Spring Training usually represents the opening bell for hope and optimism as players hit the diamond for the first time in an organized fashion with their clubs and teammates. For Max Fried, call it a delayed start.
The Padres' top pitching prospect has been shut down by the organization due to elbow soreness, general manager Josh Byrnes told MLB.com. Fried is expected to miss at least two weeks of camp down in Peoria, Ariz., although the club didn't indicate that the timeframe included any hard deadlines.
"He experienced some soreness during his offseason throwing," Byrnes told MLB.com. "We examined him in San Diego and again in Peoria and have decided to shut down any throwing until the symptoms are completely resolved."
According to the U-T San Diego, the Padres executive said Fried told the club about the soreness in his left elbow following long toss earlier in February. The southpaw underwent an MRI on Feb. 11, but Byrnes emphasized that the issue came from the muscular area of the elbow and not the ligaments. When the latter is paired with elbow problems, Tommy John surgery often becomes part of the conversation.
At this point, the issue seems more precautionary than anything.
"At this stage of his career, this time of year, we're obviously gonna be careful and make sure he's symptom-free before he gets going," Byrnes told the newspaper. "There was still enough soreness in there that we're gonna be conservative and make sure we knock it out."
Fried owned a 3.49 ERA with a 1.37 WHIP, 100 strikeouts and 56 walks over 118 2/3 innings in 2013 with Class A Fort Wayne. That marked the full-season debut for the 20-year-old, who was selected seventh overall by the Padres in the 2012 Draft.
When healthy, the left-hander brings an above-average fastball and curveball to the mound along with a developing changeup.
Standing at 6-foot-4 and given his relative youth, he's seen as a very projectable pitcher, and it's that factor that led MLB.com to rank him the No. 43 prospect in baseball entering the 2014 season. Control issues (4.25 BB/9, 0.61 HBP/9 in 2013) hold him back from climbing even higher. He ranks behind only catcher Austin Hedges (No. 24) in the Padres system on that list.