“I’ll take it. It wasn’t perfect, obviously, but I’m happy,” Fried told reporters after the game.
Fried has been a starter in the minor leagues and struggled to a 2-11 record with a 5.91 ERA this year at Mississippi, but he gave up no runs in his final three starts at AA, each of which was a short outing (totaling only 10 innings).
The 23-year-old, the only Jewish player on the Braves’ 25-man roster, took the mound at SunTrust Park in the top of the eighth with Atlanta trailing Philadelphia, 5-2, and his nervousness showed as he fell behind 3-0 before walking the first hitter he faced, Cameron Rupp.
But Fried quickly settled down. He struck out Cameron Perkins with his sharpest curveball of the night, then induced weak groundballs from Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis to complete a 17-pitch inning.
In addition to his first walk and strikeout in the big leagues, Fried got his first assist on Hernandez’s comebacker.
Fried started the ninth inning with ease, retiring Daniel Nava on a grounder to short and Maikel Franco on flyball to warning track in right-center that Ender Inciarte ran down. Then he faced the first tough situation of his big-league career.
Odubel Herrera crushed a hanging curveball for a double, and Fried intentionally walked Tommy Joseph to face left-handed-hitting Nick Williams.
Williams squibbed the first pitch along the first-base line. Freddie Freeman charged in and fielded the ball, then dived to tag the base, but Williams beat out the infield hit. Fried was a little late covering first and had to leap over Freeman to avoid a collision, but he wouldn’t have had a play anyway.
Fried would have faced Rupp for the second time with the bases loaded, but Herrera tried to score from second on Williams’ hit. Freeman alertly spotted the play and made a perfect throw from his knees, and catcher Kurt Suzuki tagged out Herrera to end the inning and Fried’s debut.
According to MLB.com, Fried threw 15 fastballs, 10 curves and one change-up.
His fastball peaked at 95 mph but generally was 92 to 94 mph. He did a good job of moving the pitch up and down and in and out, and several hitters were late in swinging at the fastball.
The change was 84.8 mph, giving him a solid 10-mph difference from the fastball.
What sets Fried apart from other lefties who throw in the low-to-mid-90s and has made him a top prospect since San Diego drafted him in the first round in 2012, however, is his curveball, and he struggled with it Tuesday night.
He left most of his curves up and away to right-handed batters, and he hung a curve in the middle of the plate to Herrera. Given that Herrera hit a home run off a curveball from Julio Teheran in the fifth inning, Fried might have been lucky to give up only a double on the pitch.
But when Fried finished the curve and kept it down, it was his best pitch. In addition to the Perkins strikeout, he used it to get weak groundballs on lunging swings from Galvis and Williams. (It’s possible the pitch to Williams was a slider. At 79.8 mph, it was 5 to 7 mph faster than most of Fried’s curves, and Jewish Baseball News reported that Fried threw one slider and only nine curveballs.)
Fried’s final line in the Braves’ 5-2 loss: two innings, two hits, two walks, one strikeout and no runs allowed. He also earned a comparison to former Braves pitcher Steve Avery from Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.