickets Tuesday for family and friends and was expecting his father and sister to be among those on hand, Braves spokesman Jon Kerber said. Soroka was set to become the youngest starting pitcher to make his major league debut since 19-year-old lefty Julio Urias for the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 27, 2016, also at Citi Field against the Mets.
Snitker wouldn’t commit to Soroka making more than a spot start in the majors. Veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez (strained right hamstring) threw about 60 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday at Citi Field and could be ready to come off the disabled list to start Sunday at home against San Francisco.
”He looked really good,” Snitker said. ”His stuff was really good, moving the ball around. And he didn’t feel anything, so that was good, too.”
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