ATLANTA — Max Fried will make his first opening day start for the Atlanta Braves, getting the nod in the wake of two stellar seasons.
Manager Brian Snitker told Fried on Thursday that he would go in the opener at Philadelphia against the Phillies.
Fried went 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA last season, finishing fifth in the NL Cy Young Award balloting. He established himself as the Atlanta ace after Mike Soroka went down with a torn Achilles tendon.
The 27-year-old left-hander had his breakout in 2019, posting a 17-6 record after moving into the rotation early in the season.
“It's been really neat to be with Max through this whole run, to watch him mature and become the pitcher that he is," Snitker said.
With Soroka — the 2020 opening day starter — still rehabbing from his injury, Fried was the logical choice to get the nod in next Thursday's opener against Aaron Nola of the Phillies.
Still, it was a thrill for Fried to get the word officially.
“I was excited,” he said. “It's something you dream about, something you work for. To actually have (Snitker) walk up to me this morning to tell me was pretty special.”
While this is Fried's first opening day start, it won't be the first time he's pitched in the first game.
Two years ago, he came out of the bullpen to pitch one scoreless inning in a 10-4 loss to the Phillies.
“I was trying to get my bearings and figure out who I was as far as a pitcher,” Fried recalled.
He made one more relief appearance that season before moving into the rotation.
He’s been a fixture ever since.
“I definitely feel way more established,” Fried said. “I'm more confident in who I am and what I can do as a pitcher. I tried to take those experiences and learn from them. I want to make adjustments and keep growing. I feel like there's a lot of things I can still get better at."
Fried leads a rotation that could be one of baseball's best.
Ian Anderson is heading into his first full season after a stellar debut (3-2, 1.95 ERA) last season. Veterans Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly were signed in free agency to add depth. Bryse Wilson has impressed in spring training and will likely start out as the fifth starter, though Soroka's return is not too far away.
“I like our chances against anyone," Fried said.
Soroka, who went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 2019 and earned a spot in the All-Star Game, has been taking part in simulated games to ensure he's fully recovered from the Achilles injury.
“Everything is going really, really good for him right now,” Snitker said.
NOTES: The Braves announced that RHP Carl Edwards Jr. has opted out of his minor-league deal, making him a free agent. Once a key member of the Cubs' bullpen, Edwards was plagued by injuries the last two seasons and signed a minor-league deal with the Braves. He pitched well this spring, allowing just one run in 8 1-3 innings, but might have preferred going to a team where he'll have a better shot to start the season in the big leagues.
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Paul Newberry, The Associated Press