Braves starter Ian Anderson suffered a left oblique strain while pitching with Triple-A Gwinnett, reports David O’Brien of the Athletic (Twitter link). O’Brien indicates he’ll miss at least a month, while Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets he’s expected to be out four-to-six weeks.
Even if Anderson makes it back within a month, he won’t pitch again in the regular season. There’s exactly three weeks remaining on the schedule, with the season wrapping up on October 5. Anderson could theoretically be available at some time during the playoffs, but it’s hard to envision the Braves carrying him on a series roster at this point. Even if Atlanta advances deep enough in the postseason Anderson’s healthy enough to return, he won’t have much a chance to build back into game shape. High-A Rome is the Braves’ only full-season affiliate that’ll make the playoffs, and they’re already playing postseason games. Their season will wrap up well before Anderson has a chance of getting back on a mound.
It’s not a given the 24-year-old would’ve gotten a playoff opportunity even if he had been fully healthy. Anderson has spent the past month in Triple-A after getting squeezed out of the big league rotation. That came on the heels of an even 5.00 ERA with a career-worst 19.7% strikeout percentage and a lofty 11% walk rate through 22 MLB starts. He’d certainly not have been a part of a playoff rotation, and players like Jake Odorizzi, Mike Soroka, Bryce Elder and perhaps Freddy Tarnok are all multi-inning relief candidates behind the presumptive top four starters: Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Kyle Wright.
In all likelihood, this injury closes the books on a rough season for Anderson. The former 3rd overall pick looked to have cemented himself as a mid-rotation arm in Atlanta through his first two big league campaigns. The changeup specialist carried a career 3.25 ERA into the 2022 season, and he allowed only three runs in 15 innings across four starts during last year’s World Series run. This year’s downturn came as a surprise, but Anderson still averages around 94 MPH on his fastball and actually induced swinging strikes this season at a 12.3% rate that’s narrowly a career best. That offers some hope he can iron things out in 2023 and beyond.
Anderson will continue to count against Atlanta’s 40-man roster while he’s on the minor league injured list. He won’t be paid a big league salary or collect MLB service during that time, although he’s already surpassed the two-year service threshold in 2022. He’s on track to reach arbitration for the first time after next season and is controllable through 2026.