Atlanta Braves

Strider injury news could alter NL East picture

NBC Universal, Inc.

WASHINGTON — The Braves sent ace Spencer Strider for an MRI on Saturday after he experienced elbow pain in his start Friday night, and the diagnosis could impact the NL East and National League as a whole.

Testing revealed damage in Strider's ulnar collateral ligament, most often associated with Tommy John surgery. Strider will be further evaluated in Texas by Dr. Keith Meister to determine whether surgery is needed. He already had Tommy John surgery in 2019.

Strider is one of the best pitchers in baseball, certainly the most dominant from a swing-and-miss perspective. He led the majors last season with 281 K's in 186⅔ innings. He went 20-5 and has essentially been an ace since joining the Braves' rotation early in the 2022 season.

Atlanta has the best and deepest lineup in baseball, and it has pitching depth in the minors in the form of Bryce Elder, AJ Smith-Shawver and Huascar Ynoa, but there's no replacing a pitcher like Strider, who's led his team to a 28-6 record in his starts the last two seasons.

The Braves traded for Chris Sale on December 30 to fill out their rotation with another high-upside option come playoff time. Two postseasons in a row, their starting staff has either run out of gas or been ravaged by injuries by the NLDS, and two postseasons in a row, the Phillies have sent them home in that round.

The Braves were projected to win 100-plus games again in 2024 and cruise to an NL East title, but the equation could change without Strider. It increases the importance of Sale, who hasn't made 30 starts since 2017, of Charlie Morton, who is 40 years old, and of Max Fried, who is unsigned beyond the season.

The Phillies won't see the Braves again until July 5-7 in Atlanta. They might not see Strider again until the summer of 2025.

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