HomeMLB RumorsSpencer Strider Undergoes Season-Ending Internal Brace Surgery

Spencer Strider Undergoes Season-Ending Internal Brace Surgery

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Spencer Strider’s season is over, as the Braves announced that the right-hander underwent an internal brace surgery on Friday.  It was revealed last week that Strider has suffered some UCL damage, and while a brace surgery is somewhat less serious than the worst-case scenario of another Tommy John surgery, the 25-year-old ace will still miss the remainder of the 2024 campaign.

This marks the second major injury absence of Strider’s career, as he already had a TJ procedure in 2019 when he was still pitching at Clemson.  Returning to pitch only 12 innings during the 2020 NCAA season that was interrupted by the pandemic, Strider still got selected in the abbreviated five-round 2020 draft, as Atlanta’s decision to take the righty in the fourth round quickly looked like a steal.

Strider performed so well in his first taste of pro ball that he rocketed through the Braves’ farm system and made his MLB debut in October 2021.  Strider hasn’t been back to the minors since, as he moved into Atlanta’s rotation in 2022 and quickly established himself as a frontline arm.  Over 318 1/3 innings in 2022-23, Strider posted a 3.36 ERA, an eight percent walk rate, and a whopping 37.4% strikeout rate.  This performance earned him runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2022, an All-Star selection and a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2023, and a six-year, $75MM contract extension in October 2022 that cemented Strider as one of Atlanta’s cornerstones.

Unfortunately, Strider’s career will now be put on hold for the next year.  Exactly when he’ll return in 2025 is somewhat fluid, as internal brace surgeries are still relatively new enough that the recovery timeline isn’t quite as established as the 13-15 months normally associated to Tommy John rehabs.  In general, the shorter timeline for brace surgeries means that Strider could be back in Atlanta’s rotation by Opening Day 2025.  (For more on the topic, The Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen recently wrote a piece detailing the differences between brace procedures, Tommy John surgeries, and UCL revision surgeries.)

Every pitcher’s arm is different, of course, and it is possible Strider’s timeline could be extended because this is already his second UCL-related surgery.  The fact that his current UCL damage wasn’t so severe that a full Tommy John surgery was necessary is at least some kind of silver lining, so if all goes well, Strider should be able to cut several months off his rehab.

That fact doesn’t much help a Braves team that is aiming to win the 2024 World Series, and losing Strider is naturally a big hit to these championship aspirations.  The remaining starting four of Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Chris Sale, and Reynaldo Lopez is still pretty strong, as Lopez has in particular looked great in his return to a starter’s role.  If Lopez can keep up anything close to this form and Sale can remain healthy and effective, the Braves have enough starting pitching depth on paper to perhaps cover for Strider’s absence.

Allan Winans got the start in Strider’s place on Thursday with very shaky (six ER in five innings) results, and Darius Vines has since been called up for what will probably be a longer look in the rotation.  Vines made his MLB debut in 2023 with a 3.98 ERA over 20 1/3 innings, and even if Vines isn’t quite ready for prime time, the Braves can turn to Bryce Elder, Dylan Dodd, Huascar Ynoa, AJ Smith-Shawver, Winans, and others down at Triple-A.

Since all of this group are on the 40-man roster and have minor league options remaining, Atlanta could run something of a revolving door through the fifth spot in the rotation, unless someone pitches well enough to seize the job entirely.  Given all of these starter candidates on hand, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos might not feel the need to pursue pitching at the deadline, though obviously much can change between now and the end of July.  The Braves’ mighty lineup carried the team to 104 wins in 2023 despite several rotation injuries, even if the hope this season was that a healthier pitching staff would be the final piece to carry the team to its second World Series title in four years.


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