Phillies’ rival faces worst-case scenario with Spencer Strider's diagnosis

With the Braves ace out for the season, the Phillies gain another advantage over their division rivals.
Atlanta Braves ace Spencer Strider underwent UCL surgery and is out for the 2024 season
Atlanta Braves ace Spencer Strider underwent UCL surgery and is out for the 2024 season / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

The news that every Atlanta Braves fan has been dreading is now a reality. Ace starting pitcher and consensus National League Cy Young Award favorite Spencer Strider underwent UCL internal brace surgery on his right elbow and will miss the rest of the season, the team announced Saturday morning.

The loss of Strider has considerable implications for the Philadelphia Phillies and the rest of the NL East, with a Braves rotation that is now weakened in Strider's absence.

Braves fans had been on edge since news of the injury first broke. It all started last Friday when Strider was removed from his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks after only four innings. The usually dominant right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits, with four strikeouts and three walks during his abbreviated start.

The Braves sent Strider for an MRI where the diagnosis of a UCL strain in his pitching elbow was first discovered. According to a report by's Mark Bowman, Strider had his elbow evaluated by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas on Monday, and the Braves were reluctant to give an update on the severity of the injury until now.

With Strider likely on the shelf until the middle of the 2025 season, the Braves will try to keep pace in the NL East and hope its current rotation of Max Fried, Chris Sale, and Charlie Morton can fill the void now that Strider is lost for the season. The Braves are currently 8-4 and still sit in first place in the division, 2.0 games up on the Phillies.

The Phillies have an opportunity to win the NL East

The Phillies' starting five has been among the best in the league to this point, leading in many statistical categories, and is close to the best in others. The Braves can't say the same. Atlanta's starting pitchers have a combined 5.01 ERA, third-worst in the NL. Philadelphia's rotation has amassed 1.9 fWAR with 78 1/3 innings pitched, the Braves sit 12th in the NL at 0.7 fWAR with just 59 1/3 innings, which is the second-lowest in the league.

The loss of Strider is devastating for the Braves' hopes of winning the NL East for the seventh consecutive season. While the Braves should have enough pitching to stay competitive, their offense, which profiles as one of the best in Major League Baseball, will now have to carry them.

An injury scare to 2023 NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. in spring training was a precursor to the news that Strider would require Tommy John surgery. Acuña Jr. was held out of a number of spring training games in late February when he was diagnosed with meniscus irritation in his surgically repaired right knee. So far on the season, Acuña Jr. is batting an uncharacteristic .255 with 12 hits, zero home runs and four RBI to begin 2024.

In addition to the Braves' injury problems, the Miami Marlins will be without former Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcántara and top pitching prospect Eury Pérez as they both recover from Tommy John surgery. The Marlins seemed to be a team on the rise following a two-game sweep against the Phillies in the 2023 Wild Card series. Further injuries to starting pitchers Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera left the Marlins rotation thin to begin the 2024 season.

The Braves and Marlins' issues have opened up the opportunity for a healthy Phillies team to make a strong run at winning the division this season. While the Phillies have gone far in each of the last two postseasons as a Wild Card, there's little excuse for this team to be buried in the division standings this year.

If the Phillies stay healthy and hit their stride in the first couple of months of the season, 2024 can be a year where the team isn't looking up in the standings for once. That would be a great development for a team that has had to scratch and claw until the end to punch their ticket to October baseball in 2022 and 2023.