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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Daryl Van Schouwen

Will Michael Soroka’s “pick-me-up” trade be good pickup for White Sox? Time will tell

Braves pitcher Michael Soroka works in relief in the sixth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox Sunday, July 16, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP) (AP Photos)

Michael Soroka heard the “rumblings,” so he wasn’t surprised to learn he had been traded to the White Sox last week.

“I had a good idea about the possibility of me being moved,” the former All-Star said.

A trade became reality when Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos called to let Soroka know he was going to the Sox with four other players for lefty reliever Aaron Bummer. In Soroka’s words, it was “a nice little pick me up.”

Soroka, who has pitched just 46 innings since 2019 because of two right Achillies tears, was thankful for an opportunity with a team like the Sox, who need to fill multiple spots in their starting rotation.

And then Soroka talked to Chris Getz, who had just pulled off his first trade as the Sox’ new general manager. Getz expressed how excited the Sox are to have him “and that made me feel awesome.”

“I can’t wait to get out there.”

Soroka said the minor forearm strain that surfaced in September is behind him and that he’s throwing again. The arm “feels great,” he said.

As for the Achilles, “I feel really good right now” after a long, tough road back to pitching.

“I got there eventually,” he said. “Starting to feel like an athlete I wanted to be from the start, or even better athlete. This offseason has been huge for me.”

The Sox saw first-hand how Jake Burger, like Soroka a first-round draft pick, came back from re-injuring an Achilles. Soroka saw it, too, and drew inspiration from it. The two talked often.

“He was huge for me through my rehab,” Soroka said.

Burger encouraged Soroka to keep pushing when it didn’t feel like progress was happening.

“He was the only one really in pro sports that had done it twice and come out the other side.”

The Sox also acquired left-handerJared Shuster, infielders Nicky Lopez and Braden Shewmake, and minor league pitcher Riley Gowens the trade. Soroka was 2-2 with a 6.40 ERA in seven games (six starts) covering 32 1/3 innings last season, but is the “name” and wild card in the deal.

You never know. And the Sox only have Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech returning from the 2023 rotation — that is, if neither are traded as Getz looks to change the face of his roster and bolster the farm system with needed depth.

“Essentially [2023 was Soroka’s] first full season back from having a multiple-year layoff,” Getz said of this low-risk, potentially high upside acquisition. “There were some moments and flashes of what Soroka was earlier in his career. Navigating a season like that after being off, it can be tricky. But to have that under his belt, learning where his body is now, there is some upside there. And once again he’s coming from an organization that has been recently successful. He’s pitched really meaningful games for the Atlanta Braves.”

Soroka, a 6-5, 26-year-old Canadian, has been through the highs of being a top prospect, All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up during a 14-4, 2.68 season covering 29 starts in 2019 (he was sixth in NL Cy Young voting), the lows of the injuries and the trials and doubts through phases of mechanical tweaks in his delivery and changes in training routines.

But on Monday, talking on a Zoom call, he said he “felt giddy” when he first talked to Getz and is “comfortable already” with the Sox.

“I did feel a big weight lifted off my shoulder when I did make it back last year,” Soroka said. “Although I was a little more rusty last year than I would have hoped I would be, it was only natural. I got to work through some kinks last year and I felt like I got to a really good point near the end of the season. The confidence started coming back naturally.”

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