A giant step forward for southpaw Fried

Braves' No. 10 prospect solid in return from Tommy John surgery

Max Fried made two starts for Class A Fort Wayne in 2014 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. (Rich Guill/River Bandits)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | April 9, 2016 12:41 AM

Tommy John surgery may be more and more common, just don't tell that to Max Fried.

Stepping on the mound in a regular-season game for the first time since he underwent Tommy John surgery on Aug. 20, 2014, the Braves' No. 10 prospect can finally put to rest some of the fear he's lived with the last two years.

Although Class A Rome fell to Augusta, 4-3, on Saturday, the night was a personal success for Fried, who allowed three runs -- two earned -- over five innings in his first start since July 21, 2014 when he was pitching for Class A Fort Wayne in the Padres organization.

"The one thing about the surgery, there is nothing easy or normal about it," Fried said. "A lot of times things can go wrong and it's a very daunting and tedious rehab. There's a lot of waiting around, throwing only a certain amount of times per week and just looking forward to the next goal. It's tough to go through mentally and to be patient and trusting of the process."

Pitching with a 2-0 lead following a two-run double by Wigberto Nevarez in the first inning, the 22-year-old tossed two scoreless frames before leaving a pitch up in the zone that Giants' No. 4 prospect Lucius Fox blasted for a two-run homer to left in the third. Fried gave up another run in the fourth before finishing his outing on a high note, fanning the last two batters he faced. The left-hander walked one, struck out four and threw 37 of 60 pitches for strikes.

'I felt like I threw well. There was really just one bad pitch," Fried said, referring to Fox's homer. "I left a changeup out over the plate and [Fox] hit it out."

Augusta snapped a 3-3 tie in the sixth when Fox scored on a wild pitch, but the story of the night was Fried and his much-anticipated return to the mound.

Taken with the seventh overall pick of the 2012 Draft by the Padres, Fried was a key piece of the trade that sent Justin Upton to San Diego in December 2014. Now with his second organization, the southpaw simply wants to get back to pitching every fifth day.

"I just want to stay healthy, compete and have a nice year," Fried said. "There will always be that competitor in me, but I have to develop different parts of my game and ultimately go out there and get the job done. Tonight, I definitely had a lot of butterflies leading up to the game, but once I got into my routine, I relaxed. I'm just very excited and it was a big relief after the first pitch to compete in a meaningful game again."

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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