Max Fried rejoining Braves rotation after 3-month absence

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have baseball's best record, and now they're getting their best pitcher back.

Max Fried is set to rejoin the Braves' rotation on Friday when the team opens a weekend series at the Chicago Cubs, providing a huge boost to a team that already is a leading World Series contender.

"Just getting back out there and competing, being with those guys, it's one of my favorite places to be," Fried said after Atlanta's 12-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

Fried, runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award a year ago, has made only five starts in the majors this season, the last coming on May 5. A strained left forearm sent him to the injured list for nearly three months.

But after four rehab appearances in the minor leagues, Fried feels like it's Opening Day all over again.

He's especially thrilled to be making his comeback at Wrigley Field -- against former teammate Dansby Swanson, who signed with the Cubs last offseason after helping the Braves win five straight division titles and the 2021 World Series championship.

"It'll be fun," Fried said. "Obviously, we have a lot of memories with him playing behind me."

The Braves (69-37) are eager to have their ace back on the mound as they try to lock up another NL East crown. They have a commanding 12-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.

"It's awesome," manager Brian Snitker said. "I can't wait to get him out there."

Fried will join a rotation that includes All-Stars Spencer Strider (12-3) and Bryce Elder (8-2), but has looked a bit thin most of the season because of injuries to Fried and Kyle Wright.

Wright, who led the majors with 21 wins last season, also has made just five starts because of right shoulder issues. He has started throwing off the mound, but in the best-case scenario isn't expected to be available until the final month of the regular season.

Fried is ready to go now, which should give the Braves four solid starters with 39-year-old Charlie Morton (10-9) part of the mix.

Atlanta didn't make a big splash at the trade deadline. Instead, the Braves are treating Fried like their biggest addition heading toward the postseason.

"Max is Max," third baseman Austin Riley said. "Obviously, he's been a supercompetitive player. He loves to win, loves to compete. When you get a guy like him back, you've got to be excited."

Fried wasn't overly dominant in his rehab stint. He allowed 12 hits and five runs over nine innings in three appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett, to go along with three scoreless innings in one outing for Class A Rome.

"I feel like I've been able to get a really good test of how my pitches are working in the zone against guys," Fried said. "Now, I'm just going to go out there and trust it at Wrigley.

"I'll definitely have some butterflies and jitters before I go out there."