Braves lefty Fried strains hamstring in opener, IL likely

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Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried, left, walks off the field during the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – Atlanta Braves left-hander Max Fried was cruising along on a windy, 45-degree afternoon, into his fourth inning against the Washington Nationals on opening day, when he felt pain in his left hamstring while running over to cover first base and exited the game.

Now no one knows for sure when he'll be able to return to the mound.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said after the 7-2 victory at Nationals Park on Thursday that Fried, last year's runner-up in NL Cy Young Award voting, definitely will miss at least one start and probably will end up on the 10-day injured list.

“This happens. You don’t want to see it happen. But if it’s going to, I’d rather earlier than later (in the season), that’s for sure,” Snitker said. “We’ll just make sure we get him right.”

Fried said he felt something wrong with his leg while he was heading toward the bag on a grounder by Dominic Smith leading off the bottom of the fourth. Fried winced as the play ended.

Snitker and a team trainer went out to the mound to check on Fried, who threw one pitch to test his leg before heading toward the visiting dugout.

“It just kind of grabbed at me,” Fried said about the muscle, adding that he didn't think the injury was particularly bad.

Both Fried and Snitker wondered whether the chilly, windy weather on Thursday in the nation's capital so soon after the Grapefruit League warmth of Florida might have contributed to the issue.

Last season, Fried went 14-7 with a 2.48 ERA to finish behind Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins in Cy Young voting.

“It’s obviously frustrating. You want to start off on a good foot and get a good rhythm going. But you obviously don't want to push it too early, ’cause there’s still the entire season left,” Fried said. “So trying to find that happy medium of pushing it to get back ... to help this club out, but also not push it too far where you miss more time.”

He allowed four hits and one run during his 3 1/3 innings against Washington.

It was his third consecutive start on opening day for the Braves, who have won the past five NL East titles.

“I felt great. Felt like I had a really good rhythm,” Fried said. “Felt like it could have been a good one.”

Snitker thought the same.

“Max was so good today. He was so good. Throwing the ball so well. I hate that. It could have been a real nice, long opening day start for him,” the manager said. “So I hate that for him.” ___

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