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Atlanta Braves’ Mike Soroka will be back after rehab that could be a guide for others

Mike Soroka surged into the majors at age 20…but before 26 innings there, he was done for the year.  Now at 21, he’s poised to return… and hopefully stay.

Under normal and fully healthy circumstances, the Atlanta Braves could have increased Mike Soroka‘s workload to something in the 170 innings range in 2018.

That’s estimate is based on his solid progression through the minors (154 innings in AA during 2017), though it’s still quite a bit for a 20-year-old.

Instead, he managed less than 58 innings in 2018 when his shoulder felt abnormally sore.  Just that revelation sent shudders through Braves fans everywhere… elbow issues are bad enough, but elbows can be fixed.  Shoulders are another matter entirely.

BaseballAmerica has a nice post up about Mike and the journey he’s gone through over the past 9 months or so.  There’s is a subscription site, but a limited number of free-to-read stories is available to you.

The Bane of Pitchers

Shoulders are difficult to fix.  Lots of ‘parts’, lots of movement that has to work together.  As Mike told BA…

“With the shoulder, there are so many different connection areas and everything’s so intertwined that sometimes you could be feeling something that’s just a cause of something else being at a disadvantaged position.”

It’s because of this that many a pitcher has had a career ended thanks to a shoulder ailment that could not be corrected.

Mike Minor threw 205 innings in 2013, then started to have issues in 2014, dropping to 145 innings.  He didn’t pitch at all in 2015, saw limited minor league action in 2016, then finally got back to the majors – as a reliever – with Kansas City in 2017 before finally getting back to starting (with Texas) in 2018.

But perhaps this Mike will have a happier ending to his story.

What’s kind of weird is seeing Soroka talk about his excitement at ‘meeting a legend’ during the diagnostic process… that legend being Dr. James Andrews.

I guess if you’re facing something that’s potentially grim, then you want the best help you can find – and he’s all that – but I can’t imagine being all together excited about the event while also being the object of his professional interest.

Still, Andrews appears to have been able to locate a specific cause of Soroka’s discomfort… an “inflammation in his subscap muscle”.   That’s short for ‘Subscapularis’.

The Subscaularis is attached to the upper end of the arm (the humerus) bone very near the rotator cuff and spreads out from there across the back to the scapula – covering the area like a sheet.  It’s role is generally to assist in rotating the arm and stabilizing the shoulder joint.

If that’s sore, you’re gonna know it.

Don’t Bring a Knife to this Fight

In Soroka’s case, that muscle needed a boost… one that could be corrected in the gym:

“Not changing anything in the arm action,” he said. “Actually, the cause that we found was basically a dysfunctionality in the way that my scap was moving, and that was a cause of some muscles being stronger than others and being a little imbalanced.

So the Braves training staff have put Mike on a program that targets specific muscles for extra work to ‘balance’ the overall strength of his shoulder so that nothing overpowers anything else.

As a direct result, it appears that Soroka will now be back on a mound when pitchers and catchers report in another 2-ish weeks… without having to have any surgical procedure.

That’s huge.  I doubt that he’ll be in line for 180 innings yet, but even if he gets 100-120 this year, that ought to be celebrated.

Soroka’s experience should also serve at a guide for other pitchers in the organization:  with early detection of issues, perhaps some shoulder problems that have sidelined pitchers for … years, if not permanently… might be fixed with targeted workouts.

Heck, maybe such routines might end up being part of a regular regimen of exercise, period.

So while this is great news personally for Mike Soroka and for the Braves, there’s reason to hope that perhaps other pitchers could benefit from this too.

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