Star Braves rookie Mike Soroka exits game after taking fastball to the forearm

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/atlanta/" data-ylk="slk:Atlanta Braves">Atlanta Braves</a> starter Michael Soroka left Sunday's game early after being hit on the right forearm by a pitch. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Atlanta Braves starter Michael Soroka left Sunday's game early after being hit on the right forearm by a pitch. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Atlanta Braves received a scare when star rookie starter Mike Soroka had to be removed from Sunday’s game after being hit by a pitch on his right forearm.

Although X-rays came back negative later in the day — making a trip to the injured list unlikely — Soroka may have to have his next start pushed back. Furthermore, accidents like this make the case for universal designated hitters clearer than ever.

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In his first trip to the plate against Washington Nationals starter Austin Voth, Soroka worked a 1-1 count when an errant 93.3 mph fastball dove inside. The 21-year-old Canadian got his front arm out of the way, but the heater caught him square on his back arm.

Soroka slammed his bat down in frustration but took first and remained in the game. However, the coaching staff did not let him pitch the bottom of the inning for precautionary reasons, ending his day after two scoreless innings.

"I know (Voth),” Soroka said after the game, via MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. “I got to work out with him this offseason. Obviously with a 1-1 fastball, they weren’t going up and in. It happens. It’s part of baseball."

The Braves are thrilled that the injury isn’t any worse, since there’s plenty of history of pitchers seriously injuring themselves while hitting. Soroka would have been a candidate to take the recently demoted Mike Foltynewicz’s start on Thursday, but he will make his next start on Friday at the earliest.

Losing Soroka for any amount of time would be a significant blow to the Braves. The rookie is second in the majors with a 2.07 ERA and paces baseball with 0.34 home runs per nine innings. He’s displayed excellent control with just 2.18 BB/9, which ranks 25th among 81 qualified starters.

Just more reason to stop letting pitchers hit

Look, I get it. It’s really cool when pitchers hit home runsSometimes they look incredibly goofy. But almost every time up for a pitcher is a waste of time.

Pitchers have been beyond bad at the plate lately with a negative wRC+ in each of the last 20 seasons. That means that they are more than 100 percent below league average, including a historic worst of -25 last season. NL pitchers are so bad at hitting that they collectively drop the league's OPS from .771 to .749 this season.

Soroka, in particular, has been among the worst-hitting pitchers in the league. Keep in mind it’s a small sample, but he’s just 2-for-27 this season and was 3-for-31 in the minors.

Pitchers get injured enough from the completely abnormal motion of firing a projectile at upwards of 100 mph, so there’s no reason to let them get hurt running the bases or swinging a bat. If most pitchers hit like Zack Greinke or Brandon Woodruff, this might be a different discussion. But the payoff of a bloop single here and there is not worth all the rallies that are killed and unnecessary trips to the IL.

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