Braves’ Strider heads for MRI on elbow, Phillies watching NL East foe closely

The Phillies' division rival got some potential season-changing news on Friday night.
Atlanta Braves ace Spencer Strider undergoing an MRI on his elbow.
Atlanta Braves ace Spencer Strider undergoing an MRI on his elbow. / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies have battled the injury bug to begin the 2024 season as they await the return of starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and dynamic relief arm Orion Kerkering. Recent news about both pitchers has been encouraging, as Walker and Kerkering are likely to be back in a Phillies uniform at some point before the end of April.

The rival Atlanta Braves are the latest National League East team to encounter a major scare with a key starting pitcher. Braves ace Spencer Strider was removed from Friday's home opener after only four innings of work. The 25-year-old favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award was lifted after complaining of elbow soreness, an issue that caught Braves Manager Brian Snitker by surprise.

According to's Mark Bowman, Strider will undergo an MRI on Saturday to see if there are any major issues with his pitching elbow. Friday night's performance was less than Strider-like when he allowed five earned runs and walked three, while only striking out four in his abbreviated start. His velocity was down during this outing, with his fastball only reaching 94.4 mph, a slight drop from the 96.7 that is what he usually averages.

The loss of Strider for any significant time would greatly benefit a Phillies team still trying to hit its stride. The weakened Braves rotation will rely on Max Fried, Chris Sale, and Charlie Morton to carry the load while Strider is on the shelf. Sale's durability will be tested early as he slides into the No. 2 spot in the rotation. The often-injured Sale has had trouble staying healthy since Tommy John surgery in 2020, and some freak off-field injuries have limited him to only 32 starts since the 2021 season.

Injuries to starting pitchers has weakened NL East rivals

The news of Strider requiring an MRI on his pitching elbow is the latest blow to starting rotations in the NL East division. While all indications are that Taijuan Walker is making progress in his rehab, even the Phillies have seen their rotation depth challenged to begin the season.

The loss of Walker pales in comparison to the devastation that injuries have caused to the rotation of the rival Miami Marlins. A Wild Card opponent of the Phillies last October, the Marlins looked to be a team that was ready to make some noise and become a potential postseason combatant for at least the next couple of seasons. Injuries to key starting pitchers had other plans.

At the end of last season, 2022 Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara was diagnosed with a UCL tear in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery. The two-time All-Star and Marlins ace will likely be on the shelf until the 2025 season if his rehab from the injury goes as planned. Spring training shoulder injuries to starters Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera further thinned the Marlins rotation before Opening Day.

Unfortunately for the Marlins, the already bad news got worse when it was announced that 20-year-old top pitching prospect Eury Pérez will require Tommy John surgery after issues in spring training revealed damage to the ligament in his pitching elbow.

While the baseball world awaits the results of Strider's MRI, the Phillies have an opportunity to capitalize on the injuries to their rivals' rotations and make a serious push toward trying to win the division in 2024. The Braves are too good of a team to simply fall off, but the Marlins, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets all seem likely to be non-factors as playoff contenders this year.