Fried mows down heart of Tigers' order

Known for his curve, prospect commands darting fastball

Fried mows down heart of Tigers' order

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Making every effort to calm his nerves and stay within himself, Max Fried purposely avoided knowing whom he would face before he made his Grapefruit League debut.

But when presented the challenge of facing Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton during the sixth inning of Monday's 10-7 loss to the Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, the highly regarded Braves pitching prospect provided a glimpse of why he has a chance to reach the Majors this year, despite never having previously pitched above the Class A level.

"I just kind of focused on what I wanted to do," Fried said. "Then I got up there and really just trusted the curve."

While Fried's specialty might be the curveball, it was the pinpoint command he displayed with a lively fastball that set the tone for him as he cruised through these established sluggers in perfect fashion. His first pitch was a low-and-away fastball that Cabrera missed. Fried's final delivery during this one-inning effort was another fastball that painted the inside corner as Upton helplessly looked at a called third strike.

"That was really impressive," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We looked up and it was like, 'Wow, he's going to jump right into it isn't he here with these guys he's going to face?' And he was really good. His fastball is evidently really sneaky, because they didn't swing at that thing very well. All of his pitches looked really crisp and really good. It was fun to watch."

Though he ranks as just the seventh-best pitching prospect within the Braves' talent-rich farm system per MLBPipeline, Fried might have the highest ceiling of any of these hurlers within Atlanta's system. The 23-year-old southpaw has drawn comparisons to both Cole Hamels and Steve Avery. And now that Fried is fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him throughout most of 2014 and '15, he could quickly rise toward joining Atlanta's rotation.

"Everyone is really talented up here," Fried said, "so you're trying to do something to really separate yourself."

Fried missed with a 1-2 curveball in the dirt before getting Cabrera to ground out to second base to open the frame. After Martinez grounded out to short, Upton saw an array of curveballs before being frozen by the perfectly placed fastball that concluded the strikeout.

A little more than two years ago, the Braves traded Upton to the Padres in exchange for Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith.

Now, Fried is showing why he was the centerpiece of this trade that could provide dividends in Atlanta for many years to come.

"Those are the guys you want to face," Fried said. "It was obviously a nice outing. I felt good. Everything is starting to click. My fastball command was really good, so I couldn't be happier."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.