Rome Braves fans may have wondered if they were going to get to see Mike Soroka take the mound Friday at State Mutual Stadium.
The game was delayed for 1½ hours but the fans got what they came for when Soroka walked the field and started to warm up.
The former Rome player, who was called up to the big leagues on May 1, looked to be in good shape as he began a rehab stint after being placed on the disabled list because of shoulder strain.
The Rome crowd, remembering the pitcher from the 2016 South Atlantic League Championship season, cheered loudly for Soroka as he doffed his cap after completing his time on the mound. Soroka, one of the top prospects in the Braves’ system, pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowed no hits and struck out three on only 45 pitches. The Braves went on to win 7-1 against the Columbia Fireflies.
Soroka said he wasn’t sure how it would feel coming back to State Mutual Stadium, but was at ease with the experience.
“It wasn’t so long ago,” he said. “I definitely had some memories coming down on that drive. I was thinking about that first time driving up from spring training. Being here definitely brings back some memories. I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel, if it was going to feel weird or anything, but the coaching staff made feel right at home, as well as the fans. Rome’s always a great place to play.”
Soroka had no complaints about the shoulder strain that put him on the DL. May 12 was his last pitching assignment before being taken out of the rotation. He struck out seven through 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins. Soroka is 1-1 with 14 2/3 innings pitched and 15 strikeouts in MLB play.
“Its progressed pretty quickly” he said after pitching in Rome. “We took three or four days off then got back to an everyday routine pretty quickly. I’m encouraged by that. It felt great tonight -- felt easy, felt normal. I was kind of asking for a couple more, but i didn’t beg too hard.”
While he talked about the excitement of playing at a major league stadium, Soroka said playing at a smaller venue helped him concentrate on his pitches.
“The adrenaline is a little lower than it is up there, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s running pretty high every inning you’re out there, so coming down here and making sure it feels good out of the hand was big. We worked on some of the things that got me away and may have contributed to this. That way when I do it wrong, I can feel it now. I was able to make an adjustment right there on the mound on the next pitch.”
Soroka will have to wait a little bit longer to get back to the Braves at SunTrust Park as he has two rehab assignments in his future. The first of those will be for the Gwinnett Stripers on Wednesday.
“It’s not something you plan,” he said. “You look forward to being out there with the guys every fifth day, competing at that level and learning so much. It’s invaluable. At first it’s discouraging, but it’s necessary. First and foremost I want to make sure everything is feeling good, and then I can compete with these guys for a long time.”