ATLANTA (AP) — Kyle Wright missed nearly the entire season dealing with shoulder issues.
Now, it looks like the Atlanta Braves right-hander will be out for all of 2024, as well.
After Wright was left off the roster for the NL Division Series against Philadelphia, manager Brian Snitker revealed before Game 1 on Saturday that Wright sustained a setback in his recovery.
Wright underwent an MRI on Friday and is likely to need surgery that would cost him another full season, according to Snitker.
“I hate it for him,” the manager said. “There was something going on and they found it yesterday.”
The news cast a pall over the Braves’ sixth straight playoff appearance after a 104-win regular season.
“I rehabbed a lot with Kyle throughout this year,” said Atlanta pitcher Max Fried, who is set to start Game 2 after his own injury woes this season. “We spent a lot of time together. He worked extremely hard to try to come back and battle, and I know he wanted to be a part of this run and into this playoffs and that’s what he set his goals out to be.”
After leading the majors with 21 wins last season, Wright underwent a cortisone injection in January to deal with lingering shoulder pain, forcing him to start the season on the injured list.
He made his debut on April 11 but got through only five starts — going 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA — before returning to the injured list.
Wright was out for more than four months before he finally returned to the Braves on Sept. 11. But he never looked like the pitcher who had that breakout season, giving up 10 earned runs, 11 hits, six walks and three homers over seven innings in two starts against the Phillies.
Snitker moved him to the bullpen for the final week of the regular season, hoping he would be more effective as a long reliever. Wright did produce more hopeful numbers (two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings) but he struggled to bounce back after each outing, prompting the Braves to finally send him for another evaluation.
“Kyle is not right,” Snitker said. “He’s going to have to have a procedure done in order to get him right. And we are going to confer with the doctors and decide exactly what it is. But you could tell he wasn’t right in the last three or four outings in the regular season, and it just wasn’t going to be.”
Snitker wasn’t specific about Wright’s injury, but it will clearly require major surgery.
“It’s something that looking at it, he’s going to miss next year,” the manager said.
When Wright was told that he wasn’t going to be on the NLDS roster, he pushed to get a more long-term solution to his shoulder problems.
“He wants to get everything taken care of,” Snitker said, “And I hate it for the person, just because the kid wants to be out there, coming off a year like he did last year.”
Knowing that Wright is likely to miss all of 2024 will force the Braves to pursue more starting pitching depth in the offseason, as well as push for 39-year-old Charlie Morton to return for another season.
It also could speed the timeline for top prospects such as AJ Smith-Shawver and No. 1 draft pick Hurston Waldrep to join the rotation.
Morton (14-12, 3.64 ERA) is out for the NLDS with a sprained finger, but the Braves are hopeful he can return if the team advances to the next round.
But for Wright’s teammates, the primary focus at the moment is on his long-term recovery.
“I know he worked hard to try to get back and feel right this year,” first baseman Matt Olson said. “A 21 (win) guy, you don’t just stumble across that. So we know the kind of guy Kyle is and stuff that he has and what he means on the mound for us.
“But stuff happens, and health is the number one thing. So they tried to avoid it and see if it was something he could work through, but clearly it’s something he needs to get fixed and have heal properly.”
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