Braves put RHP Charlie Morton on 15-day IL with finger issue

WASHINGTON -- The Atlanta Braves took another blow to their injury-plagued rotation, placing right-hander Charlie Morton on the 15-day injured list Sunday. The move means the 14-game winner won't be eligible to pitch in the NL Division Series.

The 39-year-old Morton left his start Friday against the Washington Nationals after only one inning with pain in his right index finger. An MRI showed it was a sprain, manager Brian Snitker said.

Morton won't be eligible to come off the IL until Oct. 7, which is after the Braves will have set their roster for the best-of-five NLDS. Atlanta, with baseball's best record, has already earned a bye in the best-of-three opening round.

Morton could be activated only to serve as a replacement for a player who is injured in the Division Series.

"This isn't anything or any hill we haven't climbed before," Snitker said. "There is never good timing on that kind of stuff. Hopefully we have the depth to cover everything up and go on and be competitive."

The Braves, who are seeking their second World Series title in three years, are hopeful that Morton (14-12, 3.64 ERA) could return for the NL Championship Series if the team gets past the NLDS.

"The best-case scenario is he could be ready for that if we advance," Snitker said.

The loss of Morton came shortly after the Braves placed lefty Max Fried on the 15-day IL with a lingering blister issue. However, he would be eligible to return for the NLDS, if healthy.

Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder have been the only starters to make it through the season without any physical setbacks.

Fried, a runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award a year ago, has been on the IL three times while making only 14 starts, although the Braves are cautiously optimistic that he will recover in time for the playoffs.

"It's just one of those hurdles you have to handle and adjustments you have to make," Snitker said. "You put things together and maybe do some things you wouldn't normally do to get through."

Kyle Wright, a 21-game winner in 2022, has missed most of the season and returned to the rotation this month. But he is 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and doesn't appear to be a viable option for the postseason rotation.

Wright had been scheduled to start the first game Sunday, but the Braves have shifted him to the bullpen to see if he might be effective in that role ahead of the postseason.

"Maybe we can limit some of his innings, hopefully get a look at him for more than just a start," Snitker said. "It's more about not taxing him as much and getting more out of him."

The late-season woes are a grim reminder of what happened to the Braves a year ago, when Fried dealt with a flu bug and Strider was slowed by an oblique strain.

Both pitchers were rocked in losses during the NLDS as the wild-card Philadelphia Phillies upset NL East-champion Atlanta in four games.

Thanks to three potential off days, the Braves could get by with only three starters in this year's NLDS. But with Morton sidelined and Fried's status in doubt, they may have to turn to an unlikely option to fill the third spot.

Sixteen pitchers have made starts for Atlanta, including right-hander Allan Winans, who was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and scheduled to start the opener of a doubleheader Sunday against the Nationals.

Strider was set to go in the nightcap, which is a make-up of a game Saturday that was called off because of inclement weather.

"Everything is on the table," Snitker said. "We'll just have to wait and see how we get there."